Five freshmen to watch

The Gators will lean heavily on their sophomore and junior classes for production this season, but they have a large group of freshmen that can help.

Coming into the season as the No. 2 team, Florida will lean on its veterans for production. However, there will still be plenty of freshmen that are involved. Logan Browning, Dalton Guthrie, Mike Rivera and J.J. Schwarz will be important to the offense, and right-hander Alex Faedo will get important innings on the mound.

Catcher JJ Schwarz: The crown jewel of Florida’s freshman class, Schwarz will be part of a two-man rotation behind the plate. He will split time with Mike Rivera behind the plate, but Kevin O’Sullivan has already said that there will be games where he puts one of Schwarz and Rivera behind the plate and the other in the lineup as the designated hitter.

Schwarz (6-1, 205 pounds) has big power and had professional teams talking about selecting him in the second or third round of the 2014 MLB Draft. He made it to campus and will be thrown into the mix right away. Florida has basically had two catchers for the last five seasons -- Taylor Gushue and Mike Zunino -- and Schwarz has the talent to be mentioned with them before his career is over.

Catcher Mike Rivera: While Schwarz had the headlines and was viewed as one of the top high school catchers in the country, the Florida coaches were just as excited to get Rivera to school. Rivera is smaller than Schwarz, but he can really hit despite not having the power Schwarz does. He has an advanced approach that’s easy to see even in batting practice. While others are trying to hit balls on the street behind the stadium, Rivera sprays line drives all over the field.

Rivera and Schwarz were the two catchers on the 2013 USA 18-U national team. Rivera was third on the team with a .364 average and led the team with 11 runs scored. Both catchers will spend plenty of time in the Florida lineup as freshmen this spring.

Second baseman Dalton Guthrie: The thought is that Guthrie will be a top-of-the-order hitter at some point in his career, but the coaching staff might not put him there to start 2015, trying to alleviate some pressure. He’s not a power hitter, but he has advanced feel for the bat in the bunt game and can steal some hits that way. On the bases, he has the instincts to take the extra base and steal bases.

His best attribute, and the one that will be most obvious in 2015, is his glove. Guthrie has made multiple plays that turned heads in preseason scrimmages, and he could play shortstop if Florida needed him to. With Richie Martin manning the position for likely one more season, Guthrie will slide to second base and give the Gators another solid defender up the middle.

Outfielder/left-handed pitcher Logan Browning: The Gators have options for the third outfielder that will start with Harrison Bader and Buddy Reed, and Browning will get in the mix. He was one of the lowest rated prospects in the 2014 class, but he should still make a big immediate impact. The coaches have been happy with his bat in the preseason scrimmages and he’s more than capable as a defender.

He’ll also be able to help Florida on the mound, likely as a reliever. He’s up to 91 mph with his fastball and multiple people think his breaking ball is one of the best on the entire team.

Right-handed pitcher Alex Faedo: The 6-4, 220-pound freshman has the build to handle the load as a starter. His role this season isn’t set, but he will be an important part of the Florida rotation before his career is over. The ball jumps out of his hand, and his off-speed stuff has been improving since coming to campus.

The only part keeping Faedo from a big impact this year is the depth on the pitching staff. While the Gators likely won’t have the need for him to pitch important innings, his talent might force him into important roles.

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