Around the Horn: Takeaways from FSU’s first fall ball game

Haylee Blitch

The Seminoles started the Mike Martin Jr. era and fall ball slate against the Ontario Blue Jays today. The Blue Jays are a collective group of all the best high school players in Ontario, and were actually a well-coached and technically sound team, making no errors on the day. FSU and their pitchers did what they were supposed to do, not giving up any runs in an 8-inning game. The ‘Noles pulled away in the late innings for a 9-0 win on a day FSU did a lot of good things, including making no errors. I’ll be starting this new segment this season, taking a trip around the bases and the 4 biggest takeaways I have from each game.

First Base: Conor Grady and Jack Anderson show what Jim Belanger can do for the FSU pitching staff

Last season, Conor Grady broke out with a 3.64 ERA in 64.1 IP. A lot of Grady’s success came from the usage of his changeup and slider. The righty’s off speeds worked well off each other and the fastball, but today they looked even more advanced. Last season, Grady’s slider would sit 78-81 with the change sitting 82-83, but today the slider sat 85-87 while the change sat 84-86. The slider looked even tighter than last year and really dove away from the hitters. Jack Anderson saw an even bigger uptick in his off-speed today, with a large difference in his breaking ball. Last season, Anderson’s breaking ball was a big loopy curve in the low-mid 70’s, now Jack features a sharp slider that sits 81-83. The sophomore’s changeup also saw a large leap in usage as his spin rate has improved. This looks like the work of new pitching coach Jim Belanger with the pitchers. The ‘Noles only pitched 2 returners today but both saw a vast uptick in their off-speed pitches.

Second Base: Nander De Sedas and Elijah Cabell taking steps forward

Obviously, it’s just one game, but it was good to see the sophomores have big impacts with their bats today. In my fall preview, I highlighted how their progression would be one of the headlines to follow in the fall, and both got off to a good start on Monday. Nander doubled in the first inning to drive in 2 runs before walking and having a sac fly in his last AB. Elijah worked a full-count walk in his first PA and ripped a double in the LCF gap in the 5th inning to drive in a run. Both guys have immense talent, and Elijah really showed off in batting practice. In his last round of BP, Cabell smoked an opposite-field HR on every swing. The power in his bat is just silly, and if he can make contact at a higher rate in 2020, FSU can have a big season with him in the top half of the order.

Third Base: Freshmen pitchers Parker Messick and Brandon Walker show off their arsenals

Parker Messick pitched the 3rd and 4th innings on Monday and really impressed me. Messick wasn’t a very highly rated player coming out of high school, but he always put up big numbers at Plant City High School. The big lefty came out of the gates with back-to-back K’s while touching 93 with his FB and spotting up both his changeup and a frisbee slider. In total, Messick pitched 2 innings, striking out 3 and giving up just 1 hit. The big lefty could be one of the most effective freshmen in 2020 if he keeps this up. Brandon Walker was FSU’s highest-rated recruit for the 2019 class and he showed why against the Blue Jays. Walker’s first pitch registered in at 95 on the gun, before hitting 94 twice to strike out the first hitter he saw. Walker also featured a sharp CB at 78-81 and flashed an 85 MPH CH once. The CB needs some work, as does his command, as he walked 2 batters, but Walker showed his ceiling is very high. I see a little Van Eyk in Walker as he has that wildly effective attribute to go along with the electric heat. Van Eyk separates himself with the off-speed, but the top end starter potential is there.

Home Plate: Bryce Boone highlights a big day for newcomers

Bryce Boone came to FSU as a catcher but the ‘Noles have moved him to the OF, with a lack of depth, but wanting to get Boone in the lineup. We saw why on Monday, as Boone blasted a no doubt HR over the ‘Noles pen in LF after coming off the bench in the 6th. Boone also followed up the HR with a fly out to the warning track in CF. Boone has tons of pop in the bat, but it will be a question of how does FSU get him in the lineup, whether it’s in the outfield, at first base, or even DH’ing, the ‘Noles will likely try to find him AB’s in 2020. Many other newcomers also had big days for the ‘Noles. JUCO transfer Jackson Greene started at 2nd, before moving to SS, and finished the day 1/3 with a double and a walk. Freshman Danny Andzel started at 3B and singled in his first at-bat. Many others came off the bench and made an impact. Freshmen Josiah Miller, Douglas Kirkland, Tyrell Brewer, and JD Tease all got their first hits as Seminoles.

Here are the final stats from Monday’s exhibition

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