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Florida State baseball fall ball series: Middle infielders

Defense up the middle will be key to 2021 success.

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This week we’ll preview the middle infield for the ‘Noles in part four of the Florida State baseball fall ball series.

Last season, FSU was close to a complete team, but had well below average defensive play on the infield at times. A lack of offensive production from the middle infield also shortened the lineup. Over the last few games of the season the infield played stellar defense, which was a large part in FSU going 3-0 and defeating two ranked teams in their last three games.

FSU will bring back both of their starters from the middle infield, but will also have heated competition for the starting spot at second base. That spot will likely come down to who shows they’re most dependable with the glove. FSU brings in three newcomers up the middle this season. Let’s take a look at how short stop and second base could play out.

Middle infielders

SO Nander De Sedas

JR Jackson Greene

SO Ryan Romano

FR Danny Andzel

FR Vince Smith

FR Richie Morales

Since Nander De Sedas reached campus as the top rated position player in the country, the shortstop position has been his to lose. And through struggles, he lost that twice in his first two years, as he was moved to second base. But in 2020, after a move to second and back, we saw what he could be defensively. He made just one error over the last 10 games of the season.

He also struggled at the plate last year, as he was in a massive slump as the season was coming to a close. When your’e in a slump during a season that’s only 17 games long, your numbers aren’t going to be pretty. But there’s a reason he’s started 79 of 82 games since he’s been at Florida State. With more aggression on fastballs, a clean slate, and the pressure of his first draft-eligible year put behind him, De Sedas should be a positive factor on the 2021 season.

Last season, Danny Andzel was set to redshirt before the season was cut short. Andzel can play anywhere from second to third base, but his defensive ability and big arm should have him slated as the backup SS in 2021. He could also be battling for the starting 3B or 2B job. The right-handed hitter has a line drive, all fields approach at the plate. Andzel struggled at the plate in the summer, but showed on a consistent basis that he can be a high-caliber defensive shortstop at any level.

Second base is likely the most heated position battle in the starting lineup. It will likely be a three-man battle between Jackson Greene and newcomers Ryan Romano and Vince Smith. A few others could have a say as well, but throughout fall and spring, these three will likely have the most reps at the position.

Greene was De Sedas’ counterpart up the middle. He also struggled mightily with the bat. He had hits in seven of FSU’s first nine games, but just two hits over the last eight games of the year. He did show good patience at the plate, posting a .373 OBP with 17 free passes in 17 games.

While he did have five errors on the season and just a .911 fielding percentage, he showed to be dependable at second base. Four of his errors came in the short time he handled shortstop. He does a good job of making sure balls don’t get by at second base, often using his body to block balls like a catcher, with the extra time at second.

JUCO transfer Ryan Romano comes to Florida State after hitting .300 in 29 games at St. Johns River State College last season. Romano provided the pop at SJR as he produced five home runs in 29 games. He had nine multi-hit games and .892 OPS on the year. He played mainly shortstop at the JUCO level, as he posted a .946 fielding percentage last season, but he’ll be competing for the second base spot in Tallahassee this fall.

True freshman Vince Smith will be a large part of this position battle. Smith can play both short and second at a high level, as he was rated the ninth best shortstop in the state by Perfect Game. Smith can really hit, as he consistently put up good performances on the travel ball scene as he was named to three All-tournament teams at Perfect Game events in his last travel ball season. He also hit .333 his senior year at Calvary Christian in Clearwater, FL.

Smith is an athletic middle infielder, running sixty times in the 6.6-range, and offers a variety of skills in the lineup. He has quick, twitchy hands at the plate that will help him time up college pitchers early in his career.

Richie Morales is the other freshman in this group and also presents versatility for Mike Martin Jr. He can play second or short, and also some third base with a big arm. He brings some big tools to the table, including one of the biggest arms in the recruiting class. In his last full season of high school ball, Morales hit .409 with 11 extra base hits. He also stole 16 bags in 28 games.