Florida State baseball officially begins the 2022 season today with the first official preseason practice. The Seminoles are three weeks away from opening day against James Madison on February 18th. The ‘Noles are ranked in the top 15 of all major ranking systems so far. A large part of FSU’s preseason rankings is the transfer class that the Seminoles brought to campus. In part six of our countdown series, we’ll be taking a look at three key transfers that will take on large roles in the Seminoles’ lineup this season.
I spoke with FSU’s recruiting coordinator, Mike Metcalf, earlier this week to discuss Florida State’s transfer portal process and the three impact bats that FSU added in the summer. UF transfer Jordan Carrion, UM transfer Alex Toral, and Tennessee Tech transfer Brett Roberts will all be in the starting lineup for FSU. At least two of them will likely be in the top five of the order. Carrion will be Florida State’s starting SS, Toral will start at 1B, and Roberts will either start at 2B or 3B.
Florida State entered the summer with a need for instant impact players to improve their defense, athleticism, and contact rate. Not only were they looking to fulfill those needs, but they were looking for fits to the program.
On the transfer portal process, Metcalf said, “It was the idea of finding guys that we could add not only to the lineup, but also to our clubhouse to help the returning guys succeed and in the leadership role to help all these young guys coming in to grow as players and as overall student athletes. I think that it wasn’t just one specific need here or there, as much as it was finding the right fit of makeup in the players that could play different positions and help our clubhouse continue to grow along with the returners that were coming back this year.”
Through the fall and early this semester, Toral has shown to be one of FSU’s main leaders. Despite spending four seasons at rival Miami, the first baseman made an easy transition to Tallahassee. Players have gravitated to him since the first day he arrived. “He’s been through it. He’s been through the ups and downs and the rigors of being a student athlete at the collegiate level. Him and guys like Reese (Albert) have been around for a couple years, they can tell these young guys what to expect, the ups, the downs, and the in-betweens and how to go about your business everyday to handle those ups and downs,” said Metcalf.
Florida State lost all three of their top home run hitters to the 2021 MLB Draft, including star Matheu Nelson, who led the country with 23 home runs. Toral will be key to helping FSU replace that power production. In 2019, the left-handed hitter hit 24 home runs. Last year, he hit only seven. But with the short right field porch in Dick Howser Stadium, the FSU staff is excited to see him play in the Garnet and Gold on an everyday basis.
Metcalf said, “It’s really exciting to watch. He obviously has the pull power and it plays well in our ballpark, but he also can do some things to the other side of the field that will play with the way our gaps work out there. We’re excited to watch him take advantage of the surroundings.”
10th pitch of the AB for Alex Toral after three straight foul balls. Absolutely touched. May have hit the Leach center. pic.twitter.com/Lp640kzoJM— Brett Nevitt (@brettpn) October 7, 2021
Carrion will give Florida State a massive boost on the infield. The Florida transfer is one of the best defensive shortstops in the country. Metcalf mentioned that he has all the tools of a good defensive shortstop, but also the work ethic to make him a special leader on the diamond.
“He works at it. He’s got the instincts, the athleticism, and the feel for time of the game or the speed of the game. It’s just fun to watch him go about his business everyday and take pride in the work he does. It’s fun to watch the guys around him. The guys around him watch him work.”
#FSU brought in Jordan Carrion for his defense at short, but he’s also been a quality at-bat machine so far in fall. Really likes to use all fields. Had two knocks to the opposite field today, including a 97 EV double. pic.twitter.com/PlOm4k9kFZ— Brett Nevitt (@brettpn) September 28, 2021
As a freshman for the Gators, Carrion hit .244 in 86 at-bats. But the sophomore has impressed the FSU staff with his plate approach throughout the fall. The Miami native won’t provide much thump, but he has plate discipline, speed, and is a contact hitter.
“I think he has a feel for the strike zone. He has a great all-field approach and he’s willing to work counts, take walks, and take pitches that he shouldn’t swing. He’s bought into the idea that base runners, getting free bases, and getting base runners in general helps you win ball games,” said Metcalf.
This is just one quick glimpse, will have some more later, but Jordan Carrion is as smooth as it gets at shortstop. UF-transfer also put together a pair of quality at-bats earlier in scrimmage, a 101 exit-velo single and a full count BB. pic.twitter.com/k0h89otY60— Brett Nevitt (@brettpn) September 22, 2021
Roberts is likely the least known nationally of this trio, but he likely has the most superstar potential. He’s flown under the radar at Tennessee Tech, but he was one of the best hitters in the country the past two seasons. In two seasons, he hit .331 with nine homers, 20 stolen bases, and a .496 slugging percentage. He also hit .300+ in the Cape Cod League this past summer.
FSU knows that they have a special type of bat in Roberts. “He’s a guy that comes in that’s had success, he’s got the bat speed and strength, and he continues to work on the little things in the box that’ll help him have more success. It’s a fun thing to watch when he’s right.”
The one knock against Roberts has been his plate discipline. He’s a free swinger, walking just 15 times in 62 games over the past two seasons. FSU has worked with him over the fall to balance his attacking mentality and Mike Martin Jr.’s plate approach.
“Meat does a great job with our guys of just understanding the whys and why nots and the reasoning behind the approach that we have. (Brett)’s come in with the right mindset that he’s going to continue to try to make himself better and help make this club better. He’s bought into what Meat talks about.”
On and off the field, the Seminoles filled their needs through these three transfers. Toral, Roberts, and Carrion are going to make the ‘Noles a better team in 2022 and help them profile better at each of their positions.
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: