Merry Christmas and happy 51 days till FSU baseball as the countdown rolls on. Yes, I am unwrapping presents. Yes, I am still checking my countdown to the season opener clock even though it is Christmas. We are 51 days until February 14th, so let’s take a look at #51 Nico Baldor.
Nico Baldor transferred to FSU after starting nearly half of the games in his freshman year at Miami. Due to transfer rules, he had to sit out the 2018 season as he played on the club ball team at the university, leading to quite a bit of rust in his 2019 season at Dick Howser Stadium. Baldor mostly played OF in high school and his freshman year at Miami, but was moved to first base when he got to Tallahassee. After winning the 1B position battle in the fall, the Tampa-native struggled to kick it into gear in the spring.
Baldor hit just .105 in the first eight games of the season, and he could never recover throughout the rest of the year. The Miami transfer never saw his batting average eclipse .200 during the season after hitting .239 at Miami. The offensive struggles led to a platoon with Cooper Swanson, before Carter Smith took over the position down the stretch of the season. Baldor’s only HR of the year came late in the season against Stetson.
Watch Nico’s home run extend our lead thru 3.— FSU Baseball (@FSUBaseball) April 23, 2019
T4 | Stetson 2, FSU 6 pic.twitter.com/aq6D2LvTZ4
Nico is not a power hitter but rather a contact hitter, as he tries to spray line drives to all parts of the field. Early in the season, he ran into lots of bad ball luck as he hit line drives right at guys. Sometimes the hits just don’t fall, and that’s what happened to Baldor for most of his junior season. For the most part, FSU could count on him to put the ball in play and work counts deep. Baldor struck out just 20.4% of his AB’s, which is the lowest of returning hitters on FSU’s roster.
The senior is the most reliable defensive option at first for the ‘Noles, and infield defense will be a key to FSU’s success. Baldor’s .980 fielding percentage was 15 percentage points better than any other returning 1B option for the Seminoles. Almost all of his five errors came on throws to second base, a problem for most right handed first basemen (this is why most people prefer a left handed first baseman), while he was sure-handed with the glove. Even when Baldor wasn’t hitting during the season, FSU would bring him in late in games as a defensive replacement.
Baldor will have a chance to redeem himself at the plate in his senior season. The 1B position is open heading into the spring and he will have the chance to prove to Mike Martin Jr. he can still get some baseballs to drop. If he can get some liners to drop early in the season, the confidence and batting average will go up. Heading into 2020, I’d expect Baldor and Swanson to platoon (LHH Baldor vs RHP’s, RHH Swanson vs LHP’s) to start the year, but at the least I’d expect we’ll see the senior come into games late as a defensive substitution.