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Florida baseball season preview: Starting pitching

Faedo

Photo by Jordan McPherson 

This is the first of a four-part series breaking down the Florida Gators baseball team ahead of its season opener against William & Mary on Friday. To start things off, let’s take a look at the starting pitchers, which will also include the possible midweek starters.

Weekend Rotation

Junior Alex Faedo

Career stats: 19-4 record in 39 appearances, 3.20 ERA, 166 innings pitched, 192 strikeouts, 37 walks

Outlook: For two years, Faedo was the third man in the rotation behind Logan Shore and A.J. Puk. Come Friday, Faedo will have his turn in the limelight. The junior righty uses a three-pitch mix headlined by his fastball that rests in the mid-90s. He’s coming off a sophomore season in which he led the team in wins (13) and strikeouts (133). Over the summer, the 6-5 righty played with the Team USA Collegiate National Team, during which he 3-0 and posted a 0.56 ERA, struck out 21 and walked just three walks in 16 innings of work. Faedo missed fall practice after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on both of his knees, but has looked solid in the spring.

Quoteworthy: “[It’s] borderline impossible, at least for me, that’s how I feel when I go up there against him. I don’t know how any team can score a run off of him.” - Junior catcher/DH JJ Schwarz

Sophomore Brady Singer

Career stats: 2-2 record in 23 appearances (one start), 4.95 ERA, 43.2 innings pitched, 38 strikeouts, 17 walks

Outlook: Singer was relegated to the bullpen during his freshman and experienced the highs and lows anticipated of most first-year players. Over the course of fall and spring practice, though, Singer has been virtually untouchable. His fastball has touched 98 mph at points and he’s also throwing his slider and change-up for strikes. If Singer can continue locating his pitches like he has in scrimmages,  he has the potential to be a deadly force on the mound in the Saturday role.

Quoteworthy: “Everyone has trouble hitting him. It's just a power fastball and he's gotten so much better with his command over the fall and the spring, so I feel bad for the teams that have to face him this year because he's tough. He's tough to face." - Sophomore third baseman Jonathan India

Sophomore Jackson Kowar

Career stats: 3-0 record in 12 appearances (six starts), 3.37 ERA, 34.2 innings pitched, 44 strikeouts, 10 walks

Outlook: Kowar held his own early in his freshman year as a midweek starter, but a collapsed lung forced him to miss the back half of his freshman season. Now healthy, Kowar is back to form and is ready to lock down the third spot in the weekend rotation. His fastball rests in the 91-94 mph range and Kowar has been able to command it on both sides of the plate.

Quoteworthy: “[With] Jackson, you just never know. He's got an explosive fastball but you gotta worry about his changeup and his curveball and you just think along, and then you go, 'oh crap. that was 96.' So it's not fun.” - Junior shortstop Dalton Guthrie

Overall Evaluation

Florida’s weekend rotation is arguably one of, if not the, best in the country on paper heading into the season. Faedo has the potential to be the top overall pick in the draft once June rolls around, and Singer and Kowar could both be high first-round selections next year. The group may be as heralded as the starters from a year ago, but their potential is high.

“I don't think anybody's going to feel real sorry for us with Faedo, Singer and Kowar on the weekend,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “That's probably what we anticipate right now.”

Potential Midweek Starters

Freshman Nate Brown

Career stats: N/A

Outlook: Since spring practices have begun, Brown has started against Faedo in every scrimmage. O’Sullivan has raved about the freshman since Fall practices began in October. Brown is a 6-1 righty and comes to UF as the top-ranked right-handed pitcher from Wisconsin, according to Perfect Game. Teammates have compared his consistency to Logan Shore, who served as UF’s Friday-night starter for the better part of three seasons and set the school record for consecutive wins.

Freshman Tyler Dyson

Career stats: N/A

Outlook: Dyson has been a positive surprise since stepping on campus. His fastball has touched 95 mph and O’Sullivan pointed out his potential to have a big role on the team early at different points throughout camp. Dyson is a two-way player who transitioned from being an infielder (he played third base in high school) to a pitcher during his senior year at Bradenton’s Braden River High. He could easily log a few midweek starts early, especially in the first month when Florida has three consecutive weeks with Tuesday-Wednesday midweek matchups.

Freshman Nick Long

Career Stats: N/A

Outlook: Long had a rough time finding his groove during Fall scrimmages but has shown surprising improvements over the last couple weeks. He will likely find himself in the bullpen, but if his endurance is high enough, O’Sullivan might trot the 6-0 righty out for a start or two.

Overall Evaluation

Unlike last season, Florida doesn’t have a proven, tried-and-true pitcher to start on midweeks like they did with Dane Dunning. O’Sullivan will likely mix and match his top freshmen over the first month to see who he likes before deciding on a regular midweek guy.

On Tuesday, we will take a look at Florida’s bullpen.

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