Scrimmage report: Scout day

It wasn't the same as last fall, but the Gators held their annual scout day on Tuesday with 50-55 scouts in the stands at McKethan Stadium. Even with the Gators losing plenty of talent after last season, there was still interest in the Florida program with two elite right-handers eligible for the draft this year.

Jonathon Crawford and Karsten Whitson are both expected to be picked in the first round of the 2013 MLB Draft, and each threw two innings on Tuesday.

Whitson was first on the mound. As he has shown throughout this fall, his velocity is back in the 93-96 mph range on most radar guns and the slider was 83-85 mph with tilt. He looked as good as the 2011 season when Whitson earned National Freshman Pitcher of the Year honors by Perfect Game.

The first inning was impressive. He struck out the first batter with two fastballs and a slider swinging to end the at-bat. The coaches wanted him to face four hitters since the first three were retired so quickly, and the fourth hitter, freshman Harrison Bader, singled up the middle.

The second inning wasn't as good. The velocity was still the same in his second inning of work, but his command wasn't as good. Whitson gave up three hits, including singles to freshmen Richie Martin and Christian Dicks. Regardless of the hits by younger players, it's not a big deal for Whitson. The important part is that the velocity is back. Everything else will fall into place as the season gets closer.

Crawford gave up a single and a walk to start his first inning on the mound, and his command wasn't good in that stretch. The issue with Crawford has been when he gets on the mound in big situation, his command sometimes isn't as sharp. That changed as the season went on last year, but in his first outing since his stint with Team USA last year, Crawford took the mound in front of 50-55 scouts with radar guns.

He settled down after the first two hitters and looked much better. When he's throwing strikes, his stuff is about as electric as it comes. The fastball velocity was 92-94 mph on Tuesday and the slider was as nasty as ever at 84-85 mph. He's going to have a massive junior year. In his second inning of work, it was typical Crawford—mowing people down.

Johnny Magliozzi was 89-91 mph with his fastball and located it well. The draft-eligible sophomore had two solid innings and showed off his new curveball. He came to campus with a 12-6 breaking ball that could become sloppy at times, but the biggest issue was his inability to throw it for consistent strikes. That changed in the offseason. He's now throwing a curveball with less break to it, but it's sharper and he can command it much easier.

Magliozzi's changeup is still his best off-speed pitch, and it looked good on Tuesday. It's his strikeout pitch and the one he goes to when he needs a strikeout. It has depth and runs to his arm side. It was another strong fall outing for Magliozzi.

Junior left-hander Daniel Gibson also threw and was 90-91 mph on the mound. The velocity was down some from what he threw during last season, but it still had the same, hard sink that Gibson featured last year when he was trusted in big situations during the first half of the year.

The Gators wanted to go six innings in the scrimmage, so freshman Tucker Simpson and sophomore Ryan Harris both threw, despite neither being draft eligible this year.

Simpson has been really impressive this fall. His fastball was 90-92 mph on Tuesday and had some scouts talking about the freshman, despite them not coming to see him. His 6-7, 220-pound frame can help create some natural deception on the mound. When he lifts his front leg and starts to fall towards the plate, his glove hand pulls to the left violently, which can steal the attention of the hitter. It makes his fastball look much harder than it actually is.

When he gets stronger, the velocity will jump. He has a good changeup that he throws naturally. It's a swing-and-miss pitch. His curveball is also an average offering at worst. He's a consistent, three-pitch for strikes righty on the mound. Those aren't usual for freshmen.

This was my first look at sophomore right-hander Ryan Harris. He was 92-94 mph with the hard sink he featured last year in a limited role. If I had to throw a guess out this early about the closer's role, I think Harris fits in as a possibility. His command wasn't as sharp, giving up a solo home run to Jacksonville transfer Taylor Ratliff.

Ratliff has been sick this fall and missed some time, but his swing looks good. He created havoc on the bases and with the bunt game with at Jacksonville, and that's the mold the Florida coaches want to follow with this team. He can play second base, third base and probably anywhere in the outfield. He is expected to sit out the 2013 season because of NCAA transfer rules.

Zack Powers had a strong scrimmage on Tuesday. He had four hits during the six-inning scrimmage, having three singles and one double. The Florida coaches were really excited to get him back from his labrum surgery and are excited about his role. He can play both corner infield and corner outfield positions.

I've written about freshmen Richie Martin and Harrison Bader this offseason a few times, and they both looked good on Tuesday.

Martin is just a heady player. After lacing a single to right field, he stole the pitcher's attention with his speed on the bases. Two pitches into the at-bat, Martin was reading everyone on the infield. The pitcher had his head down and was trying to regroup. The middle infielders were looking at the dirt and not paying attention. Martin inched off first base and stole second easily between pitches.

It's those types of plays that have made the coaches love him. He's a smart player with instincts and an understanding of the game. His athleticism is just a cherry on the top.

Bader showcased his speed on Tuesday, too. I heard that a few weeks ago when most of the team recorded their 60-yard times, Bader was the fastest of the group. Now, it's notable that the entire team didn't run, and I'm not exactly sure who missed it, but it still goes to show what he can do.

Bader can also stick in center field. If he doesn't win a job this year, one season of learning under Tyler Thompson could help Bader become a valuable part of the 2014 team. He's got a bright future either way.

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