First Impressions: Freshman Hitters

With players returning to Gainesville for classes this week, individual hitting also begins for the Gators. Florida returns seven of nine position starters from last season, but it is also integrating a talented freshman class. Head coach Kevin O'Sullivan managed to get four Aflac All-Americans to campus in a solid group of hitters.

FRESHMEN JERSEY NUMBERS: Ryan Harris- 24, Johnny Magliozzi- 45, Bobby Poyner- 14, Cory Reid- 26, Aaron Rhodes- 27, Brandon Sedell- 15, Justin Shafer- 16, Corey Stump- 21, Josh Tobias- 12, Sean Trent- 34, Casey Turgeon- 2.

Keep in mind these impressions are based off watching each player take batting practice for about a half hour each. The players were also hitting with wood bats, just as they will when fall practice begins in late September.

Here are some impressions on the freshmen:

Brandon Sedell really caught my eye. He has a pre-swing approach that immediately reminded me of Evan Longoria. His swing is slightly open with his hands right behind his head. He falls in toward the plate and closes off his stance as the pitch comes, but it creates a good rhythm to his swing.

The swing is as easy as they come, especially for a freshman listed at 6-1, 208 pounds. It's smooth and generates power in itself. Being as strong as Sedell is will add more strength. He has a bright future at Florida.

Josh Tobias was impressive. He's a switch hitter and was spraying line drives all over the field from both sides. It looked like he generated more power from the right side, as that's the side all three of his home runs came from. I like his right-handed swing better because it also seemed a tad shorter, but he didn't struggle to hit line drives all over the field from the left side.

Tobias will see playing time wherever he is needed. He worked on his own in the outfield during some of practice, but he could also play the infield if needed.

I didn't realize how short Casey Turgeon is, but he is listed at 5-9 but most who saw him play in high school. He still has surprising power for his size. The ball comes off his bat in a hurry. He's a left-handed hitter with a short stroke.

He was most impressive in the early rounds, when the hitters focused on getting the ball to the opposite field. He sprayed line drives into left field almost at will. Even when he got out on his front foot, he still kept his hands back and was able to hit the ball hard.

Sean Trent showed a line drive swing and hit the ball to all fields. His bat stays through the zone for a long time because of how flat his swing is. He has a longer trigger than some hitters, as he whips the bat from side to side one time before starting his swing, but he has a good feel for the swing.

I liked Justin Shafer's bat speed. He's able to get on top of pitches up in the zone and drive them into the gap. What stood out the most to me is how much room he has to grow. He played quarterback in high school and had some lower level Division One offers, but he elected to play baseball at Florida instead. He still has a wiry frame that will add weight and get stronger. When that happens, the balls hit into the gap will turn into home runs. Shafer has a high ceiling.


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