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How Two-Way Star Jac Caglianone Grew His Game To Set Records And Become A Top Draft Prospect


Image credit: Jac Caglianone (Photo by Eddie Kelly / ProLook Photos)

Jac Caglianone was at his best at the plate in April, when Florida visited Vanderbilt for a three-game series. He was in the midst of what would become a nine-game home run streak and 30-game hitting streak.

Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin, who has coached for 22 years in the Southeastern Conference, said the plan of attack against Caglianone was simple.

“I think he’s pitchable,” Corbin said, before taking a pause. “You throw four balls away from the plate and walk him.

“He’s a unique guy inside this conference. I don’t know. In all the years I’ve been coaching, very few like him.”

Caglianone, a first baseman and lefthander, is unlike pretty much any player in baseball.

He was one of the very best players in the country as a sophomore in 2023, when he was an All-American and a finalist for the Golden Spikes award while both hitting in the middle of the order and serving as a weekend starter for Florida. The Gators won the SEC title and finished runner-up at the College World Series.

Last year, Caglianone hit .323/.389/.738 with 33 home runs while drawing 17 walks and striking out 58 times. On the mound, he went 7-4, 4.34 with 87 strikeouts and 55 walks in 74.2 innings. It was a spectacular season.

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For an encore, Caglianone was even better as a junior in 2024. He dramatically cut his strikeout rate, increased his walk rate and made more contact, all without sacrificing any power. Going into super regionals, he was hitting .410/.526/.847 with 31 home runs while drawing 48 walks and striking out 23 times. He also made progress on the mound, where he had gone 5-2, 4.57 with 76 strikeouts and 46 walks in 67 innings.

Caglianone was already the best two-way player in the country. But his step forward this year further grew his stature. Last year, he set the 21st century single-season home run record, which was broken this year by Georgia’s Charlie Condon.

His 73 career home runs—through super regionals—trail only LSU’s Tommy White (75) and Florida’s Matt LaPorta (74) in the 21st century. This season he also ranks in the top 10 nationally in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging.

A Real-Life Create-A-Player

With Caglianone’s production, raw tools, athleticism and size—he’s listed at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds—it’s easy to see why Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan likens his star to a video game creation.

“We call him ‘create-a-player,’” O’Sullivan said. “If you were to create a player on the computer, this is what they would look like.”

Developing Caglianone wasn’t as simple as clicking through some video game menus, however. He has put in a significant amount of work on both sides of the ball to get better throughout his career at Florida.

Caglianone was a two-way standout as a prep at Tampa’s Plant High and was a top-125 player in the 2021 draft class. Scouts mostly preferred him as a pitcher back then thanks to his 97 mph fastball and the projection that was still in his build. He has put on about 40 pounds since then.

But Caglianone suffered an injury late that spring and had Tommy John surgery in June 2021. That kept him off the mound for his first season in Gainesville, but he was able to return to action as a hitter in April. In the heart of SEC play, he was thrust into action and hit .288/.339/.548 with seven home runs in 28 games, an indication of his considerable upside.

After a normal, healthy offseason, Caglianone took off as a sophomore and then this spring took it a step further. Now, his future appears all but certain to be in the batter’s box, though the team that drafts him likely will at least initially give him a chance as a two-way player.

Behind The Breakout

But what’s behind Caglianone’s breakout as a hitter?

Overall, the lefthanded hitter’s approach at the plate remains largely the same as it ever was.

“My biggest thing’s always been ‘just hit a ball hard somewhere,’ ” he said. “See it up and drive it from light pole to light pole, from left-center to right-center.”

But there have been some adjustments. Florida assistant coach Chuck Jeroloman said because Caglianone couldn’t pitch initially when he arrived in Gainesville, the staff had more time to work with him as a hitter. Over the last three years, he has matured as a hitter and shown consistent growth. This year, the changes have mostly come in his two-strike approach.

“He made a conscious effort to make the adjustments he needs with two strikes,” Jeroloman said. “He’s confident. He’s not worried about getting to two strikes, and that makes a difference early in the count, too.”

Jeroloman said Caglianone has also begun to take more ownership of his gameplan. Instead of Jeroloman telling him what he needs to do against a certain pitcher, Caglianone is coming to Jeroloman with a plan of attack.

“The last two years, I’d tell him, ‘You need to do this,’ ” Jeroloman said. “Now he says, ‘I’m facing this guy, so I’m taking it the other way, right?’ Or, ‘I’m sitting on this pitch?’

“He’s not just a bull in a China shop anymore. He used to be that. He’s big and strong. He’s going to get his swings off in every at-bat. Now, he has a better idea of what he needs to do to have success and what he handles really well.”

The results have been striking. While Caglianone still swings a lot and is more susceptible to chasing out of the strike zone than some evaluators would prefer, he has cut down significantly on his swing-and-miss. With his size, he’s always going to strike out some, but he’s shown a preternatural ability for putting the barrel on the ball and driving nearly any pitch.

Caglianone has done all of that while simultaneously adjusting to life without Wyatt Langford batting in front of him and Josh Rivera, who was drafted in the third round, batting behind him. The Gators were not able to protect him as well this year, and it showed at times. He had been intentionally walked 28 times, a total that includes a game in which Kentucky intentionally passed him four times.

While that has frustrated Caglianone at times, it’s also a considerable sign of respect for the kind of hitter he is. O’Sullivan said he is in a class alongside some of the greatest hitters in Florida history in that respect.

“Very rarely do you have players like this, who when they come to the plate the whole ballpark stops to watch like something great might happen,” O’Sullivan said. “He’s got that about him. I think Wyatt Langford was like that, you know. Mike Zunino was like that. Preston Tucker was like that. But they’re hard to come by.”

One For the Record Books

Caglianone certainly captured the attention of the entire stadium for two weeks in April. He homered in nine consecutive games from April 6-19. He hit massive home runs (one was recorded at 516 feet), tall home runs (one at Vanderbilt had a launch angle of 41.7 degrees) and all manner of lasers over the wall in right-center field.

Caglianone’s home run binge tied the NCAA record, matching Nevada’s Tyler Bosetti, who homered in nine straight games in 2021. Jeroloman said what stood out to him about Caglianone during the streak was how under control he appeared to be.

“There are certain times you can tell the game is moving slow for him and other guys,” Jeroloman said. “For two weeks, the game was moving slow for him. I don’t think there was one time he looked fooled.”

The home run streak was part of a much larger hitting streak for Caglianone. He matched the program record with a 30-game streak that started March 23 and lasted through May 12, his final home game at Florida’s Condron Ballpark. His streak matched one set by Jacob Young, the Gators’ former leadoff hitter, whose streak stretched from the end of the 2019 season through the shortened 2020 season and into the early part of 2021.

Taking The Next Step

Any hitting streak of that length is impressive, but all the more so for a hitter who is 6-foot-5 and known for his slugging. That Caglianone could lock in for such a long streak was yet another sign of his growth as a hitter. His long arms enable him to get to nearly any pitch, and he has the strength to put a charge into any ball, no matter where it is thrown. But he had to learn that trying to cover all parts of the strike zone at all times could also get him into trouble.

“He always had good bat-to-ball skills for as big and strong and physical as he is,” Jeroloman said. “He always had that. It’s just sometimes he would try to cover too much (of the strike zone). He always had the ability to manipulate his barrel.”

Caglianone has made all those adjustments while also growing on the mound. He’s worked hard on his changeup, developing it into a viable third offering. His velocity has ticked up and he now can run his fastball up to 100 mph. Even if he didn’t hit, he would be one of the most electric players in the country thanks to his combination of size, velocity and a hard breaking pitch that’s become more of a cutter than a slider.

There’s always something to work on. Maybe a team will seek to keep developing Caglianone as a two-way player, and he could become an impact MLB player both as a hitter and a pitcher.

But one thing is certain: Caglianone will never lack confidence at the plate. Even if scouts might have seen him as more of a pitcher early in his career, he was always sure he could produce offensively.

“The bat’s the bat,” he said. “I feel like I’ve always had that in me.” 

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