Matheu Nelson is putting his name on leaderboards all over the country. The catcher is having the best single season at Florida State in years and has already etched his name into FSU history books with four weekends and postseason play remaining. After homering in three straight games vs. the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets last weekend, Nelson was named the ACC player of the week. But it’s time for people outside Tallahassee (and the ACC) to take notice of Nelson’s dominant season.
Matheu Nelson has been named the ACC Player of the Week— Brett Nevitt (@brettpn) April 26, 2021
5-10 at the plate
HR in all 3 games
5 XBH, 5 RBI
HR in 7 of last 8 ACC games
National leader in HR (18) and RBI (53)
( : #FSU sports information) pic.twitter.com/LHjgseEK1N
The catcher earned his success with his offseason work. Nelson dropped nearly 25 pounds to improve his athleticism. With the added athleticism came more strength and power at the plate. The Largo native posted new bests in the weight room, leading to a major power breakout at the plate. In his first two seasons at FSU, the catcher homered just seven times in 216 at-bats. This year, Nelson has 18 homers in 121 at-bats.
With his two-run homer Saturday, Nelson broke FSU’s single-season record for home runs in the new-bat era. In 2011, the NCAA moved to BBCOR bats which changed the college game. Since then, three players have posted 15+ HRs in a season, with Drew Mendoza holding the previous record of 16. Nelson hit his 17th long-ball in his 33rd game. The next day, he extended the record to 18 with a first inning blast that nearly cleared Georgia Tech’s indoor practice facility behind the left field wall, becoming the second fastest Seminole to reach 18 homers in a season in the process. In his next at-bat, he nearly added to his tally when he lined a team-high 10th double off the top of the wall.
Quincy Nieporte holds the FSU record for runs batted in (82) with the new-bats. Nelson currently has 53 RBI in 34 games. During his record-setting season, Nieporte averaged 1.21 RBI per game. Meanwhile, Nelson’s driving in 1.61 runs per game. Due to Covid-19, the Atlantic Coast Conference shortened the regular season to 50 games (instead of a normal 56). In a full season, Nelson would be on pace to post 31 home runs and 90 RBI.
Not only has Nelson been dominant, he’s also been clutch. Six of Nelson’s home runs have come with two outs, while 12 have come with runners on base, and eight have come with two strikes. Two of his HRs have been grand slams. The redshirt sophomore is hitting .395 with runners in scoring position.
Over the weekend, D1Baseball’s Aaron Fitt tweeted that Nelson was a ‘sneaky’ Golden Spikes Award candidate. Two weeks ago, USA Baseball released their midseason watch list for the award. The list included three catchers, all from the ACC. Nelson was not among them. It takes one look at the ACC and national leaderboard to find the name Matheu Nelson. There’s been nothing sneaky about it—if you don’t recognize Nelly’s dominance this season, you aren’t paying attention.
Nelson is first nationally in home runs (18), home runs/game (0.55), RBI (53), and RBI/game (1.61). Nelson’s .868 slugging percentage is second in the country, while his 1.317 OPS is fourth best. His 105 total bases are sixth.
In the ACC, Nelson is at or near the top on seemingly every leaderboard. Not only is he the conference leader in homers, slugging percentage, total bases, and RBI, he’s also top 20 in average, on-base percentage, runs, hits, doubles, and walks. Despite his obvious power breakout, the backstop’s biggest strides have come behind the plate. In his first two years, Nelson threw out just 20% of runners. This season, he’s gunning down 46% of would-be base stealers. That number is second best in the ACC.
Five weeks into the season, D1Baseball released their top 30 catchers in the country. Nelson was 7th, behind three ACC catchers. Of the top 10 catchers, Nelson is first in four of 11 categories. He’s top four in nine of the 11 categories.
In his last year at Florida State, Buster Posey put up numbers that seemed unattainable. But Nelson is having a Posey-type season. In 67 games, Posey homered 26 times and drove in 93 runs. In a 67-game season, Nelson projects to homer 37 times and drive in 108 runs. Nelson isn’t going to hit .463 like Posey, but his impact has been comparable to Posey’s in 2008.
If you want to get it right, make Matheu Nelson a Golden Spikes Award finalist. Make Matheu Nelson the Buster Posey Award winner. Make Matheu Nelson a first-team All-American. Make Matheu Nelson a first-team All-ACC player.
Simply put, Matheu Nelson is college baseball’s best catcher.