Spring is in the air — well, the calendar says it is — but the stretch of cold weather in Gainesville begs otherwise. Warm or cold, Florida’s baseball team takes the field Friday night. Coming off the worst season in Kevin O’Sullivan’s tenure as head coach, the Gators have turned the page on 2013 and are ready to kick off a new season and more importantly a fresh start against Maryland.
Kicking off our coverage of the baseball season will be a two-part breakdown of all 35 players that comprise the Gators baseball team that will take the field for the 100th season in school history.
We’ll get things kicked off today with the one position that is guaranteed to touch the baseball every single play and the players tasked with managing them — pitchers and catchers.
Taylor Gushue - Jr. – 6-2, 210
2013 Stats: .269, 5 HR, 33 RBI, 29 runs scored
Gushue may be a junior but he’s still young. Gushue enrolled at Florida a year early and had the opportunity to sit behind Mike Zunino and learn.
Gushue was one of the few power sources in a Gator lineup that struggled to light up the scoreboard but looks bigger and stronger than he has in his career at Florida and is poised to take a leadership role for the Gators as a junior.
Consistency has been his biggest weakness while at Florida but as a catcher, Gushue’s biggest responsibility will be managing a very talented and deep pitching staff this season.
Braden Mattson – Jr. – 6-3, 205
2013 Stats: N/A
The transfer of Kevin Stypulkowski created a need at catcher for O’Sullivan who reached into the juco talent pool to find Mattson. He will backup Gushue behind the plate but is a player that will force the coaching staffs hand somewhat because he is a player who needs to be in the lineup.
Mattson has good bat speed, a lot of pop and can provide Florida with a solid power bat in the middle of the lineup.
Mattson moves well and has a good enough glove to play a corner spot in the outfield or possibly platoon at first base if need be.
Mike Fahrman – Jr. – 6-0, 210
2013 Stats: .156, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 3 runs scored
Fahrman made 17 appearances last season — including eight starts as a DH — but hit just .156 in 32 plate appearances.
He’s a player who will likely be destined for far fewer plate appearances this season but is a veteran player with valuable game-experience and at-bats on a team filled with young players.
Keith Oren – Fr. – 6-1, 190
2013 Stats: N/A
Hailing from the same high school as Taylor Gushue (Calvary Christian, Boca Raton, FL) Oren was a late addition to the recruiting class.
Oren hit .330 with 18 RBI and two homeruns as a senior in high school. He’s solid behind the plate but will take some time to adjust at the plate with college pitching. He’s a good long-term prospect.
LHP Bobby Poyner – Jr. – 6-0, 200
2013 Stats: 3-3, 3.41 ERA
Poyner is getting the ball this Friday night and will throw the first pitch in Florida’s 100th season.
He’s a veteran arm for the Gators who made 14 appearances last season including three starts. He started games on the road against Tennessee and Florida State last season and his veteran experience is likely the reason that O’Sullivan chose the lefty to kick things off on Friday.
Poyner throws strikes and has good stuff. He’ll be a vital piece of the rotation throughout the season.
RHP Brett Morales – Fr. – 6-1, 200
2013 Stats: N/A
The true freshman was impressive enough and consistent enough throughout the fall to get a spot in the opening weekend rotation. Morales has a fastball that sits in the low 90s with some life. He has a good curveball and spots his pitches well.
Morales was rated the 40th best prospect in the country by Perfect Game and was drafted in by the Cincinnati Reds in the 24th round before deciding to go to school.
RHP Karsten Whitson – R-Jr. – 6-4, 200
2013 Stats: N/A
Whitson returns from a season spent on the sidelines while recovering from shoulder surgery. He’s completed his rehab and was eased back into things in the fall but entered spring going full-bore.
Whitson was vying for the opening day start and publically stated that it was something he would like and embrace. While he won’t toe the rubber on Friday, he will get a start on the opening weekend, completing the longest year of his life and finally getting back on to the mound.
Whitson is draft-eligible again and will look to show scouts he is the pitcher that was drafted ninth overall out of high school.
Rest of the staff
LHP Keenan Kish – R-Jr. – 6-4, 205
2013 Stats: 3.38, 3 appearances, 5.1 innings
Kish’s season was ended prematurely with season-ending surgery. Kish is a versatile pitcher with a lot of experience but he needs to stay healthy to be able to make an impact this season. Kish will likely start out of the bullpen this season but could spot-start for the Gators and is an option to start mid-week games.
RHP Ryan Harris – Jr. – 6-2, 210
2013 Stats: 5-4, 3.07, 58.2 innings, 51 K, 15 BB
Harris is Florida’s utility man out of the bullpen. He’s a valuable asset for O’Sullivan and while he won’t start the season out as the closer, can come in to save the Gators in tough spots.
Harris has a heavy fastball that sits in the mid-90s and is one of the most experienced and reliable arms that Sully has to take advantage of.
LHP Corey Stump – R-So. – 6-5, 215
2013 Stats: 0-2, 2.45, made five appearances before an injury ended his season.
Stump’s season ended last year after just five outings and it’s unclear at the moment when he will be able to return to action in 2014.
LHP Danny Young – So. – 6-2, 200
2013 Stats: 3-4, 4.28, 23 K, 13 BB
Young had an impressive freshman campaign that included 22 appearances and seven starts. He made 12 appearances in league play (six starts), posting a 2-2 record against SEC foes.
Young is a good matchup pitcher out of the bullpen for Sully but showed last year that he can be relied upon as a starter when he made six-consecutive weekend starts. He’s a pitcher that will get a lot of innings this season.
RHP Mike Vinson – So. – 6-4, 210
2013 Stats: 3-1, 3.08, 26 K, 15 BB
Vinson made 16 appearances last season with all but four of them coming out of the bullpen. With a deeper starting rotation in 2014, Vinson will most likely come out of the bullpen in 2014.
RHP Aaron Rhodes – So. – 5-11, 190
2013 Stats: 1-0, 5.56, 8 K, 8 BB
Rhodes was used exclusively out of the bullpen last season and will continue in that role this season. He was effective in that role last season and is a trusted arm that can be used in tight spots out of the pen.
RHP Eric Hanhold – So. – 6-5, 205
2013 Stats: 0-4, 5.88, 24 K, 11 BB
Hanhold has impressed the coaching staff this offseason and is focused on reaching his potential this year. Hanhold said he changed the grip on his slider, which, he feels, has given him better control of the pitch as well as more bite. Hanhold isn’t in the opening weekend starting rotation but is a guy who will start some games mid-week and could end up working his way into the rotation.
RHP Jay Carmichael – So. – 6-2, 175
2013 Stats: 3-1, 3.08, 26 K, 15 BB
Carmichael made 16 appearances that included four starts as a freshman. After several major losses to the core of the pitching staff, Carmichael was able to step into an increased role to fill a void. Carmichael’s shining moment was a five-inning outing that earned him a win (his first league win) at No. 2 Vanderbilt.
Carmichael will come out of the bullpen, but like last season, can make spot starts when the team needs him to.
RHP Dane Dunning – Fr. – 6-3, 190
Clay High School, Fleming Island, FL
Dunning was impressive in the fall and has the eye of the coaching staff. He has a lanky frame but one that looks like it can support additional weight. Dunning throws in the high 80s to low 90s with an above-average curveball. From what I saw in the fall, he slows his arm down slightly when he throws the curve, which could tip off batters at this level.
He’s an impressive freshman who was drafted in the 34th Round by the Toronto Blue Jays before enrolling at Florida.
RHP Shaun Anderson – Fr. – 6-4, 225
American Heritage High School, Plantation, FL
At 6-5 and with a fully developed body, Anderson is an imposing force on the mound. He has a smooth delivery and a heavy fastball. Anderson has a hard curveball that he can throw for strikes and a rubber arm.
It appears that he will be able to come out of the bullpen and be a workhorse for the Gators whenever they need him.
LHP A.J. Puk – Fr. 6-7, 230
Washington High School, Cedar Rapids, IA
Puk will remind Gator fans of Brian Johnson in that he is a two-way player who will hit and pitch for the Gators. Puk can handle a bat well and will play first and DH for the Gators this season but his real future at Florida — and professionally — is on the mound.
At 6-7, Puk is am imposing figure n the mound and delivers his low 90s fastball from a ¾ delivery. In the couple of times I saw him early on in the fall, Puk struggles somewhat with his control but improved on that throughout the offseason. As a lefty, Puk has tons of natural movement on his fastball and the sooner he learns to just spot his fastball and let his plus off-speed pitches keep hitters off balance the sooner he will become a dominating starter at the college level.
LHP Kirby Snead – Fr. 6-0, 190
Santa Fe High School, Alachua, FL
Snead projects to be a lefty-on-lefty matchup out of the bullpen. He throws in the mid-80s and was clocked as high as 88 by Perfect Game. Snead throws from a very low ¾ arm-slot and has movement on his fastball and a big sweeping curveball. He can and will be a nightmare against left handed batters and is a situational pitcher with upside.
LHP Tyler Deel – Fr. – 6-5, 190
Fletcher High School, Jacksonville, FL
A long, lanky lefty, Deel is destined for the bullpen this season. With a deep pitching rotation, Deel may not get a lot of work this season but he has a lot of upside and a frame that you just can’t teach. Deel will need to add some weight and work on getting his velocity up but has both a projectable frame and good mechanics.
RHP Frank Rubio – Fr. – 5-11, 185
St. Thomas Aquinas, Miami Shores, FL
A pitcher from my own high school, Rubio walked-on at Florida and was a long shot to make the team. With a smaller frame and a fastball that sits in the mid-80s, Rubio got outs and did enough to earn a spot on the team. He’s a project on the mound but a player that will work to keep his spot.
LHP Scott Moss – Fr. – 6-5, 210
DeLand High School, Deltona, FL
Another tall, lanky lefty, Moss was clocked as high as 90 mph by Perfect Game but will normally sit in the mid-to-high 80s. Moss compliments that fastball with a curveball, slider and changeup that all sit in the 70s.
Moss has a lot of room to add weight and increase his velocity and is a pitcher to keep an eye on moving forward for the Gators.
RHP Logan Shore – Fr. – 6-1, 210
Coon Rapids High School, Coon Rapids, MN
Shore throws in the low 90s and has good command of all three of his pitches. He attacks batters. Shore is a smart pitcher who trusts his stuff, hits his spots and isn’t going to back down from batters. He’ll work out of the bullpen for the Gators this season.
RHP Dean Pelman – Fr. – 5-11, 210
American Heritage High School, Weston, FL
Pelman had to undergo Tommy John surgery and will miss his freshman season this spring.