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Monday, May 27, 2024

2023 Gators Baseball Preview: Outfield

Wyatt Langford seeks to lead core of young outfielders after career season

Florida's baseball team warms up before the Gators' second Spring scrimmage Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023.
Florida's baseball team warms up before the Gators' second Spring scrimmage Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023.

The Florida Gators’ 2022 outfield consisted of three powerful sluggers: Jud Fabian, Sterlin Thompson and Wyatt Langford.

Langford is the only one returning this season. 

The Trenton, Florida, native will be the key to the Gators’ offense and is coming off one of the most productive seasons in program history. Langford, now a junior, led the Southeastern Conference and tied Matt LaPorta’s program record with 26 home runs; he also added 63 runs batted in and a .355 batting average. 

Langford, ranked No. 3 on MLB.com’s top-100 draft prospects, played 67 games in left field. He should be back at the position again this year but may also see time in center field.

Langford’s superhuman sophomore season came as a surprise to everyone, including head coach Kevin O’Sullivan. He received limited opportunities during his freshman season, as he only had four at-bats all year.  

Fabian and Thompson, who were selected in last year’s Major League Baseball draft by the Baltimore Orioles and Colorado Rockies, respectively, may be difficult to replace. 

The pair accounted for nearly 30% of the Gators’ home runs and RBI last season, but O’Sullivan thinks Langford is up for the challenge.

“I would be very surprised if Wyatt did not handle this whole season — the expectations — and he's been great,” O’Sullivan said.

The biggest change O’Sullivan has seen in Langford from his first two seasons to now is his ability to be more vocal with his teammates.

“If he feels like he needs to get on somebody or curve somebody, he's got no issues about doing that,” O’Sullivan said.

Florida features Langford, four other returning outfielders, a transfer, and a trio of freshmen who will look to get the job done. O’Sullivan will likely mix and match in the first few weeks to see what his coaching staff is working with. 

Sophomore Ty Evans saw the most time in the outfield last season among the returning outfielders; he started the final 21 games in right field and hit .242 with five home runs and 16 RBI in 35 total games. Evans should have a chance to earn the everyday spot in right field. 

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Sophomores Tucker Talbott and Matt Prevesk saw limited action last season but could see more reps early in the season. 

Redshirt freshman Michael Robertson will try to make an impact after missing all of 2022 due to a hamstring injury. O’Sullivan said he’d like for Robertson to take control of center field.

“Obviously, we've got other players that can do that,” O’Sullivan said. “But if you ask me right now, Robertson is the guy that we would hope that will evolve into that everyday center fielder and hopefully lead off for us.” 

The Gators added graduate transfer Richie Schiekofer from Rutgers in August. He saw time at left field during the team’s preseason scrimmages. Schiekofer hit .330 with seven home runs, 27 doubles and 76 RBI in his four seasons at Rutgers. 

Among Florida’s fifth-ranked recruiting class are Eric Blair, two-way player Chris Arroyo and two-sport athlete Max Brown.

Blair and Arroyo are local products from prestigious high school programs. Blair, ranked the No. 18 outfielder in Florida by Perfect Game, hit .447 as a senior at American Heritage in Plantation, Florida. 

Arroyo, also listed as a left-handed pitcher, helped lead Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida, to back-to-back state championships. He hit .328 and pitched to a 0.99 earned run average during his junior and senior seasons.

Brown made his way from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Gainesville in order to play quarterback on the Gators’ football team. He was listed on the football roster last Fall but did not make an appearance. 

Only time will tell how the Gators will adjust to the departures of Fabian and Thompson. Seeing early returns from the youthful outfield core would help take the pressure off Langford. 

Florida opens up its 2023 season at Condron Ballpark against Charleston Southern at 7 p.m. Feb. 17.

Contact Ethan Eibe at eeibe@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @EthanEibe.

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Ethan Eibe

Ethan Eibe is a second-year UF sports media major and covers Gators baseball for The Alligator. Outside of his writing, Ethan is a play-by-play broadcaster for UF student radio and has spent two summers announcing professional baseball with the Alpine Cowboys. He is a long-suffering Miami Marlins fan.


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