“I very much compare it to the class with (Nolan) Fontana, (Mike) Zunino, (Brian) Johnson, (Austin) Maddox, (Hudson) Randall and Paco (Rodriguez),” O’Sullivan said. “It compares very favorably to that class. This class has a chance to be like that one.”
The level of talent is only one aspect of it. Fifteen of the 18 players that signed with Florida are instate additions. They play against each other in high school and at showcases, while sometimes even playing on the same travel teams.
Those same characteristics were said about the 2009 class. It was a group that was familiar with each other when it came to Gainesville and joined the program with one goal in mind.
“There’s an intangible there you just can’t teach,” O’Sullivan said. “You can read a radar gun and anybody can hold a stopwatch, but this group of guys has a chance to make such an impact. They’re talented, but a lot of these guys know each other. They’ve played with each other or against each other, so there’s a camaraderie and a relationship already built before they got here. That’s hard to do.
“This is a championship-type group. You can put together recruiting classes that are talented, but to get that next intangible that’s a championship-type player, that’s hard to find. We feel like we’ve got a bunch of them in this class. There are a lot of players in this class that want to go to school.”
The goal for this recruiting class was to make it balanced. The talent in the state of Florida is always deep, and O’Sullivan and his assistants were able to grab a well-rounded group in 2013.
“It’s a balanced class,” O’Sullivan said. “There’s a lot of pitching in it. It’s just some good, quality pitching that has a chance to come in and pitch right away.”
The 2012 class, which just finished its first fall practice at Florida, has good athletes that will be able to play into Florida’s new philosophy of speed on the bases. There are some players in the 2013 class that can do that, but there are also power bats.
The new emphasis on speed and athleticism doesn’t mean O’Sullivan and his staff will stop looking for power bats in the middle of the order.
“You have to have balance in your lineup,” O’Sullivan said. “You can’t have all power hitters that can’t run, and you can’t have all guys that are single, double-type hitters. You have to sprinkle in a mixture of both. For a lineup to be as good as you want it to be, it’s a balance. Speed is a huge part of our game now. There’s no question. But you still have to have guys in the middle of the order that can run the ball out of the yard.
2013 signees, listed alphabetically:
1B/3B Pete Alonso (6-3, 207). Tampa, Fla. Plant High School.
O’Sullivan: “Pete has got real power. I was down in Jupiter and saw him during an 8 o’clock game where he ran the ball out to center field on the main diamond that’s 400 or 405 feet to center. He’s got some raw power there that you don’t see from a lot of kids at that age.
“He is a hitter that has always hit. He comes from Plant High School where his coach Dennis Braun does a terrific job at developing players, like he did with Preston Tucker. Pete is a middle of the order bat that should give us immediate power.”
RHP Shaun Anderson (6-5, 235). Coral Springs, Fla. American Heritage High School.
O’Sullivan: “Very, very competitive. He’s a strike-thrower with four pitches for strikes. He was one of my favorite guys to watch pitch. He just gets after it. It’s simple and attack. It’s all strikes.
“He’s very competitive, but he lets his pitching do his talking. He doesn’t say a whole lot, but he doesn’t have to. Shaun has a great arm and the type of pitchability that will allow him to pitch for us from day one.”
INF Christian Arroyo (6-0, 180). Spring Hill, Fla. Hernando High School.
O’Sullivan: “We expect Christian to play from day one. He’s a winner. He was instrumental in Team USA’s success this summer. He’s just a fundamentally sound baseball player that’s a straight-A student. He’s confident in his ability, but he’s always on winning teams. He’s just a winner.
“Defensively, he’s very sound with a very accurate arm in the infield. He’s got a really sound swing. He’s a key guy to this class. And there are a lot of key guys to this, but he’s a big piece.”
RHP Dylan Barrow (6-2, 170). Santa Fe College.
O’Sullivan: “He was a shortstop in high school and a converted pitcher. He’s only been pitching full time for two years. He’s got everything in place to be really, really good. He’s got really good arm strength and good arm action. He’s got a really good pitcher’s frame. He’s got a chance to really be good.
“He made a jump from his first year to his second year at Santa Fe. If he makes the same type of jump the way he did from one year to the next, there’s no telling how good he might be.”
LHP Sean Brady (6-0, 185). Cape Coral, Fla. Ida S. Baker High School.
O’Sullivan: “He’s a bulldog. I’ve made comparisons between him and (former Miami Hurricanes pitcher) Eric Erickson. You play against him and knew you had to beat him because he wasn’t going to give you anything. (Brady) is similar in that way. He’s my type of pitcher, both ability-wise and makeup-wise.
“He keeps getting better and better. He’s going to pitch right away. He’s extremely competitive and a championship-type pitcher.”
RHP Tyler Danish (6-0, 170). Brandon, Fla. Durant High School.
O’Sullivan: “He’s a fierce competitor. He’s about as good of a competitor as I’ve ever recruited. He always wants the ball. He has always pitched in pressure situations. He likes that. He’s a good teammate. He kind of rises to the occasion. I’ve seen him pitch for the last two years and have never seen him lose a game. He’s got a knack for pitching big in big games.”
Danish has been the ace for Chet Lemon’s Juice at showcases for years, and his desire for the ball in big games has a lot to do with his success.
“The bottom line is that he likes to compete,” O’Sullivan said. “He’s somebody that can make a difference right away. Obviously, he’s talented. What he brings to the table with the intangibles, they’re hard to put a value on that. He’s a competitor that always pitches well in big games.”
1B/OF/LHP Tyler Deel (6-6, 190). Jacksonville, Fla. Fletcher High School.
O’Sullivan: “A left-hander that’s 6-5 with a chance to hit, too. He’s got a high ceiling. He’s a big, physical lefty that can play the outfield, swing the bat and pitch. He just throws easy, easy strikes.
“Tyler has a chance to be a very talented two-way player for us, like the players we’ve had in the past. Pitching may be his future, but he’s talented enough to do both here.”
RHP Dane Dunning (6-3, 200). Fleming Island, Fla. Clay High School.
O’Sullivan: “High, high ceiling. He’s got a brother in Double-A that’s throwing mid-90s. He hasn’t even scratched the surface as far as maturing physically. He’s got a chance to blow up. I don’t want to overstate it, but he’s got a chance to be really, really good.
“He comes from Clay County, a very good program and the high school coach does a great job there. I hate to put labels on kids, but in three years from now (when Dunning would be draft eligible in college), it could be really interesting.”
LHP Alex Hagner (6-0, 175). Mount Dora, Fla. Eustis High School.
O’Sullivan: “Another lefty that competes. He has pitched at a high level for a long time. I’ve known him for a long, long time. He’s sharp. He’s intelligent and a baseball junkie. He knows the game. He’s one of those guys that’s advanced because he’ll know different parts of the game other than just the pitching part.
“He just knows what he’s doing. The best word for it is savvy. He’s got some baseball instincts and savvy.”
OF Ryan Larson (6-2, 180). Orlando, Fla. Dr. Phillips High School.
O’Sullivan: “He’s a gamer. He’s a competitor. He’s very polite, honest and straightforward. When the umpire says, ‘play ball,’ he’s got a competitive spirit. He likes to get after it. He doesn’t like to lose. He hustles, plays the game hard and all the things that we like.”
RHP Brett Morales (6-2, 190). Tampa, Fla. King High School.
O’Sullivan: “Up until probably a year and a half ago, he was probably more of a shortstop than pitcher. It has obviously turned. For him, the main reason it turned is the arm strength. He runs the ball up there pretty good. He’s 92, 93, 94 (mph). He’s just starting to learn how to pitch, but once he puts it all together, he’s got a chance to be special.”
Over the summer, Morales emerged on the scene as an elite pitcher.
“He has an advanced feel for a changeup, which is not common for a guy with an arm like that. You don’t see that very often at that age. Brett had a great summer and did well at all the events. He has a special arm that, with three years at Florida, could be someone that moves very quickly through pro ball.”
LHP Scott Moss (6-6, 195). Deltona, Fla. Deland High School.
O’Sullivan: “He’s got as much upside as any pitcher we’ve got coming in. Another big, strong, physical lefty that’s touching 90. He can make the ball move. The sky is the limit for him.
“Scott has a chance to put himself as one of the elite left-handed pitchers in the country at Florida. I’m really looking forward to working with him. He will be a great one at Florida.”
RHP Dean Pelman (6-1, 185). Weston, Fla. American Heritage High School.
O’Sullivan: “Right-hander that’s up to 92. He just keeps coming on. His family is all Gators, and he’s got a sister that goes here now. He was 87-88 (mph), and then in the last six months, his velo really took a jump. He’s got a really good arm. It’s not going to surprise me down the road if he’s throwing really, really hard.
“It happens all the time in this state. Kids just make a jump.”
1B/LHP AJ Puk (6-6, 195). Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Washington High School.
O’Sullivan: “He’s a big, physical lefty that reminds me of Brian Johnson at the same stage. He’s got power from the left side. He’s 6-foot-6 and has a chance to throw really hard. He’s just so young physically. He hasn’t scratched the surface of how good and strong he can be. He’s got a chance to be a really, really good two-way player.”
His 6-foot-6, left-handed frame was a big reason the Florida coaches initially considered him a pitcher. That soon changed after they watched him hit more, and he’ll be a player that sees time on the mound and at the plate for the Gators.
“Our first, initial reaction was pitcher,” O’Sullivan said. “Now, we’ve watched him hit, and there’s no question he can do both here. Before last year, he saw himself more as a hitter. You find that with really good two-way guys. At the end of the day, the bottom line is he’s got a chance to do both here.”
Puk’s velocity has continued to improve during the past few years. It’s a product of him continuing to learn how to pitch and growing stronger.
“He’s a typical kid from the North,” O’Sullivan said. “He doesn’t have the opportunity right now to be outside 12 months a year. Plus, he was a football player up until last year. Once he fully matures into his body and has the opportunity to dedicate all of his time to pitching and hitting in the weather we have here, he’s got a chance to be the best two-way player in the country, like Brian Johnson was last year. We expect him to do both from day one.”
OF Michael Buddy Reed (6-4, 185). Finksburg, Md. St. Georgia’s High School.
Reed is an interesting prospect in this class. He’s a three-sport athlete, with the rare combination of baseball, hockey and soccer. The athletic projection made him an easy take for the Florida staff.
“He’s 6-foot-4 and a 6.6 runner. He hasn’t played a ton of baseball yet because he’s a three-sport athlete. He’s a really good athlete and a switch hitter. The sky is the limit there. To be an athlete like that and a switch hitter in our program with the reps we get in this program, who knows how good he could be.
“Buddy will be a great player here. He has tremendous work ethic and with his physical ability, he will be one of the best outfielders we’ve had here.
“Just a really good athlete. A tremendous athlete. You can’t pass on athletes like that.”
INF/RHP Logan Shore (6-3, 205). Coon Rapids, Minnesota. Coon Rapids High School.
Shore, who will be a two-way player, came to Gainesville for an unofficial visit with his mother after playing in a tournament in Orlando. It wasn’t long into the visit before O’Sullivan and the coaches knew they wanted him.
“We kind of knew. You just kind of know,” O’Sullivan said. “He’s got a presence about him that is different than a lot of kids. He’s confident, but it’s a quiet confident. He’s got a chance to pitch for a long, long time. He’s a strike thrower. He’s a guy that will step in right away.”
“Logan also has a chance to be another outstanding two-way player at Florida. He is very physical. The best comparison I can make is Austin Maddox. I’m really looking forward to seeing him develop at Florida.”
With such a strong recruiting base in the state of Florida, O’Sullivan doesn’t reach out of state unless it’s for a special player. He believes he has that in Puk, Reed and Shore.
“We just kind of hit it off with Logan, AJ and Buddy,” O’Sullivan said. “They were the right guys for this program. They’re all very good students. They’re all coming from great families where you know you’re never going to have to worry about them off the field. They have leadership type of qualities. They’re extremely well rounded. They’re just really, really good kids that are mature for their ages and just happen to be really good baseball players as well.”
LHP Kirby Snead (6-0, 170). Alachua, Fla. Santa Fe High School.
The lefty will give Florida something it doesn’t have – a low arm slot left-hander.
“It seems as though everybody in the big leagues has a low angle left-hander or right-hander in the bullpen now,” O’Sullivan said. “We haven’t had that here.”
He only throws in the mid 80s, but that should increase when he adds strength in a college weight room. The velocity doesn’t mean much. He just gets outs.
“They don’t hit him. They can say whatever they want. That’s one you can take the radar gun and throw it out the window. They don’t hit him. He’s going to be really tough on left-handers. (His arm slot) is a low angle.
“Righties or lefties don’t hit him. Every time you see him pitch, he just gets outs. He’s got a knack for doing it. He just throws the ball across the plate, but it’s a different look.
“It doesn’t matter. There are certain guys where the radar gun seems to define them. There are others where it doesn’t matter. The hitters tell you everything. There’s a knack for keeping the ball off the barrel.”
3B John Sternagel (6-2, 193). Rockledge, Fla. Rockledge High School.
O’Sullivan: “He’s what they look like at third base. He’s got size and a chance to hit for power. He loves to play. He’s always got a smile on his face. He enjoys the game, and he’s a very good teammate. You like watching him play because you know he’s enjoying himself. He’s what they look like on the corner.”
“He’s a big, physical kid. He’s got power potential. Johnny is a very advanced hitter who will come in and hit in the middle of the order. He should stabilize the middle of the lineup for three years. When you draw up a corner infielder and what they look like and play like, that’s it.”