GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Major League Baseball scouts and talent evaluators are no doubt intrigued by Alex Faedo’s low 90s fastball and devastating slider. They surely like his superlative strikeout rate and altogether impressive career numbers over three seasons in the always-challenging SEC.
As well they should. But as impressive as anything might be the Florida right-hander’s mental composure and penchant for performing in the spotlight.
The pressure on draft-eligible juniors is immense, especially those with multi-million-dollar contracts within their grasps if all goes well.
Faedo has carried the weight of those expectations to the mound with him at the start of every weekend series for the Gators this season, knowing each performance will be scrutinized and evaluated in determining where he goes in the draft next month.
That continues Thursday night as No. 5 Florida opens its final SEC series against No. 6 Kentucky at McKethan Stadium, but there’s no reason to think the extra weight of a potential SEC regular-season championship should faze Faedo at all.
Nothing else has this spring.
“I’m just pleased that we’re ahead in the SEC and if we can do what we can do this weekend then we get a ring, because we haven’t gotten a ring since I’ve (been) here,” Faedo said Tuesday when asked how he feels about his junior season to this point.
The 6-foot-5 righty enters this final regular-season start with a 7-1 record, 2.33 ERA and an SEC-leading 101 strikeouts with only 29 walks over 85 innings. He’s posted scoreless outings in 6 of his 13 starts overall this season and he’s twice gone 8 2/3 scoreless frames.
More to the point, he’s allowed just 6 earned runs over 34 innings in his last 5 starts for a 1.59 ERA in that span as the Gators have become one of the hottest teams in the country.
And looking at the bigger picture, his .839 career winning percentage (26-5) is the best in program history among pitchers with at least 20 decisions. The 26 wins are tied for fifth on Florida’s all-time list while his 293 career strikeouts also rank fifth.
“I feel like we’ve won most of the games (I’ve pitched), so I think that means I’m doing my job and the team, I figure, is happy with what I’m doing,” Faedo said simply.
That’s one way to look at it. Another is through the lens of the mock drafts with the MLB Draft less than a month away.
Baseball America has Faedo projected to go No. 10 overall to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, MLB.com’s Jim Callis has him going No. 12 to the Pittsburgh Pirates, PerfectGame.org projects the righty to the Miami Marlins at No. 13 overall and ESPN.com’s Keith Law has him slotted at No. 18 to the Detroit Tigers.
Faedo says he doesn’t pay attention to all of that. He doesn’t see the point.
“I feel like the people that write all that kind of stuff aren’t the people that are making the picks so it’s not really, why should I put value in what those people think when I’m just going out there to hope my teammates think I do a good job? That’s really all I care about,” he said.
No, none of those outlets is in charge of making an actual pick in the draft, but the consensus is significant nonetheless. It’s a testament to what Faedo has accomplished on the mound these last few years at Florida, just as his disinterest in discussing those projections speaks to his ability to deal with pressure and filter out distractions.
There have been examples of that all season.
When he struggled in his first start, giving up 4 runs in 4 2/3 innings against William & Mary, he immediately responded his next time out by yielding just 2 hits and a walk over 8 2/3 scoreless innings against Miami.
After he was touched for 6 runs over 4 1/3 innings in an uncharacteristically wild outing at Auburn in mid March, he bounced right back with 7 strikeouts and 0 walks over 7 scoreless innings in a huge win over LSU.
Faedo was later coming off back-to-back no-decisions, including giving up 5 earned runs and 10 hits to Tennessee and 6 unearned runs (2 earned) at Vanderbilt, when he took the mound for a marquee matchup with South Carolina’s Clarke Schmidt.
Faedo seized that stage with another one of his best performances, going 8 2/3 scoreless inning while giving up 3 hits and 4 walks with 9 strikeouts.
And as SEC race has tightened with each mounting series seeming bigger and bigger, Faedo has been at his absolute best.
So yes, the Gators have to feel pretty good putting the ball in Faedo’s right hand Thursday night in another high-stakes showdown while looking to move one step closer to clinching their first regular-season title since 2014.
“He’s been our rock all year,” outfielder Ryan Larson said.
That, along with that slider and fastball make it pretty easy to understand why Faedo is shaping up as a consensus first-round projection.
In the meantime, though, he’d prefer to just focus on the task at hand. That’s a lesson he took from some of his former Florida mound mates, three of which went in the first 47 picks of the draft last year.
“They did a good job last year. They had a lot of success. I know they’re having a lot of fun with it now, but they said just to enjoy this because you can only go through this last season one more time,” Faedo said. “And hopefully we can go out there and win the last game of the year.”