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Opponent Preview: Florida State

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Meet the Seminoles... They’re pretty dang good at this baseball thing

NCAA Baseball: Troy at Florida State Joe Rondone-USA TODAY Sports

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Florida State

Mascot: Seminoles | School Location: Tallahassee, FL | Conference: ACC

2018 Record: 37-16 (15-12, T-3rd Atlantic) | 2018 RPI Rank: 10

2017 Record: 46-23 (14-14, 5th Atlantic) | 2017 RPI Rank: 8

2016 Record: 41-22 (16-10, 2nd Atlantic) | 2016 RPI Rank: 11


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: Dick Howser Stadium, Tallahassee, FL

Game Time: Thursday, May 17 @ 6:00pm | Friday, May 18 @ 6:00pm | Saturday, May 19 @ 1:00pm

TV: ACC Network Extra (Thursday | Friday | Saturday)

Radio: WKNC 88.1 in Raleigh

Live Stats: FSU Stat Broadcast


Tell me about this team

Florida State is really good at baseball... death and taxes and all that. You know the story. FSU Baseball has finished outside of the Top 20 in RPI just once since the turn of the century, and that was a 26th place ranking in 2005. The horror. Yeah, I don’t need to waste time on their history in the sport. Moving on to the present...

You wouldn’t know it by their numbers or the talent they’re running out there, but the Florida State pitching staff has been decimated by injuries this year. Before the opening game, FSU lost returning bullpen arms JR Chase Haney (Tommy John Surgery) and RS-SR Ed Voyles (undisclosed injury) and their 101 combined career appearances for the season. RS-SR Will Zirzow, who had 47 career appearances coming into the year, only just returned from a preseason injury of his own this past weekend. Then, just 4.2 innings into the first game of the year, the Seminoles lost their returning ace and project high draft pick Tyler Holton (37 career appearances, 27 starts) to Tommy John Surgery. Talk about some horrible luck.

Despite all the attrition noted above, the ‘Noles pitching staff is one of the best around. The bullpen is not the deepest or most experienced you’re going to see (at most, they’ll use seven arms, and four of those arms are true freshman, with another being a sophomore), but those arms are all high quality. The starting rotation features two mainstays of the last 2-to-3 years, and all three starting arms this weekend are future professional players. There are some weaknesses of the pitching staff (ten times in ACC play the starting pitcher for FSU has failed to go more than 4.0 innings), but overall this is a solid unit.

Offensively, this isn’t the most productive group, but it is very talented. Florida State has a couple future first round draft picks (C Cal Raleigh, 3B Drew Mendoza) and some other highly talented players (1B Rhett Aplin, OF Jackson Lueck, OF JC Flowers). That’s pretty much the norm for FSU: they’re going to have a lineup full of pro prospects who can hit the ball all over the park. As a group, this team is slashing .269/.399/.440 with 34 stolen bases. The biggest weakness is a lack of team speed throughout the lineup and the absence of a true leadoff hitter, an issue that the coaching staff has been playing with recently to try and find an answer.

Key Players:

Offense

C Cal Raleigh (JR) - .326 BA, .456 OBP, .579 SLG, 190 AB, 13 2B, 1 3B, 11 HR, 39 R, 46 RBI, 46 BB, 35 K, 2-2 SB. Raleigh has bounced back from his sophomore year slump in a major way. This is a legit first round talent and he’s showing it. Better to walk him in a disadvantaged count than to give into him.

3B Drew Mendoza (SO) - .325 BA, .440 OBP, .505 SLG, 194 AB, 15 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 39 R, 38 RBI, 38 BB, 51 K, 3-3 SB. Mendoza is a stud and a 2019 MLB Draft first round talent. Not much else needed to add.

1B Rhett Aplin (SR) - .299 BA, .433 OBP, .439 SLG, 187 AB, 18 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 32 R, 29 RBI, 43 BB, 38 K, 3-4 SB. Didn’t play in the last two games of the Mount St. Mary’s series last weekend due to an injury; it’s unclear if he’ll play in the NC State series, but my guess would be ‘yes’. Aplin is a very patient hitter with an advanced approach at the plate for a college hitter. He’s probably more of a corner OF at the next level, but he kinda lacks a defensive home.

OF Reese Albert (FR) - .281 BA, .388 OBP, .479 SLG, 121 AB, 6 2B, 0 3B, 6 HR, 22 R, 26 RBI, 21 BB, 34 K, 3-4 SB. Albert started just five of FSU’s first 19 games, but has been a regular in the lineup since mid-to-late March, including starting 15 of the 24 games in CF while SO JC Flowers was out due to injury (Flowers returned to action last weekend). Even with Flowers return, Albert has pushed his way into the lineup and the coaches will find a way to get him on the field. Sometimes it just takes a while to realize what you have in freshmen.

OF Steven Wells (SR) - .270 BA, .439 OBP, .459 SLG, 148 AB, 8 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 41 R, 26 RBI, 39 BB, 43 K, 3-4 SB. Wells had been pretty underwhelming through his first three years in Tallahassee, despite his talent. He’s putting together a nice final year, though. He could find himself as a 9th or 10th round pick as a “senior money saver” for a club in this year’s draft based on his skill set.

OF/DH Jackson Lueck (JR) - .251 BA, .370 OBP, .513 SLG, 191 AB, 8 2B, 0 3B, 14 HR, 43 R, 43 RBI, 33 BB, 48 K, 2-3 SB. Lueck burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2016, slashing .379/.494/.576 with 10 2B and 4 HR. His overall numbers dropped in 2017 (.318/.405/.507, 11 2B, 9 HR), but he was still very productive. This year, aside from his HR total (14), he’s seen another dip in production. Lueck is talented (he was the 2017 ACC Tourney MVP and a member of the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team), and he has the ability to move to the catcher position in the pros (being on the same team with Cal Raleigh doesn’t really provide much opportunity to show off your catching chops), so maybe a MLB team falls in love with his potential as a catching prospect with a power bat and not much wear on the legs. He could also stick as a corner OF, but his bat will need to come back around to stay there.

Pitching

LHP Drew Parrish (SO) - 4-0, 2.42 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .194 OBA, 81.2 IP, 56 H, 27 R, 22 ER, 33 BB, 97 K. A two year starter in the weekend rotation (has started 18 games over the last two years), Parrish is the undisputed ace of this team and a future high draft pick. His fastball velocity (high 80’s to low 90’s) and shorter stature (5’11) are probably the only things holding him back from being a first rounder (MLB teams love those “projectable” guys), otherwise he has all the markings. He’s going to be a very good pitcher for a very long time, though. Has gone at least 6.0 IP in nine of his last ten starts.

RHP Andrew Karp (RS-JR) - 8-4, 3.44 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, .247 OBA, 70.2 IP, 67 H, 33 R, 27 ER, 15 BB, 86 K. Was the weekday starter for the ‘Noles up until the Boston College series (4/20-4/22), when he moved to the weekend rotation as the Saturday starter (Friday starter for this series). He has a fastball-changeup combo that’s pro-level good, but probably lacks a true third pitch that would make him a better regarded pro prospect as a starting pitcher. The guy still has a floor as a solid bullpen arm, so he shouldn’t have to wait too long to hear his name called in the draft this year.

RHP Cole Sands (JR) - 7-2, 4.30 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, .212 OBA, 60.2 IP, 48 H, 30 R, 29 ER, 22 BB, 67 K. A weekend rotation starter from basically Day 1 (he started the Sunday game in the first series of his freshman year), Sands has made 45 starts in his 47 career appearances. You know you have a pretty impressive rotation when this is your Sunday guy (Satruday guy for this series). Sands sits in the low-to-mid 90’s with his fastball and throws a curve, change, and slider as well. He’ll hear his name called in this year’s draft come June.

RHP CJ Van Eyk (FR) - 4-0, 2 SV, 3.00 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, .206 OBA, 48.0 IP, 35 H, 17 R, 16 ER, 23 BB, 57 K. A 19th round draft pick of the Mets in the 2017 MLB Draft and a member of the gold medal USA Baseball 18U National Team, Van Eyk is the top bullpen arm for the Seminoles. If not for some injury concerns that popped up his senior year of high school, he likely would have been a top 5 round selection and playing minor league ball right now. Has a low-to-mid 90s fastball with a changeup and curveball and will show you why the dude’s a future first rounder.

LHP Jonah Scolaro (FR) - 1-1, 6 SV, 3.72 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, .267 OBA, 38.2 IP, 40 H, 20 R, 16 ER, 16 BB, 55 K. It’s not often that you see a 5’9 freshman closer who sits in the high 80’s with his fastball, but that’s what the ‘Noles are sporting this year. Despite not fitting the mold of his role, Scolaro has been highly effective, especially at racking up K’s.

LHP Clayton Kwiatkowski (SO) - 3-1, 2 SV, 3.58 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, .233 OBA, 32.2 IP, 28 H, 14 R, 13 ER, 17 BB, 38 K. When his control issues pop up, they pop up big time (10 of his 17 walks have come in just 4 appearances spanning 3.1 IP), but when he has his control, he’s effective.

RHP Connor Grady (FR) - 4-3, 2 SV, 4.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, .202 OBA, 26.0 IP, 19 H, 13 R, 13 ER, 20 BB, 29 K. Grady has some good swing-and-miss stuff, but his lack of control has resulted in decreased usage over the back half of the season. Still, he’ll make an appearance at some point in the series. Wait him out and let him beat himself.

RHP Cobi Johnson (RS-JR) - 0-1, 1 SV, 3.54 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, .213 OBA, 20.1 IP, 16 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 13 BB, 27 K. Johnson is in his first season back from a UCL injury that required Tommy John Surgery and cost him the end of the 2016 season and all of 2017. Just to show you how talented Johnson is, despite not throwing a pitch in over a year, he was still taken in the 29th round of last year’s MLB Draft. That was the second time he’s been drafted (he was a 35th round pick out of high school in 2014), and the third time will come in less than a month from now.

LHP Austin Pollock (FR) - 4-4, 1 SV, 5.62 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, .287 OBA, 56.0 IP, 64 H, 44 R, 35 ER, 27 BB, 48 K. The hometown kid Pollock started the season in the weekend rotation before being removed for, uhh, getting lit the heck up by ACC competition. He finished the regular season as the weekday starter, but is likely to be a bullpen arm going forward, so we’ll likely see him at some point this series - especially since he’s a lefty. He was a 40th round pick in last year’s MLB Draft, so the dude does have some talent and potential in his 6’3 frame.

RHP Will Zirzow (RS-SR) - (2017 numbers) 3-1, 0 SV, 2.58 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 45.1 IP, 31 H, 17 R, 13 ER, 19 BB, 52 K. Zirzow made his 2018 debut last weekend with a shutout inning of relief. The 6’5, 240 pounder’s return would be a welcomed one for the FSU bullpen to bolster their depth heading into the postseason.


Quick! Fun Facts!

Even though these two teams play each other each year, only one FSU player has suited up against the Wolfpack more than three times: Cal Raleigh (5 games)

Speaking of Cal Raleigh, he’s the son of former Western Carolina and Tennessee head coach Todd Raleigh. Maybe Western should check if Todd wants to return to his alma mater...

The FSU coaching staff hasn’t had to travel far to amass talent: there are just two players on the roster from outside the states of Florida and Georgia: juniors Cal Raleigh (Cullowhee, NC) and Mike Salvatore (Ewing, NJ).


Prediction

Florida State wins Thursday night behind a great outing from Drew Parrish, NC State gets even with a huge offensive showing on Friday, but that Saturday game... The difference in third starters for the two squads makes the difference. FSU takes the Saturday game and the series.