Gator OF Will Likely Face Platoon Situation

The Florida outfield will try to make up for the loss of one of the best offensive players in program history. Matt den Dekker ranks in the top six in school history of almost every major offensive category, and his impact on defense might have been even more impressive. It won't be easy to make up for his production, but the Gators have plenty of bodies to find the right lineup.

Left Field: This was a platoon situation in 2010, and it sounds like that could be the case in 2011. Tyler Thompson would start against right-handed starting pitchers, while Daniel Pigott gets the nod against left-handed starting pitchers. Coach O'Sullivan has said since the platoon started last year that he would prefer one player wins the job outright. However, the platoon gives them the best chance to win right now.

Thompson came on strong at the end of last season, including a three-home run game in a Regional clinching win over Florida Atlantic. He ended the year hitting .301 with six home runs and 28 RBIs. Thompson struggled with his strikeout numbers at the beginning of the season, and he ended the year striking out 53 times in 146 at-bats. He has to make more consistent contact this season.

Pigott didn't do anything flashy in his sophomore season, but he hit .268 with one home run and 22 RBIs. He is one of my candidates for a breakout season. He's had the tools for it since coming to campus, but he hasn't put it all together yet.

Center Field: Right now, there looks to be another platoon in center field. This could all change before the season starts, but it looks like the best way to replace Matt den Dekker will be with two players. Kamm Washington would get the start against right-handed pitchers, while Bryson Smith would start against left-handers, if nothing changes before opening day.

Washington got off to a good start last season. He wasn't able to finish the season after he dove into the fence at Tennessee on April 10, tearing his hamstring away from the bone. Washington played in only 27 games, hitting .306 with one home run and six RBIs. He was fully recovered for fall practice. Washington is the better defender of the two and could cover the extra ground in center field. There were times in the fall where the coaches had to get on him about going too hard coming off the hamstring injury.

Smith came to Gainesville last year and started at third base on opening night. With Austin Maddox's emergence on defense at third, Smith will move to the outfield this season. He is a good athlete that can play the outfield. It sounds like his bat has also grown more accustomed to the Division One level. He hit .255 with three home runs and 22 RBIs last season.

Right Field: If there's one position that won't see a platoon, it's right field. Preston Tucker will make the move from first base to right field this season. There was some uncertainty in the fan base about the move, coming from struggles at the SEC Tournament last season. The issues came as Tucker lost two fly balls in the sun, not because he misplayed them.

Tucker has looked comfortable in right field this fall. He has the arm strength capable of handling the position, and it's accurate. He won't be an above average defender like Jonathan or Daniel Pigott, but he is respectable enough and it helps the lineup with him playing right field.

There's no doubt Tucker will hit. He posted a .436 on-base percentage in 2010, yet people still consider it a down season. His power numbers will take a hit, just as everyone else on the team will, because of the new bats being used this season.

Designated Hitter: This position will obviously fluctuate during the season based on matchups. If Maddox sticks at third base and Johnson plays first base, Ben McMahan is the likely to get plenty of at-bats as the designated hitter. He looked like one of the better bats in the lineup during fall workouts.

Another option could be freshman third baseman Zack Powers. He is a tall, lanky player that will continue to gain power as his frame fills out. I like his swing a lot right now, and it improved as fall practice came to an end. He should be the freshman who makes the biggest impact on offense, but it won't be the same caliber of what freshmen have done in recent seasons, if only because this Florida team doesn't need it as much.

One of the left over outfielders that doesn't start in the field could also get some starts as the designated hitter.

Fightin Gators Top Stories