A five-year member of the Florida Gators baseball team playing under head coaches Pat McMahon and Kevin O’Sullivan, former catcher Teddy Foster put together a solid senior campaign in 2009 with seven homers, 25 RBIs and 11 walks while batting .321 and earning 29 starts (including 15 at catcher, 12 at designated hitter and two at first base). No longer with the team and now serving as an associate scout for the New York Mets, he has joined OGGOA as a baseball columnist and will provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2012 season.
Florida baseball split their two mid-week games over the past few days, probably not what UF fans wanted to see as part of a long homestand. After losing to South Florida on Tuesday, the Gators beat up on a very weak Bethune-Cookman team Wednesday night. Even in the loss, Florida out-hit USF by collecting 10 on Tuesday; they added 12 more on Wednesday. In other words, the Gators showed signs of offensive life in the former contest. The only thing missing from the national championship equation right now is clutch hitting.
Florida is leaving too many runners on base and scoring opportunities are being missed too frequently. Look for the Gators to employ more hit-and-run plays, straight steals and batters trying to bunt for base hits. UF did have five stolen bases on Wednesday, so look for that to continue. The coaches see the offensive woes just as much as you do and will try to get it going in different ways.
Even throughout Florida’s recent struggles, there have been a few bright spots that deserve attention.
Sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford has emerged as the new Friday night starter. This pleasant surprise should have Gators fans excited for next year’s rotation already even if the team loses two starters as expected after the season. Crawford’s power arm and command of his off-speed pitches have been a much needed boost to a weekend rotation dealing with injury issues. He sits in the low 90s with a two-seam fastball and really attacks hitters. His slider and curveball are both plus pitches, as evidenced by his near strikeout-per-inning average.
As a sophomore with little experience on the mound until now, he’s still growing into his own and gaining confidence each time out. Look for him to start working the ball to both sides of the plate more with fastballs inside to make his off-speed even more effective.
Senior center fielder Daniel Pigott has kept the Florida offense going all year long. Just like his older brother (and my former teammate) Jonathan Pigott, he puts up very good numbers quietly. Pigott’s three-run home run Sunday propelled the Gators to a series-clinching victory against Georgia.
If asked about his performance Sunday, Pigott probably would tell you about the outs he made and how he needs to get better at hitting inside fastballs. He’s not the type to brag and has a good head on his shoulders, which makes him an appealing prospect.
He can hit for average, has occasional power, plays average defense and can really run. As a senior, I like the idea of drafting him in one of the later rounds or even as an undrafted free agent that way he’s a low-risk high-reward player.
Crawford and Pigott need to continue to pick up the slack and the coaches and fans need to be patient while the usual stars try to get back on track. Once everyone is back to early season form, sights will truly be set on Omaha, NE.