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Ex-Fivay High pitcher Gunnar Hoglund goes to Blue Jays on Day 1

Florida State/Calvary Christian catcher Matheu Nelson also is drafted on Sunday.
Mississippi pitcher Gunnar Hoglund made 11 starts this past season before Tommy John surgery sidelined him.
Mississippi pitcher Gunnar Hoglund made 11 starts this past season before Tommy John surgery sidelined him. [ AUSTIN MCAFEE | ZUMAPRESS.com ]
Published Jul. 12
Updated Jul. 12

Former Fivay High pitcher Gunnar Hoglund was selected 19th overall by the Blue Jays during Sunday’s first round of the amateur draft.

Hoglund initially was drafted 36th overall by the Pirates out of high school in 2018 but chose to go to college at Mississippi. This past season with the Rebels, he had a 2.87 ERA through 11 starts and 62⅔ innings, striking out 96 and walking 17.

But in May, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior had Tommy John surgery, which made some experts wonder how far he might drop.

“Whether it’s in high school or college ... teams feel like they can rehabilitate guys,” ESPN’s Jeff Passan said. “Most of them come back better than ever having gone through Tommy John surgery. At the same time, you run the risk when a guy’s arm has been cut, that he’s not going to recover or will have a difficult time doing so.

“It’s why Gunnar Hoglund, for example, went 20th as opposed to fifth or sixth or top 10 like he could have been.”

The approximate pick value for 19th is $3.36 million as opposed to anywhere from $6.18 million to $4.74 million for picks 5-10.

At Fivay, Hoglund had 105 strikeouts and just two walks his senior year, going 7-0, with a 0.27 ERA. He also hit .385 with four home runs. The Tampa Bay Times’ North Suncoast Pitcher of the Year and graduate of Dayspring Academy in Port Richey recorded 310 strikeouts and 30 walks in his prep career.

“What works for Hoglund more than anything is that slider,” ESPN analyst Eduardo Perez said. “It’s a nasty slider. And the velocity, yes it’s there, but having command of that secondary pitch, I think that’s what’s really going to elevate him to a higher level.”

Also from ESPN’s draft analysis: Before the injury, his velocity had ticked up from his first two years in college, sitting 93-96 mph, and all four of his pitches graded out as 55s or higher.

Hoglund wasn’t the only local drafted Sunday night.

Florida State’s Matheu Nelson was taken 35th overall overall by the Reds. The Calvary Christian graduate is coming off an award-winning season with the Seminoles, named the ACC and Perfect Game/Rawlings National Player of the Year. He also was the Buster Posey and Johnny Bench Award winner as the nation’s best catcher.

He is the highest drafted FSU catcher since Posey, now in his 12th season with the Giants, went fifth overall in 2008. Nelson led the nation with 23 home runs, while also tallying 66 RBIs and hitting .330.

At Calvary, he was part of a state title team that won a Florida-record 60 straight games. As a senior, the Times Pinellas County Player of the Year hit .465 with five home runs, 14 doubles and 45 RBIs., while also stealing seven bases with a .996 fielding percentage.

“I think he’s the best catcher in the state, if not the country,” coach Greg Olsen said at the time.

Florida State catcher Matheu Nelson is the second Tampa Bay player to go on Day 1 of the draft.
Florida State catcher Matheu Nelson is the second Tampa Bay player to go on Day 1 of the draft. [ GARY MCCULLOUGH | Associated Press (2019) ]

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