Florida State Baseball: Off-season News and Notes

Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE

Jeff Cameron, Meat, Top Assistants, Poise, Skydiving Accident, Recruiting, Poise, Rankings, All-Americans, Injuries, New Baseballs, Whiny Northern Teams, Poise, Instant Replay, Agents, Seeding and Poise.

Football has long been over, National Signing Day has passed, Basketball has been disappointing, so let today mark the beginning of Baseball season. Expect a new article on baseball everyday this week in anticipation of Friday's matchup against Rhode Island. Start by reading up on the links and highlights of what happened to the Seminoles and in College Baseball during the off-season.

Jeff Cameron Returns on FIRE

It was unfortunate that Cameron wasn't on the air for one of the best seasons in recent Florida State history, but on his first day back he had Mike Martin, Jr. on air to discuss the 2012 season and the future. I really encourage you to listen to this in its entirety as Meat discusses the philosophies of baseball that he employs, effects of the Amateur Draft and Head Coach Mike Martin. Sit back and enjoy twenty minutes of uninterrupted, smart Florida State baseball talk.

Mike Bell Named Top Assistant

The Seminoles knew they needed an excellent coach when they parted ways with long-time pitching coach and recruiter Jamey Shouppe last summer. They certainly accomplished that goal with the addition of Bell. Bell spent the previous four seasons before joining FSU at Oklahoma, where he consistently assembled solid pitching staffs. Well, Bell continued that trend last season. Two seasons ago, the Seminoles tallied a 3.81 team earned-run average. Last season, the 'Noles tallied a 3.47 ERA. Though not drastically different on the surface, the Seminoles absolutely improved as the season progressed with big-time freshman arms such as Mike Compton and Brandon Leibrandt rising to the occasion. Bell is moving up the charts when it comes to college baseball's elite assistants.

The installation of a new pitching coach was long overdue, as the Seminoles pitching staff had fallen to unacceptable levels. Florida State went with former pitcher Mike Bell who had successfully revamped the staffs of Tennessee and Oklahoma and in just one season overhauled the way pitchers operate within the program. Traditional statistics do not portray an accurate depiction the improvements Bell made, when he took over there were no weekend starters in place and many older players who were a product of inept coaching. He took two freshmen and turned them in solid Friday and Saturday starters as well as turning around pitchers like Sitz, Benincasa and Scantling.

It's great that the Noles can once again feel confident in all aspects of their team, cherish it fans, as Mike Bell is becoming a hot head-coaching commodity. If he spends more than two more years as an assistant I would be shocked.

Spradling Skydiving Accident

The 23-year-old outfielder remained hospitalized Friday in Melbourne after suffering multiple injuries Sunday. He underwent surgery to have rods and plates inserted into his hip.

Spradling was injured after making a faster landing than normal. He was forced to adjust his fall roughly 100 feet above ground to avoid a potentially fatal collision with another skydiver.

Whenever you hear "skydiving" and "accident" in the same sentence you usually expect the worse. Fortunately for Stephen Spradling, his family and fans this ended about as well as it could. While his playing days are over he is alive and recovering, best wishes to him in the future. Once a Nole, always a Nole.

Lack Luster Recruiting Class for Florida State?

OF Jameis Winston (No. 59), the latest Florida State football quarterback who plans to also play baseball, is one of the nation's most intriguing wild cards. He has plus speed, good bat speed from both sides and a plus arm, but his high-profile football career clouds his baseball status. Expect OF D.J. Stewart (No. 405)-himself a former star running back in high school-to make a bigger impact thanks to his compact, strong lefthanded stroke and hard-nosed approach. 2B Alvin Swoope is another undersized sparkplug in the mold of former Seminole Devon Travis. RHP Robby Coles is a low-slot sinkerballer in the 86-89 range, evoking former FSU reliever Daniel Bennett.

There are a few factors that play into this and they will be addressed in another article later this week but the main reason was that Florida State lost a lot more players than anticipated and had to scramble at the last minute and bring in an abnormal amount of JUCO players. Obviously this doesn't mean that the season is doomed, as we have seen many times before it only takes a few special players to have a great season.

Kendall Rodgers of Perfect Game USA had a more positive look on the class as he ranked the Seminoles fifteenth overall.

Aaron Fitt of Baseball America wrote interesting article revisiting the recruiting classes of four years ago. Florida State lands the fifth spot and when a class includes two first round draft picks it's hard to argue against it.

The Seminoles got superb value out of this group partly because Gilmartin was the lone member of this class to sign a pro contract as a junior. A year after Gilmartin earned first-team All-America honors and became a first-round pick, Ramsey accomplished both feats as a senior, as he and Johnson helped carry FSU to its second CWS trip in three years. They reached super regionals all four seasons.

Compton and Leibrandt Named Preseason All-Americans

Both Seminole hurlers, who earned a spot on the 2013 preseason third team, pitched in the weekend rotation the entire 2012 season combining for 20 of Florida State's 50 wins in 37 starts.

Leibrandt got the nod as the Seminoles' opening day starter and pitched in the Friday night spot all season long in 2012. He made Florida State history in becoming the first freshman to start an opening day game in the program's 65-year history.

He (Compton) finished his freshman campaign with 64 strikeouts in 91.0 innings of work while holding opponents to a .260 batting average. Compton allowed two earned runs or less in 16 of his 18 starts, while yielding no runs three times.

Congratulations are in order for both of these young guys as fans were looking forward to a bright future with them. While Leibrandt has secured the Friday slot, the rest of the rotation is up for grabs as the Seminoles learned last week that they will be without Saturday starter Mike Compton for the entire season. In this video Mike Bell addresses the situation and talks about future possibilities.

Seminoles Ranked in All Five Polls

The Florida State baseball team earned its fifth preseason ranking of the 2013 season as the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association has the Seminoles opening the year at No. 11 in their preseason poll.

Florida State earned its first preseason ranking of No. 17 from Collegiate Baseball back in December and then was ranked at No. 19 by Perfect Game during the early part of January. Last week, Baseball America had the Seminoles at No. 20 in their preseason poll, while the USA Today Coaches Poll awarded the Garnet & Gold their highest preseason ranking of the season at No. 9.

Even though all of these polls came out after the news of the season ending injury to Mike Compton I think a ranking anywhere from 15th - 20th seems appropriate.

News and Notes from the College Coaches Meetings

Clemson coach Jack Leggett led the push for switching to the professional ball this fall, prompting Keilitz to study the issue. Currently, Keilitz said, the NCAA does not mandate any ball standards for regular-season play except that the ball's coefficient of restitution (COR) cannot exceed .555. The higher the COR, the farther a ball will travel. Professional baseball uses a ball with a maximum COR of .578.

Having a common standard, reducing injuries and better preparing players for professional baseball...those all seem like excellent reasons to change the ball. Doubtful anything happens this season but if the NCAA is going to have bat and other equipment standards it seems only right that there should be a standard ball.

A creative remedy to the weather disadvantages that hamper Northern teams, Schreiber's idea would let Northern coaches take advantage of mild fall weather, allowing them to draw better crowds. By playing a handful of games in the fall that count toward the 56-game limit and also count in the Ratings Percentage Index, Northern teams could start their seasons later in the spring, cutting down on the number of February and March road trips they would have to make to warm-weather locales against better-prepared teams. The proposal would not require anyone to play fall games, so Southern teams satisfied with the current system would not have to change anything.

Are northern schools at a disadvantage? No doubt but this seems like a pretty ridiculous idea. In no way would I want my team's season split into two halves with a long layoff. Plus I find it hard to believe that football rich schools like Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan would want baseball interfering with football. And as much as Jim Delaney thinks he has an answer I find it hard to get buy in from him and other leaders.

Instant replay will be expanded in the College World Series this year to include fair or foul balls down the line.

I am a huge proponent of replay in baseball, it rarely comes into play but when it does it is at crucial times. Good job NCAA.

The NCAA is gradually evolving toward a more realistic and practical stance regarding agents and baseball. At each of the last two ABCA conventions, NCAA baseball and football honcho Dennis Poppe has acknowledged that the rules prohibiting agents from negotiating with pro teams on behalf of baseball players are outdated and must be re-examined. Most prospects already use agents during the draft process, and the "no agent" rule is unevenly and arbitrarily enforced.

Baseball's draft is a totally different animal compared to football and basketball so this seems like a no brainer. Because they are drafted prior to their enrollment in college high school kids have no choice but to speak with agents advisors prior to the draft. They start talking with them as early as 15 or 16 so a change in verbiage and tweak the rules only benefits the players.

Farrell said the committee had a vigorous debate this summer about whether to begin seeding the top 16 teams for the NCAA tournament, instead of just the top eight seeds like it does now.

As much as it would be better for the sport to have teams seeded one through sixteen I understand why it doesn't happen. Geography plays a huge role in this and by geography I mean money, the NCAA doesn't want teams from the same conference matched up in Super Regionals. Last year was a perfect example where Florida State was the third overall national seed and was matched up with Stanford who was arguably the best team not given a national seed. Florida State has been burned by this rule as well as being the beneficiary of it and unfortunately I don't expect it to change anytime soon.

New Member of the TN Team

The last and most exciting offseason news for me is the addition of a new intern here at Tomahawk Nation who will be covering baseball. Ryan Syrkus, who has covered FSU athletics in the past and is currently a writing intern with FSU Sports Information will be attending the majority of home games and providing us with a series recap on Mondays. Be sure to welcome him and follow him on Twitter at @rsyrkus

Hope the above has you excited for baseball season; the schedule, the new players, the existing players; the Craft Brew of the Series and a comprehensive analysis of the 2013 season all await you this week.

Go Noles!

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