The conference features 10 pitchers nominated for the Roger Clemens watch list for college baseball's pitcher of the year while 11 players have been named to the preseason All-American team.
GoJackets.com will take a look at the top six teams in the league with weekly previews prior to Georgia Tech's February 10th season opener with Georgia Southern. This week we will preview the Florida State Seminoles.
FLORIDA STATE - Mike Martin's Seminoles look to bounce back in a big way in 2007, after completing what was considered an average season for one of the top programs in the ACC. FSU was eliminated by Georgia in the regionals in Athens to complete a 44-21 season. They finished second to Clemson in the Atlantic Division with a 16-13 ACC record.
Infield - Two major changes have taken place for the Seminoles from last year's starting infield. Transfer Mark Hallberg will be starting at shortstop for Buster Posey, who has moved to catcher. The junior played the past two seasons at Illinois-Chicago. He hit .354 for the Flames and was a freshman All American. Dennis Guinn returns as the starting first baseman. Guinn hit .335 last year and led the team in home runs and RBIs. Guinn is on the preseason watch list for the Brooks Wallace player of the year award. Tony Thomas will once again be the starter at second. He's been their starter at second since his freshman year. Thomas hit .289 and most likely will be their leadoff hitter this year. Brandon Reichart should start at third for the departed Ryne Malone. Reichart sat out last season. He'll be pushed for the starting job by freshman Stephen Cardullo. Coach Martin has also talked about having Posey fill in at 3rd when he's not catching.
Outfield - Mark Gildea enters the 2007 season with the task of replacing FSU's most valuable player. Shane Robinson was a consensus All-American and the 2005 NCAA Player of the Year. Gildea hit .272 as a freshman utility player. Gildea will be pushed for the job by freshman Ohmed Danesh. The Seminoles return Travis Anderson in left and Jack Rye in right. Anderson hit .316 last year as a part-time starter and Rye finished the season with a .339 average and led the team in home runs with 12. Look for Ruairi O'Connor to be the top replacement in the outfield.
Battery - The catching position has gone through a complete overhaul since last year. 2006 starter Danny Diaz has been dismissed from the team. Diaz only hit .199 last year. His home run in the regionals against Georgia was the first by a Seminole catcher in two years. With the move of Buster Posey to catcher, Kyle Maxie has decided to transfer to Southern Mississippi. Posey, an All-Star at shortstop last year, will be behind the plate for the first time in his career. He'll add a better bat to the position and coach Martin is confident in his ability to handle the pitchers. Sophomore Brady Thomas will serve as Posey's backup.
The Seminole pitching staff returns 2 of 4 starters. Bryan Henry returns as the ace of the staff and is on the preseason watch list for the Roger Clemens award. He has also been named to the 3rd team preseason All-American team. Henry was 9-4 with a 2.88 ERA last season. He'll be backed up by Michael Hyde who had 11 starts in 2006. Hyde finished the year with at 9-1 record and a 4.34 ERA. Look for freshman Casey Whitmer and Bo O'Dell to round out the starting staff. The strenth of the staff will be the bullpen. Coach Martin's squad returns its closer and number one setup man. Luke Tucker returns as the closer. He finished 2006 with a 1.06 ERA and a 2-1 record. He is on the preseason Roger Clemens watch list and the 2nd team preseason All-American team. Brian Chambers will serve as his primary setup man. Chambers finished the 2006 season with a 2.80 ERA.
Newcomers - The Seminoles bring in a recruiting class ranked 13th in the country. Nine freshman, three jucos, and one transfer make up that 13th ranked class. Transfer Mark Hollberg looks to be the only starter from the group. Stephen Cardullo and Ohmed Daresh should make significant contributions at third and in center field. O'Dell and Whitmer will be counted on to fill out the Seminole starting rotation.
Losses - Center fielder Shane Robinson leaves behind some big shoes to fill. Robinson hit .361 and led the ACC in stolen bases and runs scored. The 2005 Player of the Year will be hard to replace. Ryne Malone has been the number two hitter on the Seminole squad the past three years in spite of an off year last year. Malone was second team All-ACC in 2004 and 2005. The pitching staff will have to find answers for the loss of starters Barret Browning and Tyler Chambliss. Chambiss moved into the starting rotation last year after being their closer in 2005. He finished the year with a 2.97 ERA and a 12-4 record. He was voted to the second team by the voters for the All-ACC team. Browning compiled a 7-2 record with a 5.72 ERA. Part-time starter and relievers Mark Sauls and Matt DiBiasi both graduated.
Outlook - The success of FSU in 2007 will depend greatly on how necomer Mark Hallberg adjusts to ACC pitching and how quickly Buster Posey can learn the catching position. Finding two new starters will also be important for Martin's team. The Seminoles hope to bounce back from what they considered an average season in 2006. Their games with UNC, Miami, Clemson, and Georgia Tech will determine how they fare in the ACC this year. They will not have Virginia on their schedule. Look for the Seminoles to once again finish behind Clemson in the Atlantic Division. The veteran lineup will help carry them to postseason play and a top 6 finish in the ACC.