Preseason Top 25 Capsules: No. 3 Florida State

2017 Record: 46-23 (14-14 in ACC); reached College World Series. Final ranking: No. 6. Coach (Record at school):Mike Martin (1,944-694-4, 38 years). Top 200 2018 Draft Prospects: RHP Cole Sands (63), OF Jackson Lueck (95), C Cal Raleigh (97), LHP Tyler Holton (129).

The good news: Legendary coach Mike Martin’s squad lost very little talent from last year’s Florida State team, which made its 22nd appearance in Omaha in 2017. The entire weekend rotation returns, led by two-way lefthanded stud Tyler Holton. Hard-throwing junior righthander Cole Sands returns behind him and could be poised for a breakout year. Sophomore third baseman Drew Mendoza slugged 10 homers his freshman year despite missing half the season due to injury. Mendoza and  junior switch-hitter Jackson Lueck should give the Seminoles a potent middle of the order.

The bad news: The Seminoles did suffer a few key offensive losses in the form of powerful third baseman Dylan Busby (15 homers), switch-hitting shortstop Taylor Walls and veteran power bat Quincy Nieporte. In order to fill those voids, FSU will likely need a couple of last year’s underclassmen to take steps forward. In particular, the Seminoles could use a bounceback year from switch-hitting junior catcher Cal Raleigh, who struggled in 2017 after a standout freshman season. At shortstop, FSU will turn to grad transfer Rafael Bournigal, whose father played for the Seminoles and in the major leagues.

Returner to know: Tyler Holton, LHP/1B: The southpaw seized the Friday night slot of FSU’s weekend rotation early in 2017 and projects to reprise that role in 2018. Holton continued to thrive with Team USA’s Collegiate National Team over the summer. Though not overpowering—Holton brushes 90 mph at his best—Holton’s plus changeup, command and pitching feel have allowed him to dominate ACC lineups. A pitching prospect first, Holton has shown flashes at the plate as well and could be an important offensive contributor for FSU this spring.

Path to Omaha: The Seminoles stumbled out of the gate last season, largely due to injuries to several key members of the team. Staying healthy will be imperative, as it is for most teams. In terms of sheer talent and experience, FSU is the class of the ACC and could be poised for a repeat trip to Omaha. While Martin has steered the Seminoles to nearly 2,000 wins in his time at the helm, he has yet to claim a national championship. This year’s team has as good a chance as any to check off that milestone.

2018 lineup:

C Cal Raleigh, Jr.: .227/.330/.398 | 264 AB | 9 HR | 39 RBI 

1B Tyler Holton, Jr.: .244/.300/.378 | 45 AB | 2 HR | 9 RBI

2B Mike Salvatore, Jr.: (Transfer—Northwest Florida State JC)

3B Drew Mendoza, So.: .270/.400/.534 | 148 AB | 10 HR | 33 RBI

SS Rafael Bournigal, Gr.: (Transfer—Belmont)

LF Jackson Lueck, Jr.: .318/.405/.507 | 211 AB | 9 HR | 54 RBI

CF J.C. Flowers, So.: .235/.359/.300 | 213 AB | 2 HR | 32 RBI

RF Steven Wells, Sr.: .216/.328/.294 | 51 AB | 1 HR | 8 RBI

DH Rhett Aplin, Sr.: .322/.434/.524 | 143 AB | 6 HR | 24 RBI

LHP Tyler Holton, Jr.: 10-3 | 2.34 ERA | 119 IP | 144 SO | 0 SV

RHP Cole Sands, Jr.: 6-4 | 5.40 ERA | 83 IP | 72 SO | 0 SV

LHP Drew Parrish, So.: 6-3 | 4.52 ERA | 92 IP | 93 SO | 0 SV

RP C.J. Van Eyk, Fr.: (HS—Lutz, Fla.)

RP Clayton Kwiatkowski, So.: 1-0 | 2.45 ERA | 22 IP | 22 SO | 4 SV

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