First Impressions: Freshmen Pitchers

The Florida freshmen pitchers were the focus of Tuesday's scrimmage. The pitchers from the nation's fifth ranked recruiting class didn't disappoint.

Karsten Whitson struggled during his first inning of work. He gave up a one-out double to Josh Adams off the right field fence before loading the bases with two walks. The 6-4, 190-pounder settled down and worked out of the inning without allowing any runs, but he didn't look comfortable. Whitson's release point was high, causing many of his fastballs to stay up, whether in the strike zone or too high.

The second inning is where he settled down. He struck out Daniel Pigott with two fastballs for strikes, followed by a slider in the dirt. The slider will be his knockout pitch. Out of his hand, the pitch looks like a fastball headed for the strike zone until it dives and bounces on the plate. His changeup has a long way to come, but it looks good out of his hand. He just needs to continue working on location with the pitch. Whitson threw 44 pitches in two innings.

Daniel Gibson has the body to be a successful pitcher. The 6-3, 220 pounds he has been listed at looks accurate, giving him good size for a left-handed pitcher. His arm slot is around three-quarters, which creates good sink on his pitches. Coming from his left hand, even his fastballs dive away from right-handers. He has a good feel for the changeup, with the confidence to throw it in any count. He threw it in a 2-0 count to Paul Wilson and had him swinging out of his shoes.

Gibson did give up a home run to fellow freshman Tyler Palmer, and he has work to do. He wasn't sharp, but he has the tools to be productive for this team in the spring. When he missed the strike zone, he missed down. Even though he wasn't sharp, keeping the ball down kept him out of significant trouble.

Jonathan Crawford was the most impressive freshman of the day. I think he has a chance to be a value middle relief arm for this team. He doesn't have the body scouts drool over like Whitson and Gibson, but he has everything else. Head coach Kevin O'Sullivan told me that his off-speed stuff is already among the best on the team. He has a good curveball that veteran hitters struggled to touch. He used the curve ball to strike out Nolan Fontana, who struck out only 29 times in 275 plate appearances last season.

However, it was his fastball that was the most impressive. He sat between 90-94 mph Tuesday and went right after hitters like Preston Tucker and Austin Maddox by challenging them with his fastball. He struck out Josh Adams during his first inning of work on a perfect sequence. He threw a fastball on the outside part of the plate before getting ahead 0-2 with a curveball for a strike. Crawford threw a high fastball, which looked exactly like the curveball out of his hand, but Adams swung through it for strike three.

Crawford gave up a home run to Bryson Smith that even Smith was wondering how it got out. The Gators hit with wood bats in the spring, and Smith hit a ball to right field that was in on his hands some. The wind was blowing out to right field, which he acknowledged after circling the bases, but the ball continued to carry until it snuck over the fence.

Crawford is likely to be a middle reliever this season, and in a bullpen that doesn't have many secured roles, he could sneak into the late innings.

Keenan Kish had the two quietest innings of the day. He took the mound without an imposing frame or a blazing fastball. He just knows how to pitch. His fastball sat between 88-90 mph but he moved it all over the strike zone.

The coaches continue to praise him for being quiet and going about his work the right way. He shows up and gets the job done. He doesn't wow anyone with the radar gun or his size, but he gets people out. He has a smooth, repeatable delivery that is similar to current Florida pitcher Anthony DeSclafani.
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