Gators Fall Baseball Look In: October 18

Fall baseball at the University of Florida is a week in and head coach Kevin O’Sullivan has been pleased with a lot of what he has seen from his players. On tap for O’Sullivan is replacing six pitchers that signed professional contracts after last season, the same at first base and centerfield. He believes he has the right pieces to fill in.

One week in and O’Sullivan is happy with the veteran players and how they have taken to helping prepare the young ones for what lies ahead.

 “I think the older guys did a really good job of helping the younger guys with the pace of practice,” O’Sullivan said as they continue fall workouts to figure out who is going to play where to help the squad. “I think the older guys have been swinging the bats very well. I was impressed with the way (junior) J.J. Schwarz was swinging the bat… (Sophomore) Danny Reyes. I think (freshman) Austin Langworthy’s plate discipline has been very impressive. They are swinging the bats really good.

On the mound there is so much talent to replace, but O’Sullivan has been pretty adamant that his weekend starting group of Junior Alex Faedo and sophomores Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar are not chopped liver.

“I think the older guys, in particular Brady and Jackson, have been throwing the ball really well,” he said. “There were a couple of surprises, pleasant surprises. I think (freshman) Andrew Baker has been swinging the bat well and playing a really good center field. He’s really attacked on the mound. (Freshman) Tyler Dyson’s second time out, he was 92-95. I certainly don’t want to leave anybody out, but I think we’re playing solid defense and I think the first week the freshmen and new guys have to get acclimated to what is expected in the case of practice.”

O’Sullivan is known for his prowess in coaching pitchers and there will never likely be a lack of pitchers at Florida as long as he is the coach. Many would be stressed after losing the likes of A.J. Puk, Logan Shore, Kirby Snead, Dane Dunning, and more. O’Sullivan is looking forward to the weekends with the guys he expects to start.

“I feel really good, obviously knock on wood, we need to stay healthy,” he said.  With Faedo, Singer, and Kowar, I don’t think anyone is going to feel sorry for us on the weekend. You get three right handers that are big, they’ve got leverage, they’ve got really good arms, and they are all 92, 96, 97. They all bring something a little different to the table.

“Obviously Alex has a plus slider and a plus fastball. Brady’s got as good of a sink on his fastball that I think I’ve ever had. His slider’s been really good. The change up is certainly coming along really well. I am pleased at where he’s at. Jackson’s slider is coming along, and obviously you guys know how good of a changeup he has.”

With those three pretty much set to handle the weekend starter duties, the big chore in the offseason will be to figure out the bullpen and midweek guys that will fill in. He also has to replace All-American

“They’re all a little bit different, but as far as the bullpen I knew going in that we were going to have to redo the bullpen so to speak and figure out a couple of positions on the field. We return seven of our nine hitters, so we’re not that far off, we just gotta figure out the bullpen. I think that’s probably the biggest thing is figure out the go-to guys as we go through the fall.”

One of the positions they have to figure out is first base. Gone is All-American Pete Alonso who was a terrific fielder and an even better at-bat. Junior J.J. Schwarz, sophomore Blake Reese, and freshmen Keenan Bell and Garret Milchin are the early names he is looking at to fill Alonso’s big shoes.

"Well, we've got a bunch of guys,” he said when asked who all is looking to fill the void. “You've got Keenan Bell, Blake Reese, Garrett Milchin… obviously J.J. I'd love to have J.J. over there when he's not catching to free up that DH spot and obviously the way Danny Reyes is swinging the bat, if he keeps swinging like this, he's going to be one of these guys swinging in the middle of the order. We've got some options. We've just got to figure out who is going to be the best defensive first baseman because we've got quite a few options over there."

From the sounds of things, Schwarz seems like the one O’Sullivan wants the most because of his big bat and that allows another big bat, as he said, to play as the designated hitter. As far as Schwarz defense, O’Sullivan said he would be very good at the position.

"He's fine,” O’Sullivan said. “He's a baseball player. I would have no reservations on his days off playing him at first base. I don't have any issues with that. Obviously, he's a catcher first but obviously I would hate to use the DH spot up when I think he's capable of playing first base on a day he's not catching."

The new faces…

O’Sullivan continues to recruit at a high level and it is very likely that Buddy Reed’s spot in center field will be filled by freshmen. This year he has made it a point to recruit two-way defenders, pitchers and fielders and there are a few that are doing what he expected so far this fall

"I kind of knew what (OF / LHP) Austin Langworthy and (OF/ LHP) Andrew Baker were before they got here. I've been pleased with and I kind of knew what to expect with (RHP) Nate Brown. I've seen him pitch quite a few times. I knew he could throw strikes. I think if you're going to ask me two guys who may have, (INF/ RHP) Garrett Milchin has been swinging the bat really good, but I've seen him play a ton as well. He hit a home run the other day and he's another two-way player. (OF/ 1B) Keenan Bell kind of sticks out. He's played tremendously over there at first. I think (RHP/ INF) Tyler Dyson pitching wise, I really didn't expect the type of velocity that he's throwing with, 92-95. I think he has a chance to be really, really good down the road."

 “There is probably a learning curve, but we talk about that every year,” he said. “Whether you are starting or relieving, you just have to come in and get outs. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first inning, or the sixth, or the ninth… your job doesn’t change. Obviously there is a learning curve to learning how to come in the middle of an inning and that type of thing, but I don’t see any issues with that moving forward.”

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