Aaron Fitt: Hello everybody, thanks for stopping by. Let’s chat.
Andrew (Tuscaloosa): Who are the next five teams out in the rankings?
Aaron Fitt: Alabama is team No. 26—the one we debated most vigorously in today’s meeting. We also had some debate about whether or not to run Indiana out of the rankings; I still believe that team will come around, but the Hoosiers have had three losing weekends in five weeks, so it was time to drop them out and make them earn their way back in. I would say Florida, San Diego State, College of Charleston and Auburn were the other teams in the mix, along with Kentucky (which dropped out, like Indiana).
Matt (NY): Is Miami in trouble in making regionals? At 11-9 they just lost to Bethune-Cookman and lost the series this weekend at GT. Miami just does not seem to be playing well or with any consistency. Diaz and Suarez have been good but Radziewski on the mound and Thompson at the plate has been a major disappointment, and these were 2 guys Miami needs to play well to succeed. But much like in years past at Miami, they just cannot seem to hit. As much as I am floored to be asking this, especially this year, but are we looking at Miami's streak of making NCAA regionals coming to an end?
Aaron Fitt: No chance that streak ends this year. Miami is too good to keep scuffling along, they will get it going. They have played a solid schedule, winning a good series against Florida and winning one game in a very tough series at Florida State. The midweek losses last week were disconcerting, but I’m not going to panic over those. Radziewski is good — opposing coaches have a lot of respect for that guy. I’m not worried about him long-term, either. Miami has been a bit disappointing through five weeks, considering the experience in the rotation and the talent in the lineup, but I still think this will be a borderline regional-hosting team, as I thought in the preseason.
Ben (Leland Grove): Do you believe Matt Imhof has entered 1st round consideration with his astounding numbers thus far?
Aaron Fitt: I do. He wasn’t that far out of the first round to begin with — think we viewed him as a second-round to sandwich type guy in the preseason. Physical lefthanders with velocity and legit three-pitch repertoires are hard to find. His performance has been very loud so far.
Windywave (Chicago): Aaron, What are your takeaways from the Tulane ECU series over the weekend? Tulane beats their stud and then loses the next two. Is the inconsistency due to Tulane being young or is it something else? Is it fair to say we need to win 70-80% of the rest of the games to even sniff the tournament?
Aaron Fitt: I went to the Friday game in Greenville and really liked what I saw from Tyler Mapes (a classic senior bulldog Friday starter who competes hard and locates three pitches) and Kyle McKenzie. Not having Ian Gibault healthy is a blow to the bullpen, and I think the bullpen was exposed Saturday, when McKenzie wasn’t available because he was extended Friday. And they have a lot of freshmen they are leaning on heavily, so they’re just going to be up and down. Three pretty disappointing weekends in a row; sure seems like the Green Wave is in trouble for 2014. Hard to get a feel for Conference USA so far this year.
Grant (NYC): It's being said that Rodon is no longer being considered by some (Law, for one) as the consensus 1-1 with his command issues thus far. Do you agree with this assessment?
Aaron Fitt: I still think he’s the clear front-runner. Maybe the gap between him and the field has narrowed some—maybe he’s not the unanimous No. 1 prospect, like he was in the preseason, when all 20 or so MLB scouting directors who voted for our All-America teams listed him as the top prospect for the 2014 draft. But I’d be willing to bet a strong majority of scouting directors would still take him with the first pick. He’s just a slow starter, for whatever reason. He started even slower last year, when he had a 5 ERA round this time, and was showing less velocity—and then he came on like gangbusters in the second half. He’s got a 2.45 ERA now, with a 42-11 K-BB mark in 37 innings. That’s still pretty darn good, and we haven’t even come close to seeing his best yet this year.
Lupton Stadium (Fort Worth): Where do you rank TCU's pitching staff? The bullpen seems to be one of the best, if not the best in the country. Tyler Alexander is putting up excellent numbers as a freshman and Finnegan is a strike out machine.
Aaron Fitt: I think it’s an elite staff, as we expected it to be. But it was a great staff last year too — they just have not been able to consistently generate sufficient offense, for the second year in a row. I’ll be on hand at Lupton this Friday to see Finnegan, as the kickoff for a 10-day road trip — looking forward to that.
Anthony (Raleigh, NC): Do you think NC State dropping from #5 to #10 is justified? An in-conference sweep is tough to swallow, but Florida State is ranked #2 and showed they are more complete; a 5-spot drop for getting swept by the #2 team in the country seems harsh.
Aaron Fitt: But look at NC State’s resume — what has that team really done? What is its best win? Swept App State (5-14), swept Notre Dame (6-12). I guess a midweek win against Elon (13-7)? NC State was ranked high based on its talent and its success a year ago, and it mostly took care of business against a very soft nonconference schedule. And in its first real test (excluding the UCLA game, which is lost), it was swept. We’ve still got that team in the Top 10, so we obviously still believe in the Wolfpack. But a 5-spot drop is absolutely justified. Top-five teams shouldn’t get swept, I don’t care who they are playing or where the series is. Florida State is the real deal — but this weekend really highlighted the gap between FSU and NCSU.
Gary (Atlanta): What do you expect to see in Chapel Hill this weekend for GT-UNC? Tech is coming off of a surprising series win over the U. Any chance the Ramblin Wreck picks up a series win over the Heels?
Aaron Fitt: I think North Carolina has much better starting pitching — that is the real separator between those teams. UNC’s offense has been pretty meager so far, and Georgia Tech scored some runs this weekend, but I don’t think the Yellow Jackets really have better offensive personnel than the Tar Heels do. I expect UNC to win the series at home, but I’m not in love with either team. Tech showed some fight this weekend, and that was good to see. Sure, there’s a chance the Jackets could win that series on the road. UNC is not anywhere near the juggernaut it was last year.
Dave (Columbia, sc): Your preseason rating for the Gamecock Bullpen was 55 ("slightly above average"). What would you rate them today?
Aaron Fitt: Ha, yes, the bullpen was something of an unknown heading into the season, but they have resoundingly answered that question. Just looking at the numbers and the ridiculous 61-inning scoreless streak, you’d have to call it an 80 — but I don’t actually think it will wind up being quite that good. The nonconference competition was very soft, after all, so those numbers are skewed. But I think you can call it a 70, because Seddon and Mincey are a really good one-two punch: strike-throwers with absolutely no fear. I especially like Seddon, because he’s got a true four-pitch mix, so he’s just tough to figure out. The supporting pieces are nice too, but ultimately I think Vanderbilt’s bullpen has more high-end components, so I’d give that unit an edge. That’s based on how I expect the season to unfold, not based on the first five weeks of the season. Obviously, no bullpen has been better through five weeks than South Carolina’s.
Jason (Dallas): How good is the mountain west this year? They look to have 3 first rounders in Cederoth, Fidde, and Brink.
Aaron Fitt: I am very intrigued by that league this year. I think it has four teams that are all legit regional-caliber clubs in San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico and Fresno State. Fresno was the hot team early, getting into the Top 25 after sweeping Texas A&M — and then Fresno got swept by New Mexico this weekend. Last week, New Mexico lost a series to UNLV. Those teams could beat each other up a bit, which might wind up hurting the MWC’s chances to send multiple teams to regionals. If there were just two dominant teams at the top, it might be easier for one of them to get an at-large. And yes, those are three big-time arms you mentioned, and John Richy has a power arm as UNLV’s Saturday guy — keep an eye on him too.
jacob (corvallis): I don't think you have been able to see them in person yet but what do you think about Oregon state's freshmen 3: Trever Morrison, Logan Ice, and Caleb Hamilton. How do you think they have played compared to expectations so far this season, offensively or defensively?
Aaron Fitt: It’s an excellent freshman class. Just spoke with Pat Casey this morning, in fact, and he had great things to say about the job Morrison has done at shortstop, filling the shoes of an ultra-experienced senior in Tyler Smith. Ice hasn’t really hit yet, but he’s done a fantastic job behind the plate, shutting down running games. Plus he’s got one of the coolest names in college baseball (pardon the pun…).
Pierre (Lafayette, LA): Aaron, the Ragin Cajuns are off to a torrid start. Where do you see them ending this season? Also, what are your thoughts of the 1-2 combo of Robichaux and Baranik and where they slot in the upcoming MLB draft?
Aaron Fitt: I think they end the season in Omaha — I’m a believer. I’m all-in on the Cajuns. Love the Robichaux-Baranik duo, feel like both guys could be top-three-rounds guys if everything comes together, but I need to check in with some scouts down that way to get a better feel for that.
Drew (Mississippi): Aaron, My thoughts on the Rebels weekend series with SC were mostly positive. I thought overall we played pitch for pitch with them. However, elite teams find a way to win those close ones more often than not. What were your thoughts from the weekend and are the Rebels showing that they have the potential to make a post season run?
Aaron Fitt: I would pretty much agree with your takeaways—Ole Miss showed well on the road against a very good team, but you’re right that elite teams find ways to close out series victories when they have the chance. Few teams have a killer instinct that rivals South Carolina’s. But heading into the season, Ole Miss was the team that started inside my regional projection, then fell out, then was back in, then wound up out again in the final version. Five weeks into the season, I feel pretty good about the Rebels’ chances of being a solid regional team.
Joel (KCK): If it were up to you, who would be the first 5 college players taken in this year's draft at this point? Thanks
Aaron Fitt: Rodon, Beede, Nola, Turner (still believe he’ll get it going), Hoffman. I’m probably higher than the industry consensus on Nola, but I think he’s trending up—the pitchability is just so special.
Rovert (Corvallis, OR): The beavers pitched spectacular this weekend and have done so this season by outscoring their opponents 71-9 over the last nine games. Who do you think is the ace of the pitching staff?
Aaron Fitt: The Beavers have sure been dominant. I think it’s three straight legit No. 1 starters in that rotation, but I think Wetzler is the leader of that staff, and he’s the true ace. Amazing how few hits he and Fry have given up over the last few weeks; I know it hasn’t been the strongest competition, but they have been lights-out.
Dougner (New Mexico): Hello Aaron! I am a bit concerned with the Fullerton Titans. They've struggled to score runs and keep finding themselves in close games they should be winning. Do you think things will settle down or are we in for roller coaster ride?
Aaron Fitt: Any day now, I expect the Titans to settle into one of their annual prolonged grooves where they just start steamrolling everybody. Fullerton always plays such a tough schedule early, I’m OK with a little inconsistency in the first half. But ultimately, I still believe this is an elite team.
Matt W. (Leesburg, VA): Just another day at the park for South Carolina on Saturday with a dramatic walk-off in the 10th against Ole Miss. Do you think Wil Crowe (Freshman) can sustain this type of dominance through an entire season? I have to give a shout out to Max Schrock for his bottom of the 9th down by 2 pinch hit 2-run Homer to tie it on a bum ankle! I was hoping we would see the fist pump between first and second base!
Aaron Fitt: Yeah, just another day at the office for the Gamecocks… amazing. I do think Crowe can keep it up — he’s got national freshman of the year potential. He and Keegan Thompson of Auburn will have a great race for SEC freshman of the year, but Thompson probably has the edge since he also hits. Crowe is exciting though — reminded me a lot of Lance Lynn or Tommy Hunter when I saw him a few weeks ago.
matt (Hendersonville, TN): Thanks for keeping Vandy ranked out of the top 5. I like it this way. Question: With Beede getting much of the buzz and he'll obviously be the highest-drafted Commodore this year, is Jared Miller's performance so far year improving his stock significantly? He is almost too big to be considered legit at the next level?
Aaron Fitt: Funny, Vandy feels too low to me at No. 6 — but I think there are 5 very legit teams ahead of the Commodores. All six feel like bona fide Omaha-caliber teams to me — this is not a case where we’ve got a team stuffed up into the top five based upon performance even though I don’t really believe in it as an Omaha team long-term. Anyway, I do think Miller has draft helium. He’s athletic for his size, he fields his position and holds runners, so I don’t think his size is a knock on him. He’s got real feel for three pitches, he’s got deception and command — he’s got a chance to jump up draft boards pretty good.
Chris (Rock Hill SC): Gamecock fan here, so let me get that out there up front. I love college baseball, I follow as many games as I can, including you and most of the pundits who tweet out insights to games throughout the week. While I am proud of my boys this weekend for not giving up and winning a really tough series, I really am interested in why FSU did not jump into that #1 slot. I would have put them there. I'm not sure there is enough body of work to lock in teams into positions just because they won their series that weekend. You showed that by dropping Virginia last week because they were not winning "strong enough". Seriously, if I was holding USC come from behind weekend series win at home over the 21st ranked team vs FSU with a sweep at home over another top 10 team ....all other things being equal....I might have jumped FSU up. There is no disrespect in that for USC...it's just numbers at this point. What's your take?
Aaron Fitt: Well for us, if a team wins a weekend series against another ranked team, we’re almost never going to drop it in the rankings, especially if it took care of business midweek. Ultimately, I think Florida State might very well be better than South Carolina, but then again maybe not — we’re only five weeks into the season, teams have played widely disparate schedules, so it is hard to make sweeping judgments about which teams are best. That’s why we don’t like to be tinkerers early in the season, yanking teams all around the rankings. This isn’t football or basketball — nobody goes undefeated. College baseball is about winning series, and we don’t like to drop teams that win series, even if another team behind them goes undefeated in a week.
Ben (Portland): Any chance I can convince you guys at BA to stop calling your HS and college preseason "All-America" teams All-America teams? I understand how you decide them, but there's a huge difference between All-America and Top Draft prospects. Just throwin it out there...
Aaron Fitt: I never understand why so many people get hung up on this. There’s a difference between preseason and postseason All-America teams — they seek to accomplish different functions. Postseason All-America teams reward performances; why should preseason teams do the same exact thing the next year? Shouldn’t preseason teams be forward-looking? Granted, our teams are weighted more toward pro potential than other teams, because ours are voted on by MLB scouting directors, but there is a strong correlation between talent and performance, and every year we have some players on our preseason All-America teams who cause people to complain because they haven’t really done it before, and then they have breakout seasons and wind up as postseason All-Americans too. Also, pro talent isn’t the ONLY criterion that scouts use; otherwise, David Berg wouldn’t have been a second-team preseason All-American this year. Now, admittedly if I were constructing the teams myself, they would look a little differently than the teams scouts put together. But I think there is a lot of value in their perspective, especially if you acknowledge going into it that those teams will skew toward prospect status. If you just want a team based on last year’s stats, just look at last year’s stats. And I don’t think there’s any reason for your narrow definition of “All-America” team to be the only acceptable definition.
Jim Richardson (Nashville): From top to bottom does anyone have more pitching than Vanderbilt? FWIW the Nola/Beede matchup was "as advertised".....man that was fun to watch.
Aaron Fitt: The answer to your question is: no. That is the deepest staff in the country, I believe.
HawkTalk (Nashville): Aaron: Over its last 15 SEC series (since May 2012), Vanderbilt is 9-6 in series openers, but a whopping 28-1 on games 2 and 3. The one loss was actually a Friday game in last year's final weekend. Is this reflective of: 1) reflective of incredible pitching depth; 2) proof that Vanderbilt bats feast on non-aces; 3) evidence that Vanderbilt's theme song should be "Working for the weekend" 4) me reading too much into statistics; or 5) all of the above?
Aaron Fitt: The answer to your question is: 5! You can have a lot of fun with numbers when it comes to Vandy—they’ve done a lot of pretty remarkable things over the last couple of years. Still hard to believe they’ve only been to Omaha once ever…
Jason (Corvallis): After spending half my morning debating delusional Ole Miss fans on Twitter who think their team should vault into the top 15 for giving South Carolina a series, I now feel your pain from having to deal with these honks on every forum you find yourself in these days. Since half their argument seemed to revolve around RPI, can you briefly give us your opinion on RPI numbers this early in the season and when you start looking at RPI as an indicator of relative team strength? Thanks for all you do for college baseball.
Aaron Fitt: Yeah, Ole Miss held its own, but nobody gets run up the rankings for losing a weekend series, as everybody who has some feel for college baseball knows. As for RPI, I don’t even look at it until the second half of the season. It’s still irrelevant this early. And I’m not sure it is ever a great indicator of team strength — but it is a tool the committee uses, so I will continue to look at it as a predictor of where teams stand in the postseason race. But not until later in the season, say around Week 8 or 9.
BW (Tallahassee): I know it's still early in the season, but after watching FSU sweep NCST, do you think that this will be the year for the Noles? If so, how much of their success do you contribute to Mike Bell in his second season as pitching coach? Go Noles!
Aaron Fitt: Every time I talk to Mike Martin, it seems like one of the first things out of his mouth is praise for how great a job Mike Bell has done with the pitching staff. He’s one of the best pitching coaches in college baseball, period. And this could very well be the year for FSU to win it all — that looks like a very complete team. For the record, FSU was John Manuel’s preseason pick to win the national title (mine was Virginia, and I’m sticking with the Cavs for now).
Nick (California): Aaron, who is the best team in California?
Aaron Fitt: Today? Cal Poly. In a few weeks’ time? I still think it will be Fullerton. But if those teams met for a three-game series right now, I think Poly would win it, because Poly has played at a higher level. And you can certainly make a case that Poly might be better than Fullerton long-term too — I do think the Mustangs are legit. I just still believe more in Fullerton’s pitching.
John (NJ): Whats your thoughts on Seton Hall, and the possible draft picks for Seton Hall.
Aaron Fitt: Scrappy, well-coached team. Pirates have dramatically exceeded my expectations after losing a lot of key veterans from last year’s club. Best prospect is ace Josh Prevost, a huge-bodied righty who can run his fastball up to 94 and has a solid slider and changeup. He could go pretty good in the draft this June.
Aaron Fitt: OK folks, that’s all I’ve got time for today — thanks for stopping by, as always!