Teddy Cahill: Welcome to this week’s Top 25 chat, coming to you live from Los Angeles, the site of this weekend’s Dodger Stadium Classic. It was a great weekend of college baseball across the country, so let’s get to your questions.
Ben Wagener (Winston-Salem, nc): Are Clemson's two wins over SC a sign of a stronger ball club than expected based on a 5th place coaches In the Atlantic division or just a passing surprise against a rebuilding SC team?
Teddy Cahill: Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of interest in Clemson and South Carolina after this weekend’s big rivalry series. Frankly, I’m not entirely sure what to think about these teams coming out of the weekend. I think Clemson probably is better than expected — there’s definitely talent on that roster and you saw that this weekend. How that translates over a long season, I don’t know. In a rivalry series, particularly one that is arranged as this one is (home-and-home plus neutral site), upsets can happen. I’m definitely interested to see how both teams respond to how the series ended.
Andrew (San Diego, CA): Fresno State. Any top 25 consideration this week?
Teddy Cahill: The Bulldogs, at 11-1, did get some consideration. There was a lot of talk about teams at the back end of the rankings, and they were in that mix. Fresno State is in the midst of a big stretch, coming off a series at San Diego State, and now continuing the road trip with a midweek at Long Beach State and then a weekend set at Texas A&M. It’s a very intriguing team and how they handle the rest of this week will be something to watch closely.
Gary (Sacramento): The Pac 12 looks to be loaded with pitching. Which of the top teams in the league do you see having a chance to host a regional?
Teddy Cahill: We’re running Field of 64 projections throughout the season this year, and in his update last week Jim Shonerd had Cal, Oregon, Oregon State and UCLA all hosting. If someone else like Stanford or Southern Cal really showed out in conference play they could get into that picture too. But you’re absolutely right. Great pitching in that league with guys like Griffin Canning, Daulton Jefferies, all of Oregon’s starters, Tristan Beck, etc., etcc.
Andrew (Ft Bragg, NC): Georgia Tech is off to a pretty good start. They're getting a lot of help from their young pitching staff and the bats aren't too bad either. When will the Yellow Jackets start getting more respect? Where do you see them by the end of the season?
Teddy Cahill: Georgia Tech is off to an 11-0 start, their best start to a season in a decade. You can read more about them in Off the Bat today (http://www.baseballamerica.com/college/bat-bragging-rights-bruins/), where I wrote about how their freshmen pitchers have fared thus far. The biggest caveat about the Yellow Jackets and their hot start is that the competition has not been strong. That changes this week when Georgia Tech goes to Auburn for a midweek and Florida State on the weekend. If Ramblin’ Wreck keeps rolling this week, it will force people to take note. I’m a believer already. I think they’re one of the better teams in a deep ACC. But those freshmen are going to have to keep performing throughout the season and against some tough competition.
Lance (Lafayette,La): What are your thoughts on my Tigers? LSU is a mystery to me this year and I honestly don't know their weakness and strengths. They lose 8-9 starting bats, but are still impressing me, while their pitching can be great, but are suspect. You're thoughts and what do you think their ceiling is.
Teddy Cahill: LSU is pretty much what we thought they’d be — a really good team. Yes they lost a lot in the lineup, but the players replacing them are very talented, as you’re seeing now. Many of them are not freshmen and were a part of LSU’s top-ranked recruiting class that got to campus in the fall of 2014. I would not call their pitching suspect. It hasn’t been lights out to this point, but those guys all know what they’re doing. Once they round into midseason form, they’ll be fine. And in the meantime, LSU is hitting enough to pick them up. It’s a team with Omaha aspirations and the talent to match.
Patrick (Lake Forest, CA): Is Keston Hiura the best hitter on the West Coast? If not, who is?
Teddy Cahill: This is an interesting question. The UC Irvine sophomore outfielder may very well be the best hitter out West. John Savage made a case this weekend for Eric Filia, who has played well in his return to the UCLA lineup. San Diego shortstop Bryson Brigman probably belongs in the discussion. Oregon State shortstop Trever Morrison is hitting .419 so far. So there are some options. But Hiura is absolutely up there with any of those guys.
Matt (Mississippi): What are your thoughts on Southern Miss this season? They struggled losing two mid-week games against South Alabama, but swept the Cox Diamond Classic beating Michigan St., Troy and Auburn while only giving up 3 runs the entire weekend.
Teddy Cahill: I like what Southern Miss has done so far. That was a very good weekend against solid competition. They lost some key arms from the rotation, but they’ve had guys step up in the place of James McMahon and Cody Carroll. Cord Cockrell has been especially impressive (18 K, 0 BB, 19 IP). And they’re hitting for more power than expected, though that didn’t show as much in a Double-A park last weekend. Conference USA looks like it’ll be competitive this year, and Southern Miss is going to be a big part of that.
Matt (MS): What is up with the Big 12? Outside of TCU they really seem to be struggling this season.
Teddy Cahill: It has not been a good start for the conference, coming off a year in which it would have been a two-big league had Texas not won the conference tournament. TCU has been impressive, but Oklahoma has disappointed and Texas and Oklahoma State are scuffling. Texas Tech has been intriguing, but lost a series at home to Fullerton this weekend and now has to go on the road to Cal. These teams have talent, but it hasn’t shown up on the field yet. And when taken with last year’s results, it’s a troubling trend for the Big 12.
Kev (Houston): Been watching Texas A&M the last couple of weeks and I have been trying to figure out where they are the weakest. I know the competition hasn't been the greatest but it would appear the starting pitching may be a bit lackluster. Are you seeing the same thing or am I just imaging things and this team is a strong contender?
Teddy Cahill: If you’re picking a weakness for Texas A&M, it is starting pitching. But that said, I think you’re nitpicking. I’m not overly concerned with the Aggies rotation. Kyle Simmonds and Jace Vines have been solid, and Tyler Ivey is off to an exceptional start. I think it’s a strong contender in the SEC. With the bullpen the Aggies have, they can really shorten games. And the lineup has a lot of depth to go with some star power. There’s a lot to like in College Station this year.
Kenny (Charlotte, NC): Gardner-Webb (13-0) isn't getting any top-25 buzz just yet (which I think is justified, given the overall weakness of its early schedule); do the Dawgs get a look if they beat UNC Chapel Hill on Tuesday?
Teddy Cahill: I wrote about Gardner-Webb last Friday (http://www.baseballamerica.com/college/campus-bulldogs-bounce-back-starts/). It’s a very interesting team off to a great start. If the Bulldogs stay undefeated this week, they’d be 18-0. The weekends haven’t been against tough competition, but UNC would be a nice feather in their cap. If that happened, they’d at least be in the Top 25 conversation. Gardner-Webb, by the way, has never been ranked in the Top 25.
Mick (Chicago): Any freshman middle infielders getting off to good starts other than the two at OSU?
Teddy Cahill: In addition to Cadyn Grenier and Nick Madrigal at Oregon State, Florida has Jonathan India and Deacon Liput splitting time between second and third base. North Carolina slotted Kyle Datres right into the middle of its lineup, and he’s handled that assignment well. And Alonzo Jones has primarily been a DH for Vanderbilt, but he’s hitting .351/.432/.541.
Maddog (Ashburn, VA): Teddy: Your observation of Clemson's Seth Beer? Three months ago he was graduating from high school. Today he's hitting bombs. Ominous times ahead for ACC pitchers?
Teddy Cahill: Let’s come full circle on this chat and get back to Clemson. Seth Beer has looked good so far as a freshman. He’s hitting .387/.486/.710. Those numbers are maybe a little gaudier than expected, but that he’s having an immediate impact is not unexpected. He might have lost his first-round buzz last summer, but he’s still a really good hitter. Definitely a big help for the Tigers to get him to campus this season.
Jacob (Fort Worth, TX): If you had to project the roster for Team USA this summer, who would you choose for the team?
Teddy Cahill: I love this question and want to take it on, but it would require too much thought to adequately put together now. There’s a pretty good chance I spend some time on the airplane today thinking about it, however. I’ll try and throw an answer in the comments.
Teddy Cahill: This has been great, but I have to go hop on a plane at LAX. Thanks for all the great questions again today. If I didn’t get to your question, leave it in the comments, and I’ll try to come back and answer it later.