Catcher: Taylor Gushue will return for his junior year and third season on campus. After skipping his senior year of high school and sitting behind Mike Zunino in 2012, Gushue was expected to become a power bat in the middle of the Florida order. He had an inconsistent season, catching fire in the middle between struggles in the early and late portions of the year.He hit .269 with five home runs and a team-high 33 RBI. His defense improved behind the plate during the season, and his throwing got better after teams ran at will on him during the early part of the season.
But Gushue needs to be more consistent. The Gators will lean on his bat in 2014, and during his first draft-eligible season, Gushue will need to produce more. Kevin Stypulkowski will likely start the year as the backup, but he could find his way into time as the designated hitter if the bat improves.
First base: With the departure of Vickash Ramjit, this starting position is wide open. Of returning players, there are a few possibilities. Zack Powers, Brady Roberson and Stypulkowski could be three of the options. Powers played primarily at third this year but has played first base before. Roberson worked his way into the lineup at the end of the year after being slowed by a foot injury early in the season. Stypulkowski is athletic enough to handle it.The intriguing options come from incoming freshmen. And there are multiple players that can do it, depending which ones make it to campus. Washington (IA) High School left-hander/first baseman A.J. Puk and Plant (FL) High School infielder Pete Alonso could factor into seeing time at the position. Both are expected to bring much needed power to the Florida lineup next year.
Second base: Casey Turgeon didn't take the leap expected after his Freshman All-American season. His batting average dropped 12 points, adding one more home run (five) this year. The Gators need Turgeon to improve his bat this offseason and be a more consistent hitter than the .268 average he showed in 2013.It's Turgeon's position at second base as he heads into his draft-eligible season.
Shortstop: After the Florida coaches felt Cody Dent solidified the defense in 2013, it will be back to Richie Martin as shortstop in 2014. He played most of the time in center field after his broken finger. Martin still tied for second on the team with a .300 batting average, adding a .366 on-base percentage. He stole just seven bases in 2013 but expect that number to jump next year. He was recruited to get on base and steal bases, and you'll see him do that at a much higher clip in 2014.The downfall for Martin will always be his power, but that's not the kind of player he is. He could use some added strength to drive the ball in the gap, but his swing is good enough to make him a quality SEC player for the rest of his time in Gainesville.
Third base: This is where the Gators have options and will have a competition this offseason. Josh Tobias ended the year hitting .260 with three home runs. Powers started out the year on fire before completing an inconsistent overall year.The incoming freshman crop could be heavily involved in the battle for the starting job. Hernando (FL) High School infielder Christian Arroyo and Rockledge (FL) High School infielder John Sternagel will be heavily involved at this position and both likely in the lineup during the 2014 season if they make it to Gainesville.
There's a nice blend of youth and veterans at third base that will add to the competition in fall practice.