Moderator: National college baseball writer Aaron Fitt stopped by to talk about Week 1.
Aaron Fitt: Hi everybody, hope you were able to find some baseball wherever you were this weekend. I was grateful to get five games in here in North Carolina, and next weekend it’s off to Miami—where I better not see any snow… Let’s chat!
College Ball is back! (Socal): Aaron, great to have you back! Thanks for the hard work and let the endless stupid "no respect" comments begin! I bet you missed those all off season... Fog out at USD? Crazy! How do the Toreros look, can they finally get over the Regional hump and in to a Super? And have you had a chance to visit Fowler Park?
Aaron Fitt: Thanks for the question — it’s great to be back! I saw the photos of that fog at Fowler, and it looked thick as peanut butter. But the Toreros were still able to get three games in, and they opened up with a pretty nice series win against a quality New Mexico club. Huge Sunday for Louie Lechich, who was strong off the mound and had three hits at the plate. He’s really going to be a key guy for them, and that’s an encouraging start for him. The Toreros strike me as a solid regional team once again, but I’m not sold on them as a super regional team yet — a lot of young players need to prove themselves. On paper, I have been higher on many of their recent teams than I am on this one — but Conlon/Conyers/Lechich has a chance to be a pretty solid rotation, and the lineup has some punch. And yes, Fowler Park is gorgeous.
Adam (Albany, Oregon): What do you expect to happen with the Ben Wetzler situation?
Aaron Fitt: I expect we’ll hear from the NCAA this week. But as for what that decision will be, your guess is as good as mine. I have seen some reports speculating about how much time he’ll miss, but I frankly don’t know what to expect.
Matt W. (Leesburg, VA): I am a diehard Gamecock fan and am very impressed with our youth after the first weekend!! Having said that, what did you think about Texas Tech's domination of Indiana? Texas Tech looked outstanding (more so than Indiana looked bad). I am having trouble determining if Indiana might be a let down or if Texas Tech is going to be a hidden beast this season. Thanks for you comments!
Aaron Fitt: I feel very confident that Indiana will not be a letdown — I’m not putting too much stock in their quiet weekend. But Texas Tech did make a statement. I didn’t think that would be a regional team heading into the season, but Tim Tadlock is a very good coach, and he’s quietly done a nice job boosting the talent level there. I’ll have more about the Red Raiders later this week or next week.
Justin (Mississippi): What's your reason why Ole Miss isn't ranked and what did you think about their starting pitching and power hitting?
Aaron Fitt: Ole Miss was on our list of Top 25 candidates, but there was no room to bring them in since only two teams had losing weekends. Kansas State fell out and was replaced by the team that swept it, which is pretty logical. Indiana fell 7 spots to No. 10. As for Ole Miss, that’s a very encouraging start to the season, sweeping Stetson on the road. I thought the Rebels had a chance to be a very good offensive and defensive team this season, so I’m not surprised that they scored runs. I thought their pitching was a wild card; plenty of quality arms, but not many that I really trusted. The way Chris Ellis, Christian Trent, Josh Laxer and Sam Smith pitched this weekend was extremely encouraging. If that keeps up, Ole Miss should be a regional team, and maybe a Top 25 team.
eight26 (Fullerton): I figured Wash St would be #25 this week after their strong weekend in Fullerton, even though they lost the series. Those boys can hit! Aaron, since you have them as a sleeper team, how far out of the top 25 are they now that we have seen what they can do? Many of my in-laws would love to see Wazzou in the top 25!
Aaron Fitt: Well, I don’t think we have ever brought a team from outside the rankings into our Top 25 after a losing weekend, no matter how well they played in that losing weekend. Sometimes ranked teams can hold their ground after losing a weekend (especially if they win in the midweek), but they almost never climb after losing weekends — that’s just part of our ranking philosophy. But yes, those guys can really hit, and I still think the pitching will come around; there’s a lot of experience on that staff, and a number of quality arms. Fun series coming up against Western Carolina — two teams that I think are both capable of making real noise in the postseason, and two teams that played well on the road against top 10 teams this weekend, even though neither came away with a series victory.
Lupton Stadium (Fort Worth): Where do you rank TCU's Brandon Finnegan and Preston Morrison as the best 1-2 punch in college baseball? Based on this weekend, how did the Frogs look?
Aaron Fitt: It’s got a chance to be a very, very special one-two punch, up there with Eshelman-Garza, Weaver-Leibrandt, Moore-Wetzler (I’m sure there are other great ones I’m leaving out, but those come to mind off the top of my head). I wrote about Finnegan in today’s Three Strikes Golden Spikes Spotlight — sounded like he was pretty special. Good weekend for the Frogs, even though their bats went cold Sunday. Still don’t expect them to be an outstanding offensive team, but should be good enough, given the top-notch quality of their pitching staff.
Mike (Maryland): Maryland Baseball took 1/3 against Florida but outhit them in the Sunday loss. Do you see Maryland being a legitimate contender for a regional this year? I think if their bullpen pans out they can do it.
Aaron Fitt: I think it’s going to be very tough in that conference this year—those top six teams are going to beat up on the second half of the league, and I still see Georgia Tech, Duke, Virginia Tech and Pitt being factors—probably ahead of Maryland in my pecking order. But the Terps did play well this weekend, they should swing the bats OK, and I like Jake Stinnett on Fridays. They’ll be competitive—but I don’t think they’re a regional team.
Kevin (Lafayette, La): Aaron, so glad to see the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns getting some respect… UL has a very solid team and very deep this year. What do you think our ceiling is, now that we've added some major depth to our pitching staff from last year? Also, we hope that you will start referring to us as just Louisiana as that is our preferred athletic branding now instead of Louisiana-Lafayette. Thanks for the great info every week, love your insight!
Aaron Fitt: Hi Kevin, I think the ceiling for that team is Omaha. It’s a very complete team, balanced and experienced and dangerous. I was eager to see how Carson Baranik and Greg Milhorn would do in their debuts this weekend, and both guys were superb — an extremely encouraging sign. As for the branding thing, BA style is Louisiana-Lafayette on first reference (and plenty of marketing people across the country have been beaten down by BA style czar Will Lingo). Our goal is to make things as clear as we can for our readers, regardless of what a school’s marketing people want.
William (Tallahassee): So far, the number 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 27, 28, 30, 33, 34 & 35 teams all have losses. 3 of those teams even lost their series. FSU showed some power from their bats and the pitching came out firing: is it too early to think this could be the No. 1 team in the country?
Aaron Fitt: Florida State earned strong consideration for preseason No. 1 for us, and John Manuel even picked the Seminoles to win the national championship. You can make a strong case that FSU is the best team in the country — I don’t think there’s a ton of separation between those teams at the top of the rankings. But I do still think Virginia is the best team out there. Florida State did play well this weekend — but Florida State should always sweep Niagara in February.
Tim (Chicago): What are your thoughts on Saint Louis??
Aaron Fitt: Dangerous mid-major once again — the team to beat in the A-10. They’ve got a number of new faces in the lineup, but the pitching staff has experience and talent, and I think that will be the strength of that club.
Patrick Mckinley (Slidell, LA): Where do you Rank the three starters for FSU in College Baseball and are they enough to maybe help Martin out of the slump in Omaha?
Aaron Fitt: The best rotations in college baseball, in no particular order: Fullerton, Florida State, Texas, Miami, Oregon State (if Wetzler’s eligible), and then a handful of teams that have huge upside if talented but less proven arms are as good as they appear — NC State, TCU, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA.
Joe (Toronto): That was a big win for Canisius as it was the first win over a ranked team in school history!! Were you at the game? Also, if Canisius were to have a great season and beat some strong teams, but was to fall on the conference tournament would an at large bid be possible? And thoughts on the baseball program... Thanks Aaron
Aaron Fitt: It was a great win — and it is the lead item in today’s Three Strikes column, which is now live on our home page. Really like that program — Mike McRae has done a great job there for years. They are certainly the heavy favorite in the MAAC again this year — but that will be a one-bid league regardless of who wins it. The RPI reality is just harsh for teams in that league — you won’t ever see one build a strong enough RPI for an at-large bid, I suspect.
Joe (Toronto): Where would you rank the WCC in your list of power conferences? Thanks
Aaron Fitt: Thought it was stronger last year. Feels more like a one-bid league to me this year. But it is competitive as usual — plenty of teams could give San Diego a run (Gonzaga, San Francisco, LMU, Pepperdine, maybe Portland).
Ales (Miami, FL): Miami's starters looked great this weekend. You think the freshman hitters will do enough to help carry the Canes' offense?
Aaron Fitt: I do think so, yes — that’s an exciting, physical group of freshmen. I’ll be in Coral Gables next weekend for the Florida series, really excited to get a look at the stellar young talent on both of those teams.
Matt (Louisiana): Aaron! Welcome back. Thoughts on Jared Poche from Louisiana State. There is big uncertainty behind Aaron Nola, any word on his performance vs Grambling? Is he a legit SEC weekend starter?
Aaron Fitt: He is definitely a legit talent, and has advanced feel for pitching for a freshman — I suspect he could stick in the rotation all year and give that rotation some needed stability. I did not get any specific reports on the quality of his stuff this weekend, though.
Drew (California): What did you think of the starting pitching for UCLA this weekend series? Saturday starter Watson seemed to not miss a beat from last years playoff performances and set the tone for the series after a tough Friday night loss. Portland is a scrappy club.
Aaron Fitt: Kaprielian-Watson should be a great one-two punch, and I know John Savage has high hopes for Cody Poteet on Sundays too. Pitching should keep that club afloat despite its brutal injury situation.
Todd (Nashville): After a combined 1 hit shutout and a 20-2 rout of Purdue in the first 2 games of the series in Knoxville (game 3 to be played this afternoon), do some of the doubts start to fade, or is it still way too early to tell? Serrano seems defiantly confident about this Volunteer team and his young pitching staff.
Aaron Fitt: I do get a “defiantly confident” vibe coming out of Knoxville — and honestly, that approach has worked very well for Serrano in the past. When he feels good about the talent on his roster, he’s not afraid to tell people about it, and his teams tend to feed off his confidence. I also like Tennessee’s talent, and I think it would be a regional team in any other conference — I just saw nine or 10 other SEC teams in the preseason that I like just as much or more. I would not be at all surprised to see the Vols make a regional this year; I’m very intrigued by that club. But it won’t be easy in the SEC.
Marc (Tallahassee): What did you think about Texas this weekend? It sounded like the offense started slow but began to pick up some steam in the second 2 games of the 4 game set. Pitching seemed solid as always.
Aaron Fitt: Yep, sounds about right. There will be some growing pains with all those freshmen in the lineup, but there is also a lot of ability. I think Texas will be a much better offensive team at the end of the season than it is now, and I think its pitching will be elite from start to finish.
Boudreaux (Lafayette, LA): Louisiana-Lafayette's Freshman RHP Regan Bazar was throwing 96-98 in his college debut this weeked. What are your thoughts on his future draft prospects?
Aaron Fitt: Yeah, he’s got a huge arm — big-time X-factor for the Cajuns. With that kind of raw arm strength, it’s easy to see that guy growing into a first-round talent. Just needs to improve the command. For what it’s worth, Cajuns assistant Matt Deggs coached Michael Wacha at Texas A&M, and he said Bazar reminds him of Wacha at a similar age, but with more velocity and less command.
DJ (Syracuse): Not a big fans of the pools but they make for god water cooler chat. How did Virginia not fall and how did Fullerton move up with loses and teams like FSU blitzed there opponent and not leap them?
Aaron Fitt: Well, you can’t treat baseball rankings the same way as football and basketball rankings. Baseball has a 56-game season, and it’s geared toward winning series. Single games don’t mean as much as they do in basketball and football, where they aren’t playing series. Also, remember strength of schedule. Winning two of three against a dangerous Washington State club is a lot harder than sweeping Niagara, which went 16-38 last year.
Will (San Luis Obispo, CA): It's hard to get a handle on where teams are at after only one weekend, but Cal Poly manhandled K-State this weekend. Dominated every facet of the game. How do you see this weekend's series at UCLA shaping up for the Stangs?
Aaron Fitt: I like Cal Poly’s chances to win that series. The Mustangs are the much more offensive team than the Bruins, and they pitched very well against a Kansas State team that was one of the nation’s best offenses last year. UCLA is still better on the mound, and UCLA is very well coached, so I’m not saying it will be an easy series for Cal Poly. But I’m bullish on the Mustangs.
Skip (Baton Rouge): Aaron, thanks for everything. I'm wondering what kind of prospect is Jeremy Null -- what does he throw?
Aaron Fitt: He’s a legit prospect — a 6-foot-8 righthander who works around 90-93 with a pretty good slider and good command. Might be a top-five-rounds guy this spring.
Bailey (Atlanta): Mercer swept High Point over the weekend. With a very veteran team, coming off a 43 win season, how far are the Bears removed from the Top 25?
Aaron Fitt: Mercer was in the 30-34 group for me in the preseason—very much in striking distance of the Top 25. Really like the experience on that roster, and of course the explosive offense. The pitching staff is a little overlooked, but they’ve got some quality veterans there too, led by a very good senior ace in Brandon Barker.
Butch (Chicago): Whats you thoughts on Louisville? 2-1 this weekend with more offense then i expecpted....
Aaron Fitt: I’m expecting big things from Jeff Gardner this year, and he’s off to a great start in the heart of the order. I thought Jared Ruxer’s season debut was extremely encouraging — looks like he is back to form. That guy was very good as a freshman, and reports on him this fall were good. I expect Joe Filomeno and Kyle Funkhouser to settle in, making that a potentially very exciting rotation.
Gunner (Cleveland): What surprised you or stood out the most to you in the five games you saw on the weekend?
Aaron Fitt: Well, certainly Canisius beating Rodon and the Wolfpack was the biggest surprise — and I really liked Canisius heading into the season. I’m not reading too much into it; Rodon will be fine, and so will the ‘Pack. But it was a nice statement win for the Griffs. Other things that stood out: Daniel Pinero is going to be a heck of a shortstop for Virginia — tall and rangy, smooth, good arm, can throw from various angles, and also has a very nice swing. He’ll be a star. Nick Howard swung the bat very well — he can get overlooked in that murderer’s row, but he’s gonna have a monster year (and he showed huge stuff off the mound out of the bullpen too — that’s a great role for him).
Shawn (Columbia, SC): Dodging the obvious SC questions, who do you see as the long-term closer for the Cocks? Seddon and Mincey both looked strong, but non-pressure situations make everything a little bit easier.
Aaron Fitt: Yeah, that’s a key for the Gamecocks. I heard good reports on both of those guys heading into the season and this weekend, so I think that job is still TBD. Maybe both could close games — but at the end of the season, somebody will emerge as the go-to guy. They’ve got enough quality arms on that staff that I’m certainly not worried about it. But I would think it will be one of those two guys, with maybe Taylor Widener in the mix too.
Matt (NJ): Hey Aaron. heard good things about Miss St freshman Dakota Hudson this weekend. What can you tell us about him?
Aaron Fitt: Very exciting talent — loose and lean, electric arm. Touched 94 in high school, and I heard he touched 95-96 or even a tick more this weekend. His fastball’s got life and angle, and he’s got a swing-and-miss power breaking ball and feel for a change. Got a chance to be very, very special.
DA (Freezing): Just how good is the Vandy pitching staff?
Aaron Fitt: Incredibly deep, both in the rotation and in the bullpen. Jared Miller and Tyler Ferguson were both outstanding this weekend — two big-bodied guys with serious arm strength. Fulmer and Miller is a ridiculous one-two punch in the bullpen. So many arms….
Billy (Columbia SC): With the gamecocks general malaise at the plate the last couple of years, what is the reason for the high preseason ranking considering the same group is back this year w/ a coupe of fresh jucos.
Aaron Fitt: Malaise? The “last couple of years”? As the kids say, are you trolling me? Because you realize they won a regional last year and were the national runner-up the year before, right?
Steve (Austin): What team from Texas do you see having the best resume come tourney time? Texas? A&M? Rice?
Aaron Fitt: I’m still sticking with the order we have them lined up in our rankings and going with Rice.
Josh (San Luis Obispo, CA): What do you make of the Cal Poly pitching staff? Deeper than advertised or just pitching to rusty K-State hitters?
Aaron Fitt: I think Imhof is a legit stud, and Reed Reilly is likewise at the back of the bullpen. I think Slater Lee and Casey Bloomquist could be solid, but there could be some bumps in the road — neither of those guys is overpowering. Kansas State clearly has not yet hit its stride offensively.
Vance (Houston): I am looking forward to seeing Wayne graham hopefully get his 1000th win tomorrow. Who do you see competing with rice for the c USA crown.
Aaron Fitt: Florida Atlantic and East Carolina look like the two biggest threats to me. I don’t think Rice is a lock in C-USA by any means; the other Owls are legit and could really make a run at that league crown. But it’s hard to bet against a Wayne Graham team winning a conference title…
VUHawkTalk (TN): Aaron, Anyone who follows you on Twitter knows how upset you are with the NCAA's rulings on ineligibility this week. What is the #2 thing the NCAA could change to make things better for baseball student athletes? We're putting proper legal/agent representation during draft negotiations as a clear #1. So I'm guessing #2 comes from a) more scholarship money, b) re-instituting one-time transfer exception, c) removing the 35-man hard cap, or d) later start date for better weather.
Aaron Fitt: Yep, I think it’s (a). I’m fine with the other stuff, but would love to see more scholarships for baseball players. That’s the holy grail.
Aaron Fitt: OK everybody, that’s all I’ve got time for today. Great chat; thanks for all the fine questions!