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Three Hillsborough players drafted on Day 1

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Fri. June 7, 2013 | Joel Anderson

Three Hillsborough players drafted on Day 1

Durant’s Tyler Danish had a funky sidearm delivery that scared off many major-league clubs. Gaither’s Oscar Mercado closed his high school career with an underwhelming senior season. And Wharton’s Tucker Neuhaus barely played at all, struggling with nagging injuries and family tragedy.

But, as goes the old adage, all it takes is one team to overlook those imperfections.

Each local prep standout found a club willing to invest in him  Thursday night despite their respective blemishes, with all  getting selected in the second round of the MLB draft.

Danish went to the Chicago White Sox with the 55th overall pick, Mercado was taken two spots later by the St. Louis Cardinals and Neuhaus lasted until the Milwaukee Brewers’ pick at No. 72 in the sandwich round.

It was an unusual draft night for local prep  prospects, with Danish lasting until midway through the second round despite his record of dominance and Mercado and Neuhaus — once thought to be first-round prospects — not coming off the board until the end of Day 1.

Danish is coming off one of the most impressive prep seasons in recent memory, going 15-1 with a 0.00 ERA and 156 strikeouts over 94 innings — all numbers that ranked him among the nation’s top five high school pitchers.

Danish also led the Cougars to their first appearance in the state tournament, pitching a one-hit shutout and hitting a home run in the Class 8A semifinal. Durant went on to lose in the final.  

But his draft stock remained in flux heading into Thursday because of his throwing motion and  less-than-optimal size.

“I think I’ve done everything I could to change their minds,” Danish said earlier in the week. “I’m still a firm believer in how I throw.”

“Chicago drafts a ton of good pitchers, so I’m sure they think he’s going to be good,” said one AL executive.

Projected as a potential first-rounder coming into the spring, Mercado slid into the second half of the second round. The Cardinals stopped the slide when they picked the 6-2, 180-pound shortstop at No. 57.

Mercado’s stock took a hit after a senior year that didn’t nearly match his considerable talent or skill set or even his performance in previous years.

 “He didn’t hit for a high average,” Gaither coach Frank Permuy said earlier in the week. “But he broke the school record with 27 steals. When scouts see him, they like him.”

And with the second-to-last pick of the draft’s first night, Neuhaus went to the Brewers at No. 72. Neuhaus’ last workout of the week came with the Brewers in Milwaukee on Monday.

Neuhaus came into the spring boasting the physique (6-3, 190 pounds), production (.329, six home runs), athleticism (plays at the high-value shortstop position) and pedigree of a top-major-league prospect.

But the death of his older brother, Ty,  in a single-car accident in November, and a series of injuries that forced him to miss most of the season, meant Tucker Neuhaus suffered through a year his high school coach called the worst he had ever seen for a player of his caliber.

Neuhaus hit only .222 and one RBI in 35 plate appearances.

“All of us are really excited,” said Ken Neuhaus, father of Tucker Neuhaus and a former college and high school baseball coach.

“We want Ty’s legacy to live on through Tucker. That’s been what’s been driving him. Tucker didn’t want to let his big brother down, and that’s what got him through a lot of this.”

Joel Anderson can be reached at janderson@tampabay.com or on Twitter @jdhometeam.

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