Perhaps the most intriguing battle for playing time will come at receiver, as Florida has one of the most talented backup groups in the SEC.
BT RIOPELLE / SENIOR / #15
The Coastal Carolina transfer spent three seasons with the Chanticleers before joining the Gators in 2022.
Riopelle had his first breakout season of his four college years career, cutting .304/.371/.551 with 25 extra-base hits, 38 runs and six stolen bases.
The 6-0, 215-pound lefty led all SEC catchers in home runs (15), RBIs (55) and slugging percentage (.551). The savvy veteran finds ways to get on base, working 21 walks in 2022 leading to a .371 on-base percentage.
Riopelle earned a first-team All-SEC catcher selection and a 2022 Buster Posey National Collegiate Catcher Semifinalist of the Year nomination.
Riopelle posted a .992 fielding percentage on 499 defensive backs
possibilities in 2022.
I was surprised to see Riopelle back for another season in Gainesville given his age (23) and excellent season at the plate. Riopelle (undrafted) may want to show MLB scouts that he’s improved defensively, as it’s harder to get drafted in the early rounds if it’s clear you’re only fit for a DH role at the next level. .
Riopelle threw out just 6 runners on 23 stolen base attempts a year ago. With the speed at the SEC, that’s not going to work very well. Whether as a catcher, first baseman or DH, there’s no doubt that Riopelle will see his name in the lineup in almost every game; his bat is too good to take him out of the lineup.
However, Coach Sullivan may need to turn to better defensive options behind the plate in 2023.
RENE LASTRES / SECOND YEAR / #16
The 6-3, 220-pound catcher impressed in limited at-bats in 2022, slashing .333/.333/.533 with one home run, four RBIs and three
runs scored in 15 at-bats.
Lastres played in nine games and made two starts behind the plate, finishing with a .950 fielding percentage in 20 defensive chances. Lastres failed to take out the only running back who tried to steal from him in 2022.
Calvary Christian Academy product ranked by Perfect Game as the 31st overall player in the countryincluding the No. 5 player and highest ranked receiver in the state of Florida.
Lastres might have the most power on the Florida Gators’ roster, but the receiving room is crowded, making his role an unlikely one. guaranteed going into the 2023 season. Coach Sullivan has been working Lastres at third base and first base throughout the summer and fall, as he obviously recognizes that Florida has three really good options at catcher, and may have to find another place to put them to keep their bats. in the lineup. .
LUKE HEYMAN / FIRST YEAR / #28
The 6-4, 210-pound is probably Florida’s best defensive option as a receiver. Heyman produced a .985 career fielding percentage in 329 total chances behind the plate and is known for his arm cannon. His ability to throw out stealing runners could influence Coach Sullivan to put Heyman on the field early in his Florida career.
Heyman slashed .403/.531/.655 with five home runs, a triple, 13 doubles and 52 RBIs in 48 games from 2021-22.
Like most catchers, Heyman has a keen eye at the plate, walking more times (32) than he struck out (19) during that span.
The Lake Brantley product ranked by Perfect Game as the No. 6 receiver and No. 50 player nationally while maintaining status as Florida’s No. 10 pick and No. 2 receiver.
Florida was lucky to have the Perfect Game All-American on campus, as he could have easily chosen to enter the early rounds of the MLB draft.
Heyman isn’t known for his hitting power, but he brings a smart presence to the plate along with elite defensive prowess that will make the true rookie hard to keep on the bench.
SALVY ALVAREZ / FRESHMAN YEAR / #9
The Miami native slashed .526/.586/.711 with two 3-pointers, four
doubles, 30 runs scored, 25 RBI, and 11 stolen bases
24 games during his senior season at Montverde Academy.
Álvarez ranked by Perfect Game as the No. 7 and No. 61 receiver
overall player in Florida while he was the No. 24 catcher and
Player No. 379 nationally.
The 5-10, 185-pound marks the fourth and final receiver on Florida’s 2023 roster. The early playing time bid will be a tough one for Alavarez, as he comes in as the second-ranked receiver in the Gators’ 2022 class. , joining an already charged unit.
Ultimately, it will all come down to who brings the best bats to the plate night after night.
My prediction is that we’ll see BT Riopelle primarily at first base or designated hitter, while Lastres and Heyman will split time at catcher. We may see all three in the lineup at the same time in 2023.