The Gators have to replace two of the weekend starters on the mound and six pitchers that were drafted by the Major leagues. It is a huge undertaking, but one thing Kevin O’Sullivan is known for is having a pretty good pitching staff, and he really likes this one.
O’Sullivan is not afraid to say that he feels like he has three first round draft choices pitching on the weekend. His confidence in all three guys has been through the roof and expects huge years from all three.
Friday: RHP Alex Faedo (JR)
With the all-star pitching staff Florida had a year ago, Faedo led the Gators in wins with 13. He went 7-1 in the SEC and garnered Second Team All-American honors. It was a dominant season for Faedo who finished with a 13-3 record and a 3.18 earned run average.
Saturday: RHP Brady Singer (SO)
Nobody has nastier stuff to throw out there than Singer. Singer was the player of the year in the Cape Cod development league over the summer and comes in as prepared as anyone. He looks to improve on his 4.95 ERA in a big way, but as a freshman he showed the ability to come in and go after batters. O’Sullivan has the utmost confidence in Singer to be a big time player this season.
Sunday: RHP Jackson Kowar (SO)
Kowar finished with a 3-0 record and was a strikeout machine in his 12 appearances throwing 44 strikeouts with just 10 walks and a 3.37 ERA. In a season where he missed a dozen possible spots to play because of a heart condition, Kowar has been on par with the other weekend starters this offseason and another that O’Sullivan has a lot of faith in.
The bullpen and midweek starters are going to be a work in progress for this staff. There are maybe two guys right now that stand out as possible midweek starters.
RHP Michael Byrne (SO)
Byrne pitched just 16 innings in 2016, but he does what Sully wants and throws strikes. He finished with 15 strikeouts in those 16 innings to go along with a 3.94 ERA.
RHP Nate Brown (FR)
Brown is one of several true freshman arms that O’Sullivan is waiting to see in live game action on the roster and he has stood out in a big way in the offseason. Drafted in the 40th round by the Yankees, he chose to come to school and compete at Florida. He should pitch a lot this season.
RHP Frank Rubio (SR)
Rubio looks to be a long relief guy with his side arm motion and Sully has said he is very confident in what the senior (one of two on the roster) brings to the table. Rubio’s role has grown every year on campus and a year ago he played in 23 games with a 3-1 record with a 4.46 ERA. He struck out 21 batters and walked just 8 walks. O’Sullivan and Rubio both expect him to make more appearances this season than any other pitcher.
LHP Nick Horvath (JR)
He appeared in 15 games with a 2.08 ERA with five walks and eight strikeouts in 13 innings. Even with the limited action he is one of the veterans in the bullpen as the rest of the guys are freshmen.
The following is a list of the freshmen arms that have made some noise this offseason. This isn’t to say that these are the only ones that will see action, but Sully is going to have to rely a lot on these guys including finding a closer. Could it be Andrew Baker? Baker has an injury to his hand that will keep him from hitting and playing in the outfield, both areas he is expected to help, but he will be allowed to pitch and has been ultra-impressive in the preseason.
RHP Nick Long (FR)
LHP Andrew Baker (FR)
LHP Cole Maye (FR)
LHP Austin Langworthy (FR)
RHP Kirby McMullen (FR)
RHP Garrett Milchin (FR)
RHP Austin Bodrato (FR)
Left Field: Austin Langworthy (FR)
Maybe the only true freshman in the starting lineup to tart the season, Langworthy has a cannon in the outfield and also hits for power. From nearby Williston HS, Langworthy was drafted in the 31st round by the Cincinnati Reds.
Center Field: Blake Reese (SO)
A utility guy that can play in the infield or outfield Reese played at second and short last year in 12 appearances. Reese can run and cover a lot of ground. He has a solid bat and is also a left handed bat which the Gators are short on.
RIGHT FIELD: Nelson Maldonado (SO)
A veteran now as a sophomore, Maldonado played in 64 games and started in 59 last season playing both right and left field. He hit .333 in the SEC Tournament and made the Gainesville NCAA Regional All-Tournament team.
OTHERS OF NOTE
In Ryan Larson and Nick Horvath, Sully has veterans that have played a lot of baseball now. Larson is a defensive specialist while Horvath can do a little bit of everything. The group f freshmen are just more talented young guys for the Gators and Baker will really push for playing time in the field when his hand injury has healed.
Ryan Larson (SR)
Nick Horvath (JR)
Andrew Baker (FR)
Keenan Bell (FR)
Austin Bodrato (FR)
Kirby McMullen (FR)