2017 Gators’ Baseball Preview: The Infield

The Florida baseball season is upon us and as the Gators to prepare to make another run at Omaha. Here is a rundown of what we know from this Gator Baseball roster as they open up the season on Friday against William and Mary. Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan likes this team.

We will go into the hitting in the next segment when we go through the lineup, but here is a look at the infield as we see it heading into the opening weekend of the season.

The Infield Depth Chart…

FIRST BASE: Christian Hicks (JR); J.J. Schwarz (JR); Keenan Bell (FR)

Rundown… Hicks is probably a surprise here after hitting for just .135 a year ago in backup duties. He’s always been a terrific defender, but he’s really stepped up his hitting game in the fall and early this spring. He’s bigger now, up to 210 pounds and has been hitting with power since the fall. His left handed bat helps him get on the field here.

As long as Hicks swings the bat he should stay at first given he is a lefty bat. If not, O’Sullivan will turn to Schwarz who will likely DH when not playing a position on the field. At first, Schwarz has been solid as a defender. It has taken him time to get used to not wearing protective gear like he does as a catcher, but he has grown used to it over the fall and the spring after playing there for the first time in the SEC Tournament a year ago.

Freshman Bell is another good option and another lefty, at the plate which plays in his favor. He’s had a solid offseason and a guy that will certainly see the field somewhere on the infield this spring and summer.

 

SECOND BASE: Deacon Liput (SO); Jonathan India (SO; Christian Hicks (JR)

Liput put together a solid freshman season in the field and had a .982 fielding percentages committing just five errors as the full time second baseman for the Gators in 2016. He was named to the All-SEC Freshmen Team and also earned second team All-American honors from Rawlings. While he bats from the left hand side, he throws as a righty.

India will start at third, but if something happens to Liput he might be the first to move over.

Hicks as we said is a terrific defender and really could sub anywhere in the infield. With his left handed at bat, replacing Liput if injured might be more favorable to O’Sullivan.

Kan Li / Scout

SHORT STOP: Dalton Guthrie (JR); Jonathan India (SO); Christian Hicks (JR)

Guthrie started 67 games a year ago and was stellar in the field with a .970 fielding percentage. After moving over from second base as a freshman, the transition was seamless and as a sophomore he made the All-SEC Defensive team. The leadoff hitter for the Gators, his speed and quickness is apparent from the get go.

If Guthrie has to miss for whatever reason, India or Hicks are the likely candidates to step in for him. India has gotten the most reps in a backup role, but Hicks has really seen a lot more time than usual this spring at shortstop.

THIRD BASE: Jonathan India (SO); Christian Hicks (JR)

With a terrific bat and a .933 fielding average, India made just about every Freshman All-American list there was at the conclusion of last season. The future is bright for the young man and his ability to field the ball could have him playing anywhere in the infield if an injury or illness were to occur.

Hicks would be the primary backup here, although catcher Mike Rivera has shown really nice flashes when inserted at third base at times.

 

CATCHER: Mike Rivera (JR); J.J. Schwarz (JR); Mark Kolozsvary (JR)

Rivera had just three errors the entire season as the primary catcher with a fielding percentage of .994. He is the boss behind the plate and everyone listens to him. A solid bat ad known more for clutch RBI, Rivera is a contact hitter that has power that surprises even him at times. Rivera was named to the All-SEC Second Team and earned All-SEC Defensive Team honors as a sophomore as well.

Schwarz is not a drop-off as a catcher and has played plenty behind the plate. Maybe less demanding as Rivera, he is a quiet leader who carries a big stick.

Kolozsvary, in very limited time on the field threw out three of 11 base runners and has shown a cannon of an arm when guys try to take a base on him. O’Sullivan would be very open to Kolozsvary playing if that is what needed to happen.

OTHERS TO WATCH: Garrett Milchin (FR); Blake Reese (SO)

Milchin is a guy that O’Sullivan likes at first and third but has had a hand injury sidelining him over the last week. Reese can play in the infield or outfield but will get likely get the starting nod in center field to begin the season.

 

NEXT UP:  We will take a look at the pitching staff and then the lineup and the various ways O’Sullivan can send bats to the plate. 


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