Baseball America

College Top 25 Chat: Feb. 25

Moderator: Aaron Fitt will answer your
questions about the new Baseball America Top 25 as well as any other
college questions at 2:30 p.m. ET.

 Q:  Andrew from Athens, GA asks:
If UGA adds two more runs in the 9th yesterday afternoon, is UGA ranked? And how far does Arizona slip?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Hello everyone, and welcome to the first College Monday chat of the
season. Seems like Opening Day was a big success around the nation — a
lot of people seem very glad that there’s finally a uniform start date,
even though I think we’d all like the season to be a week or two longer
so the 56-game schedule is less compacted. Let’s get to the questions.

Aaron Fitt:
No question Georgia would be ranked — as it is, they’re in a group not
far outside the top 25, even after losing a home series. That’s a good,
experienced Georgia club that we thought long and hard about ranking in
the preseason, and I think they’re going to be very good this year. But
naturally, we can’t move an unranked team into the top 25 after it
loses a series at home, even if it was a competitive series against the
No. 2 team.

 Q:  Walt from Houston asks:
What is your take on Rice Long Beach State series? What did both teams show you this weekend?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
That series played out exactly as I thought it would — low-scoring,
very well pitched on both sides, very competitive, down-to-the-wire
games. I think both teams affirmed what we already knew: that they are
very good pitching clubs who should be solid defensively, but both
might have to scrap to score runs at times. I think Rice’s offense will
be much better as the season goes along, but I don’t think the Owls
will be as good offensively as they were last year. Long Beach,
meanwhile, embraces that Dirtbag, scrapper mentality anyway, and no one
expected LBSU to rely on the long ball. But good pitching in a spacious
ballpark made two solid offensive clubs look shaky this weekend, and I
think both offenses will be better.

 Q:  Tom from California asks:
What
did you think of pepperdine’s series win this weekend against a very
experienced wake forrest ball club. How long till the waves crack your
top 25. The waves look to have a pretty dangerous lineup after scored
35 runs this weekend. What do you think about this club?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Pepperdine is good — I feel like I’ve dubbed them a “sleeper” in every
chat I’ve done so far this young year. Brett Hunter was very good in
the first game, repeatedly touching 97 mph and showing solid command,
but they really need Nate Newman to be much better than he was on
Saturday. He’s got a great arm, though, and I think he’ll settle in.
I’m bullish on Scott Alexander on Sundays — that guy’s got a big-time
power arm from the left side, and he’s a darkhorse early candidate for
national freshman of the year. Also I think Donald Brown, Eric Thames
and Chase d’Arnaud will form a very imposing middle of the lineup.

 Q:  Kevin Earwood from Columbus,Ms asks:
After an impressive sweep against minnesota don’t you think ole miss deserves a #1 ranking?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Well clearly if I though that, we would have ranked the Rebels No. 1.
Very impressive weekend, though, for a club we already were really high
on, and that’s why we moved Ole Miss ahead of UCLA. But Arizona’s
weekend was more impressive — going on the road and winning a series
against a better team, though Minnesota is solid, just not as good as
Georgia. And Arizona was already ranked higher, so moving the Wildcats
into the top spot was an easy choice.

 Q:  Chuck from Kansas City, Mo asks:
the missouri tigers started out this weekend 3-0. what is your take on there performance thus far?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Great outings from Crow and Gibson are very encouraging, and so was the
performance of the underrated offense. Sophomore infielder Greg Folgia
is a breakout candidate this year, and Jacob Priday is as steady as a
college hitter gets. I really like that team all the way around, and I
can’t wait to see those guys in San Diego this weekend.

 Q:  Jared from Arizona asks:
Should
Arizona’s early defensive struggles be something that they should worry
about it, or is it more just some early season jitters and rust?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Pedro had an arm injury — I’ve read one report that said it’s a wrist
issue, although all the information has been a little hazy. He will be
assessed this week, so we should know more in the next day or two.
Obviously, this has the potential to be catastrophic for Vandy if it’s
serious, but indications are that it is not.

 Q:  Pit Cote from Granby, Quebec asks:
Why Pedro Alvarez didn’t play the saturday and sunday games?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I responded to the wrong question a moment ago — my apologies. Early
in the season, I’ve got some chatting rust to shake off. It’s hard when
you can’t get outside…

Aaron Fitt: So I answered the
Alvarez question above, but as for Arizona’s defense, I wouldn’t worry
about that. The Wildcats have athletes and quality defenders all over
the field, though they should be stronger up the middle than on the
corners. There might not be a better catcher in the nation than Dwight
Childs, and TJ Steele’s got great range in center field.

 Q:  Brenden from boston asks:
I
have always been a fan of the Big East when it comes to baseball, so I
was curious how strong you think the big east will be this year, it
seems that over the last several years teams like St. John’s,
Louisville, Rutgers and a few others have finally been getting some
recognition. Also, do you think the best of the Big East can finally
compete with schools from much larger baseball conferences?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
There is no question the Big East is a conference on the rise, and I
think it will be strong again this year. I’m very high on St. John’s
and Louisville and think both are borderline top 25 teams, and Notre
Dame should have enough pitching to get back to a regional despite a
bad opening weekend, losing games to Liberty and Albany as well as
beating Iowa. Rutgers, Cincinnati and South Florida are all very solid
clubs that will compete for regional bids, and I’m positive that the
Big East will get three berths again this year. At some point soon (and
who knows, maybe even this year), I think the Big East could get four
spots, because there are more than four regional-caliber teams in that
league, in my mind.

 Q:  Larry from asks:
Who has the best pitching staff in the nation?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
The last time I answered this question in a chat, I said San Diego.
After seeing the Toreros get manhandled by San Diego State this
weekend, I’m going to slowly back away from that proclamation—for now
anyway. Arizona and Missouri are the other two teams in this discussion
for me, and based solely on the opening weekend you’d have to give
Missouri an edge. But to form any sweeping opinions based on three
games in February would be folly.

 Q:  Jonathan from GA asks:
Hey Aaron, couple of 2008 draft questions:

Why isnt Wallance considered in the same breath as Alonso and Smoak and Hosmer?

Why does Gordon Beckham not projecto to hit for power when he has hit well with wood already?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I think Beckham does project to hit for average power, which isn’t bad
at all — we’re talking about major league average here. A guy with
average power could hit 15-20 homers in the big leagues, and I’ll take
that guy on my college team any day. As for Wallace, he doesn’t have as
much raw power as Smoak and Alvarez, though I personally think he’s
actually similar to Hosmer as a hitter. Wallace is not far removed at
all from the Smoak group for me, but Smoak is a switch-hitter with 70
power, a more prototypical frame and is is a Gold Glove caliber
defender at first base. Give him the edge.

 Q:  Devils fan from Tempe, AZ asks:
Arizona
State literally obliterated a pair of top ten teams this weekend, and
showed a good combo of pitching and hitting. Shouldn’t that dominating
performance have gotten them moved higher than just three slots?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
We discussed this at some length in the podcast today, so check that
out if you’re interested. ASU definitely had the best weekend of any
team in the nation in my mind, and we thought hard about running them
up to No. 3, but after much debate we decided that North Carolina and
Missouri both went 3-0 on the road, and we liked those teams better in
the preseason, so we can’t jump ASU over them after they went 3-0 on
the road. Obviously their competition wasn’t the same competition that
Arizona State faced, but the Sun Devils were also in their home park (a
small but still significant factor in his discussion), and we still
haven’t seen whether they’ve got the pitching depth to handle the
compacted schedule, considering they’ve only played three games. That
question mark was one reason we ranked them lower than UNC and Missouri
in the preseason, and that question mark has not gone away. It would be
premature to crown anyone national champions after three games in
February.

 Q:  matt from az asks:
what
did you think of ASU’s performance this weekend? It looks like their
offense has continued their dominance. Don’t you think they are a top 5
team?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
They sure played like a top-five team this weekend, but I think the
five teams ahead of them in the rankings are all better positioned to
win in the postseason. Just my opinion, and it’s subject to change as
the season develops, as is everyone’s opinion.

 Q:  Alex from Wichita asks:
Anthony
Capra is out for the shocks indefinitley after an emergency
appendectomy, do you see Capra out for the season and even so what do
you think the shocks will look like next weekend against the dirtbags?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
He did indeed have an emergency appendectomy, as you said. I’m no
doctor, but these kinds of injuries aren’t usually season-ending.
Wichita State will start redshirt freshman Tim Kelley in Capra’s place,
and I wouldn’t be shocked to see a guy like Cameron Maldonado get a
look at some point if Capra is sidelined longer. Maldonado’s a freshman
from Colorado with a good-three pitch mix and plenty of upside. Justin
Kemp, another freshman with a great arm, could also benefit.

 Q:  brent from sc asks:
Aaron,
what do you think about South Carolina’s pitching performance this
weekend? I know it’s early but they are going to need to step up their
game if they want to give themselves a shot at Omaha.
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
You’re exactly right. Pitching questions are why we did not rank the
Gamecocks in the top 10 in the preseason, and they certainly didn’t
address those concerns this weekend. I was at the second game Saturday
(see Three Strikes on the college blog for more on that), and Blake
Cooper was just OK — 87-89, touching 90, curveball int he 74-77 mph
range. All of their guys are basically like that — decent stuff, but
just not overpowering, which means they have to locate and must get
good defense behind them. Neither of those things happened in that
nightcap.

 Q:  Chris from SC asks:
Hello Aaron, i know it’s early, but who are your eight for Omaha after seeing the first week in action?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I don’t want to start revising these picks every week, but there are a
few teams that I feel very confident will be strong Omaha contenders:
Arizona, Mississippi, UCLA, Missouri and Michigan (if Zach Putnam gets
healthy — he didn’t pitch this weekend because of shoulder
tenderness). If I had to pick three more teams today, I would take
North Carolina, Long Beach State and Vandy (even though their pitching
worries me a little…)

 Q:  John from Southern California asks:
UCLA
split a doubleheader in the very first week and they’re not the #1 team
anymore? They’re not even #2, what happened? Also, their cross town
rivals USC swept this weekend, albeit versus a weak FIU team, who’s
gonna win when they face each other this upcoming weekend?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
It’s one of those weird things — if a couple bounces go UCLA’s way and
they win that 12 inning game instead of losing it, they remain No. 1.
But they were at home against an Oklahoma team that is solid but not
spectacular — the No. 1 team in the nation should sweep Oklahoma at
home (like Mississippi did against a Minnesota team that is comparable
in talent, in my mind).

 Q:  David from Orlando asks:
Aaron,
Could you name the five players AND five pitchers with the highest pro
ceilings playing in college now regardless of age/class year?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Wow, fun question. I’ll give it a crack, based only on highest
ceilings, not on likelihood to reach that ceiling. Hitters: Alvarez,
Smoak, Jordan Danks, Victor Sanchez at San Diego, and let’s say Grant
Green at Southern California (apologies to Dennis Raben, Brandon
Crawford and Jared Mitchell). Pitchers: Crow, Matusz, Strasburg, Matt
Harvey, Kyle Gibson, Alex White. I know that’s six, but I can’t decide
who to bump, and it’s my chat, so you’ll have to take six.

 Q:  Rick from Riverside asks:
Who is the top pitchers in the Big West?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Scott Gorgen first, then Andrew Liebel from Long Beach, then Jeff
Kaplan from Fullerton. Keep an eye on Derrick Saito from Cal Poly as a
fast-climber now that he’s in the rotation.

 Q:  Sean from San Francisco asks:
Aaron
- Any thoughts on some of the results this weekend on the West Coast? I
was surprised about SDSU getting 2 of 3 from USD and putting up some
big offensive numbers. Any other surprises in your mind for the first
weekend here out West?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I was very impressed with Fullerton going on the road and winning a
tough series at TCU. That’s a big win for them, and should help them
build more confidence heading into another big road series at Stanford.
That should be a very interesting series…

 Q:  David from San Diego asks:
San
Diego State was very impressive offensively this weekend. They put up
plenty of runs against arguably the best 1-2-3 punch in the nation. Is
San Diego State that good and do you see them winnig their division?
Then of course any cause for concern with USD or is hitting just ahead
of ptching right now?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
You know, San Diego State is very dangerous — Troy Hanzawa appears to
have gotten much better, Nick Romero is a star in the middle of the
lineup, Garett Green is a very good player at second base, and Cory
Vaughn looks like a great addition. That club can hit, but still, San
Diego has to be worried about giving up that many runs, considering
pitching is supposed to be USD’s calling card. I look forward to
getting a closer look at both of these teams next weekend.

 Q:  Jamie R from tampa, fl asks:
I saw that Josh Fields is now pulling double duty. Can he hit? And did I see Jason Jarvis’ name in a box score this weekend?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Fields had two hits Friday night, and it seems like Georgia’s coaches
weren’t just hyping up his ability with the bat — what a neat story.
Jarvis did pitch an inning Sunday — he was ruled eligible for now at
least, though Pat Murphy did say the situation still has not been
completely resolved. He declined to give much more information than
that — weird situation.

 Q:  Jamie R from tampa, fl asks:
FSU
looks like they can score runs again (yes, I know it was Duquesne). I’m
sure Jack Rye will add even more thunder to that lineup when he comes
back. Is there any interest in the FSU-Auburn series this weekend?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I think that’s a fascinating series, and the winner of it could very
well find itself ranked (unless they split), because both teams were in
strong consideration for our preseason top 25, and both had strong
opening weekends. I’m high on Auburn’s pitching staff, but that series
is going to be a major test for those guys, because FSU can score runs
on anybody, not just Duquesne. I’m betting on a split.

 Q:  Brett from San Jose asks:
What’s
your take on Santa Clara? I know it was only 3 games, but they
doimnated this weekend. Do you think they can make the postseason?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Great weekend for the Broncos, and that win against Kansas State
especially stands out, because I like that K-State club. Evan Leblanc
had a huge weekend with the bat, which is very encouraging, and Medica
was very good also, but most importantly, Santa Clara got three strong
outings from its weekend starters. I could see Santa Clara finishing
third in the WCC and getting a regional bid.

 Q:  ScottAZ from Phx, AZ asks:
How concerned should ASU be about their defense, especially in the infield? Thats a lot of errors, even though they dominated
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Honestly, I think it’s a significant concern. Yeah, Arizona State had a
powerful offense last year, but the forgotten ingredient to their
success was a defense that led the nation in fielding percentage.
Andrew Romine and Eric Sogard were a big part of that — those guys
might have been the nation’s slickest double-play combo. Their
replacements—Jake Elmore, Riccio Torrez and Marcel Champagnie—made
four errors this weekend, and Wallace and Davis also made errors on the
corners. Guys like Satow and Leake aren’t really strikeout pitchers and
need their infield defense to be solid behind them to be truly
successful, so keep an eye on this storyline.

 Q:  Jim from Greenville, NC asks:
I
realize East Carolina took a real beating in the first game this
weekend. But beating South Carolina 13-4, and then going 11 innings on
Sunday, why do they drop out of the top 25? Thanks!
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
ECU really did what it needed to do — went on the road and won a game
against a ranked team, and nearly won the whole series. We hated
dropping the Pirates out of the rankings, but when you’re ranked No.
24, there’s just little margin for error. There were other teams who we
debated ranking in the preseason that had better weekends than the
Pirates, and the bottom line is ECU did lose a weekend series.

 Q:  Jon from Lexington, KY asks:
The UK Wildcats had a strong start this weekend. What do they need to do to break the top 25?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Dominating weekend for Kentucky, and we considered them for the top 25
this week, but other teams that played better competition got the nod
this week. I do think Kentucky will be a top 25 team at some point this
season, but their soft-ish early-season schedule makes it tough for
them to break into the rankings when other teams are winning series
against very good teams like TCU and San Diego.

 Q:  Evan Leblanc from Santa Clara asks:
Is
Steve Strasburg going to be the number one pick next year? Rumors from
the game on friday were that he was consistently in the high 90s is
this truth?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I think right now he’s probably the favorite to go No. 1 overall,
though we ranked him third in the sophomore class in our preseason fab
50 list. I haven’t gotten any reports yet about his velo on Friday, but
I do know he touched 100 in the fall. He’s legit.

 Q:  David Connor from Cleveland, Ohio asks:
I
see that Cal State Fullerton has entered the rankings at #23. How close
were they to being a top 25 team to start the year, and do you guys
have an internal list of ranked teams that extends beyond 25 and into
the 40′s or 50′s?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I believe the Titans were team No. 26 in the preseason internally, so
winning a road series against a good TCU club was enough to get them
into the rankings. We do have an internal list of 25 or so other teams
that we’re keeping an eye on for the top 25, though we have them in
tiers more than a strict ranking. Every once in a while, a team like
San Diego State this weekend comes from nowhere and leapfrogs everybody
else who’s waiting in the wings with a hugely impressive weekend. To
score 37 runs on what might be the best pitching staff in the nation
was very loud.

 Q:  Dave from Manhattan asks:
I know Tulane has some rather difficult games coming up, what will the Greenwave have to do to crack the top 10?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Just keep winning. I was impressed with Tulane’s dominating weekend
against a solid UIC club, but we’ll know a lot more about Tulane in two
weeks, after they’ve played three games against UC Irvine and single
games against Pepperdine, Minnesota, Lousiana-Lafayette, TCU and New
Orleans. That potential Shooter Hunt-Brett Hunter matchup this weekend
looks like a dandy.

 Q:  Nate Garcia from Santa Clara asks:
What
did you hear about Ryan Perry and Josh Fields performances this
weekend? Who had the best stuff and the results? Also along with that,
are berger and colla suppose to be in the bullpen all year long for
arizona? becuase if so, they have one of the deepest staffs in the
nation, both ofthose guys would be the friday night starter at 90% of
schools in the nation, do you agree?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I don’t know about 90 percent, but they could start on Fridays at an
awful lot of places (and maybe it is 90 percent). Those guys will be
the No. 4 and 5 starters this year, which means they should get plenty
of midweek work and long relief work, and that’s a big reason we have
Arizona ranked No. 1 right now — incredibly deep staff. Perry was
consistently 94-96 this weekend with a good slider, but he tended to
pitch off his slider an awful lot and didn’t have great command. Fields
was dominant, reaching 97 mph with his fastball and striking out the
side in the ninth inning Friday.

 Q:  Brad from Memphis asks:
by the end of the season does Ole Miss stand a legitimate chance of playing for a national championship?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt: Yes.

 Q:  Brendan from Phoenix, AZ asks:
This
weekend, Michigan will visit Arizona State in a match up of two top ten
teams. ASU played much stiffer competition this past weekend, but both
teams were impressive in their season debuts, especially the offenses.
What do you see happening this weekend, and do you think we’ll continue
to see the offensive outbursts that we’ve seen so far?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
This early in the season, you have to give the warm-weather team the
edge, even with the uniform start date, because the warm-weather team
has been able to get outside to practice the last three weeks. I think
Zach Putnam is capable of dominating against any team in the nation if
he’s healthy, and Mike Wilson could give ASU’s lefties trouble, but the
Sun Devils are firing on all cylinders right now. I’ll predict a split
in those two games.

 Q:  jb from SC asks:
How do you see the 2 games between Clemson and South Carolina going this weekend?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
South Carolina’s offense is much better, but Clemson’s pitching is much
better. I think the Gamecocks mash their way to a win at home, and the
Tigers win at their place. If one team is going to sweep, though, I
think it will be Clemson.

 Q:  Matt from New York, NY asks:
Where was UNC’s Matt Harvey this weekend? injured?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
He’s not hurt, he just got beaten out for the Sunday job by Rob
Catapano. Harvey will pitch UNC’s home opener tomorrow against Old
Dominion, barring a rainout, in which case he’ll start the weekend
opener.

 Q:  Dave from NY asks:
Who do you think was the Most Valuable Player from this past weekend?
 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Dustin Ackley went absolutely nuts. It got to the point where FAU was
walking him intentionally with no one on base. He gets my MVP award
from this weekend, and I’ll go with Lance Lynn for most valuable
pitcher.

Aaron Fitt: All right everyone, that’s all for
today. Thanks for coming by, and see you next week from San Diego. Be
sure to check the College Blog all weekend for updates from that
star-studded USD Tournament.

College | #2008 #Chat

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