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One step closer to… The Big Show

With the Major League Baseball Draft rapidly approaching, draft-eligible USF baseball players are waiting to see if and where they will be playing next season.

The MLB Draft will be held Tuesday and Wednesday. The Bulls most likely to be drafted are senior pitcher David Austen, junior pitcher Jon Uhl and junior shortstop Myron Leslie.

Unlike Uhl and Leslie, who have the option to turn down a team if they’re drafted and come back and play one more year with the Bulls, Austen will take any offer that comes his way.

“Take me,” Austen said. “I am a senior, so I have nothing else to go with.”

As a senior, Austen started a team-high 19 games for the Bulls, pitching 114 2/3 innings and striking out 106. He went 11-3 with a 3.45 ERA.

Austen has talked with several teams, including the Seattle Mariners and the San Francisco Giants, and hopes to be picked somewhere in the teen rounds.

Cardieri expects Austen, Baseball America’s 64th ranked player in Florida, to be picked in the teens also, specifically saying that he predicts Austen will be selected between the eighth and 15th round.

Austen hopes to be in the majors three to four years after the draft but says he must get “bigger and stronger” before he gets there.

Cardieri said the pitcher needs to add consistency to his game, but said the senior is still an appealing draft pick.

“He throws strikes, and he is a winner,” Cardieri said. “He is a bulldog on the mound.”

Uhl, who according to Cardieri, could be drafted as high as the fifth round, is almost certain that he will not come back to the Bulls next season.

“It wouldn’t benefit me to hold out another year,” Uhl said. “I want to go this year.”

Uhl said his early departure would also benefit him financially because the money offered to seniors is less, since their options are more limited. Uhl went 6-5 with a 3.89 ERA this season.

Among the many teams that have talked to him, the Colorado Rockies and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays have shown the most interest. Uhl was even supposed to practice with the Rays on Memorial Day.

The pitcher was unsure how long it would take him to get into the majors — some players take years to make it to the Big Leagues — but says he would like to see himself at the top level three years after signing.

Uhl said he needs more consistency on the mound, an opinion shared by Cardieri, who said Uhl is, nonetheless, a good pitcher.

“In Uhl’s case, he just has good stuff,” Cardieri said. “He has three pitches. A good fastball, a good curve ball and a great changeup. And he throw strikes.”

According to Cardieri, Leslie’s fate in the draft is less predictable. At 6 feet 3 inches and 200 pounds, Leslie is a very large shortstop but seems unlikely to be drafted in that position.

Baseball America ranks Leslie, at third base, as the No. 26 prospect in the state of Florida. He places 13th by Baseball America among all third basemen, high school and college.

Although he is versatile enough to play at one of the corners, Cardieri said Leslie has not shown that he can hit with tremendous power.

“Professional people are not going to draft him as a shortstop and then if they put him at third base, he doesn’t profile, because they want their third baseman to hit with a lot of power,” Cardieri said.

Leslie, who batted .338 with three home runs this season, is the only one of the three to have prior experience with the draft. The Texas Rangers selected him in the 14th round out of Brandon High School in 2000.

“A switch-hitter with strength and plate discipline,” Baseball America’s Jim Callis writes in his Florida regional scouting report.

“He hasn’t hit for much power this year because he has been pitched around constantly, but he has more juice in his bat.

“He has arm strength and decent hands at shortstop, but his footwork is poor enough that third base may be out of the question. Leslie played at the hot corner in the Cape Cod League last year, receiving mixed reviews.”

In spite of his limitations, Cardieri said Leslie’s all-around game and his ability to perform a number of roles make him a useful addition to any roster.

“He is a ballplayer. He is a switch hitter. He’s versatile, (and) he can play a lot of positions,” Cardieri said.