Colby Halter gives Gators six draftees

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One more Florida Gator heard his name called on Tuesday on the final day of the Major League Baseball Draft.

With the 496th pick in the 17th round of the 2023 Major League Baseball Draft, the Oakland Athletics selected junior second baseman Colby Halter, who also played third base for the Gators.

Colby Halter
Courtesy of UAA Colby Halter

Halter, who was ranked the No. 106 prospect in the 2020 class, became the 105th draft pick under Florida baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan.

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The Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) alum is a career .259 hitter in three seasons with the Gators. In 2023, Halter started 54 of 59 games and batted .247 with 43 hits and 30 RBI. He committed just seven errors this season and finished with a .948 fielding percentage.

This marks the first-ever draft selection of his career.

If he doesn’t sign with the A’s, Halter will be an important piece returning to a UF baseball program that will have a good chance of returning to Omaha next season.

Jac Caglianone, Luke Heyman, Cade Kurland, Tyler Shellnut, and Michael Robertson, who all started at least 50 games, are expected back from the national runners-up who established a program-record 54 wins in 2023.

Hurston Waldrep
Courtesy of UAA Hurston Waldrep

Headlining the list of Gators selected during this week’s thee-day draft was Wyatt Langford, who was selected fourth overall by the Texas Rangers, making him the second-highest Gator ever drafted behind catcher Mike Zunino, who was selected third overall by the Seattle Mariners in 2012.

From 2022-23, Langford blasted more home runs (47) than any Gator across a two-year span at UF. His 47 long balls are tied with Zunino for sixth all-time at Florida, while also ranking fifth in batting average (.363), seventh in on-base percentage (.471) and setting the program’s record for career slugging percentage at .746.

Langford surpassed former Gator Sterlin Thompson who was selected in the first round by the Colorado Rockies in 2022 (31st overall) as the highest-drafted Gator outfielder.

Right-handed pitcher Hurston Waldrep was also selected in the first round (24th to Atlanta), while righty Brandon Sproat was selected in the second round by the New York Mets (56th overall).

Brandon Sproat
Courtesy of UAA Brandon Sproat

Waldrep, a Southern Miss transfer, is the 11th-highest player to be drafted in team history including the sixth-highest pitcher.

The D1Baseball Second Team All-American came within one strikeout of tying Alex Faedo’s single-season record in 2023 by striking out 156 batters across 101.2 innings. The right-hander finished with a 10-3 record, 4.16 ERA and a .228 batting average against in 19 weekend starts in his lone season with the Gators.

Since head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s 2008 arrival in Gainesville, Florida’s 13 first-round selections rank second in the country.

During that time, the Gators have a total of 22 pitchers who have been chosen in the first-five rounds – a total which is tied for third nationally. In all, 58 Gator pitchers have been drafted in 16 seasons under O’Sullivan, equating to 3.6 per year.

Josh Rivera
Courtesy of UAA Josh Rivera

Sproat, who was taken out of high school by the Texas Rangers in the seventh round and later by the New York Mets in the third round in 2022, was Florida’s Friday night starter all season. The Second Team All-SEC selection finished with a 4.66 ERA in 106.1 innings pitched with 134 strikeouts and a .222 batting average against.

He made all 19 of his scheduled starts, going 8-3 and tossing two complete games including one shutout.

Four-year Florida infielder Josh Rivera was drafted by the Chicago Cubs with the 81st overall pick in the third round of the 2023 MLB Draft on Monday.

The Brooks Wallace Award Finalist is the fifth-highest UF shortstop to be taken in the MLB Draft and the top choice since Brady McConnell went to Kansas City with the 44th pick in 2019.

Philip Abner
Courtesy of UAA Philip Abner

Rivera set career highs in virtually every offensive category this past season, slashing .348/.447/.617 with 19 home runs – a program record for a Gators middle infielder. He finished with 72 RBI and 70 runs scored.

Defensively, he was one of the nation’s top defensive shortstops with a .965 fielding percentage and 27 double plays across 254 defensive chances.

Left-handed pitcher Philip Abner, who had never previously been drafted, was chosen by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the 175th pick of the sixth round.

In 25 relief appearances, the sophomore finished 3-0 with a 3.16 ERA and a .220 batting average against. In 31.1 innings tossed he struck out 51 batters.

A total of 614 players were selected over the 20-round 2023 MLB draft. The signing deadline is in two weeks.

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