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Jeffrey Hakanson Selected By Tampa Bay Rays, Becomes Highest-Drafted UCF Player Since 2014

Hakanson, a Tampa native, made himself into a fifth-round pick with a supernova-like 2020 season

Jeffrey Hakanson
Photo: UCF Athletics

UCF Knights relief pitcher Jeffrey Hakanson played college baseball for Orlando’s hometown team. He will start his pro career with the franchise that claims his hometown.

Hakanson was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the fifth round of the MLB Draft on Thursday night. At pick No. 155 overall, Hakanson is the first UCF baseball player to come off the board that early since pitcher Eric Skoglund was taken at pick No. 92 in 2014. Twenty players in UCF baseball history have now been drafted within the first five rounds.

Hakanson, who attended Jesuit High School in Tampa before spending three seasons as a Knight, pitched just 8.1 innings during the shortened 2020 campaign. But the eye-popping numbers he put up in that short time frame helped him get that all-important phone call Thursday.

He struck out 20 of the 28 batters he faced. He allowed one hit, one walk and two balls out of the infield. No pitcher in the country had more than his six saves.

Hakanson tops out at 96 or 97 mph with his fastball, but he became much more of a pitcher than a hard thrower in 2020. Specifically, he sharpened his slider, landing it for strikes with knee-buckling effectiveness at 82-84 mph. That two-pitch mix baffled hitters. His success garnered first-team All American recognition from Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.

For his career, Hakanson struck out 98 batters in 49.2 innings. Opponents hit just .135 off of him.

The congratulations and excitement from his coaches and teammates poured in over Twitter:

UCF head coach Greg Lovelady said last week that he expected to lose a player or two to the pros, either through the draft or post-draft free agency. With Hakanson gone, we’ll wait and see what some other prominent UCF players — Trevor Holloway, Dalton Wingo, Jack Sinclair, Colton Gordon, Gephry Pena -- choose to do. Will they come back to the Knights with at least two years of eligibility remaining or sign with an MLB team in the coming days and weeks for $20,000? I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least one player from that group dive in and start his pro career.

For comparison’s sake, pick No. 155, which was the sixth-to-last pick of this draft, was assigned a value of $340,000.