The 2020 Florida Gators will look to rebound after their rough 2019 season as they were quickly dispatched in regionals. The 2019 Florida Gators were one of the youngest teams in the country and were forced to replace many of their top players. Going into the 2020 season, Florida is one of the highest ranked teams in the country and their 2019 recruiting class is a big reason for it. On Perfect Game, the Florida Gators had the third ranked recruiting class in the country. They kept 14 of their commits including one JUCO signee. There’s a lot of excitement with this year’s freshmen class, and expectations are that many will get quality playing time this season. Here are the five freshmen to watch for in the 2020 baseball season for the Florida Gators.
LHP/1B Hunter Barco
When the Florida Gators flipped Perfect Game All-American Hunter Barco from Virginia, many didn’t think he would end up at Florida. The 2019 MLB Draft came around and Hunter Barco wasn’t drafted until the 24th round. Because of the late draft pick, Barco announced he’d honor his commit and enroll at the University of Florida. Since his arrival, Barco has impress his coaches and should have some type of starting role as a true freshmen. Barco was the best two-way player in the 2019 recruiting class. Barco can pitch and play first base at the collegiate level. Florida got very lucky in keeping Hunter Barco in their class. I think Barco will be the #3 pitcher in Florida’s rotation and get some at bats at first base and DH.
INF Joshua Rivera
Out of the IMG Academy, Joshua Rivera was one of the top ranked high school prospect in the country. On Perfect Game, Rivera was the 53rd ranked prospect and fourth ranked third baseman in the country. Rivera has also impress many of his coaches in the fall and played well in Florida’s exhibition games. He is a 6’2” 205 pound third baseman with 6.65 speed and a power hitter from the right side. Rivera might have also earned himself a starting role due his impressive fall. If Rivera does start, he’s athletic enough to be moved to shortstop as he’d replace Brady McConnell. If Rivera does stay at third, I wouldn’t be surprise to see Cory Acton at second base and Jacob Young in the outfield.
RHP Brandon Sproat
Right-handed pitcher Brandon Sproat has been a huge surprise for the Florida Gators in the fall. The true freshman out of Pace High School lit up the radar guns during the fall scrimmages. In the outings, Sproat was clocked in the mid to upper 90s and was even clocked at 98 mph. Sproat might turn out to be a huge keep as the Texas rangers drafted him in the seventh round but decided not to sign with the Gators. With pitching being Florida’s biggest weaknesses in 2019, a pitcher like Sproat could take Florida’s pitching staff to the next level. Sproat will definitely get some innings as a true freshman and maybe a few starts on Florida’s midweek games.
C Nathan Hickey
Nathan Hickey is a 6’0” 205 pound catcher out of Providence High School in Jacksonville, Florida. Hickey is one of two catchers Florida signed in their 20219 recruiting class. Hickey got a lot of playing time in the fall and is competing for a starting role in the infield or as their DH. The freshman has always had a very solid bat and continued to show his skills at the dish at Florida. Hickey is a left-handed hitting catcher who could also play third base and outfield if needed. Hickey’s defensive skillset may make him the starting catcher for the Gators in the 2020 season. Brady Smith could also move to the infield as he’s shown he’s capable of being a solid infielder.
RHP Tyler Nesbitt
Going into his senior season, Nesbitt wasn’t being talked about as one of the top high school pitchers in the country. That all changed after the WWBA World Championship Tournament hosted by Perfect Game in Jupiter, Florida. Nesbitt not only dominated but he was named the MVPitcher of the tournament. Shortly after, Nesbitt flipped his commitment from Florida Gulf Coast to the Florida Gators. Nesbitt quickly became a top 200 draft prospect thanks to his outstanding performance in Jupiter. Tyler Nesbitt is a 6’3” 185 pound right-handed pitcher. Nesbitt does a good job of throwing strikes and forcing weak contact. His fastball tops out at 94 mph and sits in the low 90s. His best pitch is his changeup as he keeps it down and gets a lot of swing and miss. Expect Nesbitt to get some innings this season out of the bullpen as he continues to develop.