Florida players celebrate after Josh Rivera batted in Wyatt Langford, center, with a home run against TCU in the first inning of a baseball game at the NCAA College World Series in Omaha, Neb., Wednesday, June 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)

Six Gators Selected in 2023 MLB Draft

The 2023 MLB Draft has officially come to a close and Florida baseball had its fingerprints all over the draft board.

Six Gators heard their names called across the three-day event from July 9-11 at Lumen Field in Seattle, Washington. The figure puts Florida in a tie for eighth for most players selected amongst Division-I programs in 2023. Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan now holds 105 draftees and 13 first-rounders to his name since taking the helm at UF in 2008.

Day One Recap

Opening night of the MLB Draft kicked off early for the Gators. Florida sent one of its own to the big leagues in the top five picks as Gators star outfielder Wyatt Langford went fourth overall to the Texas Rangers. Mock boards placed Langford at third overall to the Detroit Tigers before the odds shifted to make him a favorite for the top selection. Ultimately, the Florida slugger fell out of the top three after the Tigers chose high schooler Max Clark.

Langford slashed .373 / .498 / .784 with 21 home runs and 57 RBIs in 2023. Even at fourth overall, he may be one of the MLB Draft’s biggest steals this year.

The night one festivities didn’t end there for the Gators. Right-handed starting pitcher Hurston Waldrep went to the Atlanta Braves with the No. 24 pick. The Thomasville, Georgia, native returns to his home state after a one-year stint in Gainesville. He went 10-3 in 19 starts with a 4.16 ERA. His 156 strikeouts fell one short of tying Alex Faedo’s single-season program record. Waldrep spent his first two years at Southern Miss before transferring to UF. Now, his road pays off with a first-round selection in this year’s MLB Draft.

Rounding out the opening night was Gators ace Brandon Sproat. After returning to UF in 2023 despite the New York Mets taking him in the third round in 2022, Sproat is once again headed to the Mets. This time, he was a second round selection at 56th overall. The big righty tossed 134 strikeouts in his final season as a Gator. He shows major promise with a fastball touching triple digits and a plus changeup.

All three of Florida’s day-one picks look to cement themselves in the league in the near future.

Day Two Recap

The second stint of the MLB Draft saw two more Gators hear their names called. Shortstop Josh Rivera was taken in the third round by the Chicago Cubs. Rivera returned to Florida in 2023 after going undrafted and looked like a completely different player. After struggling with his approach the last three seasons in Gainesville, he ranked second on the UF roster in average, hits and RBIs. He launched 19 homers and proved he has the offensive skills to match his elite infield glove.

Also drafted on day two was left-handed reliever Philip Abner. He went in the sixth round to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Abner was pivotal for the Gators out of the bullpen in 2023, recording a 3.16 ERA and 14.6 strikeouts per nine innings in 31.1 innings pitched. The southpaw from Charlotte, North Carolina, is likely to sign with Arizona and forgo his remaining eligibility, per reports.

Day Three Recap

Rounding out the final day of the MLB Draft for the Gators was third baseman Colby Halter. He went in the 17th round to the Oakland Athletics.

Halter has always been a defensive stopper at third base but has struggled to find his approach at the plate with the Gators. He recorded just 43 hits in 174 at-bats and hangs at the bottom of the Florida lineup in most offensive categories. Halter has another year of NCAA eligibility and could choose to return in favor of a chance to improve his draft stock.

Florida’s already long-standing MLB pipeline grew further in 2023 and set the foundation for more pro Gators in the future.

About Jackson Castellano

Jackson Castellano is a third-year Sports Media Journalism student at the University of Florida.

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