- Photo by Jordan McPherson
In the final installation of our four-part season preview of the Florida Gators baseball team, let’s take a look at the outfielders.
Sophomore Nelson Maldonado
Career stats: .256 batting average, 30 RBI, 6 home runs, 1.000 fielding
Outlook: Maldonado will start in right field and serve as the most veteran presence in a youth-laden starting outfield. The 5-10 right-handed power hitter started 59 games as a freshman in the corner outfield positions. After a slow start freshman year, a 15-game stretch in which Maldonado was used solely used mostly as a pinch-hitter and given spot starts, he came into his own in three-game series vs. Harvard where he went 4-for-11 at the plate with five RBI and his first career home run. He showed sparks of his power from there, most notably during UF’s home win against Florida State on March 15 and with a two-homer game on the road against Kentucky. He’s generally a sound defender as well and will likely extend the territory he covers in right this year with the departure of defensive stalwart Buddy Reed.
Sophomore Blake Reese
Career stats: .286 batting average, 0 home runs, 1 RBI, 1.000 fielding
Outlook: Reese began his collegiate career as a backup middle infielder and primary pinch-runner. Come Friday, he’ll be starting in center field, looking to fill big shoes and a lot of ground like Buddy Reed, Florida’s top infielder before him. Reese is still perfecting his craft in the outfield, but the switch hitter has come into his own after months practicing at a foreign position. He can hit for power from both sides of the plate despite being just 5-11 and 180 and will be a threat on the basepaths once again this year.
Freshman Austin Langworthy
Career stats: N/A
Outlook: Langworthy will be the only freshman to start in the field on Opening Day for the Gators this year, doing so in left field. He’s a 5-9 left-handed batter who has had no problem clearing the McKethan Stadium fence during the fall and spring. Expect to see him in the back half of the order to start the year.
Senior Ryan Larson
Career stats: .260 batting average, one home run, 39 RBI, .983 fielding percentage
Outlook: For three years, Larson more or less platooned with in the corner outfield spots. This year, however, the senior will likely be used mostly as a defensive substitute late in games. Larson is a quality defender with a knack for getting base hits. He will also add depth as a middle infielder.
Freshman Andrew Baker
Career stats: N/A
Outlook: Baker will likely be limited to work on the mound for the first month of the season while he recovers from surgery on his non-throwing hand, but once he is fully cleared, the freshman will likely get spot starts in center field.
Junior Nick Horvath
Career stats: .143 batting average, 5 RBI, 2 home runs, 1.000 fielding
Outlook: Horvath is arguably Florida’s best defensive outfielder and will likely gets looks as a substitute late in games, similar to last year. Horvath, a lefty, will likely also have an extended role out of the bullpen.
Freshman Kirby McMullen and freshman Austin Bodrato
Outlook: Both two-way playing freshmen were used more on the mound than in the field during scrimmages. They could get an occasional pinch-hit appearance, but it looks like they will be used more as pitchers than in the field.
The group is young. The outfield lost a chunk of its depth due to a trio of transfers in Jeremy Vasquez, Danny Reyes and Eddy Demarius along with Buddy Reed being drafted. What the group lacks in experience, however, it can likely make up for in its potential. The trio of Langworthy, Reese and Maldonado has a lot of upside. The second weekend of the season against Miami will put the group to the test defensively.