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63 days till FSU baseball: Matheu Nelson looking to build off big freshman year

Nelson enters 2020 as Florida State’s leading returner in on base percentage

Florida State Seminoles baseball vs North Florida Ospreys
Florida State Seminoles baseball vs North Florida Ospreys
Courteney Korosec

63 days till FSU baseball people! Today is the beginning of a series Tomahawk Nation will be doing to get you ready for baseball season. The countdown will feature every player on FSU’s roster and each player will appear on their jersey number day. With 63 days till Meat’s debut as head coach, we profile #63 Matheu Nelson.

Last season, Matheu Nelson took the reigns behind the plate after Cal Raleigh’s departure and winning the position battle over Jon Foster. This year, the position is clearly his while Carter Smith will back him up and spare him some off days. The catcher came out of Calvary Christian as the 13th rated catcher in the nation and didn’t disappoint ‘Nole nation in his freshman season.

After a slow start to his freshman campaign, Nelson kicked it into gear during conference play. Mat entered March 29th with a batting average of .193, but hit .333 the rest of the season. Nelson also hit .300 for the season in conference, but was robbed of an ACC All-freshman team honor. The Largo-native finished the season with a .284 AVG and .884 OPS (On base + slugging percentage). The sophomore is in line for a leap in power numbers in 2020.

Out of qualified hitters, Nelson will have the highest returning OBP% and the least amount of strikeouts from a year ago. I would expect his OBP of .442 to drop, as he received 17 free passes on hit by pitches, an almost unsustainable number. On the other hand, I would expect the sophomore’s SLG% to rise. Nine of Nelson’s 13 XBH’s came after April 20th last season. An added five HR’s from Nelson and fellow sophomore Robby Martin is quite realistic and could give the offense a much needed boost after a hefty loss of production.

As for the sophomore’s defense, improvement has already been evident during the fall. Nelson had the arm strength and blocking last year, but struggled with past balls, footwork, and arm accuracy. Nelson threw out 20.5% of attempted steals last year and had 11 passed balls. Stolen bases are not just on the catcher, but throws often got away from Nelly. Better footwork and a quicker release look to have fixed that, as he threw out multiple runners in fall scrimmages while putting his throws on the money on a consistent basis. The arm strength and baseball IQ are off the charts with Nelson, you just have to see one play from last season to know that:

It looks like a simple play, but without that throw FSU doesn’t go to extra innings and Drew Mendoza doesn’t send FSU to Omaha later that night.

The passed balls often came on pitches that Nelson was trying to steal a strike. Rather than catching and framing, Nelson would get too quick and leave the ball behind. Now that he’s a sophomore, the game should begin to slow down and easy mental mistakes such as passed balls will reduce by a decent amount.

The Largo-native is an older sophomore, already 20 years and 10 months old, and will be sophomore draft eligible. If he sees a leap in power, I would expect him to get drafted within the first five-ten rounds. As for this upcoming season, Nelly could hit anywhere from two to seven in the lineup. I’d expect Nelson to put up a stat line somewhere around a .290 AVG, .420 OBP, and 10 HR’s, while being the backbone of a loaded pitching staff.