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Florida State baseball practice notebook: 2/10-2/14

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‘Noles look to define starting infield, pitching roles over last few scrimmages.

Vince Smith
Brett Nevitt

Florida State baseball has officially reached game week. FSU takes on North Florida this upcoming weekend to open up the 2021 season. The Seminoles still had some roles to define this past weekend. All infield positions and pitching roles were up for grabs over the last few scrimmages, as Mike Martin Jr. said only Matheu Nelson, Elijah Cabell, Reese Albert, and Robby Martin had taken hold of starting spots before the final week of practice. Here are our notes from the crucial final week of scrimmages:

Pitchers

  • Parker Messick ran into some hard contact in his first inning of work on Friday, but settled down for the rest of his outing. Messick went four innings, giving up two hits, one run, and striking out five. The southpaw gave up a walk, his first of the spring, but still pounded the zone consistently. The FB sat in the 89-92 MPH range for the length of his outing. His changeup was his best pitch as usual, getting multiple swing-and-misses from right-handed hitters. He struggled to get the curveball down in the zone, but his slider was on, as he consistently induced weak contact with the pitch. Messick wasn’t his sharpest, but he showed his durability and ability to limit damage even when he’s not at his best.
  • Conor Grady had his sharpest outing of the spring at the right time. Like Messick, he ran into some hard contact early, but settled in for the rest of his outing. Grady gave up four hits and one run over four innings of work, while striking out five. Grady’s fastball sat in the 89-91 MPH range for the majority of his outing. He also showed heavy sink and high spin rates on his FB. The slider was the sharpest it’s been this spring, as he could land it whenever he wanted for strikes and also induced swing-and-misses with the breaking ball. His changeup is a real weapon against left-handed hitters. Ranging in the low 80’s, the CH has hard fading action that is hard for lefties to make any hard contact on. When his slider is sharp and the FB is in the zone, Grady will give FSU quality starts on the bump.
  • Bryce Hubbart was the best he’s been so far this spring, and at the right time. Hubbart missed bats at a high level. The southpaw K’d 5/10 batters, while producing 11 swing-and-misses on just 45 pitches. Hubbart gave up no hits and just one free pass in three innings. The fastball sat 90-93 and jumps out of the hand with spin rates up to 2400 RPM. The curveball is a big breaker that has late bite to it. When he was on top of the pitch and down in the zone, he was un-hittable. The mid-70’s curveball leads to a lot of knee-buckling from both righties and lefties. The changeup, in the low 80’s, continues to make strides forward. FSU’s staff has high expectations for Hubbart, and he showed why on Saturday. When he’s around the zone, he’s dominant.
  • Jack Anderson was by the far the freshest and sharpest he’s been this spring on Saturday. The right-hander was pounding the zone with three pitches after settling in. He allowed one walk and one hit allowed in four IP. Anderson also had six strikeouts. The fastball ticked back up on week three of practice, sitting 90-92 for the majority of his outing. The slider, his out-pitch, was sharp and dominant. The breaking ball sit in the 83-85 MPH range and was up to 86 MPH. The changeup is an extremely effective pitch against LHH, and his feel for the pitch continues to progress in the right direction. When Anderson’s slider is on, he makes easy works of any lineup (go back and watch his FAU and Duke outings).
  • Kyle McMullen was also very good on Saturday. The right-hander commands the zone with three pitches and has some of the best pitchability on the staff. McMullen will use more off-speed than fastballs. The FB sat 89-92 for the length of two innings. His curveball and changeup are both effective to both RH and LH hitters. The CB is a north-to-south pitch, with tight downward break. Spin rates up to 2700 RPM make the pitch tumble at a high rate. Coming off shoulder injuries, McMullen likely won’t be overused in 2021, but he’ll have an impact on the 2021 season. He could likely be a long reliever for the ‘Noles, eating up innings in the middle third of the game.
  • Andrew Armstrong is going to be a matchup nightmare in FSU’s bullpen for a while. The freshman needs to put some weight on, as he stands 6’2 and just 150 pounds, but has shown to be extremely effective in multiple outings. He’s nearly impossible to hit for lefties, as he hides the ball behind his back hip and comes from a low arm slot. His FB sits in the 86-88 MPH range, and has been up to 90 MPH. The fastball jumps on hitters due to his above average spin rates which range into the 2400’s. His out pitch is a sweeping slurve in the low to mid-70’s, which is a wipeout pitch against lefties. He’s struggled in the past against right-handed hitters, but was effective on Friday, as he showed an improved changeup to keep righties off his FB. Even with loads of depth in the pen, his effectiveness against lefties could lead to innings in 2021 for the southpaw.
  • Brandon Walker didn’t have his sharpest command on Friday, but his stuff was electric. Walker ran his FB up to 96 MPH and sat in the 92-95 MPH range with running action. He was spinning his curveball at a high rate per usual, but also added a new slider to the mix. The slider is a sharp breaking ball, at 85-86 MPH, with hard bite to it. He’s still developing the feel for the pitch, but it adds another weapon to his arsenal. The slider will make him even tougher on right-handed hitters. If Walker can start to find the zone with his fastball consistently, he’ll be dominant in the back end of Florida State’s bullpen.
  • Florida State’s three veteran relievers were sharp on Sunday. Chase Haney simply knows how to pitch. Haney misses bat at a high rate, not because of his stuff, but his ability to execute. He’s going to be a ground ball machine for the ‘Noles in high leverage situationa this year.

Clayton Kwiatkowski’s fastbalk was jumping out of his hand. The southpaw ran the FB up to 90 MPH and was powerful up in the zone. His changeup was also very effective on the day. Kwiatkowski is going to eat up a lot of innings this year, he seems to get better the deeper he goes into outings.

Jonah Scolaro’s velocity also ticked up on Sunday. Scolaro’s fastball sat mostly in the 88-89 MPH range. His two breaking ball mix makes him extremely tough on lefties. He’ll work with both a high-70’s slider and a low 70’s curveball. Both pitches have high spin rates and are hard for hitters to pick up, as he hides the ball behind his back hip.


Hitters

  • Dylan Simmons simply rakes any pitching, at any time, at any place. Simmons’ was FSU’s most consistent hitter last year, and looks the same this spring, but has added some significant power to his game. With a full fall in the weight room, Simmons is starting to put his power on display. On Friday, Simmons pulled his hands inside on a 91 MPH fastball, and absolutely torched a baseball which almost cleared the scoreboard. The ball came off his bat at 109 MPH and traveled 454 feet. Four-hundred and fifty four feet. It was one of three 100+ exit velocities on the day, as he also lined out and doubled. On Saturday, he had two more 100+ exit velocity hits. Simmons is FSU’s hottest hitter entering the season.
  • Elijah Cabell can match anyone in the nation in power. Cabell homered to the opposite field on Friday to leadoff the bottom half of the first. The ball traveled 380 feet and was 100 MPH off the bat. It wasn’t his longest or biggest homer ever, but it was one of his more impressive. The outfielder poked a low-and-away, two-strike slider over the RF fence. Cabell likely didn’t get all of the pitch, but with his strength, he doesn’t need to get all of a pitch to get it out of the park. He also had a 100 EV opposite field single on Wednesday. With a full season, a little more contact, and health, Cabell is going to put up ridiculous power numbers in 2021.
  • Robby Martin is starting to really put up some power production numbers. On Wednesday, Martin sat back on a curveball and drove it off the scoreboard for a homer. In the last couple years, that ball would likely be off the OF wall for a double. His weight drop this offseason has loosened up his swing and opened up his power. He’s making hard contact at a high rate, it’s rare to go a full scrimmage and not see at least one 100+ exit velocity from the outfielder.
  • Vince Smith is not the biggest kid, but he does pack a punch. Smith had a couple of really nice swings on Friday. He led off the game by nearly going big fly to dead center, but went for a 380-foot fly out as Reese Albert tracked down the ball. He roped a line drive single, 100 MPH off the bat, later in the game. Smith has been making some adjustments with his stance this spring and looked a bit rusty the first couple weeks, but really found comfort at the plate this weekend. He’s also been as consistent as it gets up the middle of the defense. His athleticism and clean glove work are both on display every day in the field.
  • Richie Morales was another freshman who had a solid week. Morales is starting to make hard contact at a high rate as he settles into the college game. He had a double off the RF rence after working a deep count. He also had a couple hits on Sunday. The freshman has started working mainly at third base this past week, after coming in as a middle infielder. Morales has one of the best arms on the infield and he shows it off at the hot corner. He won’t be a day-one starter, but Morales has the tools to crack the lineup as he develops throughout the season.
  • Casey Asman put the ball in a very high rate this past week. Asman is a gap-to-gap hitter and isn’t aftaid to utilize the opposite field. When he attacks fastballs early in counts, he can really do damage. He’s also been consistently reliable in the outfield since moving there full time. He’s got a big arm that fits RF, but can play either corner. Asman is a name to know, especially with Cabell’s health in question to start the season.