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Baseball Preview: Missouri heads to Gainesville for showdown with Florida

Get ready for the Jac Caglianone show

Auburn v Florida Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Florida has been absolutely fantastic on the diamond this year. They’re 32-10 (11-7) and ranked fourth in the country. The Gators were swept last weekend against No. 3 South Carolina, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of the way Ethan Petry and Co. are playing in Columbia East.

For Missouri, their toughest test since Vanderbilt couldn’t have at a worse time. The Tigers are fighting for their postseason lives and are in danger of missing the SEC tournament for the third consecutive season. A trip to Gainesville is about the last thing the doctor would order for a team whose season is on life support, but the Tigers have no choice, so it’s time to see what they’re made of.

Let’s break down what Mizzou can expect to see from the Gators this weekend.

At the Plate

Florida wins games with their offense. The Gators have solid pitching, but it’s their hitting that makes this team so lethal. Florida is tied for first in the SEC in SLG% and is second in runs and homers. It’s no coincidence they’re one of the Vegas favorites to win the college world series this year.

The main man in Florida’s offense is Jac Caglianone. He’s the closest thing to Shohei Ohtani that college baseball has. Jac Cags hits nukes and throws 98 mph on the mound. We’ll talk about his pitching later on, but for now, let’s focus on Caglianone’s ridiculous power. He leads the nation with 23 HR and is slashing a ridiculous .372/.423/.866 this year. Caglianone was originally viewed as primarily a pitcher coming into college but has firmly cemented himself as a two-way prospect with his ridiculous success in Gainesville. Just a sophomore, it is expected Caglianone will be in the discussion to be the first player taken in the 2024 MLB Draft.

OF Wyatt Langford is most likely going to go in the top 5 of the 2023 MLB Draft and he’s not even the first name you think about with this Florida offense – that’s how good this team is. Langford hit 26 homers last year with a 1.166 OPS. This season his power has dropped a tad, but he’s still mashing. The 5-tool talent is slashing .374/.527/.740 this year, numbers which are all up from his fantastic 2022 season.

Langford has an absolutely ridiculous 184 wRC+ so far this year and is drawing a walk about twice as often as he strikes out. There might be no better 1-2 punch of bats in the country than Caglianone and Langford.

SS Josh Rivera is having almost as good of a year as Caglianone and Langford. The junior is slashing .386/.479/.712 with 14 HR and has a 167 wRC+. Prior to this year, he’d never had a wRC+ over 92 for a full season. For most of his career, Rivera had been viewed as a defense-first shortstop, but this year has changed the narrative for him and he’s now viewed as a legitimate MLB draft prospect.

Rivera also works fantastic at-bats, striking out just 9.6% of the time. C Luke Heyman and 2B Cade Kurland also have OPSs over 1.000.

On the Mound

Brandon Sproat is Florida’s Friday night starter. After a fantastic season last year with a 3.41 ERA in 89.2 innings, the righty has had a slight regression this year.

Sproat has thrown 54.2 innings this year with a 5.10 ERA. He’s getting a tad unlucky based on his 4.54 xFIP, which is actually lower than his 4.90 last season. His 1.15 WHIP is also a career low.

You can expect Sproat’s fastball to sit in the mid-90s and get into the upper 90s. He pairs his electric heater with a slider, curve, and changeup.

Southern Miss transfer Hurston Waldrep gets the ball in Game 2 for Florida. Waldrep has a 4.50 ERA in 58 innings and has struck out a ridiculous 93 strikeouts.

While Sproat may be the Friday night starter, Waldrep is actually the bigger draft prospect. ranks him as the No. 11 prospect in the 2023 draft.

Waldrep’s fastball is absolutely electric. He will sit between 95-99 and pairs that with a strong splitter. He also throws a good slider. Hitting this guy looks impossible when you see his stuff.

Florida currently has their Sunday starter listed as TBD, but Jac Caglianone has been the guy for the Gators most Sundays. Caglianone isn’t listed as the projected starter likely due to a recent poor run of form. In three of Caglianone’s last four starts, he’s given up more earned runs than innings he’s pitched and he’s walked 16 batters in 12 innings.

Nevertheless, Caglianone has a big-league heater that gets up to 98 mph which he pairs with a plus slider. When he’s on, Caglianone is absolutely filthy, but he just hasn’t been recently.

Again, I feel it needs to be said that this series couldn’t be coming for a worse time for Missouri. Florida will surely be amped to bounce back from their troubles with South Carolina last week, and the Tigers have looked stagnant for the last month. I hate to say it, but I expect Missouri to get swept in Gainesville this weekend. I hope they prove me wrong.

Weekend Schedule

Friday @ 7 pm on SECN +

Saturday @ 7 pn on SECN

Sunday @ 12 pm on SECN