The Chicago Cubs selected Gators shortstop Josh Rivera with the No. 81 pick in the 2023 MLB Draft.
Rivera shined in his junior campaign and was one of the focal points in Florida’s star-studded lineup. At the plate, the middle infielder drove in 72 RBIs and hit .348. He also provided loads of power with 19 home runs and a .617 slugging percentage.
Rivera had a decision to make regarding whether or not he wanted to return to Florida after his sophomore season. He was a draft candidate in 2022 but decided to return to the Gators after not hearing his name called on draft night.
The decision to return proved worthwhile. Rivera blossomed into one of college baseball’s most talented shortstops.
His leadership helped lead the way in Florida’s College World Series run, and Rivera was named a finalist for the Brooks Wallace Award, which recognizes the nation’s best shortstop.
His performance in 2023 in comparison to his prior season could be argued as one of the most impressive turnarounds in college baseball.
Rivera hit .254 with nine home runs and struck out 14 more times than he walked his sophomore season.
His speed was always a threat when he got on base, but drawing walks and hitting for contact weren’t abilities he displayed before his junior year.
However, offseason adjustments earned him a spot as the Gators’ cleanup man. He drove in 72 RBIs as the four-hole hitter and blasted 19 home runs his junior season. Rivera got on base in nearly half of his plate appearances and was a staple on offense for Florida.
The middle infielder’s hitting skill-set in addition to his consistent, and often flashy defensive prowess, drew recognition as a top-100 draft prospect across most major boards.
Luke Adragna is a third-year journalism student and the Florida Gators football reporter at The Alligator. He is a cat ethusiast and completes the NYT Daily Mini in less than a minute each day.