Florida Gators baseball is a month away from their first pitch of the 2023 season. Kevin O’Sullivan is entering his 16th season as head baseball coach at the University of Florida, holding a record of 627-302 during that span.
The Gators debut at #7 in D1Baseball’s preseason top 25 rankings, which is considered to be the most-widely accepted rankings system in the sport.
Perfect Game tabs Florida in at #8 while Collegiate Baseball slotted the Gators at #2, the highest-ranking Florida has received so far.
Outlets with preseason rankings yet to be released are Baseball America, the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and the USA Today Coaches Poll.
The Gators are set to clash with seven preseason top-25 opponents in 2023: #22 Miami (March 3-5), #20 Alabama (March 16-18), At #4 Ole Miss (March 24-26), at #2 Tennessee (April 6-8), at #23 South Carolina (April 20-22), at #5 Texas A&M (May 5-7) and #10 Vanderbilt (May 12-14).
Florida returns 23 players from their 2022 roster following a 42-24 (15-15 SEC) campaign. Six positional starters and two weekend starting pitchers make their return to Gainesville.
Coach Sullivan brings in the #5 ranked freshman class in the country, according to D1Baseball. The group consists of nine freshmen, seven from the state of Florida.
The Gators also bring in a talented transfer class which ranks #7 in the country, according to D1Baseball. The group consists of five players, two pitchers and three positional players. The leader of the pack is Southern Miss right-handed pitcher Hurston Waldrep, who ranks as the #3 overall transfer prospect, according to Baseball America. Waldrep is considered one of the better pitchers in college baseball and should provide an elite 1-2 punch with Brandon Sproat to start Florida’s weekend series.
Coach Sullivan’s squad is the deepest it’s been since 2018. The weekend rotation has five suitable candidates, which is a good problem to have.
With Brandon Sproat and Hurston Waldrep locked into Friday and Saturday night, that leaves three players as options for the Sunday spot. Brandon Neely, Pierce Coppola, and Jac Caglianone.
Gator Country provides our prediction for the weekend rotation and the starting lineup.
FRIDAY: Hurston Waldrep
SATURDAY: Brandon Sproat
SUNDAY: Pierce Coppola
Friday and Saturday night can be interchangeable. Waldrep is the better pitcher in my opinion, but Sproat has been in Gainesville for three years.
Coppola was the Sunday starter in 2022 before suffering an injury early in the season. I have him penciled in for the Sunday slot if and when he’s healthy.
PREDICTING THE STARTING LINEUP
CF- Wyatt Langford
RF- Ty Evans
LF- Matt Prevesk
3B- Colby Halter
SS- Josh Rivera
2B- Dale Thomas
1B- Jac Caglianone
DH- BT Riopelle
C- Rene Lastres
That was almost impossible to predict due to the volume of hitters Florida has on their roster this season. I left Tucker Talbott, Luke Heyman, Deric Fabian, Michael Robertson, Tyler Shelnut, and Yoel Tejeda Jr off the lineup. All of those players could find themselves in the starting lineup at some point this season.
Coach Sullivan will have a tough time figuring out which lineup works best for the Gators, but like I said earlier, these are good problems to have. I expect Florida’s roster to shuffle around a good bit early on in the season. Sullivan will try players at new positions in order to get the best hitters on the field.
I have high expectations for the Gators’ baseball team in 2023. They will look to advance to the College World Series for the first time since 2018.
Florida is going to need consistency at the plate if they want to maximize their potential. I look towards veterans Colby Halter and Josh Rivera. These two have all the tools to be successful but have displayed inconsistencies at the dish throughout their careers. It’s tough to put the pressure on two guys, but it feels like Halter and Rivera have so much control on how Florida’s season turns out. Both are coming off good summers and are poised for a breakout season.
The bullpen will be much more experienced for the Gators in 2023. Ryan Slater, Blake Purnell, and Nick Ficarrotta pitched a combined 167 ⅔ innings in 2022 and are back for another season. Tyler Nesbitt is back and fully healthy. You will see 2 of the 3 potential Sunday starters in the bullpen on the weekends. The Gators will be looking to Phillip Abner, Anthony Ursitti, and Fisher Jameson to step up and eat serious innings this season. Florida could lean on several talented freshmen for pitching depth as well.
Florida’s 2023 season officially opens at home on Friday, Feb. 17th with the first of three games in a weekend series against Charleson Southern. 20 of Florida’s first 22 games take place at Condron Family Ballpark in Gainesville, Florida.