Full squad workouts at the University of Florida begin on Friday and with the start of the season just a few weeks away, we won’t have to wait very long to see what head baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan has brewing for the Gators. What you might know is that he already has Florida off to a fantastic start.
“Kevin O’Sullivan did a heck of a job with this first (recruiting) class,” Baseball America columnist Aaron Fitt said. “If you talk to coaches around the country they’ll probably tell you that Florida made out during this early signing period better than anyone else. The six players that O’Sullivan signed are guy that have a good chance to make it on campus. These are guys that O’Sullivan, in particular, thinks are not a threat to sign after the draft. A lot of these guys are in that 67-100 range, in the back-third of the top one-hundred, where a lot of times it’s a little bit safer than at the top of the list.
“This is an impressive class and one that I think the fans in Gainesville are going to be very happy with,” he added. “One thing that they had to do was take care of their home state. That’s one thing that talking to LSU, for example, is the something they wanted to do with those Louisiana guys. They had to keep them at home and they had to beat Miami and beat Florida State out there. And honestly, I think they did that.”
According to Fitt, roughly 50% of those players rated in the Baseball America Top 100 the past two years signed a Major League Baseball contract. One could safely assume that percentage is significantly higher among those players who are rated in the top 25. O’Sullivan is master recruiter who most certainly has his pulse on the attitudes of these young players and their families as they prepare to make the biggest decisions of their future.
“If Kevin O’Sullivan tells you that he thinks that he’s going to get them, he probably will, because he really knows his stuff. This guy is one of the best recruiters in the country. He did a terrific job at Clemson. He took chances at Clemson and brought in guys like Josh Smoker and Jeff Schaus last year. I don’t think that he was holding his breath that those guys were going to come. But, it wasn’t like he was going around telling people that they were definitely going to get them either. He knew there was a risk, but he knew them well.”
O’Sullivan signed 14 players, eight of whom are pitchers. The players ranked in Baseball America’s Top 100 who signed with the Gators:
#19- LHP Nick Maronde, Lexington (Ky) Catholic
#67- OF Tyler Thompson, Jupiter
#75- RHP Anthony DeSalafani, Colt’s Neck (N.J.)
#95- RHP Ryan Weber, Clearwater Central Catholic
#98- C Ben McMahan, Bishop Moore
#100- RHP Greg Larson, Lake Brantley
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The current Florida baseball squad has participated in three weeks of individual work. They have spent four days a week lifting weights and solidifying their conditioning. The team returned from the Christmas break in good shape. O’Sullivan stated that it was evident the players took care of themselves. They will have exactly 21 days to ready themselves for the start of the season and an additional 27 days before the start of conference play, which has the Gators hosting Auburn for a three-game set. The probable starting line-up going into practice looks like this:
Catcher: Hampton Tignor, Sophomore
First base: Brandon McArthur, Senior
Second base: Clayton Pisani, Sophomore
Shortstop: Cole Figueroa, Sophomore
Third base: Jon Townsend, Senior
Left field: Avery Barnes, Junior
Center field: Matt den dekker, Sophomore
Right field: Justin Pigott, Sophomore
Friday starter: RHP Kyle Mullaney, Sophomore
Saturday starter: RHP Billy Bullock, Sophomore
Sunday starter: RHP Tommy Toledo, Freshman
Closer: RHP Patrick Keating, Senior
Forward Adam Allen has maintained his desire to play basketball. O’Sullivan said that he has not had conversations with Allen because the freshman basketball player is in season. His status will be evaluated after the basketball season. The biggest concern as they begin practice is establishing the roles of the pitching staff.
“I’m used to playing four or five games a week,” O’Sullivan said at his Monday press conference. “When you press your team like that, you certainly find as much out about your club as you possibly can. You’re using more pitchers with the schedule the way it is and that eighth, ninth, and tenth pitcher is important. It certainly gives you a lot more ideas before conference play.”