Matheu Nelson continues breakout season after Golden Spikes Award snub
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Matheu Nelson was talked about as a possible breakout star throughout the preseason, but he has already surpassed any preseason hype attached to his name.
He has been arguably the best player in the ACC this year and further added to his spectacular 2021 season with his performance over the weekend against Boston College. In the first two innings of Friday night, BC’s starter Joe Mancini cruised through the FSU lineup. Three consecutive walks in the third inning brought Nelson to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. He worked the count full before blasting a 423-foot homer for his second grand slam of the year. It was the Seminoles’ first hit of the game.
Saturday’s game followed a similar script. BC’s Emmet Sheehan retired the first nine Seminoles to face him. Tyler Martin and Logan Lacey then started the bottom of the fourth inning with back-to-back walks. For the second day in a row, Nelson made BC pay for multiple free passes before his turn to the plate, as he subsequently crushed a 1-2 fastball off the scoreboard to give the Seminoles a 3-1 lead.
When the Golden Spikes Award midseason watch list was released last week, three ACC were catchers included. Nelson was not one of them. Going 5-for-12 with two home runs in three games at Louisville last weekend in a premier catcher matchup between him and Henry Davis did not stand out to the Golden Spikes Award voters enough.
Nelson responded this weekend by going 4-for-11 and now leads the NCAA with 15 homers and 48 RBIs. He is hitting .394 with runners in scoring position, and seven of his 15 homers have come in two-strike counts.
Nelson now has a ridiculous slash line of .324/.433/.802. Here’s how he compares to the three catchers who were included on the Golden Spikes Award midseason watch list.
|Matheu Nelson, FSU||.324||.433||.802||.1235||23|
|Henry Davis, Louisville||.403||.529||.664||.1193||15|
|Kevin Parada, Georgia Tech||.357||.413||.611||.1024||20|
|Adrian Del Castillo, Miami||.303||.408||.462||.870||12|
Nelson leads that group in home runs, RBIs, extra-base hits, slugging percentage and OPS. Nelson has more home runs this season than Davis and Parada have extra-base hits. He has also caught 10 runners stealing, which trails only Davis (11).
Nelson trimmed about 20 pounds during the offseason, and he has mentioned numerous times throughout the season that it has fueled his defensive improvement behind the plate. He looks more athletic, is blocking more pitches in the dirt and has done a masterful job of calling games for an outstanding Florida State pitching staff.
This play from over the weekend is a great example of his improved defense since last year.
Look how quickly he transitions from sliding to his left and explodes out of his spot to make an accurate throw down to first base for the out. That’s a difficult play that Nelson probably doesn’t make last year.
Davis might be the best overall prospect in the 2021 MLB Draft and Del Castillo has also been listed as a potential first-round pick since last year. Parada was also rated as one of the top freshmen in college baseball entering this season. All three of them were bigger names nationally coming into this season, but Nelson has arguably performed the best out of the four.
Nelson was selected in the 39th round of the 2018 MLB Draft to the Philadelphia Phillies out of high school, and at the end of last year’s truncated 2020 season, he contemplated leaving Florida State to re-enter the draft. However, the draft being cut to five rounds from its traditional 40 rounds made Nelson and plenty of other college baseball standouts return to school for another season.
MLB has announced the draft will increase to 20 rounds in 2021, and Nelson has positioned himself to be an early-round pick with his tremendous play this season. It’s now a distinct possibility that three ACC catchers could be drafted in the first round this year.
If Nelson had chosen to bypass college in 2018 or had gone undrafted last year, the maximum amount of money he could have made to sign with a major league team was $20,000.
Slot values for the 2021 MLB Draft have not yet been announced, but the value of being selected with the final pick of last year’s five-round draft was $324,100. The final pick of the first round last year was $2,424,600. Either way Nelson is set to make significantly more money than he would have at any other point in his career.
Florida State will head to Georgia Tech next weekend for another critical series in the ACC. Nelson will have another great opportunity to add to his already spectacular season with Parada lined up in the opposing dugout.
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