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FSU baseball season preview: midweek starters and bullpen

Jimmy Belanger’s pen is loaded with talent on both sides of the hill / Haylee Blitch

Last season, FSU baseball had three weaknesses; strikeouts on offense, infield defense, and bullpen depth. Once Conor Grady was moved to the bullpen, 11 basically had just one RHP and three LHP’s to rely on before getting to JC Flowers to close games. With just one reliable RHP, it’s almost impossible to matchup or give guys rest. Newcomers combined for just 15.2 innings last season for the Seminoles. This year, Mike Martin Jr. will have 11 new arms to work and have to replace just Flowers in the back end of the pen. When JC touched the mound, he was electric, but FSU couldn’t really use him for more than one inning at a time or outside of the 9th inning as he was manning center field. After being a weakness in 2019, the pen and midweek situation should be a strength for FSU in 2020.

Last season, FSU had no defined midweek starter, and it will likely be the same way this season. Meat will likely go with younger pitchers throughout the season, to give them opportunities to grow in a starter’s role. Sophomore Jack Anderson and freshman Bryce Hubbart are the favorites to start midweek games. Anderson brings a polished three-pitch mix to the hill with a low 90’s fastball, low 80’s sharp slider, and low 80’s effective changeup. Hubbart is FSU’s most advanced freshman pitcher and dominated in the fall. The lefty will be 92-94 with the fastball, low 80’s with an above average changeup, and high 70’s with an effective curveball.

Chase Haney is the leader of this team and bullpen. The redshirt senior was FSU’s top RHP out of the pen last season, and will likely fill the same role this season. Haney will probably be a matchup, setup pitcher. He will use his sinker-slider combo from the sidearm slot to get swings-and-misses and ground balls. JUCO-transfer Davis Hare is the likely ‘closer’ for the Seminoles in 2020. The ‘closer’ won’t be a defined role for Junior, as he will likely come in at the highest-leverage situations of the game, besides just the last three outs. Hare uses a low 90’s fastball and splitter combo to induce weak contact at a high rate.

From the right side of the mound, FSU also has unproven sinker-ballers with Jake Suddreth and Chris Ruckdeschel. Both saw little action in fall, but showed the ability to get ground balls at a high rate. The key for both will be controlling the wicked movement on their sinkers to keep the ball in the zone more consistently. Tyler Ahearn and Cade Hungate are both x-factors in the pen. Each guy has an electric arsenal but struggles with command. If they could lower their walk rates, they would both be extremely effective bullpen arms. Kyle McMullen is coming off a medical redshirt season and is quite the unknown going into the season. He’s completely healthy for the season, but we haven’t seen him throw in game since fall of 2018. Walk-on Aaron Jensen struggled with arm injuries in fall and likely won’t be ready for the start of the season. Hunter Perdue is out for the year after Tommy John surgery.

Freshmen Doug Kirkland and Brandon Walker will both provide gas in the tank for FSU in 2020. Kirkland was moved to the pen after impressing with a 92-94 MPH fastball and hard slider. Walker possesses some of the best raw stuff on the team, with a fastball that has been up to 96 MPH in fall. The freshmen needs some more time to develop his command and pitchability before getting consistent innings on the hill in 2020, but the future is extremely bright.

On the left side of the hill, the Seminoles bring back a trio veteran arms. Seniors Clayton Kwiatkowski and Antonio Velez and junior Jonah Scolaro have all shown they can perform at the highest level at FSU. Despite all having 4+ ERA’s in 2019, each guy is a weapon that can throw in any situation of any game. A lot of their issues had to do with fatigue last season and the inability to match up with certain hitters with the lack of depth in the pen. With a new trio of lefties and a handful of new righties coming in, they should be spared some innings and get back to their normal roles in 2020.

The freshmen LHP trio consists of Hubbart, Parker Messick, and Ryan Pettys. Hubbart is the most advanced of the three, Messick has the hardest stuff to pick up, and Pettys may have the highest ceiling with a lanky frame. Hubbart will likely see the most innings as he gets some starts with the above-average three pitch mix and hard fastball. Messick has a unique arm angle coming to the plate that makes it extremely difficult on left-handed hitters. I’d expect him to get a good amount of appearances as a left-handed specialist. Pettys profiles as a starter down the road, but may need a year to polish up his command and arsenal. He will also be given some appearances as a left-handed specialist as he is a tough AB for lefties with a big breaking ball.

The ‘Noles will have live video coverage of every single regular season game besides one in 2020.

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