Florida State baseball has had some excellent offenses over the past few years, however the 2017 team is looking to exceed all those marks. The hype is also been noticed from many major media outlets including D1 Baseball who has the ‘Noles offense rated a potential 70 (above average) on the 20-80 scouting scale. Here’s an around-the-horn look at the 2017 Florida State baseball offense.
Slated at catcher is sophomore Cal Raleigh who is coming off an impressive freshman season in which he hit .301 in 63 games. He was just one of two players to hit double digit home runs in 2016 and his durability can be an asset once the end of the season comes along, playing in all 63 games of 2016.
With freshman third baseman Drew Mendoza sidelined to begin the season, Dylan Busby will be shifted to third base, giving senior Quincy Nieporte the opening day nod at first. The normal designated hitter saw a slight drop off in his offensive efficiency in his second year at FSU. Nieporte hit .300 which seems like a plus until you see the .354 on base percentage, due to a lack of walks. Although that would indicate a lack of plate discipline, Nieporte only struck out 14 times in 200 at bats in 2016.
At second base is senior Matt Henderson who is coming off a disappointing first year at FSU, although he shows some promising upside. Henderson hit .230 and had a slugging percentage of .273. He made up by reaching first via walk or hit by pitch 56 times, attributing to his .420 on base percentage, fourth on the team in 2016.
Junior shortstop Taylor Walls is coming off an astronomically improved season compared to his freshman season. He improved his batting average from .220 to .355 and more than doubled his RBI output from 22 to 46. Walls has also improved his power over those first two seasons. In 2015, he hit four doubles and zero home runs in 227 at bats — in 2016, he hit six round-trippers and 20 doubles. The one area Walls needs improvement is his defense, committing 15 errors in 2016.
At third base will be junior Dylan Busby. The Sarasota, Fla. native played in all 63 games in 2016, hitting .323. His power was unmatched by anyone else in a Seminoles’ uniform, hitting a team high 14 home runs, 148 total bases and .597 slugging percentage. If Busby can learn to be more patient at the plate and amass more than the 18 walks he had in 2016, he could make an even bigger impact.
Taking left field is presumed to be sophomore Jackson Lueck, who is coming off a very impressive freshman season. He earned a spot in the starting lineup midseason and excelled in that role. In a respectable 132 at bats, Lueck hit a team high .379 with four home runs and 35 RBI. His on base percentage was also a team high .494.
In center field, promising freshman J.C. Flowers will be ready to display his talents. The 18th round MLB draft pick was rated the No. 138 prospect in that draft according to Baseball America. He hit .410 in his senior year of high school to go along with two home runs and 19 RBI.
Rhett Applin, the junior transfer from Seminole State College of Florida, will take over right field. In 46 games at JUCO, Applin hit .443 and had a .500 OBP with nine home runs and 34 RBI. He finished the season on a hot streak, recording hits in 40 of his final 79 at bats in 2016.
On the bench for the moment is freshman Drew Mendoza, the preseason presumed starting third baseman, as he recovers from an injury that will force him to miss the beginning of the season. Mendoza was a highly touted MLB prospect that made his desire to come to FSU clear, even after being ranked the No. 36 overall draft prospect.
Returning is sophomore outfielder Donovan Petrey who started 20 games for the ‘Noles in 2016, hitting .250 with one home run. He appeared in 48 total games and can give the team some extra depth in the outfield off the bench.
Junior NC State catcher transfer Kyle Cavanaugh, who started his career at TCC, is back in Tallahassee for the Seminoles. The Jacksonville native hit .399 with 58 RBI while at TCC.
Steven Wells Jr., who played in 51 games last season, also adds some depth at outfield. The junior hit .184 last season with one home run.