#11 Florida Baseball 2014 Preview

Florida Gators

Overall Rank: #11
Conference Rank: #3 SEC
#11 Florida Baseball 2014 Preview
Florida Team Page


The Florida Gators bring in a recruiting class that has been ranked number one in the country by Collegiate Baseball and Baseball America, and the Gators hope that the influx in talent will help them bounce back this season.  Last year, Florida had a disappointing season, finishing 29-30.  The Gators did make an NCAA Regional, but went 0-2 there, losing to Austin Peay and Valparaiso.  This year, the Gators have a lot of returnees back on offense and look ready to return to their winning ways.

2013: 29-30, 14-16
2013 Postseason: NCAA Tournament (Lost in Indiana Regional)
Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan

Field Players:
Florida will be led in the field by the outfield duo of Harrison Bader and Justin Shafer, who hit .312 and .300, respectively, in 2013.  Bader stole a team leading 15 bases while Shafer tied for the team lead with five home runs.  Richie Martin also hit .300 in 2013 and will play either center field or shortstop, the two positions he split time at last year. A trio of infielders and the catcher are also back.  Casey Turgeon will be back at second, while Zack Powers and Josh Tobias figure to occupy the corner infield positions. Turgeon hit .268 with five home runs and 32 RBI’s, and also led the team with 31 walks.  Powers also hit .268, adding three home runs and 27 RBI’s, and Tobias had a .260 average with three home runs and 18 RBI’s.  Catcher Taylor Gushue posted a .269 average with five home runs and a team-high 33 RBI’s.  Several freshmen also plan on being in the lineup this year. Top candidates are first baseman AJ Puk, outfielder Buddy Reed, and infielder John Sternagel.  All three were drafted last June but opted to attend Florida.  Another name to watch is freshman infielder Peter Alonso of Tampa, who posted a career .460 batting average during his high school career.  Adding depth will be catcher Mike Fahrman and junior college transfers Braden Mattson and Jason Lobardozzi.

The Gators lose a lot of production from last season’s pitching staff, but have some talent left.  Karsten Whitson should be the leader of the staff after missing last season with an injury.  He will join a quartet of key returnees in juniors Ryan Harris and Bobby Poyner and sophomores Danny Young and Jay Carmichael.  Harris led the team in wins with five, posting a 3.07 ERA in 37 games out of the bullpen, and Poyner was 3-3 with a 3.41 ERA in 14 games, including seven starts.  Carmichael appeared in 16 games, with four starts, and was 3-1 with a 3.08 ERA, holding batters to a .188 average. Young appeared in 22 games with seven starts, and was 3-4 with a 4.42 ERA.  Eric Hanhold, Aaron Rhodes, and Mike Vinson are also back and all appeared in at least 13 games.  Hanhold started seven, going 0-4 with a 5.88 ERA, while Rhodes and Vinson were both 1-0 with ERA’s over 4.00.  Five freshmen pitchers who were drafted will look to find a spot on the pitching staff. Brett Morales and Logan Shore, a pair of players who were drafted in the top 30 rounds last June, are the best of the bunch.  Position players Shafer and Puk are also expected to be a part of the staff.  Shafer was 1-1 with a 5.20 ERA in nine appearances last year.

Who to Watch:
Karsten Whitson is key for the Florida Gators.  The Gators lack experience in the pitching department and Whitson could provide that.  Oh yeah, and he’s one of the most talented pitchers in the entire country.  He was a first round pick out of high school but didn’t sign.  As a freshman, Whitson was 8-1 with a 2.40 ERA.  His performance earned him the honor of National Pitcher of the Year by Perfect Game and made numerous Freshman All-American teams. In 2012, Whitson started ten games and was 4-0 with a 3.51 ERA. He will enter this season with a 12-1 career record and should put up big numbers for the Gators.

Final Projection:
Florida has all the talent to have a great season.  A lot of returnees coupled with a great recruiting class has the outlook appearing promising.  The Gators will be tested early on in the season, as they have a three game series at Miami. The SEC is always tough, but Florida should find themselves competing for a title.  As long as the Gators can pick up some early wins, which they are more than capable of doing, the season should go very well.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Justin Shafer, OF, 230
Hits: Justin Shafer, OF, 69; Harrison Bader, OF, 69
Home Runs: Justin Shafer, OF, 5; Taylor Gushue, C, 5; Casey Turgeon, IF, 5
RBIs: Taylor Gushue, C, 33
Runs: Casey Turgeon, IF, 41
Stolen Bases: Harrison Bader, OF, 15

Wins: Ryan Harris, P, 5
Innings Pitched: Ryan Harris, P, 58.2
Strikeouts: Ryan Harris, P, 51
Saves: None

Madness 2014 MLB Draft Rankings:
#53 Karsten Whitson

Madness 2014 Baseball Recruit Rankings:
#3 Brett Morales
#12 AJ Puk
#15 John Sternagel


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