The more things change, the more they stay the same. That much can be said for Florida State Baseball this upcoming season. It’s an odd statement to say for a team that is in a transitionary year, but that was the biggest upside to hiring Mike Martin Jr. and not hiring from outside the program: familiarity.
The ’Noles have some big shoes to fill with the departure of not only the winningest coach in the history of the sport, but also with the loss of talent such as Drew Mendoza, J.C Flowers and Drew Parrish.
The Garnet and Gold games were played on Wednesday and Friday of this past week. Through 16 innings of Garnet vs. Gold baseball, here are the biggest takeaways from all three areas of the game:
- Much like last season, the big question for the Florida State pitching staff is who is going to be that third starter in the rotation. It’s safe to say that junior right-hander CJ Van Eyk is going to be the opening day starter. Behind him is a solid No. 2 in Shane Drohan, who started 11 games last season and had a 3-1 record with a 3.66 ERA. The junior from West Palm Beach played well last season and has some really nasty stuff but, when he doesn’t have it, his pitch count can rise quickly.
- Chase Haney is the only captain on this year’s team and he is going to have to be a strong voice in a young bullpen. When asked about his role as a captain, Haney said, “Honestly, that was the reason why I came back. Meat brought me into his office before the season started and told me ‘I want you to be the captain of this team and lead us.” It’s a huge honor for me, it’s something I’ve always wanted to be at Florida State.” Haney gave up 2 runs in his outing on Friday, giving up a few walks and singles.
- The bullpen is young and that can cause some concern purely because of the unknown. Martin Jr. stated that this was the deepest staff that he has had in a long time. Clayton Kwiatkowski, Tyler Ahearn and Antonio Velez are a few veteran names that should have strong years. Bryce Hubbart may be someone that gets called on a lot as a true freshman. If he starts tapping into his potential early, he could be a guy that Florida State relies on more and more.
- Like last season, fielding is an area of concern for the Seminoles, specifically at third base and right field. The Seminoles began last season with one of the best fielding percentages in the country but then ended the season at No. 197 after a horrific stretch of sloppy baseball in which a game without an error was an anomaly for FSU.
- When asked about what he needs to prioritize for the season, Martin quickly said, “We need to play defense. We can really pitch … but your pitching can only go as far as your defense. Right now we are way behind defensively.”
- Cooper Swanson is tasked with replacing Drew Mendoza at third base. He shares the power that Mendoza had, but he also shares struggling in the field. He contributed to a Garnet squad that had four errors during the Friday night game when he missed a throw to first base on an easy putout.
- Right field remains a concern for Florida State. If sophomore Robby Martin spends more time as the designated hitter than the right fielder, it’s going to be a question mark for the Seminoles. Doug Kirkland played some right field but missed badly on some throws to the infield in his time there.
- JD Tease had a rough couple of games. He ran into Elijah Cabell in center field on Wednesday. He also had a foul ball bounce on his head and dropped an infield flyout on Friday.
- Freshman Tyrell Brewer has nice speed in the infield. He had an impressive play on a short hopper on Friday and is probably the fastest player on the team. If Swanson isn’t hitting the ball well, expect to see some at-bats out of Brewer just due to his fielding ability.
- The Seminoles have lost some power with Mendoza and Flowers gone. It’s not that there isn’t any power in the lineup, it’s just that it’s inconsistent. Reese Albert has shown pop but he was out a considerable amount of time last year with an injury. Cabell has proven that he has the power but is prone to strikeouts. He hit a homer on Wednesday but struck out twice on Friday. He led the team last year with 88 strikeouts and has yet to subdue his urge to try and murder the baseball every time he steps up to the plate. Florida State is going to need him to mature at the plate if the lineup is going to bat well.
- Last year was a hot year for hitting the long ball. The team had 81 home runs in comparison to hitting on 67 in 2018. Expect a return to the latter rather than the former this year.
- Drawing walks is something that Florida State has always been known to do well, but Martin Jr. says he doesn’t want hitters to take pitches on the inner third of the plate early in the count. That suggests that walking is still important if pitchers are trying to get hitters to chase bad pitches. But Martin Jr. feels the Seminoles will be more aggressive than in past years.