Florida State baseball is four weeks away from opening day. The Seminoles will begin preseason practice a week from today. Last season, the ‘Noles went 31-24 (20-16 ACC) and went 1-2 in the Oxford Regional to end their season. FSU has been ranked in the top 15 by both D1Baseball and Perfect Game to begin the 2022 season. The Seminoles also brought in a top-10 class of newcomers, headlined by UM transfer Alex Toral and RHP Jackson Baumeister.
Where does Florida State have to improve to reach their potential in 2022? See below in part five of our countdown series:
Put more pressure on defenses through contact, athleticism
Last season, FSU’s offense relied on the long ball and their sluggers to produce runs. FSU was 18th in the country with 80 home runs, but 258th in the country with a .241 batting average. The ‘Noles had to be reliant on the home run ball because of their lack of contact and athleticism. As a team, the Seminoles struck out 32% of their at-bats. Of FSU’s 11 players with 50+ at-bats in 2021, eight had a strikeout rate of at least 30%. The ‘Noles were at the bottom of the ACC with just three triples and 24 stolen bases.
Since Mike Martin Jr. was hired, he’s talked about wanting to put pressure on defenses. To do that, FSU had to improve their contact rate and athleticism. This season, Florida State should be able to put pressure on defenses after a major overhaul of the roster. Of FSU’s 20 position players, 12 are newcomers. Tyler Martin and Logan Lacey are the only two returners who had 100+ at-bats in 2021. They had the two lowest strikeout rates on the team. Brett Roberts had a 15% K-rate at Tennessee Tech last season (as well as a .343 batting average) and Jordan Carrion had a 22% K-rate at UF.
FSU will also be getting a boost on the base paths from the aforementioned Roberts and Carrion, along with some talented freshmen. Roberts stole 17 bases last season, 11 more than FSU’s leader in stolen bases in 2021. Carrion stole four bases in 24 starts and ran a 6.63 60-yard dash in high school. Freshmen Mayes White and Jaime Ferrer are also 6.6 runners.
Position player depth
FSU’s biggest weakness last year might have been their position player depth. After injuries to Bazz Jimenez and Reese Albert, the Seminoles’ depth was extremely thin. It was so thin that Florida State had to turn to a trio of pitchers to hit. That roster overhaul that’s mentioned above has given the ‘Noles a huge boost to the position player depth.
Freshmen Treyton Rank will be FSU’s utility man, as he played all nine positions in high school. After having just two catchers last season, including the best in college baseball, FSU will enter this season with four backstops. Across the board, at every position, FSU has someone that can step in and fill a role.
Florida State’s defense improved in 2021, but it still wasn’t at a level that will get FSU to Omaha. The ‘Noles were 10th in the ACC with a .968 fielding percentage. But outside of Matheu Nelson, Jackson Greene, and Logan Lacey, FSU had defensive question marks. Nander De Sedas struggled at the end of the season as he posted a .914 FLD%. Tyler Martin, who was plugged at first base due to a shoulder injury, struggled at first with seven errors. In the outfield, there weren’t many errors, but many balls dropped in the outfield that should’ve been caught. The Seminoles have a top three staff in the country, but they need the defense to back them up to reach their ceiling.
Roberts and Carrion, along with Toral, should sure up the infield defense. Carrion will be FSU’s starting shortstop and is an elite defender. He had a .955 FLD% as a freshman at shortstop. Roberts will play 3B or 2B for the ‘Noles. He had a .962 FLD% last season between SS and 2B. Toral is limited in range, but he makes his infielders better with his glove work and footwork around the base. Martin will be able to play a more natural position at second or third base.
In the outfield, Lacey will be manning center field. The veteran has a massive arm to gun runners down and takes strong routes to cover a lot of ground. Reese Albert will provide experience and athleticism in a corner outfield spot. AJ Shaver and James Tibbs both possess a combo of speed and arm strength to man a corner outfield spot. Isaiah Perry is as fast as anyone in college baseball and can cover foul pole to foul pole.
Taking care of business in non-conference play
Florida State was surprisingly a three-seed in the tournament last year despite being one of the top five teams in the ACC. The ‘Noles were also sent to one of the toughest regionals with Southern Miss and Ole Miss. FSU wasn’t a higher seed due to crucial losses in non-conference play that were killers to the Seminoles RPI. Midweek games do not mean everything or show how a team will be in postseason play, but you have to take care of business against weaker opponents to be a regional host.
For the rest of the pieces from our countdown series, see below:
Also, make sure to catch up on the latest FSU baseball news on Sunday Golds: A Florida State Baseball Podcast: