We are less than a month away from Florida baseball as the Gators are set to open the 2024 season against St. John’s in a three-game series starting on February 16th.
You can find Florida baseball’s updated 2024 roster here: https://floridagators.com/sports/baseball/roster.
Predicting Florida’s starting lineup
- 2B Cade Kurland
- SS Colby Shelton
- 1B Jac Caglianone
- C Luke Heyman
- DH Brody Donay
- LF Tyler Shelnut
- RF Ty Evans
- 3B Dale Thomas
- CF Michael Robertson
Florida returns 14 players from its 2023 NCAA Runner-Up squad including positional starters Jac Caglianone, Cade Kurland, Luke Heyman, Ty Evans, and Tyler Shelnut in addition to returning contributors Michael Robertson and Dale Thomas, all of which I have in my starting lineup prediction.
The Gators added two transfers in Colby Shelton and Brody Donay that I have predicted to be in the starting lineup come opening day.
Shelton, an Alabama transfer, set the Alabama freshman single-season home run record with 25, a total that tied for the third-most in Crimson Tide single-season history. Shelton batted .300 while adding 51 RBI, 49 runs scored, 33 walks and 10 hit-by-pitch in his freshman campaign with the Tide. His OBP of .419 ranked 4th on Alabama’s 2023 squad amongst players with 100+ plate appearances. Shelton found himself on a number of postseason award lists, including 2023 Freshman All-SEC Team and 2023 Freshman All-American. Shelton was selected to the 2024 Preseason Second Team All-American list prior to the start of the season.
Donay, a Virgina Tech transfer, played in 39 games including 33 starts as a true freshman with the Hokies. Donay slashed .260/.352/.585 with a .937 OPS, 12 home runs, four doubles, 32 runs and 38 RBI during his freshman campaign. The 6’5, 235-pound utility man could see play time at catcher, outfield, or DH. The staff is very high on the sophomore catcher due to his raw power, which will make it difficult to leave him out of the starting lineup.
POWER IN THE STARTING NINE
Hitters 1-7 in my starting lineup prediction launched 115 home runs a season ago, four of which were true freshmen while three (Donay, Shelnut, Evans) started 70% or less of their teams’ games. Florida is going to have a ton of power in their lineup once again after setting a program record 145 home runs in a single season in 2023.
FIRST GUYS OFF THE BENCH?
Senior outfield Jaylen Guy will compete with Mikey Robertson for a starting spot in center field. The Liberty transfer made 179 career starts with the Flames, posting a slash line of .253/.333/.356 career batting line across 616 at bats. In 2023, Guy batted a career-best .309/.359/.434 with two home runs, two triples, 12 doubles, 30 runs, 25 RBI and 22 stolen bases. Guy has the speed and ability to play elite defense, similar to Robertson. I have given the edge to Robertson because I liked what I saw from him at the plate during fall ball. He showed the ability to simply reach base, which is a huge plus for a nine-hole hitter with the top of the lineup behind you.
Catcher Tanner Garrison is another name to keep an eye on as he is far and away the best defensive catcher on the Gators. Garrison recorded a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage behind the plate with 106 putouts and eight assists during his sophomore year at Coastal Carolina. The 6’3 catcher slashed .257/.381/.482 with 13 homers, 11 doubles, 53 RBI and 48 runs over 222 at bats in his career with the Chanticleers. Garrison is going to get playing time at catcher because of his defensive ability; if he can hold his own at the plate, don’t be surprised if he slides into a more permanent role.
Utility man Landon Russell is another name that should see the field at some point this season. Russell spent one season at Gulf Coast in 2023, racking up 181 plate appearances over 47 games, posting a slash line of .305/.414/.497 with six home runs, three triples, 42 RBI, 39 RBI and 18 stolen bases. Russell can play infield and outfield for the Gators, bringing athleticism and speed to the Gators 2024 roster.