Baseball practice observations: 10/16

The Gators are back on the field for fall practice, and Wednesday featured some key players, as well as another look at some of the nation's top freshman class.

Karsten Whitson took the mound on Wednesday. He threw around 30-35 pitches in two innings while throwing only fastballs and changeups. He won't start throwing his slider for a few more weeks. Whitson took the mound in front of 8-10 scouts, including a few scouting directors.

Because the rest of his teammates knew he wouldn't be throwing the slider, there was more contact than usual, but he still threw two scoreless innings while touching 95 mph multiple times. They'll continue to ease him back, but he will be ready for the start of the 2014 season. The most important thing right now is that the velocity was there.

Sophomore Eric Hanhold had an inconsistent day, but optimism continues to grow about him this spring. The 6-5 righty has the frame to emerge, and the coaching staff is happy with his progress this offseason. He was 91-94 mph on Wednesday, and even though he gave up a few mistakes like a solo homer to Taylor Gushue, the belief is that Hanhold will be an important pitcher on the staff this year.

Sophomore left-hander Danny Young cruised through two innings of work. He was 89-90 mph and routinely located his fastball inside to right-handed hitters to get outs.

This was my first look at freshman right-hander Shaun Anderson. He's a 6-5 right-hander that pounds the strike zone. He has a big curveball and a slider that he threw for strikes. He gave up a few hits while allowing one run.

The thing that stood out to me the most was the growth some players have made from last season.

Richie Martin has filled out some and gained some arm strength this year. Harrison Bader and Justin Shafer had much better arms in the outfield.

Josh Tobias had a great day on Wednesday. He worked some in the outfield, which could be an option if he gets comfortable there and freshmen prove capable of handling third base, but his swing looked great. Tobias hit a 95-mph fastball from Whitson off the base of the right field wall. He had a single later in the scrimmage, too.

A.J. Puk is going to be fun to watch for the next three years. He has plenty of upside on the mound, but he has a lot of loft in his swing and the ball jumps off his bat. His batting practice round was the most impressive on the team. In the scrimmage, he stayed on a fastball from Anderson on the outside corner and drove it into the left-center field gap for a double. Puk will hit in the middle of the order right away.

Freshman infielder Pete Alonso has real power. It's natural gap power, and the ball jumps off his bat. He's playing third base this fall, but he looks more like a first baseman to me. We'll see what happens in the spring, but his bat is good enough to hit as a freshman.

Alonso and John Sternagel split time at third base on Wednesday. Sternagel looks like the more natural fielder and has a good swing, but he didn't have many standout moments during Wednesday's scrimmage.

The two freshmen outfielders that will get the most attention are Ryan Larson and Buddy Reed. The coaches love both players and think they'll both have a role this season. Larson has good instincts in the field.

Reed is 6-3 or 6-4 with plus speed. He has a good arm in the outfield and spent time playing center field. The question is his bat, and it might take a year for him to get the bat where it needs to be, but all the tools are there. He doesn't swing and miss much, so that will help him make an impact as a freshman with his speed.

One other note, Jonathon Crawford and Tommy Toledo are back in Gainesville taking classes this fall and are serving as student assistants.


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