After FSU’s baseball schedule was released last Tuesday, I had the chance to talk with Mike Martin Jr. and assistant coach Mike Metcalf about fall ball and the direction of the Seminoles’ program on Wednesday.
With signing day being last Wednesday, Junior and Metcalf both spoke on the 2020 class. Junior emphasized the athletic ability of the class, “It’s an athletic group. I like athletic guys to keep the pressure on.” Metcalf was quick to answer with excitement about the class, “There’s guys with athleticism, guys who can throw strikes, and guys who will help Florida State win baseball games.”
The new staff is working together to bring in recruits, “Definitely a team approach, we all have an understanding of what we want to do and have great communication,” Metcalf said. The Seminoles have gone out of state quite a bit during this recruiting cycle to find players that fit their script. The former scout told me, “It’s amazing how many people outside of just FL and GA that want to be ‘Noles.”
Meat knows knows that pitching is the strength of this team, “No question, not even close, we can really pitch it.” A lot of that has to do with new pitching coach Jim Belanger, “He’s really good at what he does. He’s consistently upbeat and the guys have taken to that and feed off of it.”
Junior named his weekend rotation of CJ Van Eyk, Shane Drohan, and Conor Grady on Wednesday. Drohan won the Saturday starter spot with a dominant fall and Junior said his command is “night and day” from last year. He’s put it all together this fall and Meat attributes that to Belanger, “Jimmy sped him up, sped his legs up. His arm would drag and would leave pitches up, but that’s fixed and he’s absolutely dominated this fall.”
Another pitcher who dominated the fall was FR LHP Bryce Hubbart. Junior spoke glowingly of Hubbart, saying he can do whatever he wants to do if he sticks with it, “He’s a legitimate guy. If he continues to work and put on weight, he’s a very high draft pick and he’ll pitch in the big leagues.” Junior wouldn’t define a fourth or midweek starter, but said lots of young guys would get opportunities. Hubbart will likely be one of the first mid week options for the ‘Noles along with Jack Anderson.
He wouldn’t name a closer but Junior said there are three guys in the running. Chase Haney is most likely to get the biggest innings out of the pen. Junior said of the fifth year senior, “It’s Chase Haney’s team, he’s really leading the team. He knows when and what to say to this team.”
Meat once again stressed aggression Wednesday, “It’s not so much we’re gonna be stealing bases and running crazy. I just want to be 1st to 3rd, dirt ball reads, scoring from first on doubles. We’re not going to run into stupid outs but the the tempo of everything can be better.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the ‘Noles have lots of position battles still going on. Junior said, “3rd base and 2nd base are wide open. Guys are bouncing around there trying to find the right fit.” First base is also up for grabs between Cooper Swanson, Nico Baldor, Carter Smith, and Dylan Simmons, who will join the team in spring. Simmons has been committed to FSU for years, but battled cancer before recently overcoming it, delaying the start to his FSU career. Junior said he just has an incredible story and “He is coming in at the break. He’ll be in the mix when he gets here.”
The infield is completely up in the air, besides SS where sophomore Nander De Sedas will hold it down. Junior has liked what he’s seen in his progression, “Played really well in the fall. A little bit steady eddy now, was a little bit too much flash last year and we’ve fixed that.” Meat is also happy with Elijah Cabell’s development, “Elijah’s done really well. Very pleased where he’s at right now. Sky’s the limit.” I asked Metcalf how they get the potential out of guys like Cabell and Cooper Swanson and he said it’s more so about approach than anything mechanical, “Understanding what you can do with certain pitches. Just getting to pitches you can do damage with and attacking the right pitches.”
The ‘Noles released their schedule last week and it’s loaded with tough opponents. FSU will take on Texas Tech in the 3rd weekend of the series and Junior said that those type of early season match ups will continue. He wants the players to be tested early and often before getting into ACC play, “Here on out, we’re going to play someone on that third weekend. I want it to be a top ten team.”
Reese Albert continues to progress in his rehab as he’s been throwing and running at 100% and will begin swinging this week, Meat said. He also mentioned that the junior will patrol CF when he comes back.