College Top 25 Chat: March 10

Q:  Jamie R from tampa, fl asks:

Aaron, any thoughts on this weekend’s G Tech-FSU series? Who has the edge?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Hello everyone, and sorry for the delay to start the chat. Hopefully
the content in Three Strikes (which will be posted momentarily) was
worth the wait . . .

Aaron Fitt: That’s a very compelling
series. Georgia Tech has the better pitching staff by far, in my mind,
even though FSU has gotten good performances from Elih Villanueva and
especially Matt Fairel. But the Seminoles have the much better offense,
and they’re at home, so I expect them to win that series.

 Q:  David from Orlando asks:

Arkansas’
offense has gone bonkers — is Aaron Murphree someone who could do this
with wood? Could Andy Wilkins be a potential first-rounder in 2010?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Murphree went absolutely bonkers last week, smashing eight home runs
and driving in 15 during five games. He’s now homered in six straight
games and has 12 on the year. I’m not completely sold on him as a pro
prospect, but he’s certainly put himself on the map with scouts, and
he’s already a great college hitter. As for Wilkins, not only does he
have big-time power, but he’s got an advanced approach for a freshman
and great strike-zone awareness, stuff that’s hard to teach. He could
be a special one.

 Q:  Greg from DFW asks:

How close are the Horned Frogs to being ranked? All 5 of their losses are against quality opponents.

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Despite a great weekend, beating a very good Ole Miss team, the Horned
Frogs aren’t anywhere near being ranked. They lost two of three in each
of the previous two weekends — good competition or not, you’ve got to
win more than just one out of three weekends to be a top 25 team.
Oregon State and Michigan have done the same, and both of those teams
are in danger of sliding all the way out of the top 25 after starting
the year in the preseason top 10.

 Q:  Justin from California asks:

Loyola
Marymount won the Aztec invitational this weekend by going 3-1 and
beating both USD and Oregon State 13-3…Do you see LMU being a
surprise this year in the WCC?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
That’s a great weekend for LMU, but the Lions are still below .500 on
the year. I just think San Diego and Pepperdine are clearly the class
of that league, and Santa Clara is a clear No. 3 team, in my eyes. I
just can’t see LMU finishing ahead of any of those teams.

 Q:  Jim from Greenville, NC asks:

How
close did East Carolina come to getting back into the rankings after a
5-0 week, and sweep at the Keith LeClair Classic. They beat up Zach
Putnam pretty good as well.

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
The Pirates are back on the radar — I might have been more impressed
with them going up to Virginia and taking a pair of midweek wins
against quality teams in ODU and VCU — but they’ve still got some work
to do to get back into the rankings. Other teams have just been more
impressive on the whole this year, but after seeing the Pirates again
this weekend, I remain convinced that they are a dangerous,
well-rounded club. The emergence of Justin Bristow as a stud for them
on Sundays is a major, major development.

 Q:  Bobby from KC, MO asks:

Do you think the missouri offense could hold them back on the strecth run?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I really believe the Tigers will have enough offense to go with that
stellar pitching. Aaron Senne is on the verge of a big-time breakout
season — he’s got huge power — and I like veterans in the middle of
the lineup like Jacob Priday and Ryan Lollis. Calvert is a speedy
disruptor type atop the lineup, and guys like Kyle Mach and Greg Folgia
will hit better as the season progresses. Will they score as many runs
as Arizona State or South Carolina? No. But they won’t need to, because
their arms are outstanding.

 Q:  Brad from Grand Prairie, Texas asks:

With
their start at 10-1 (pending todays afternoon tilt with Miss. State) do
you think that the Bears are legitimate Omaha contenders. They’re
playing as if they are, but a leaky young bullpen may do them in during
conference play. What do you think?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I picked Baylor in my eight for Omaha immediately after the last CWS,
and I still think that’s a pretty good pick. Have patience with that
bullpen — Cassavechia is a veteran who will anchor that thing down the
stretch, I’m confident, and Craig Fritsch has a terrific arm. Tim
Matthews and Mace Thurman should be solid as well.

 Q:  David from Orlando asks:

Who in the sophomore class has separated themselves from the pack to become legit first-round draft candidates for ’09?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I’ve been really impressed with some of the sophomore arms that were
expected to make that leap to staff ace this year — many of them have
handled it with aplomb. Mike Minor at Vandy has emerged as a likely
first-rounder, as have Kendal Volz at Baylor and Andy Oliver at
Oklahoma State. Other top arms in that class — Stephen Strasburg, Alex
White and Kyle Gibson — have lived up to expectations and remain
potential top-five picks.

 Q:  DM from Miami asks:

Coastal is now 12-1 after completing the sweep this past weekend. They have to be close to breaking into the top 25?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
They are very close — right now I’ve got them as team No. 27 on my
personal, internal list, right behind Pepperdine (which is the odd team
out for the third straight week). I’m not blown away by Coastal’s
schedule, but I really like their talent and I think they’re very well
coached, and they’ve taken care of business so far. The Chanticleers
will have a chance to make a statement this weekend against a scuffling
Michigan team.

 Q:  Chris from Knoxville, Tn asks:

Surprised
UNC ranked that high with a loss to Duke. Rob Catapano has apparently
earned a spot in the weekend rotation. How does ‘Heels’ pitching rank
with previous World Series teams?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
UNC still won its series, and there was no on else close in the
rankings who performed well enough to leap in front. I think this has a
chance to be a better staff than last year, despite the absence of
Robert Woodard, if all of those freshmen develop as planned. Remember,
down the stretch last year, UNC’s starting pitching really struggled,
as Alex White and Luke Putkonen were hit hard in the postseason, and
Adam Warren emerged as the most dependable starter after Woodard. I
think this staff has plenty of depth, but White needs to develop into
the front-line guy he is capable of being. There’s no room for hiccups
like the one he had against Duke on Saturday.

 Q:  Reginald from Queens, NY asks:

I’ve
heard concerns re: Brandon Crawford’s ability to make consistent
contact and his less than impressive performance with wood bats. Is
there a shot that he’ll be available for the Yanks at no.28 ?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
At this rate, there’s a chance he could be available at 128. He’s
really, really pressing at the plate right now, and after a bad summer
in the Cape, he’s got a lot to prove with the bat. Making consistent
contact is his bugaboo right now. Sure, he’s got a boatload of tools,
but the bat is the most important tool, and right now he’s not showing
it.

 Q:  Kiley from Odessa, FL asks:

On
behalf on Knights Nation I must ask what 11-1 UCF, outscoring opponents
111-46, with a win over #4 Missouri, and three straight weekend sweeps,
has to do to get in your fine rankings?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
UCF is in the mix, but like with Coastal, I’m not blown away with the
Knights’ schedule, so they’ve just got to prove it against better
competition (one win against Missouri isn’t enough for me). UCF also
has farther to come than Coastal, which opened the year on the cusp of
the rankings for us, whereas UCF really wasn’t even in the discussion.
That makes the 11-1 start all the more impressive, really — going 11-1
is hard no matter who you’re playing, and I do think Central Michigan
and Monmouth will contend in their respective conferences. But we won’t
really know a lot about Central Florida until it begins conference play
on March 21… if the Knights keep winning, though, they’ll be ranked
before that.

 Q:  Thomas from SoCal asks:

How
do you justify keeping .500 ball clubs such as San Diego, Oregon State,
and Michigan in the Top 25, while leaving out a team like Pepperdine.
Granted they beat Columbia this weekend, but 10-3 is a whole lot better
than .500.

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Pepperdine has been the much more impressive team than any of those.
All three of those teams are on notice right now, but all three did
begin the season in the top 11, so they got a little bit of slack
simply because we firmly believe in the talent of all three clubs. That
said, you’ve got to win to stay in the rankings, and .500 clubs don’t
stay ranked — that’s why all three of those have slid 10-15 slots
since the season started. We’ll get a better idea how Pepperdine stacks
up with the Beavers in two weeks, when those two teams play an
intriguing three-game set.

 Q:  Chris from San Diego asks:

Aaron,
had a chance to watch most of the SDSU tourney action this weekend. USD
didn’t impress but remains in the top 25, SDSU looked inconsistent but
beat up OK. St., who also remains in the top 25. Oregon State was beat
up pretty bad by LMU yet remains in the top 25. I thought you might
consider that Santa Clara club – they beat two big-time arms in
Romanski and Strasburg. Explain your thoughts – I’m not following how
three teams that looked either poor or inconsistent remain in the top
25.

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Hey, if you want the rankings to just include the teams that have the
best records, you don’t need us to do that — just look at the
standings and decide for yourself who the best teams are. But we also
consider a team’s talent level and potential — that’s where our
preseason evaluations come in. Obviously, if you look just at results,
none of those .500 teams should be ranked. But I suspect they’ll all be
there at the end of the year… As for Santa Clara, that’s a good week,
and if the Broncos held onto that Sunday game against Oregon State,
they might have found themselves in the rankings. As it is, they’re in
the discussion.

 Q:  Andrew from Athens, GA asks:

Has
Gordon Beckham’s phenomenal start (.543/.571/1.065, with 6 homers)
solidified him as a first rounder? And could he have vaulted himself to
the top 15 or higher?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
He was already a likely first-rounder, but he’s certainly solidified
his place, no doubt. I do think he could wind up in the first half of
the first round, yes. Nice all-around tools package, and he’s
continuing to show very good power.

 Q:  mike from oceanside, ca asks:

aaron,
thanks for the great work! what’s up with USD? they beat two tough
ranked teams in oklahoma state and oregon state and also drop games
against LMU and santa clara the same weekend. overall, they’ve beaten
ranked teams in long beach and mizzou as well. when is the consistency
going to kick in? their pitching will be there, what about the bats?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I don’t think USD will ever be a great offense this season. The Toreros
are going to have to scrap to score runs all year long, that’s just how
they’re built. Long Beach State is really constructed similarly, but
the Dirtbags have been more consistent early on. I think eventually USD
will settle into a similar pattern.

 Q:  Taylor from Houston asks:

What
do the Texas A&M Aggies have to do to get back into the Top 25?
They’re now 11-3, 4-1 last week, with wins over decent Rutgers, Ohio
St, Arkansas, and La Tech teams. Is it just a matter of nobody at the
back end of the Top 25 not losing?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
The Aggies are in that same lump with Coastal and Pepperdine as teams
just outside the rankings. I would have liked to have seen them sweep
Rutgers, but the bullpen blew that game Friday after Barret Loux gave
them another strong start. TAMU’s pitching has been rather inconsistent
in the early going, and I want to see the roles start to solidify a
little bit.

 Q:  Taylor from Houston asks:

Kentucky
looks to be the big mover this week. Are they for real, or is it just
weak competition? Looks like they can really hit, and they’ve got some
pretty good pitching.

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
It felt strange moving Kentucky up seven spots after playing just one
game this weekend against Purdue, and UK’s competition has been
exceedingly soft so far, but still, we believe the Wildcats are for
real. We liked this team heading into the year — dangerous on offense,
some very good, experience arms in the rotation — so we went ahead and
slid them up into the vacuum left by other teams losing this weekend.

 Q:  Taylor from Houston asks:

Aaron,
thanks for the chat, always enjoy it. Whats going on with both Rice and
Texas lately? They seem to be struggling a little bit. Surely they’ll
be there in the end. And tell me what you, and scouts, think about
Brandon Belt. He’s legit, isn’t he?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Honestly, Rice and Texas are doing about what I expected they’d do —
both teams had question marks entering the year, and both had to
incorporate plenty of newcomers, so there was bound to be an adjustment
period. I do think both will be Omaha contenders as usual at the end of
the season (though I don’t see either as a CWS team this year). Belt is
legit — take a look at the Texas Collegiate League top prospects list
from last summer if you want a detailed scouting report. He can really
hit, and I think people are finally starting to see him as a hitting
prospect more than a pitching prospect.

 Q:  Sean from Brea, CA asks:

Aaron,
I’m still confused about how UCLA ever started at #1. I have seen you
mention that the club has virtually no weaknesses, even saying the
pitching staff was a strength entering the year. What was that based
on? Pro scouts? The best returning pitchers had ERA’s of 4.47 and 5.68
as starters last year. Unless I’m missing something, that isn’t very
good at all. I don’t doubt that they have potential to dominate, but
wasn’t pitching an enormous concern heading into the season? And still
is a concern outside of Murphy right now?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
We don’t decide who’s good and who isn’t by looking at last season’s
ERAs. Part of it is based on what pro scouts say, absolutely — those
guys are paid to recognize potential. And part of it is based on what
other college coaches said about them. But I still think their pitching
will be just fine — Murphy has emerged as a bona fide ace (and if you
looked at his ERA last year, you would probably think he stinks … but
we had faith he would be good because of—gasp!–scouting reports).
Gavin Brooks has not been himself because of blisters on his pitching
hand, but he’ll be there. Just look what he did in the postseason last
year — he’s proven it on a big stage. Charles Brewer gave them a great
start last week and could still emerge as a solid Sunday option, and
Matt Drummond has a good arm as well. I think it would be a mistake to
write any teams off three weeks into the season, whether it’s UCLA,
Louisiana-Lafayette, Oregon State, Michigan or anyone else.

 Q:  the Big D from Irvine,CA asks:

How do you rate the Seminoles of FL.? 12-0 start but must have the softest schedule in DIV-1. Will Jack Rye be a high draft pic?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
It is a fairly soft schedule, as usual, but that four-game sweep of
Auburn was loud to me. Auburn should be a very good club — lots of
good pitching, and some big-time power threats in the lineup, though
several of them are young. I think FSU has a great college offense, but
I think its pitching will be short in the end. As for Rye, he’s an
exceptional college hitter but not a great pro prospect, which is a
fairly typical profile for FSU players of late. But then, the Seminoles
are interesting in winning ballgames, and Rye is the type of player who
will help them do plenty of that.

 Q:  Alex V. from Fullerton asks:

The
CSUF bats came alive last week after getting swept by Stanford the
weekend before. Is the Titan pitching staff good enough or are they
just to young to make a push for a championship?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I’m really encouraged by the way young guys like Jason Dovel and Daniel
Renken have pitched so far for Fullerton. Those guys will have to
assume prominent roles, I think, for the Titans to topple LBSU or UCI
in the Big West, and I still think Fullerton has its work cut out for
it, but there’s plenty of reason for optimism.

 Q:  alex Kovaler from moscow, russia asks:

Aaron,
you were so high on UCLA and so low on Fullerton. Any second thoughts
on Fullerton after last week and do you see them as potential
legitimate national contenders?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Three weeks into the season, I’m not prepared to proclaim that
Fullerton is a more legit national contender than UCLA. And it’s not
that I was “so low on Fullerton.” I saw the Titans as a regional team
and a fringe top 25 team, and I still do. Maybe that’s low by Fullerton
standards, but most other programs would be pretty pleased with that.

 Q:  Jonathan from GA asks:

Aaron, what players are moving their way up on draft boards? Gordon Beckham? Resse Havens?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Both of those guys, but especially Havens, who has answered a lot of
questions with his performance in the Cape and in the first few weeks
this spring. If you want an out-of-nowhere guy who’s put himself on the
map, how about Arkansas State ace Chase Ware, who can run his fastball
up to 93 mph and has a good splitter? He shut out a good
Louisiana-Lafayette offense on Friday.

 Q:  Jonathan from GA asks:

Aaron,
with the slew of solid 1B this year, what makes Smoak a better prospect
that Wallace, Hosmer, and Alonso? Is it because Smoak could easily put
on another 30 pounds and plays a better 1B?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Smoak has easily the most raw power in that group, he’s a
switch-hitter, and he plays Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base. I
think some or all of those other guys could actually be better hitters
than Smoak, but his upside is the highest, and he’s not some ultra-raw
long-term project, either.

 Q:  Eric from Huntington Beach asks:

Being
a fan of long Beach State is going to nerveracking over the next 5
weeks. USC, SD State, UCLA, CAL, Pepperdine, Stanford, Fresno, UCR and
Irvine. If we can come out of that OK after our great start I will
begin to believe we can go to the Series. (Our ERA is 2.12) Also I
thought an interesting series is happening this weekend. Fullerton vs.
AU. Fullerton got hot last week and it will be a challenging series.
How do you feel about that series??

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
And you know what? I wouldn’t be shocked if every one of those games is
a close, low-scoring, nail-biting affair — the Dirtbags are made for
those kind of games. That is a really, really challenging schedule, but
I have confidence LBSU will get through it in decent shape — that’s
just such a tough team. Fullerton is tough, too, and the Titans will
need to show an awful lot of toughness to win on the road against
Arizona. I like the Wildcats in that one — just a better team all the
way around (except perhaps defensively), and they’re at home.

 Q:  David from Orlando asks:

Clemson’s
Kyle Parker had quite a weekend — is he going to stick with baseball
or is he a football-first guy? How good could he be by the time he’s
draft eligible?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I still think he’s a football first guy, but that’s an awfully loud
weekend — 5-for-5 with three homers in one of those games. But if he’s
on a football scholarship, you know where he’ll be once spring practice
starts…

 Q:  Jonathan from Troy asks:

I’m going to keep this nice and simple: What has happened to Louisiana-Lafayette??

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Their defense has been atrocious, which was something Tony Robichaux
was worried about heading into the year. It really snowballed on them
this weekend, and by Sunday there were struggling on routine pop-ups.
The offense also needs to pick it up — again, the bats are trying
really hard to prove to people that they really are a top-25 team like
they were ranked in the preseason. They just need to relax.

 Q:  Brian from Seattle asks:

We’ll
get our chance against a bunch more ranked teams soon enough in either
case, but with Stanford on the rise, and our only 2 losses of the year
being the first week of the season to this Stanford team (when it was
still freezing and they couldn’t go outside), where is Nebraska on the
waiting list?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Probably about two more good weeks away. Sweeping UC Riverside was
nice, but the Highlanders aren’t close to what they were a year ago,
and you’ve got to beat Northern Colorado (which the Huskers did — take
note, Texas A&M!). Interesting mix of veterans and youngsters, and
I’d like to see Nebraska get off to a solid start in conference before
ranking them. I’ve been a little disappointed so far in Kansas State, a
team that I pegged as a bit of a sleeper heading into the year, but the
Wildcats are still capable of getting going, so that series this
weekend in Manhattan is a big one.

 Q:  Dave from Portland, OR asks:

Compare Kipnis to a current Major leaguer. All i come up with is Chris Duffy???

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
That’s exactly who Pat Murphy compares him to. He’s got Duffy’s
toughness and general tool set, though he’s not quite as fast and
doesn’t throw as well.

 Q:  Rodney Dangerfield from Long Beach, Ca. asks:

Hey,
nice to see we moved up a whole spot. I know we lost to SDSU,but why is
that holding you guys back from putting the ‘Bags in the top 5. Time
will tell… The rest of the country will come to know what we already
do.

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Some people are just hard to please. Look, I was sorely tempted to jump
the Dirtbags ahead of all those teams into the top five, because aside
from Arizona State, I don’t think any team in the nation has been more
impressive on the field this year than Long Beach. But the teams ahead
of LBSU are winning, and the rankings don’t happen in a vacuum (do I
say that every week?). the Dirtbags will just have to wait until
there’s an opening ahead of them.

 Q:  Dave from Richmond asks:

At
13-1 is Elon poised for a potential showing in the top 25 soon or is
their record more of an indication of a weak early season schedule?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Extremely soft schedule, and the Phoenix lost to one of the two respectable
teams it faced (UNC Wilmington — the other being East Carolina). Elon will have to prove itself in
conference play as well as in midweek action, where opponents like
North Carolina, Clemson, East Carolina, Wake Forest, Coastal Carolina
and NC State offer plenty of chances to make noise.

 Q:  Greg from Topeka, KS asks:

I
know they shouldn’t be ranked, but any chance the Hogs can give ASU
some trouble in a mid-week 2 game series? Aaron Murphree has 10 homers
in 6 games….WOW!!!

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I expect those to be some high-scoring games in an offensive park, and
both teams are swinging hot bats right now, so anything could happen.
Sure, ASU is the favorite, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the Hogs slug
their way to a win or two. I wouldn’t bet on it, though.

 Q:  Greg from Irvine, CA asks:

clearly
the Pac-10 has the best combination of teams in college baseball right
now. How many teams do you feel have a legitimate shot at making the
postseason? Will it be similar ot basketball and how they beat up on
each other all season long?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I think seven teams all have legit shots at regional berths — UCLA,
Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon State, Stanford, Cal and USC. Amazingly,
the first six are all in the top 25 right now. We knew it would be an
unbelievable year in the Pac-10, and so far we have not been
disappointed.

 Q:  Brent from Los Angeles, CA asks:

Thoughts
about UC Irvine and their series win at Tulane this past weekend? Up to
that weekend, I was a little skeptical about the ‘Eaters record and
schedule, but i’m starting to believe with that series win. We know
their pitching is solid, but will they have enough offense to keep them
in the national rankings?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I was very impressed with the Anteaters, going on the road to win a
series against a Tulane team that is pretty talented — and to win the
series even without getting a victory from ace Scott Gorgen! The
offense won’t be great — similar to Long Beach and San Diego — but it
should be good enough, especially if Ollie Linton and Ryan Fisher
continue to be gangbusters. And getting Casey Stevenson back from a
clearninghouse issue would be huge. But at this point, Ollie Linton
alone might be all the offense they need — what a dynamic player.

Aaron Fitt: That’s all I’ve got time for today. See you next week.

College | #2008 #Chat

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