2017 College Preseason Top 25 Capsules: No. 3 Florida

SEE ALSO: College Preview Index

3. Florida

2016 Record (Ranking): 52-16 (5). RPI: 1.
Coach (Record at school): Kevin O’Sullivan (396-189, 9 years)
Postseason History: 22 regionals (active streak: 9), 10 CWS trips (active streak: 2), 0 national titles.

Florida entered 2016 as the No. 1 team in the country, brimming with Preseason All-Americans and pro prospects. The Gators lived up to the sky-high expectations for much of the year, earning the No. 1 national seed and producing six of the draft’s first 88 picks.

But Florida was unable to capture the national championship, the one title that continues to elude the program. The Gators went 0-2 in the College World Series, losing a pair of one-run games.

Coach Kevin O’Sullivan said the end to last season was disappointing, but the Gators are ready to make another run at Omaha and the national championship.

“It’s a new year and the more times you knock on the door, you’ll break through at some point, you just don’t know when,” he said. “We’ve lost five one-run games in a row out there. It’s a different game. We have to evolve and get better.”

Despite everything Florida lost from last year’s team, it is positioned to do just that this season. O’Sullivan said he thinks the Gators have one of the best offenses he’s had as head coach. They have always been one of the best fielding teams in the country, which figures to continue. And even after losing righthander Logan Shore, the Southeastern Conference pitcher of the year, and first-round picks lefthander A.J. Puk and righthander Dane Dunning, Florida’s pitching staff again looks elite.

Righthander Alex Faedo will take over as Friday starter and could be the No. 1 overall pick in June. Following him in the rotation are sophomore righthanders Brady Singer, an early favorite to be the first overall pick in the 2018 draft, and Jackson Kowar, also a likely first rounder next year.

“They’re all a little bit different, but they’re power arms and the ball moves, it’s not straight,” O’Sullivan said. “We’re talking about three guys potentially—I don’t want to overstate it—it’s one thing to have two first-rounders, but all three have the ability to go in the top 10 picks. We’re fortunate at this level to get one guy like that, and we’re fortunate to have three on the weekend.”

With a rotation like that, the pressure should be lessened on Florida’s younger bullpen. Part of O’Sullivan’s plan to evolve to build a team better suited to the postseason is to play matchups more with his bullpen. To that end, Florida’s third-ranked recruiting class is loaded with two-way players who will lengthen the bench and deepen the bullpen, such as lefthanders/outfielders Andrew Baker and Austin Langworthy.

Florida’s offense was younger last year and, at times, appeared dependent on first baseman Peter Alonso. The Gators will have to replace the All-American, as well as center fielder Buddy Reed, a second-round pick, but with six starters returning a year older and stronger, they should be formidable at the plate. Catcher Mike Rivera, second baseman Deacon Liput, third baseman Jonathan India and shortstop Dalton Guthrie and DH/catcher J.J. Schwarz (who will also see some action at first base) will all be expected to take a step forward offensively.

With so many pro prospects, Florida could again be looking at a draft haul like it had last year. That can lead to additional pressure, but O’Sullivan is practiced in handling a lots of draft-eligible players on the roster. He’s confident his players will be able to handle everything that will be thrown their way.

“Our juniors are really solid,” O’Sullivan said. “Sometimes it’s tough to handle, but I look at our junior class and they have about as good makeup as you’ll ever see. I trust those guys. I think they’re going to be able to handle what’s thrown at them as well as anybody we’ve ever had. I like our team.”

C Mike Rivera, Jr. .245 .347 .419 9 47 0
1B Christian Hicks, Jr. .118 .400 .176 0 3 1
2B Deacon Liput, So. .270 .363 .398 3 36 13
3B Jonathan India, So. .303 .367 .440 4 40 13
SS Dalton Guthrie, Jr. .305 .367 .366 1 22 8
LF Austin Langworthy, Fr. HS—Williston, Fla.
CF Blake Reese, So. .286 .444 .429 0 1 0
RF Nelson Maldonado, So. .256 .350 .405 6 30 6
DH J.J. Schwarz, Jr. .290 .397 .456 7 60 2
Pos. Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
RHP Alex Faedo, Jr. 13 3 3.18 105 133 0
RHP Brady Singer, So. 2 2 4.95 44 38 1
RHP Jackson Kowar, So. 3 0 3.37 35 44 0
RP Andrew Baker, Fr. HS—Haines City, Fla.

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