Photo by Wesley Hitt | Getty Images

Gator baseball fans have been expecting and dreading the day Jud Fabian leaves campus since about 2019. Most of them would say at the beginning of 2021 he’s the first of the Gators gone in the MLB Draft.

Now, they have to wait another year longer.

The Gators center fielder declined to sign with the Boston Red Sox, who made him the 40th overall pick in the MLB Draft back in mid-July. This means the Gators get back a big bopper and one of its best (if not the best) defenders from last season; one with some added motivation to improve from last season.

Fabian was a projected first-rounder, even top five at one point, all of last season. But, as the season progressed and the strikeouts mounted, Fabian’s stock dipped. He displayed his power and incredible range in center field all year but it was the lack of consistency at the plate that got him.

A tumultuous 2021

The now-fourth-year player struck out 79 times in 225 at-bats (that’s 35 percent). In Florida’s first series against Miami, Fabian went 1-for-13 with seven strikeouts in the series loss.

He worked his average up to .289 when the Texas A&M series ended. It fell all the way to .228 after Florida’s walk-off win against Florida State. He definitely caught fire after that as he hit .387 (19-for-49) with seven home runs, 15 RBIs and 16 runs scored between the Missouri and Kentucky series.

But the end of his “sophomore” campaign left much to be desired. He hit .174 (8-for-46) with only two home runs and almost double the strikeouts in his final 12 games. His final appearance of the year against South Alabama he finished 0-for-4 with three punch-outs.

For all the runs he didn’t drive in, he definitely saved a ton with his play in center field. Kevin O’Sullivan’s always praised Fabian for his glove. Sully called him one of the best center fielders he’s ever coached.

What does this mean for Florida?

Well, first of all, they now retain a key defender and two-thirds of last year’s outfield alongside Sterlin Thompson as Jacob Young signed with the Washington Nationals.

It also means the Gators return a big bat from the 2021 lineup. That now gives Florida, Fabian, Josh Rivera, Thompson, Kris Armstrong, Kendrick Calilao and Colby Halter with at least 35 games played plus over 100 at-bats. Not to mention catcher Mac Guscette who missed a lot of time with injury.

Fabian also has the opportunity to be on the same team as his younger brother Deric who signed with the Gators and was one of the best players in the state during the 2021 season.

After his slide in the draft due to some struggles in 2021, Fabian along with a host of other Gators will come out in 2022 with something to prove.

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