Last season, just two freshmen touched the mound all season for 11 and Clyde Keller. After opening weekend, five freshmen have already toed the rubber for Junior and Jimmy Belanger. Overall Florida State used 15 of their 21 pitchers on roster this past weekend. Meat has mentioned using the ‘young guns’ early and often to get them experience and advance their development.
The freshman flexed his muscles at the plate this weekend, going 4-6 with two doubles, three RBI, and two walks. Coming into the season, FSU’s coaching staff was even more excited about Simmons on the hill, and he showed his potential despite giving up a two-run homer. The big 6’3, 228 pound RHP generates power down the hill with his lower half. The fastball sat 90-92 with some running action into the hands of right-handed hitters up and in. The biggest threat for the freshman is his slider. After the 1-out homer, Simmons showed the ability to bounce back as he picked up two K’s and four swing-and misses on the slider. The slider, which sits 81-83, can be a weapon falling away against righties and attacking the back foot against lefties.
Simmons will likely be a top midweek starter option for FSU the rest of the season. He’s more likely to start rather than come out of the pen as he’ll be in the starting lineup a lot. I’d expect Meat to pick up more and more two-ways in recruiting, as it makes your program more flexible. Simmons has only been working with Belanger on the hill for about six weeks now, as he progresses and builds up innings, he’ll only be more of a weapon for the staff.
Messick was the most impressive freshman of the group this past weekend, Meat even said that himself after Saturday’s game. The big lefty worked consistently 94 MPH with the fastball and had late life to it. Coming from a lower angle, the ball has a rising effect to it (think Craig Kimbrel or AJ Minter). The command wasn’t really there with the fastball, often missing high (as you would expect on a freshman’s first college appearance), but that rising effect still gets swings on the ball. He gets a lot of his power from his lower half and a strong drive off his back leg. The southpaw did a really good job of sequencing his slurve with the high fastball. The breaking ball is going to buckle a lot of knees this season.
At the least, Messick will see plenty of opportunities as a left-handed specialist this season. With three veteran lefties ahead of him, he may not be one of the top options but he’s going to be a quality option whenever they turn to him this season. If the fastball continues to work in that 93-94 MPH range, Messick will have quite the career at FSU.
Anderson had just six appearances and one start for the Seminoles in his freshman season. Through one weekend he has an appearance and is inline for FSU’s first midweek start of the season. Anderson is a completely different pitcher this year and he showed that he’s in store for a breakout year in 2020. The fastball worked 90-92 MPH with good two-seam action and location. After having a 75-77 MPH 12-6 curveball in 2019, Anderson unleashed an 83-86 MPH hard-biting slider on opening weekend. Here’s a closer look at the tight-spinning slider. He did a really good job of sequencing the pitches off each other to get swing-and-misses.
After an underwhelming freshman season, the sophomore has gained the full trust of Junior throughout the offseason and fall ball. The mentality and pure stuff are completely different this year. I’d expect him to get consistent swing-and-misses with the slider and if he can continue to spot the fastball, he’ll be one of the top options as a weekend starter in 2021. We’ll get an extended look at the stuff tonight as he gets the start against USF.
Hubbart was FSU’s most impressive new arm in fall and early spring, which led to him earning the closer role heading into opening day. He was thrown into the fire on opening day, coming into the ninth inning with a one-run lead. He struggled to get the ball down in the zone, as a walk and a single led to him getting the loss, but the future is still bright and he showed that in a bounce back appearance on Sunday. Hubbart did a good job of working the inside part of the zone on Sunday, something FSU wants to do more of this year. When you can work the inside half, you don’t let hitters extend their arms for more power and they have to get their bat head out earlier, leading to off balanced swings on the off-speed.
The breaking ball is a sweeping curveball in the high 70’s, which starts at the lefties front leg and ends up on the outer part of the plate. The changeup is advanced for a freshman and he has the ability to throw it in any count. Against righties, it works well off the inside fastball as it gets roll overs and swings over the ball. It’s a true three pitch mix for the lefty.
Hubbart has the highest ceiling and potential of any of the freshmen. He’s showed the ability to use any of his three pitches in any count at a high rate. Once he settles in and is able to compose himself in front of the large crowds, he’ll be a a tough at-bat for any hitter.
Walker has made the biggest improvement of any freshmen since the fall. After being inconsistent with command and his off-speed, the freshman worked efficiently and in the zone on Saturday. The fastball explodes out of his hand with some arm-side run as the arm speed is elite for the RHP. Walker did the opposite of Anderson, switching out a slider for a curveball from fall to spring. The freshman struggled to command the slider in fall and has changed to a 12-6 curveball in 2020. Despite the 12-6 action, the pitch isn’t loopy for Walker as a high spin rate makes the ball tumble over quickly as it reaches the plate. The pitch works well off the fastball as he works up in the zone before dropping the curveball off the table.
The quick signs of development improve what was already a very high ceiling for Walker. He showed the ability to command the zone and use his off-speed pitches off his fastball, causing swing-and-misses. He still may not see a ton of innings throughout his freshman year, but the ability to adjust in such a short amount of time is really good to see out of the young gun.