Now that the college football season is complete and the Florida State Seminoles have brought the Coaches’ Trophy back to Tallahassee after their victory in the BCS National Championship Game against Auburn, freshman standout Jameis Winston is ready to shift gears and set his sights on the baseball diamond.
As the Seminoles’ quarterback, Winston has excelled his way to the upper echelon of college football, turning in an outstanding performance in 2013 for which he was awarded the Heisman Trophy, given each year to the most outstanding player in college football. What makes his achievements even more impressive is the fact that at age 19, he was the youngest to ever win the award and just the second freshman to do so, after Johnny Manziel did so for Texas A&M in 2012.
As a baseball player, Winston has displayed impressive talent since coming out of Hueytown High School in 2012 as one of the top prospects from the state of Alabama. Although his talents on the gridiron have seemingly overshadowed those on the diamond, Winston has the opportunity to showcase his dynamic abilities as the starting right fielder for the Seminoles in 2014.
Coming out of high school, Winston was a talented two-way player (he currently holds the same status at Florida State). He displayed a good fastball that sat in the upper-80s to low-90s, reaching 92 on occasion, to go along with a slider that flashed impressive potential. At the plate, he had trouble with his plate approach at times, although he displayed great bat speed and the ability to pull the ball down the line with plus power potential. He also boasts the ability to bat from both sides of the plate, another talented skill in this young star’s bag of tricks.
Heading into the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Baseball America ranked him as the number two prospect in the state of Alabama, behind that of outfielder David Dahl, who currently plays in the Colorado Rockies’ system. Winston would ultimately be selected by the Texas Rangers in the 15th Round, a fitting selection as many teams were aware of his strong desire to play baseball and football at the college level.
Choosing Florida State over the likes of Alabama, Winston began his collegiate athletic career on the diamond this past spring. Thrust into a starting role after Josh Delph went down with an illness, Winston played in a total of 41 games for the Seminoles.
Despite posting a less than impressive .235 batting average, Winston showed great promise at the plate, displaying a much improved plate discipline that resulted in a solid .377 on-base percentage.
On the mound, Winston appeared in 17 games for the Seminoles, which comprised 27 innings of relief work. His velocity has noticeably increased from high school, as he consistently sits in the low-90s and can reach as high as 94 on occasion. He commanded his fastball and slider offerings quite well, as he posted a solid 4.00 BB/9 rate, while holding batters to a mere .176 batting average.
Before a definitive rhythm could be set for him, Winston saw his baseball season end early, as he was expected to participate in spring football practice. With that, the question can be raised. Will Winston pursue professional careers in both baseball and football? Or, will he choose one over the other?
The difficult part for athlete in committing themselves to two sports is the fact that dedicating their development to one sport in turn harms both their development and performance in the other sport.
With the way the National Football League has developed in recent years, quarterbacks (particularly at the college level) must dedicate themselves to the development of their game throughout the year. For Winston, this would conflict with the refining of his baseball skill set, as the game of baseball requires much attention to detail and years of development and exposure to competition (which would in turn conflict with football – hence the cyclical nature of this dilemma).
Although two-sport athletes such as Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders were able to succeed at the professional level in both baseball and football, they played the positions of running back and defensive back, respectively. Unfortunately for Winston, he plays a position that is quite demanding, wherein he would not be able to solely rely on his athleticism to help him meet the respective demands of both sports.
Winston has the pure talent to succeed at either sport, but he will ultimately come to a point within the next two years where he will have to make a decision regarding which pathway to choose as a professional athlete.
Until then, the Seminoles will welcome the Heisman-winner with open arms this spring and hope that he is able to contribute to a talented team that is poised to make a run at the national championship in Omaha.