FSU baseball opens up the season in four days against Niagara as the Seminoles will take the field for the first time in a regular season game under the direction of Mike Martin Jr. The Seminoles lost the contributions from the left side of their starting INF, CF/Closer, and Friday-night starter to the 2019 MLB draft. The ‘Noles still have high expectations for the season with a loaded pitching staff and the raw skill of their young position players. So what our expectations for the 2020 season? Ask and you shall receive...
Which newcomer makes the biggest impact on the 2020 season?
Brett Nevitt: Davis Hare won’t be an everyday contributor, but when it comes to wins and losses, he’ll likely have to most say of any newcomer. Heading into the season, the JUCO transfer is the Seminoles’ leading candidate to be the 2020 ‘closer.’ Hare should have at least 25+ appearances and 30+ innings out of the pen this season. After having just one RHP option before JC Flowers last season, Hare will add a new dynamic to the pen with his fastball-splitter combo. He should also spare RS senior leader Chase Haney some innings.
Evan Johnson: Jackson Greene is probably my best pick here. With the departure of Mike Salvatore, the middle infielder probably has the best chance of cracking the starting line up. I don’t know that he’ll have a big impact on the season but I feel he will have the biggest impact. I think there are some opportunities for newcomers to shine on the mound but with a pretty deep returning staff I think innings will be tight.
Juan Montalvo: I have to agree with Evan here. Not a player you expect to be a star, but Greene will probably have the biggest impact of any newcomer.
How different will FSU look on the field under Junior’s direction?
Brett Nevitt: The tempo difference will be like driving down Tennessee Street on a Friday afternoon versus driving on a wide open race track. FSU is going to put pressure on opponents, laying down bunts for hits (not sacrifice bunts), putting runners in motions on straight steals or hit and runs, swinging at the first pitch, and attacking the zone with fastballs early on the mound. Junior has stressed tempo in everything this team does, even the pace at which they get onto the field in between innings. From the projected starting lineup, Elijah Cabell, Reese Albert, Cooper Swanson all have the ability to steal double digit bags. Role players Tyrell Brewer and Isaiah Perry have elite speed that will cause havoc on the bases.
Evan Johnson: Junior has said a few times he plans on being more aggressive and we’ve seen that play out in scrimmages this year. Expect FSU to be hunting fastballs early in the count but to also take some more aggressive cuts at the off speed stuff. This will likely result in less walks but will hopefully also result in more hits. I also expect the ‘Noles to be more aggressive on the base paths and test catcher’s arms. I’m not sure this team has the skills to be as disruptive as Junior wants but I think he’ll give it a go either way. The fielding? That’s going to take a few years to fix.
Juan Montalvo: Like Evan said - more aggressive plate approach. Probably less bunting. We saw 11 willing to mix it up during the CWS run last season, but the general approach from Meat should be more palatable to the average fan.
Who will lead the FSU offense in home runs?
Brett Nevitt: I’ll take Cooper Swanson here. If he starts for a full season, he’s going to hit a lot of home runs. In just 27 starts last year, he produced seven home runs, homering in 8% of his at-bats. He’s started using the opposite-field approach more this season and he has the raw power to easily flick the ball over the RF fence at Dick Howser. If he can let fastballs travel and hit them to the opposite field, it will give him the ability to sit back on the off-speed and drive it to LF when he gets it.
Evan Johnson: Last year Elijah Cabell showed us three things; the ability to strike out a ton, demolish balls he did make contact with, and the inability to properly fit a hat on his head. While I think he’ll still strike out more than desired I feel like he is poised to be FSU’s best power threat. If he can make more consistent contact he’ll stay in the lineup and have more opportunities.
Will FSU reach the 40-win mark for the 43rd straight year?
Brett Nevitt: A lot like last season, this will depend on how far they go in the postseason. FSU’s regular season schedule is a tough one and will likely see more early season losses than in recent years. The Seminoles will get eight of D1Baseball’s top 19 teams this season, luckily just 8/23 are away from DHS. FSU will also ride with young pups for the majority of midweek starts, which they should still win, but you can expect some hiccups there. Even if they don’t reach the 40-win mark, FSU could host a regional this year due to their strength of schedule and RPI at the end of the season.
Evan Johnson: Sure, why not? How can you pick against this team to win less than 40? The schedule might be marginally tougher than usual with the addition of Texas Tech but the consistency this program has shown is staggering. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Seminoles miss the mark but a strong pitching staff and a good enough offense could be enough to reach the 40-win mark sometime in the postseason. The big concerns are fielding and Junior not playing to win those mid-week games (which is a good thing).
Juan Montalvo: Yes.
How far can this Florida State team go in the postseason?
Brett Nevitt: Key word here is “can.” This team 100% can go to the College World Series for the second straight year. The pure talent and depth of the pitching staff will be hard for any team to match up with. The raw ability is there for FSU’s lineup, with guys like Nander De Sedas, Elijah Cabell, and Swanson having not even tapped into their potential yet. Whether or not the ‘Noles will make it back comes down to the fielding. FSU’s defense has to get better from what it was last year and what it’s shown so far this year. Last season, FSU could get around it with their stacked lineup, but won’t have that luxury as much this season. On defense, the errors have to go down and on offense, the K-rate has to go down for this team to get back to College Baseball’s final destination in 2020.
Evan Johnson: Usually FSU teams of this caliber would have me worried about the post season play but I think they can do a bit of damage. I don’t know that I’d predict an Omaha berth but I feel confident predicting them to get to the Supers. While the bats are not as explosive as years past they might end up with one of the best collection of arms in the country. I don’t think Junior will ride pitchers like his father has done and I expect a better distributions of innings across the entire staff. While this might lead to a dropped game here or there it could set them up nicely for the post season, where pitchers become so much more important.
Juan Montalvo: Like Evan said, better arm management is a big boon for the post season. You’ll also likely see a more adaptive approach at the plate, where dogmatism is eschewed for pragmatism. The talent isn’t there for Meat to go ring hunting this year, and is a couple seasons away, but it’s still a solid roster with a good staff. Better management can be a good difference maker.