While Florida football may be struggling, it’s shaping up to be another banner year for Florida baseball. Currently 22-4 and ranked third in the country, the Gators are well on their way to being in line to host a Super Regional and make their way to Omaha. Florida is scoring at will, and the once-shaky bullpen seems to be getting it together.
While we spend a lot of time here at Hail Florida Hail focusing on the recruiting efforts of the football team, Kevin O’Sullivan is reminding everyone that recruiting is just as important in college baseball.
And Billy Napier is trying to mimic that model
Florida Football: Jimmys and the Joes
We’ve commented on this site that Billy Napier didn’t fill his 2023 recruiting class with much fluff. His initial class ranked 14th in the 247 Composite, which, on the surface, isn’t good enough to keep up with the rest of the SEC. But, Florida football was tied for 6th nationally in the amount of blue-chip prospects. If Napier had signed four or five three-star guys that were unlikely to play, then Florida could have had a top-10 class.
But if you have paid attention to how Florida baseball has assembled its recruiting classes, particularly since 2017, the high blue-chip, low fluff model is exactly what O’Sullivan has done.
Over the last six years, the Florida Gators have had the following team recruiting rankings according to Perfect Game:
- 2017 – 2nd
- 2018 – 11th
- 2019 – 6th
- 2020 – 13th
- 2021 – 1st
- 2022 – 22nd
The 2021 class is a hallmark class, but the top three players from that class never made it to Gainesville as they signed pro contracts out of high school. As a whole, though, these rankings mimic what we have seen from football:
- 2017 – 11th
- 2018 – 14th
- 2019 – 9th
- 2020 – 9th
- 2021 – 12th
- 2022 – 14th
So why has baseball hosted Regionals every year since 2014 except for two (2018 and 2020, the latter of which the Gators were ranked 1st before the world shut down) even though their recruiting rankings aren’t too dissimilar to football?
Because O’Sullivan, for the most part, is only bringing in high-caliber players.
Of Florida’s mainstay field players, consider their national ranking within their graduating class:
- Josh Rivera (53rd)
- Jac Caglianone (33rd)
- Cade Kurland (201st)
- BT Riopelle (Unranked)
- Colby Halter (78th)
- Ty Evans (121st)
- Wyatt Langford (144th)
This is in addition to Brandon Sproat being ranked 149th. And when you factor in that a number of guys ranked ahead of them never made it to play college baseball because they turned pro, the caliber of players that Florida has brought on campus has been the driving force to their success, even if they aren’t bringing in a ton.
Each year since 2017, Florida baseball has ranked in the top 5 for average player rating.
So it may be an apples-to-oranges comparison to some extent, but if Billy Napier continues to focus on bringing in high-caliber players and not worry about boosting his recruiting classes in fluff, he just needs to look over at Condron Family Ballpark to see his vision of recruiting does have merit to it.