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FSU Baseball Garnet and Gold series: observations and takeaways

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Garnet and Gold split annual intrasquad series.

Seminoles.com

Mike Martin Jr’s Florida State Seminoles have been practicing and scrimmaging all fall and got to display what they’ve worked on in their annual Garnet vs. Gold games on Wednesday and Friday.

Wednesday Observations:

The Seminoles were in action for the third time this fall on Wednesday afternoon for the first of two Garnet v. Gold games. It wasn’t anything new for the players, as they’ve been running scrimmages every day in practice, but the setting was a bit different. Today was FSU’s scout day, as 30+ scouts were in attendance to observe draft eligible ’Noles.

Volunteer assistant coach Tyler Holt selected and coached the Gold squad while equipment manager Andrew DeGood managed the Garnet team. After four scoreless innings featuring the Seminoles’ best arms, the game got a bit sloppy. The Gold team put up a four-run 5th before the garnet put up a five-run 6th without even getting a base hit. DeGood’s Garnet squad took home a 7-4 victory in 7 innings. There were definitely some promising individual performances, but some sloppy play is a bit worrisome.

First off, FSU is going to be a pitching-reliant team in the spring. Last year, it was often the offense which had to carry the pitching staff, but with about 50% of last year’s offensive production gone, FSU is likely to be much less dangerous offensively. Facing FSU’s likely weekend rotation of CJ Van Eyk, Conor Grady, and Shane Drohan, the offense sputtered. In 6 innings against those pitchers, only 2 runners reached second base.

While it was disappointing offensively, it also showed how good FSU’s weekend arms can be. Van Eyk got the start for the Garnet side and looked his sharpest so far this fall. Van Eyk sat 92-94 with his fastball while reaching 95-96 several times. The breaking ball and changeup both looked to be in mid-season form, as he got multiple off-balance swings with his offspeed offerings. He faced six batters in two perfect innings and had two strikeouts.

Drohan took the hill for the first time this fall and looked as sharp he’s been at FSU. Last season, the lefty would sit in the low 90’s but rarely topped 92. On Wednesday, the junior was sitting 92-94 and even touched 95. Drohan has major league stuff; he just needs better command to become a more consistent pitcher. From everything I’ve heard, the southpaw has had a fantastic fall camp and is first in line for the Sunday starter spot.

Grady relieved Van Eyk and settled in after an early jam for two easy innings of work. Grady’s fastball velocity was down a touch, but it’s not worrisome as the junior mainly works off his slider/changeup combo. Grady is a fine-tuned pitcher who relies on command and movement. As long as those qualities remain, he’ll be fine.

As for FSU’s offense, the Seminoles may struggle this year, but an underachieving duo from last season has enough raw talent to replace some departed production. Elijah Cabell and Nander De Sedas both had rough freshmen years, but they came in with untold promise and have shown signs that they’re starting to become the players everyone thought they’d be. Both players have seven RBI in just three games this fall.

Cabell launched his second homer of the fall during the scrimmage, and it was a no-doubter. Whenever he connects, the ball is bound to go a long way—he’s just that powerful. He’s arguably as talented as anybody in the nation—if he can get it together mentally, he’ll be a superstar. If not, it’ll be a considerable waste of talent.

De Sedas drove in two runs on a triple down the RF line in the 5th inning before ripping a single up the middle in the 7th (104-mph exit velocity). Last year, the switch-hitter was often late on fastballs as his swing seemed out of rhythm, but this fall he looks to be getting his foot down early and turning on baseballs from both sides of the plate. Defensively, he’s also looked much better at SS as he’s attacking balls instead of sitting back and getting eaten up. Numerous times last season, he’d wait back on a ball and get the middle-hop instead of the short or long-hop, making a seemingly routine play much more difficult. With Cabell it’s mostly mental, while De Sedas’s issues are mostly technical. However, both can be superstars with slight adjustments (and hard work).

JUCO transfer Davis Hare saw the mound for the first time as a ’Nole and made quick work with a five-pitch inning. The righty only threw fastballs, which came in at 91-92 with good sinking action. LHP Antonio Velez saw the mound for the second time this fall and made quick work of his two innings with a sharp four-pitch mix. These guys could see lots of work in high-leverage situations this season. Velez could also be a candidate for the Sunday role (if Drohan struggles), or a midweek starter role.

Graduate transfer RHP Jake Suddreth and senior LHP Clayton Kwiatkowski had major struggles, as each allowed three earned runs. Suddreth couldn’t find the strike zone, walking/hitting multiple guys. Kwiatkowski had a different problem, living in the middle of the zone, resulting in three hits in a single inning. Both of these guys are experienced pitchers that pitching coach Jim Belanger would love to rely on, but if these performances continue, they won’t be in high-leverage situations.

Bryce Boone and Robby Martin continue to swing the bat well, making lots of hard contact. Boone, a freshman who caught in high school could find himself at DH in FSU’s lineup, as he’s done nothing but rake this fall. Meanwhile, Martin continues to exhibit a gap-to-gap approach, leading to many productive at bats.

Mat Nelson and Carter Smith had fine defensive performances behind the plate on Wednesday, blocking balls in the dirt, while each also gunned down a runner stealing. Mike Metcalf is working with the catchers this year as “Meat” transitions to the INF’s; so far the results look to be paying off for “Nelly” and “Smitty”. Metcalf, a former scout, knows what visiting scouts want to see, and both catchers displayed good technique/pop-times.

Reese Albert’s rehab continues to progress well. He didn’t take BP today, but he went through dynamic stretches with the team, while also running sprints. I’ve heard he’s been long-tossing and his rehab is progressing well with no hiccups to this point.

Friday Observations:

FSU featured some of their younger talent on Friday. Sophomore RHP Jack Anderson got the start for Gold while freshman LHP Bryce Hubbart got the start for Garnet. Both made statements, as they look to find roles in a deep FSU pitching staff. In the end, Tyler Holt’s Gold squad got revenge with a blowout win over the Garnet.

Anderson only threw 7.2 innings last season, but he looks like a completely different pitcher so far. Last year, Anderson was more thrower than pitcher, often overthrowing and missing his spots, while leaving offspeed pitches up. It was the complete opposite Friday, as he seemingly didn’t miss a spot in his two innings. He raced out of the gates, striking out Cooper Swanson, Nelson, and Cabell on just 12 pitches, while painting both sides of the plate with all three pitches. Anderson has changed his loopy 12-6 curve into a very effective, low 80’s slider which should be much harder for hitters to pick up. His changeup, a pitch he rarely used last year, also looks much more effective this year. If Anderson continues pitching this way, he should see more opportunities this spring.

Hubbart has been the most impressive freshman pitcher this fall. The southpaw possesses an electric fastball, sitting 92-93 and topping out at 94. Hubbart also has the ability to consistently throw his curve and changeup for strikes. He isn’t the biggest kid, but he does a good job hiding the ball, allowing it to get on hitters quickly.

Freshman LHP Ryan Pettys added 2 scoreless innings for the Gold side. The lanky southpaw has a deceptive delivery and a fastball-curve combo that’s hard for hitters to pick up. Pettys could be used as a lefty specialist. Hare had an efficient 1-2-3 inning for the second straight game and could be a reliable option for the ’Noles out of the pen.

FSU plans to be more aggressive this year in all facets of the game, but mostly when it comes to base-running. The Seminole staff continues to give its guys the green-light on stealing bases and have waved runners right and left. The aggression will most likely wane in spring when the games matter, but the Seminoles are planning to take free bases, putting more pressure on opponents when possible.

Isaiah Perry and Tyrell Brewer are guys who can really do this for FSU. Perry is a walk-on who was added to the roster this fall and has produced when given the opportunity. He had an RBI single on Friday and can fly on the base paths and in the outfield. I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes the roster and makes an impact in spring. Freshman Tyrell Brewer has been in the leadoff spot for three straight games and has been a hard out. He could be effective in the double lead off spot for the ’Noles.

JUCO transfer Jackson Greene has been steady so far for the Seminoles in the box and the field. Greene looks to be making a legitimate claim for the open 2B job with quality AB’s and consistent INF play.

Cooper Swanson has looked comfortable with the glove at 3B, but the arm hasn’t fully come around yet. Swanson struggled with throws to 2B in warmups and made a throwing error to 1B during the game. FSU won’t come close to equaling Drew Mendoza’s production at the plate this season, so it’d be nice if the Seminoles can save some runs at the hot corner.

Carter Smith had a fine Friday, ripping multiple line drive singles through the ride side. Smith has worked solely at catcher this fall, as he’ll backup Nelson, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him start at 1B, as he did during FSU’s postseason run.

RHP Cade Hungate looked extremely fresh in his first outing of the fall as he worked a 1-2-3 inning. The sophomore’s fastball sat in the low 90’s and topped out at 93, while he also featured a power slider which came in at 85-87. If Hungate could add an effective changeup and better overall command, he’d see an uptick of innings this season.

Freshman RHP Brandon Walker has an electric arm. Walker sits in the 93-94 mph range and has topped out at 95 multiple times. He also has the ability to drop in a hammer slider to keep the opponent off-balance. Walker has a very bright future, but needs to exhibit much better command to earn the staff’s trust. Right now, I’d classify Walker as a thrower instead of a pitcher (not totally surprising for a freshman). However, with the right coaching and development, he could be a special pitcher for FSU.

Cabell is starting to time baseballs up on a consistent basis. Cabell got around on a 93 mph fastball, driving it right back up the middle for a single. As mentioned earlier, added confidence will be crucial for Cabell this spring.

Freshmen Danny Andzel and JoJo Miller were not at Friday’s game, forcing each team into an eight-man lineup. Sources told Tomahawk Nation the players weren’t part of Friday’s scrimmage for academic reasons. However, they should be back with the team in the near future.

We’re only four games into fall, so there are still many unknowns. As of now, FSU has to make five player cuts before redshirting multiple other guys. But with a reliable weekend rotation, along with the natural progression of De Sedas and Cabell, this team seems to be heading in the right direction under Mike Martin Jr.