College : : Story
Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Quick Take: Florida

Vincent Cervino        
Photo: Tim Casey

McKendry, Canes salvage seriesArms carry Gators to series win | Singer, Gators bite back
Quick Take: Oregon State
| Quick Take: Saint Mary'sPerfect Game College Player Database

During the season Perfect Game scouts will be traveling to some of the top series to watch the very best players in college baseball. Those observations, captured with both written notes and video, will be shared in the College Player Database as linked above, notes that can also be accessed on the players' individual PG profile pages. Throughout the season select reports will be shared in feature format to promote the players, the teams and college baseball as a whole.

Florida Gators

What Happened: The Florida Gators dropped their first game of the season on Sunday after wrapping up the series win against Miami. The Gators have been dominant against Miami, winning 11 of the last 14 and 25 of the last 31 against the Canes and Florida certainly looked like the best team in the country all weekend long. With big contributions from both the pitching staff and the lineup, the Gators look complete from top-to-bottom and are primed to defend their College World Series title.

Carrying Tool: The obvious names fans are going to see are the combination of Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar, two potential first round picks. However, the stars of the show were the freshmen arms for the Gators. Tommy Mace came on in relief of Singer and earned his first career save by spinning four perfect innings, while Jack Leftwich came on in relief of Kowar and struck out six in three perfect innings for his first career save as well. Hunter McMullen also saw some time on Sunday and coach Kevin O’Sullivan was clearly fond of his shiny new pitchers to play with this season.

Concerns: It’s certainly not nit-picking to find flaws with the Gators, as no team is perfect, and what stands out is the offense’s occasional struggles to handle effective off-speed. Greg Veliz, Evan McKendry and Andrew Cabezas have the Canes' most effective secondary pitches and gave the Gators fits at times. Both games one and two of the series were winnable for Miami, and while Florida’s offense came through late they will have to show more consistency if they are to repeat as champions.

Best Player on the Field: Leftwich has been something of a revelation for the Gators this season, and immediately after his impressive first career start in the middle of the week, the freshman righthander was untouchable in his three-inning relief stint. Leftwich attacked with a power fastball up to 97 mph with an above average slider and was a steadying presence. He also was very quick and efficient as he needed only 32 pitches while showing that he’ll play a big role for Florida’s pitching staff this season.

Fearless Forecast: It’s hard to look at this team from top-to-bottom and pick anyone else to come away with the College World Series title. The Gators possess a plethora of power arms, as only one reliever all weekend was below 95 mph with their fastball – and that was their light's out closer Michael Byrne – and the only game they’ve lost this year came when the offense scored zero runs. Florida is the No. 1 team in the country and not only should be considered the favored to repeat as champions, but at this point it’s hard not to expect it.

Database Player Reports (12):

Tyler Dyson
Nick Horvath
Jonathan India
Jackson Kowar
Austin Langworthy
Jack Leftwich
Tommy Mace
Nelson Maldonado
Hunter McMullen
Blake Reese
J.J. Schwarz
Brady Singer

Prospect Spotlight: J.J. Schwarz, C/1B/DH

The senior captain and three-hole hitter for the Florida Gators had himself a pretty strong weekend against the Miami Hurricanes and showed off his most impressive tool: power. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound catcher is a very physical presence in the batter's box with incredible raw power, and watching Schwarz during BP is a sight to behold as he can launch balls to places you didn't even think were possible. 

One wrinkle in Schwarz' development on the Gators is that, after playing primarily first and designated hitter, Schwarz has moved back behind the plate following the drafting of Mike Rivera. Schwarz wasn't exactly tested behind the plate over the weekend, popping a 2.07 in his only attempt on a baserunner, and looked uncomfortable at times possibly due to the lack of experience the past few years. There is something to be said that Schwarz showed quiet hands behind the dish while handling two potential first round picks and possibly the top sophomore in the nation as his future professionally is likely at first base or designated hitter. 

Schwarz' calling card showed it's face in the first game in the series with a long shot into the night on the pull side. Schwarz got a mid-80s fastball and deposited it over the scoreboard in left field to give you a taste of the righthanded hitter's power. The contact skills aren't spectacular, as Schwarz will still swing through his fair share of off-speed pitches in the dirt. On Friday night, Schwarz was exceptional. He found barrels in almost every at-bat, but to the Canes credit, they adjusted in the next two games as they fed Schwarz a steady diet of off-speed pitches that would see him walk or strikeout. 

Schwarz earns walks more when he's pitched around than when he recognizes bad pitches, however, he will earn his fair share of bases on balls thanks to what he can do to a baseball. Schwarz has prodigious raw power and tremendous bat speed and if he has a big year he could be a high pick in June's draft as a senior.

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