Baseball America

College Top 25 Chat: April 11

    Trace (Fairfax, VA): Do you feel LSU's 4-6 record in one-run games is due to bad luck or the result of a weak bullpen?

Aaron Fitt: A little of both, I think. Certainly, LSU needs Matty Ott to get back on track, but Kevin Berry had been pitching well until giving up Saturday’s game, and Ott has shown flashes of being
his old self. But Ott was rock-solid when he was a freshman, and that was a huge reason LSU won the national title. The Tigers need a somebody
to emerge as a shut-down guy again, because they really were in position to win both those games Saturday and Sunday, and instead they suffered two crushing losses.

    MJ (Miami): What are your thoughts on Miami at this point and where do you think they end up? They are 21-11 and appear to be flying under the radar a bit. It still seems they struggle
    to hit with any consistancy but they are starting to play alot better and their pitching has been really good. After this weekend their schedule gets considerably tougher with a home series against FSU and road series at UNC & Virginia. But this team is only getting better
    it seems and could be a real sleeper in the NCAA tournament.

Aaron Fitt: It’s tough to know what to make of the Hurricanes, because they are 0-6 against the two really good teams they’ve played (Florida and Georgia Tech), but they have taken care of business against the soft underbelly of their schedule. Really, their season is shaping up a lot like it did last year, when they also lost series against Florida and Georgia Tech (as well as Virginia and Florida
State) but beat all the teams they were supposed to beat, and wound up hosting a regional. I worry about Miami’s offense—just one regular is hitting better than .300, but at least Harold Martinez has picked it up offensively, which is a huge key. Not having Stephen Perez hurts defensively, because Martinez made 2 errors at short this weekend, and he’s just not really a shortstop. But you’re right, the pitching is very
solid, and I do like Miami’s athleticism. That said, I wouldn’t put Miami in the same class with the ACC’s top four, which all seem more balanced than Miami—and all are much better offensively.

    Trace (Fairfax, VA): John Savage has been giving Trevor Bauer a long leash when it comes to his pitch counts, averaging 122 per start for the year and leaving him out there for 134 on Saturday. Do you think this will affect how teams view Bauer on draft day?

Aaron Fitt: There is simply too much gnashing of teeth out there about pitch counts. Every pitcher is different, and Bauer is most different at all — he is conditioned to throw a lot. He’s so much like Tim Lincecum in so many ways, and this is one way. Lincecum also threw a lot of pitches in college, and he has not broken down in pro ball. There is no evidence that throwing 122 pitches per game once every
seven days makes a guy more likely to break down than throwing 100 pitches every five days, like they do in pro ball. The guys who rail against college coaches over pitch counts need to get a life.

    Trevis (The Ray): Enjoy your analysis and your website!

    I realize that Virginia only has three losses (just one to a ranked GT team this weekend) and they are stacked, but you had a chance to make it
    #1 vs. #2 this weekend at the Ray. If the Gamecocks can take the series
    against Vandy, do you think that will be enough to move them to #1 despite what Virginia does or will poll logic cause the teams to move up
    together?

Aaron Fitt: It’s awfully tough to jump any team over another team with Virginia’s resume, but you never know. If South Carolina sweeps Vandy, say, it might force its way into the No. 1 spot even if Virginia goes unbeaten next week, because that will give the Gamecocks series wins at Florida and vs. Vandy. As impressive as it has been for Virginia to win series vs. FSU and at Ga Tech and sweep at Clemson, South Carolina’s hypothetical resume would be even more impressive, I think. We’ll cross that bridge when/if we get there.

    Suzi Callis (Winnetka, Ill.): How close is Georgia to making the Top 25? After a terrible start, the Bulldogs are 8-4 in the SEC with three straight series wins. They're starting to look
    like they could be the fourth-best team in the league.

Aaron Fitt: John and I had that very same discussion in
today’s podcast. Georgia has a better record than any team in the SEC West, and it has taken care of business against the West three weeks in a
row. Georgia has managed to dig itself completely out of that deep early-season hole and put itself back into the Top 25 discussion. I use that word — “back” — because we actually did discuss Georgia for the preseason Top 25, based solely on its talent. In the end we held off — Georgia did go 5-23 in the SEC last year, after all — but we expected Georgia to make a regional and thought it was talented enough to be a Top 25 team. But I’m amazed that the Bulldogs have been able to make this kind of turnaround after their horrible start. What a credit to that coaching staff and those players — really a resilient bunch.

    GatorDennis (North of Fla.): Kent State currently has a PsRPI of 24 and an SOS of 43. As the SOS starts declining, will winning be enough for a potential at-large bid? Also, can you comment on the 3 weekend LH starters(Chafin/Starn/Hallock) and senior captain Ben Klafczynski(.377/.479/.623, 7 HR) as far as the 2011 Draft. Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: I suspect the MAC will drag Kent State’s RPI out of at-large territory, which is too bad because I have no doubt that’s an at-large-caliber team. Very experienced team, very balanced, very dangerous. Chafin is the only real marquee prospect on that team, but I’ve spoken with some scouts who think he’s a first-rounder, and I think there’s no way he lasts longer than the sandwich round. (For more on him, check out our Golden Spikes Spotlight in Three Strikes two weeks
ago). Klafczynski is a really good college player who’s had an amazing career there, and he could make a nice senior sign for somebody, because
he can do a lot of things — very physical, athletic, and he’s got some
pop.

    Ben (Leland Grove): About where would Mahtook go off the board if today's date was June 6th?

Aaron Fitt: About No. 15, I’d say.

    Hank (Pegram, TN): Another dominant start (without his best stuff) for Vandy's Sonny Gray, and then a donut put up
    by Grayson Garvin before the sweep of UA was completed on Sunday. Is there a deeper pitching staff, top to bottom, than that of the Commodores? Who are their 5 top pitching prospects, regardless of class, and where do you see them being taken?

Aaron Fitt: A veteran national crosschecker told me last week that he thinks Vanderbilt has the best college pitching staff he’s ever seen. That’s a pretty strong statement, but it’s a testament to Vandy’s depth and the quality of its front-line options. Sonny will go in the top 10 picks, Garvin could find his way into the sandwich round (he’s got helium), Navery Moore could go in that range as well, Lamm figures to go in the top three. Clinard is good, Taylor Hill is solid, Ziomek might wind up as a first-rounder in two years. Armstrong is the wild card — guys who have seen him throw 97 in the past might still be in love with his upside, but his price tag probably won’t drop even though his innings have. He’s one of the great x-factors for the next two months leading up to the draft.

    Chompiras (Buena Vista Social Club): Do you think clubs are adjusting their statical analysis because of the new Bats? Also why not go with wood bat? seems like the logical step.

Aaron Fitt: A lot of scouts I’ve spoken with are still trying to make sense of the new bats, and trying to figure out how to digest the new numbers. No question, some adjustments have to be made to
statistical analysis, but I doubt anybody really has all the answers yet. I did speak with a scout last week who thinks the wood bats would perform better than the BBCORs, because he thinks the wood have bigger sweet spots. Something to consider…

    BL (Bozeman, MT): If Gonzaga gets out of the WCC, does it have enough starting pitching to get to Cody Martin and get through a regional?

Aaron Fitt: Sure it does — Ryan Carpenter, Tyler Olson
and Marco Gonzales make for a pretty nice weekend rotation. That sweep of USD this weekend really cements Gonzaga as the WCC favorite, in my mind, and I do think that team is capable of making some noise in a regional. Gonzaga has found itself in our Top 25 conversation, also.

    Tim (Houston, TX): What is C.J. Cron's draft outlook? I haven't really heard alot about him since Houston's coach said he was the best hitter he's ever been around (including Anthony Rendon).

Aaron Fitt: He’s putting up absurdly good numbers even with the new bats, which is why he was our midseason All-American at first base. Strikes me as a sandwich-round type in this draft, as deep as it is.

    Bill (Hamilton,NJ): Looking at the Nolan RPI, UCLA is at 83. That is an extreme high number for an at large. Conversely, Kent is at 28. Granted there's quite a bit baseball left, but wouldn't Kent have a better chance as an at large today than UCLA? In fact, how could a 83 get an at-large?
    Furthermore, Kent SOS is 36, UCLA 120. Granted , UCLA is a quality team,
    but how can they justify a bid unless they win the Pac 10 at this point?

Aaron Fitt: If the season ended today, of course you’d be right — UCLA would be out of an at-large spot (although it’s in first place in the Pac-10, so it would get an automatic bid), and Kent State would be in. But conference play is just starting, and UCLA’s conference is very strong. All the Bruins have to do is go 17-11 down the stretch to finish in the top 45 of the RPI, according to Boyd’s World’s RPI Needs Report. Kent State can’t finish in the top 45. I’m not
saying Kent State doesn’t deserve a bid just because it’s likely to wind up with a lower RPI — but the committee leans heavily on the RPI as a crutch, and it simply does not give at-large bids to teams outside the top 50 or so in the RPI.

    Taylor (Houston): What is Purke's draft status right now? I know he's maybe slid a bit, but is he still top 5? Top 10, top 3? Thanks.

Aaron Fitt: Slid out of the top 3, but still safely in the top 10, it seems. The consensus seems to be that he’s been passed by
fellow lefties Hultzen and Jed Bradley, at least for now. A big thing I’ve heard: Bradley does a much better job pitching inside to righthanded hitters than Purke, who has had some trouble commanding to his glove side. But his fastball velocity has been fine.

    shawn (Fort Worth): Aaron- very loyal follower and I love your write-ups. Is the TCU-OU game tomorrow the game of the week? Also, is it safe to say that the weekend rotation of Winkler, Purke, and Maxwell might be the toughest in the country when the regionals roll around? Purke is about 80-85% and Maxwell isn't fully there either and look at what they have done by not going the full 100%.
    Thanks again for the time.

Aaron Fitt: Very good slate of midweek games — Rice-Texas A&M, Florida-Florida State also on top — but that TCU-Oklahoma game is very compelling, for sure. I think you are correct that TCU hasn’t started firing on all cylinders yet, and when it does, look out. TCU hasn’t seemed like a dominant club in the first half, but I
still believe that team will be very dangerous again in the postseason.

    Jeramey (Atlanta): Virginia was in town over the weekend and are they tough. I was really impressed with how well they hit and battle. It seemed like everytime they had 2 stikes on them, they hit foul ball after foul ball. Their is not an easy out in that lineup. Hultzen is better than advertised. WOW, he can flat out pitch and doesnt seem to get rattled at all. Someone I havent seen much
    about but was realy impressed was the closer Kline. He had electric stuff on Friday and seems to be a power closer. He reminded me of the Gator closer from last year Chapman. Is this a fair comparison and where do you rate Kline in college and at the next level? Thanks

Aaron Fitt: Yes, Virginia is the real deal — as you point out, there are no easy outs in the lineup, especially with Keith Werman getting hot this weekend. Kline is a big-time power arm — an unsigned sixth-round pick out of high school, so he’s got the pedigree. He showed flashes of brilliance as a freshman last year, and he has been
one of the nation’s best closers as a sophomore. I suspect he’ll move into the weekend rotation as a junior, and he’s got a chance to be a first-round pick.

    Dave (Birmingham, AL): There is a 4 way lead for first in C-USA between Houston, UAB, SoMiss, and Rice. Do you see UAB or Houston sticking around the top until the end? I know UAB has the pitching to do it just not sure if they will score enough. Thanks.

Aaron Fitt: Impressed with UAB and Houston — scrappy teams that will battle every weekend — but still like ECU, UCF and Memphis better by the end of the year, and maybe Tulane if its patchwork
pitching holds up. What a competitive conference, though, as I wrote about in today’s Three Strikes.

    Eddie (Orlando, FL): Any chance of the A-Sun getting a 2nd bid, assuming Stetson keeps winning at the rate they are going at and wins the conference tournament?

Aaron Fitt: East Tennessee State has a real shot at it,
with its strong RPI, and ETSU is sitting in second place right now. Jacksonville has a shot too, especially after sweeping a road series against Mercer this weekend — huge weekend for the Dolphins.

    steve (York pa): Could you please grade out Gerrit Cole using 20-80 scale? Thanks for chatting.

Aaron Fitt: I think he projects to have an 80 fastball,
65 slider and 65 changeup — a true big league ace. The stuff really does compare pretty well with Strasburg’s stuff. Strasburg’s breaking ball was a little better at the same stage, and I think Strasburg was able to command within the zone a little better, but Cole is really special, too.

    mymrbig (NOLA): I know a few BA staff members were at Friday's Rice/ECU game. Thoughts on Rice freshman starting pitcher Anthony Kubitza? What about reliever Tony Cingrani? Do the Owls have enough offense to have a decent shot at Omaha? Thanks.

Aaron Fitt: I loved Kubitza when I saw him at the Houston College Classic (I broke him down in detail on the College Blog after that start), and Conor Glassey was similarly impressed this weekend. Conor said he was 87-90 and striking everyone out with his nasty slider. Conor adds: “There’s more in that arm, I think he could be
a monster. He’s really tall, plenty of room to fill out.” As for Rice’s
offense, the jury is still out, but they need a whole lot more from Ratterree and Fuda.

    Jordan (Newport Beach, CA): Aaron — who do you think is your biggest (disappointing) surprise of the year so far? Oregon or UCLA? I still think UCLA can make a run. It seems like Fullerton is putting it together at the right time — your thoughts? Just for the record — I'm a USC guy and beating Stanford was a good thing.

Aaron Fitt: Oregon is certainly the answer — the Ducks
have one win in the Pac-10, and took a horrible series loss against a Washington team that was really struggling. UCLA, at least, is in first place. Agreed on Fullerton — I’ve never been worried about that club this year, and I think that’s probably an Omaha team.

    Joey (Oxford): What is up with Ole Miss? Can they turn it around and make a run?

Aaron Fitt: Things can turn around in a hurry — just ask Arkansas, which went from three straight series losses to 6-6 in the
SEC and a game out of first in the West in one weekend. Ole Miss, like Arkansas, hasn’t been swept in any of its series losses, which is huge for preserving its at-large position. At 5-7, Ole Miss is still very much in the regional picture — the committee doesn’t place nearly the value on winning series that we do when we put together our Top 25. Ole Miss should be able to take care of Kentucky at home this weekend, and it really needs to sweep if possible, because Florida and South Carolina
are on deck the following two weekends. The Rebels don’t look like regional hosts, but I think they should be in regionals — pretty similar to last year.

    Josh (Tampa): Aaron, I saw your mid-point projections for the tournament last week, and I must say that I don't understand how you can still feel so positive about my Seminoles. You have repeatedly said that the bullpen is improved and our bats can carry
    us to Omaha, but I just don't see it. The Noles strike out at an alarming rate (31 times vs UNC, 29 vs UMD, 25 vs Wake, and 35 vs UVA), the bullpen gave up late inning leads in 5 consecutive games vs UF and UVA, and have no pitching after Gilmartin (haven't won on a Saturday in over a month). Please give me a reason to be optimistic for the second half of the season, I'm drowning in negativity!!

Aaron Fitt: You’re taking me down with you, Josh! Those
are some alarming figures you rattled off… But all that said, Florida
State is still sitting comfortably in first place in the Atlantic Division. One reason Florida State strikes out so much is because it’s so patient. When you’re working a lot of counts, you’re going to find yourself in a lot of 2-strike situations, so you’re going to strike out more. But that’s one of the reasons the Seminoles are so good every year
— they drive opponents crazy with their patience, drive up pitch counts, get on base at a high rate. Last I checked, FSU was second in the nation in walks (through last weekend). So I wouldn’t worry so much about the strikeouts. I still really like that veteran lineup. But the bullpen, as it turns out, doesn’t look like anything special. I still they’ve it’s got a bunch of useful parts, but a lack of shutdown, power arms is hurting it. And Scott Sitz has really fallen on some hard times — that’s a concern.

    Lance (Memphis, TN): Is Memphis getting into the NCAA tournament discussion with this week's wins over Ole Miss and Southern Miss (2 out of 3), or do they still have a ways to go?

Aaron Fitt: Still quite a ways to go because of the RPI, but I do like Memphis’ team, and I wrote about it in today’s Three Strikes — check it out.

    Greg (NYC): Hey Aaron, by now you've surely seen the Man of Steal's catch on Sunday (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFXIa7qKcHQ). My question is whether there is anything Tony Kemp cannot do? Furthermore, what's your take on
    the weekend series between Vanderbilt and South Carolina? Who do you have?

Aaron Fitt: Anything he cannot do? I’m not sure he can hit the ball out of the ballpark, but man is he an exciting player. That
catch was amazing — it was very similar to the one Michael Lorenzen made in right field for Fullerton yesterday (has anyone posted that video online yet? The game was on ESPNU — I’d love to see a replay of that catch, probably the best play I’ve seen all year, in person). As for Vandy-SC — that’s really tough. Hard to pick against the home team in SEC series between pretty evenly matched teams.

    Carl (Fullerton): Thoughts on Lorenzen in Fullerton and Ficociello in Arkansas?

Aaron Fitt: Both guys are studs, and they’re only going
to get better. Ficociello’s got special bat speed and leverage in his swing — he will hit for some serious power down the line. And Mike Gillespie referred to Lorenzen as a “pretty special physical player” yesterday — that’s a good way of putting it. He can do it all.

    Jeff (Oregon): After this weekend's games in the Pac-10, who would you say is the team to beat?

Aaron Fitt: I suppose it’s Oregon State! Two awfully strong weekends to start conference play, especially to do it without Susac this weekend. Long term, I worry about the impact of losing Susac,
but Parker Berberet is a very nice backup option. That league is wide open, though.

    Mike N. (Deland): Is it possible for Stetson to
    host a Regional? According to Warren Nolan and Boyd's world their RPI right now is around 21 or 22. If they can get their RPI down to 16 or better and win conference do they have the facility (being about 3,000 max) or will the NCAA just grant them a #1 seed at another location

Aaron Fitt: I think the facility is fine — the RPI is the greater concern, and the geography, because Florida and Florida State are going to host, and Miami will probably wind up in better RPI shape. Obviously that state won’t get four hosts, and maybe not even three — but Stetson is probably competing with Miami for a third.

    Brett (Raleigh): Who do you have winning the SoCon? How many teams get in and who are they?

Aaron Fitt: My opinion on the SoCon front-runner varies
by the day — I give up trying to forecast that league. Today, it feels
like Elon is the team to beat, then Georgia Southern, but will the Eagles have a strong enough RPI to get an at-large spot? Going 1-2 against Mercer and Marshall last week didn’t help. I still like CofC’s talent, but a series loss to The Citadel hurts — the Cougars need to really get hot.

    dave (palo alto): How much damage has been done
    to Cal's program by being in limbo for the last several months? They've
    lost an entire recruiting class and are way behind for next years class.

Aaron Fitt: A significant amount of damage, I should think. They have spent this spring looking for landing places for their current players instead of recruiting. Once you fall behind in the recruiting cycle, it’s not easy to catch back up, and how enthusiastic will players be about going to a place that tried to cut the baseball program? The adminstration made life a lot more difficult for that talented coaching staff.

    Alex (Fairfax, VA): Hey Aaron,

    How close is Miami to the top 25? After a 5-8 start (including the sweep
    by Florida), they're 16-3, losing 3 at home to Georgia Tech, including 7
    in a row. Have the 'Canes righted the ship?

Aaron Fitt: Back in the top 25 discussion, but the 0-6 record vs. the Top 25 was Miami’s undoing in these discussions. Arkansas, by contrast, is 5-4 against the Top 25.

    Joe (San Antonio): How are scouts looking at Rendon's current season? Power numbers and average are way down from last year but walks is way up. He's not seeing much to hit. Is his draft stock falling?

Aaron Fitt: Not really — holding steady at 1A/1B with Cole.

    mymrbig (New Orleans): I assume the veteran national cross-checker commenting on Vandy's staff didn't see Rice in 2003? The Big 3, Baker, and Aardsma was pretty ridiculous...

Aaron Fitt: That was my first thought as well. I didn’t say I agreed with him!

    Colby (Little Rock): Aaron, do you think Arkansas host a regional this year? Their RPI is 12 and over 27,000 turned out to watch the weekend series.

Aaron Fitt: This weekend really breathed life into Arkansas’ hosting hopes, I think. There’s a long way to go, and the SEC West has really yet to sort itself out, but I think one team from the West will host, and Arkansas is as good a guess as any.

Aaron Fitt: OK everybody, tons of good questions left — sorry I don’t have time to get to them all, but that’s all for today.
Thanks for stopping by!

College | #2011 #Top 25

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