There were a lot of unknowns for the Florida State baseball team heading into the 2016 season, and expectations were rather low for Mike Martin's team. They started off the season hot, but faded towards the end. Then they got hot once again in the post season before falling one game short of making the College World Series.
The Seminoles lost in the super regional round to rival Florida for the second year in a row, but this season the Seminoles actually looked like they belonged. The games were all close for the majority of the game, with good to excellent pitching performances by all three of Florida State's starters.
Now we turn to the 2017 season, and there are quite a few reasons for Florida State fans to be excited. The 2017 will return all three weekend starters, all four relievers with more than 30 innings pitched, and seven of the eight position players including five of the six batters that hit over .300 this season. 48 of the 57 home runs that were hit by the Seminoles will return.
The lone position player that will not be returning is senior John Sansone. While Sansone had a career year at the plate he was also a defensive liability at third base with just an .894 fielding percentage. The Seminoles needed to bring in someone to replace Sansone next season, and they look to have done that in a very big way.
Drew Mendoza, the No. 36 ranked prospect (college and high school) by MLB.com for the 2016 MLB draft, made it very clear to teams that he was coming to Florida State. Mendoza was regarded as one of the top hitting prospects in the entire draft, and will be an immediate impact player. Other prospects that could make an impact next season are infielder Nick Derr and pitcher Brandon Reitz.
When you add Mendoza to the lineup that Florida State already has there are very little weak spots. With another year of maturation for the other eight hitters, it will likely be one of the top hitting lineups in the country next season.
The starting pitching was much maligned for most of the season, but really picked it up towards the end. Drew Carlton proved to be more than capable as a Friday night starter, and freshmen Tyler Holton and Cole Sands continued to improve. With Ed and Jim Voyles, Alec Byrd, and Chase Haney coming back, all the Seminoles lack is a closer.
If they can find someone capable to fill that role, and Mendoza is what everyone thinks he will be, the 2017 Seminoles will be the most complete team Martin has fielded in more than a decade. That is something to be excited about.