The Florida Gators’ 2023 season is just days away, and the buzz surrounding the new year is palpable. After a solid, but slightly underwhelming 2022 campaign which ended in a NCAA Regional heartbreak to Oklahoma, the Gators seem primed to take a leap forward and compete on the national stage.
National media outlets seem to recognize UF’s potential, as the team and individual Florida players alike have racked up a handful of preseason awards with opening weekend around the corner.
As a team, the Gators are ranked No. 7 in D1Baseball’s top 25 and second in the Southeastern Conference preseason poll. They received one vote to win the SEC. While juggernauts like Lousiana State and Tennessee stand in the way, Florida should be able to make some noise at the national level.
The two names creating the most noise surrounding Florida’s baseball program are outfielder Wyatt Langford and right-handed pitcher Hurston Waldrep. Both players are ranked as top-15 MLB prospects and were listed to the preseason watchlist for USA Baseball’s Golden Spikes Award, which recognizes the top all-around amateur player in baseball.
Langford enters his junior season with the keys to Florida baseball and unanimous preseason All-American first team nod. Despite playing beside future MLB draftees Jud Fabian and Sterlin Thompson, Langford put on a historic season in 2022, leading UF in nearly every batting statistic. He is considered the fifth-best MLB prospect in the nation and earned All-SEC first team preseason honors.Without a doubt, Langford will be the frontman of the 2023 Gators, and is expected to produce as such.
Waldrep arrives in Gainesville from Southern Miss, coming off a third-team All-American season in 2022. He threw 90 innings for the Golden Eagles last season, recording a 3.20 ERA, a 6-2 record and 140 strikeouts. He is expected to produce in new scenery and a new conference, earning an All-SEC second team nod in the preseason. The junior righty earned first and second-team preseason All-American honors and is generally expected to step up to elevated SEC batters.
Also receiving honors are senior catcher BT Riopelle and junior right-handed pitcher Brandon Sproat. Riopelle, who was first-team All-SEC in 2022, earned preseason honors to repeat. He was named to the preseason All-American third team.
Sproat, who was drafted 90th overall by the Ntes in 2022 and opted to return to Florida, is considered a top-100 prospect once again and earned some preseason All-American nods.
Newcomers and returners alike, this year’s Florida roster is strong and is earning recognition. The question now for the Gators is if the potential ends on paper or if head coach Kevin O’Sullivan can bring it to the diamond.