Jason Staples

Florida State Baseball Notebook: Fall Camp

The Florida State baseball team started fall practice this week and there are quite a few questions for Mike Martin to answer.

Replacing DJ Stewart

Coach Martin has the impossible task of replacing DJ Stewart, who was taken in the first round of the MLB draft by the Baltimore Orioles. Martin knows that he can't replace a guy like DJ, he just has to put guys in the position to step up and see who rises to the challenge.

"Obviously when you lose DJ Stewart, you don’t look for somebody to follow in his footsteps," Martin said. "You don’t have that. It’s like replacing a J.D. Drew or a Buster Posey or a Tony Thomas or a Shane Robinson. You don’t have somebody come in the next year and follow up with what he accomplished. What you do is you give guys opportunities. You create a competitive situation and you see who wins the job."

Gage West moves to LF

While we're on the subject of replacing DJ Stewart, catcher Gage West has moved into his old position in left field. West has a big bat and coach Martin has been looking for a way to get him into the lineup.

"Gage West has looked pretty good in left field," Martin said. "Hopefully he continues to improve with the bat because that’s what you do out of your corner outfielders is run production. Gage has had a pretty good go of it thus far and playing very good defense."

Martin doesn't know if West can hit 10 or more homeruns this season, he certainly has the power to do so, but he does want West to become the run producer that they lost in Stewart.

"I see Gage growing up," Martin said. "Will he hit 10 home runs? I don’t know. But I do want him to understand that somebody has got to be a run-producer. That’s the difference in the good ones and the great ones – are the ones that can drive in the runs. That don’t chase balls out of the zone. DJ Stewart was as disciplined a young man, no matter the situation, of anybody I can remember. He’s a tough out. That’s what we want Gage to be: a tough out. Don’t go up there swing at a curveball that bounces with an 0-0 count. Get into the count, make the guy prove that he can make pitches and don’t make him feel good about himself. Sometimes young guys that are put in this situation do. Gage can’t say I’m going to replace DJ Stewart. Neither can anybody else I’ve had around here. But he can darn sure become a very tough out and very good run-producer."

Three man race for the catcher position

JUCO transfer Bryan Bussey and true freshmen Cal Raleigh and Jackson Lueck are fighting it out for the starting catcher spot vacated by Danny De La Calle. Martin said that all three are playing well this fall, but he got pretty excited when talking about the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Raleigh.

"Little bit better than I thought if that is a nice answer. He’s not intimidated by anything that’s going on. He’s a baseball player. He has the same approach that every good freshman has had since I’ve been here. That is feel your way around. Just feel your way in and once you get in there, then let it happen. … Been very impressed with him thus far. Still got a long way to go."

Martin Letting DeLuzio loose. 

Junior center fielder Ben DeLuzio is easily the fastest player on the Florida State team. DeLuzio led the team in stolen bases last season with 14 on 17 attempts. Coach Martin plans to let him loose a lot more this year. 

"I’m still having that go through my mind. One thing I want to do: I want to turn him loose more. Want to utilize his speed more this year. We didn’t last year because of Quincy and DJ. We wanted them to hit as many times as we could. We wanted that other team to get us out – not us get ourselves out by not getting a good jump and getting thrown out. We may turn Ben loose more this year, depending upon how the lineup produces, the way it comes around."

One thing that will help with that is him continuing his momentum from the end of the season last year after having an abysmal season at the plate. The Florida State coaching staff wants him to put more balls on the ground and utilize his speed, which was something that he had trouble doing last season.

"I’ve seen him get a better grasp of his swing. He has got to understand that he needs to keep the ball out of the air. With his speed, any ball he hits to the left side, if it’s not right at the shortstop or right at the third baseman, they need to hurry. They can’t take that thing and just pad it and throw it over there. He runs well."

Starting pitchers still up in the air

The starting rotation is an area where Florida State will need to improve this season. Mike Compton and Drew Carlton return, but neither have the stuff to be the Ace of the staff. Two true freshmen, Cole Sands and Tyler Holton, have the ability to lock down that spot, but they're inexperienced. Coach Martin likes what he has at the position as far as talent goes, but and he's been pleased with the progress the staff has made in the offseason.

"We’re still not totally in the dark. We’ve got some good competition from the returning players to the new guys who I’m still learning. Couple of freshmen, three or four freshmen, have been very impressive. Two local kids have pitched pretty well. Talking about Tyler Holton and Cole Sands. Couple of four-year transfers (JUCOs) have looked very good. And of course the guys that have been in our program have gotten better. That’s what has been encouraging. I’ve seen guys throwing a notch or two better velocity-wise than they did last year...The return of Mike Compton is important and of course Drew Carlton. There’s two guys from the rotation back. That’s encouraging.

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