Aaron Fitt: Good afternoon, folks. Busy week at BA — we send our first Draft Preview issue to press this week, so I think we’re all running on adrenaline. But I’ll chat as long as I can today —
let’s get to it.
- Arkham (Danville, PA): Despite his recent struggles, nothing beats the eye-test: Do you think Plutko is destined to flash Bauer dominanace or Cole inconsistency? Thanks, Aaron
Aaron Fitt: He’s really a completely different guy than
both of them. Those guys were both premium prospects with plus (or plus-plus) fastball velocity. Plutko is more an 86-89 guy who relies on fastball command and solid secondary stuff — but not wipeout stuff like
Bauer and Cole had. I think Plutko pretty much is what he is: a very nice college Friday guy, steady and consistent, capable of dominating at
times like he did Saturday even though he’s not a blue-chip prospect the way Bauer and Cole were.
- Jeff (My Basement in DC): Aaron-
Let this be the be all, end all of NO RESPECT! questions. Since the Super Regional format was implemented, LSU has finished the regular season in the top 8 of the RPI a total of 9 times, but has only been awarded with a national seed 4 times (44%). LSU has never been awarded a
national seed without a top 5 (FIVE) RPI. For everyone else, a top 8 RPI has translated into a national seed 75% of the time. NCAA love child
Texas has finished in the RPI top 8 6 times and earned 5 national seeds
(83%). Texas has been a national seed without a Top 8 RPI 3 times (as low as 18). Similar story for Rice - 5 times in the RPI top 8, all national seeds (100%), and twice awarded a national seed without a top 8
RPI (also as low as 18). Fullerton'¦4 times in the RPI top 8, all national seeds (100%), and 3 times awarded a national seed without a top
8 RPI (as low as 20). Remember, LSU was left out of the tournament completely last year with an RPI of 23. So what does LSU need to do down
the stretch to avoid the bias of the selection committee and land a national seed? Undefeated then lots of prayers?
Aaron Fitt: I like the way you prefaced that question, Jeff — nicely played. I’d have to go back and look, but I’m willing to bet the times LSU finished in the top 8 but did not get a national seed,
there were multiple SEC teams ahead of it in the conference standings. Playing in the SEC is a double-edged sword: you get a huge RPI advantage
because you’re playing all teams that build gaudy winning percentages in the nonconference schedule and so the strong RPIs compound over the course of conference play. That means it’s easier to build a strong RPI as an SEC team, and there are typically going to be more teams in the SEC with very high RPIs than in, say, the Big 12 or Pac-12. But if you’re No. 8 in the RPI but have the fourth-best RPI in your own league and the fifth-best conference record, that doesn’t look as impressive. I’m very glad the committee doesn’t just give national seeds to the top eight teams in the RPI — how a team finishes in its conference matters,
and it should. So with all that said, I don’t think it really matters where LSU finishes in the RPI this year. If it wins the SEC West (and it’s up by four games, so it will win the SEC West), it will be a national seed.
- Chip (Houston): A mid-week win against Sam Houston State and another Big 12 series victory, and my Aggies are still
way behind Baylor in the standings. Is there anyway Texas A&M can still host a super? Would winning out (including the Big 12 tourney) be enough?
Aaron Fitt: I think winning out would give the Aggies a
shot, sure — just not at Baylor’s expense. Baylor will be a national seed almost regardless of how the rest of the season plays out. But there is still plenty of competition for the last couple national seeds — North Carolina, Rice, UCLA, Stanford, Texas A&M all strike me as teams in the mix, and none of them feels like a lock to me (though UCLA’s RPI suggests it is in very good shape).
- LMU Lion (Joplin, MO): Please give us some recent history of the Utah Valley program and its road to Division I. And what, specifically, are they doing right? (Other than winning every game, of course.)
Aaron Fitt: The Wolverines have really, really dominated the Great West Conference since its inception (when a bunch of
independent teams joined together to form a conference that does not get an automatic bid). UVU went 48-4 over the first two years of the Great West and are 20-0 this year. We expected Utah Valley to be the best team in that conference, because it returned a boatload of veterans
in the lineup as well as experienced arms on the mound, led by Jeremy Gendlek. But the Wolverines expected their pitching to be their biggest strength, and the offense has wound up carrying the load — they’re hitting .350 with 40 home runs, led by Goose Kallunki’s 15. When mid-majors have rosters stocked with mature, veteran players, good things can happen (just look at what New Mexico State or Appalachian State or North Dakota State have done). If UVU keeps winning, it really does have a shot at an at-large bid, even though its RPI won’t be inside
the top 50.
- Bill (Atlanta, GA): Would a 3-3 split against Miami and Virginia get the Yellow Jackets in the NCAA? How important is
the game against Georgia Wednesday for both teams?
Aaron Fitt: I think 3-3 would do it, but given the committee’s recent penchant for rewarding mid-majors at the expense of big-name power conference schools with losing conference records, I wouldn’t feel secure with a 13-17 ACC record until Selection Monday. Wednesday’s game is more crucial for Tech than it is for Georgia; the Yellow Jackets have a razor-thin margin for error right now, whereas I think Georgia has a little more wiggle room.
- Donnell (Ft Lewis): Aaron, with the series win this weekend against Ole Miss, are my Tigers now a lock for a national seed or do they just need to win one of their last two series. Thanks for the great coverage of college baseball you give us all the time.
Aaron Fitt: I suppose if LSU went 1-5 in its last two weekends, say, and Kentucky, Florida and South Carolina all finished strong, LSU could get squeezed out, because I do feel like those four teams all have national seed-caliber resumes, and I’m still doubtful that the committee would want to give more than three national seeds to one conference. Win just one of those two series and take away any question, I think.
- john (sanford,nc): Last week you thought that only 3 sec teams would be one of the 8 seeds. You said that they would be Florida, Kentucky, and LSU. Have you changed on that? Has South Carolina uprooted one of those three?
Aaron Fitt: I’ll break this down in Stock Report tomorrow, but yes, South Carolina has forced its way into a national seed — probably at Kentucky’s expense right now. Or maybe all four wind
up as national seeds — there’s a possibility, at least. Either way, the Gamecocks look like they’re in very good shape right now.
- Keith (Long Island): with st johns winning 2 out of 3 against South Florida, would series wins against Louisville and
Seton Hall be enough to secure an at large bid or will they also need a
deep run in the conference tournament to secure a bid?
Aaron Fitt: I think winning those two series might very
well be enough, coupled with at least a couple wins in the Big East tourney. It’ll be another real bubble case, though.
- Tyler (Sioux Falls, SD): If Oklahoma State keeps winning will they make into the tournament?
Aaron Fitt: Well, the Cowboys are still just 83rd in the RPI, and they have three games left against Alcorn State (No. 267), so I think it’s still a long shot. If OSU wins its final series against Texas A&M and has a solid showing in the Big 12 tournament, a bid is
within the realm of possibility, at least.
- Jim (Louisville): I like that you are showing some love to MS State this week. If the Dawgs can go .500 or better the
next two weeks at Florida and UK at home, do they stand a chance at hosting a regional in Starkville?? It would be extremely hard to win both series but with their pitching staff anything could be possible.
Aaron Fitt: If they win both series to finish with five
straight series wins, they host. Go 3-3 in those series and they’ve still got a chance, but I would probably bet against it — have to figure somebody else competing for one of those final host spots would have a stronger finish and better overall resume.
- John (Ashburn, VA): Aaron: NCSU "rested" Rondon this weekend. Lots of innings on a young arm this year. Heard anything more substantive?
Aaron Fitt: That is all I heard — I think it was a wise move to give him some time off as the team stepped out of conference. No cause for concern, just a freshman who has pitched a lot of innings.
- Dougner (Albuquerque): Hey Aaron,
Cal State Fullerton was pretty impressive against Pacific, but I know the going will get much tougher come June. It seems the pitching staff is coming together with a fairly typical CSF(small ball) offense.
What do you think of the Titans chances of making a deep run in the tournament?
Aaron Fitt: These Titans feel a lot like Oregon to me — they really don’t dazzle you, but they’re both darn good baseball teams that play very hard and know how to win. There’s a lot to be said for that — those are the kind of characteristics that carried Oregon State and South Carolina to titles in recent years, though I don’t think
Fullerton and Oregon are as good as those Beavers and Gamecocks teams. Just making the point that scrappy, mentally tough teams have a way of overachieving relative to their talent levels.
- Francis (Chicago): Aaron,
So now that Tulane has crept into the top 50 for RPI after sweeping Southern Miss, how are they looking for an at large bid?
Aaron Fitt: The case is coming together, Francis. I still don’t love it — I think that RPI is likely to go down in the next
two weeks against Marshall and Houston, and that 4-10 mark against the top 50 is not real pretty. But I’m not sure I’ve got 64 more deserving teams right now… We’ll see in tomorrow’s Stock Report.
- Scott (Minnesota): If Utah Valley wins out they
have to be in the tournament, don't they? It would mean they would have won 37 straight games to finish their season! They have wins over Arizona and Arizona State. Opened their season with 19 road games. Played a solid non conference schedule including 3 games at Cal St. Fullerton. Yeah, some of their competition in the Great West leaves something to be desired but they have won by 5 or more runs in 14 of their 20 conference games. Last year's "cinderella", DBU. This year......UVU?
Aaron Fitt: I’m on board, Scott!
- Catherine (South Carolina): At the beginning of
the season, South Carolina was 1-5 in the SEC, and now they are tied for first place in the conference. What do you think has changed as far as offense and defense that has gotten the Gamecocks this far?
Aaron Fitt: The newcomers (Greiner, Dantzler, English, Pankake, even Vergason) have come into their own — I think that’s the biggest thing. They just had a lot of talented new players that needed to adjust to the SEC, and I think they have done so.
- JD (SC): Is there going to be a more exciting end of season series than USC-LSU? I can't imagine both teams even thinking about their upcoming competition. With the Cocks being the home team, I'm thinking they win the series 2-1. What say you?
Aaron Fitt: It’s going to be a fun series regardless, but there’s a chance there might wind up being very little on the line if both teams look like national seed locks heading into the weekend.
- Steven (Montgomery, AL): Hey Aaron, huge Auburn
fan here. Just wondering what you think Auburn needs these last 2 weeks
to make the NCAA tourney. I would like to think 3-3 at Arkansas and vs Florida plus some mid-week wins would be enough. Maybe a win or 2 in the
SEC tourney? Honestly I'm not very optimistic right now, but would like
your thoughts. Thanks.
Aaron Fitt: You are right to be pessimistic, I’m afraid
— the wheels have really come off the Auburn at-large bandwagon. The Tigers have now been swept three times in the league, they’ve lost four of their last five series, they’re back in the mid-60s in the RPI, they’re just 8-14 against the top 50, just three games over .500 overall
— there aren’t any real positive indicators here. The series wins against LSU, Ole Miss and MSU feel like an eternity ago. I’m not at all optimistic that Auburn will go 3-3 against Arkansas and Florida — but if it pulls that off to finish 13-17, there is still a chance.
- Steve (Greenville, SC): Shouldn't the best 8 teams be national seeds and it not depend on what confrence your in? If the SEC has4 teams that are worthy shouldn't they get 4 national seeds? If its 3 forecasting it out who do you see as the odd man left out?
Aaron Fitt: The thing is I don’t think the RPI should be used to determine unequivocally who the best teams are, for reasons I’ve already explained. If four SEC teams wind up with four of the eight
best resumes overall (not just the best RPIs) — and that could very well happen — then I agree, all four should get national seeds. That doesn’t mean the committee will see it the same way, though.
- Josh (Vail, CO): Hey Aaron, thanks for the weekly chat! My Seminoles have dominated the ACC thus far, but with two
quality clubs coming up for the end of the season, how do you see them finishing out? National Seed lock at this point? I think we'll be very
hard-pressed to keep that ACC loss total at 2.
Aaron Fitt: Oh, definitely a lock — no question. Maybe
FSU won’t finish with just 2 ACC losses, but I don’t see them losing those final two series, either. That’s a darn good baseball team, and clearly the class of the ACC.
- Bryan (Baton Rouge): Aaron, After a posting a 3-1 week, do you still have SE Louisiana included in the NCAA Field? The Lions have been fairly consistent all season and have not lost more than 2 games in a row. However, the RPI still seems to be slowly trending downward. Will 40 wins again this season finally get them into the tourney?
Aaron Fitt: That RPI is trending downward, and if you compare them with another bubble team in the same regionï¿½Tulaneï¿½you have
to give the Green Wave the edge for going 3-0 in midweeks against the Lions. That said, Southeastern is still 11-4 against the top 75 (Tulane is 9-11 in those games, though Tulane has done a better job taking care of business against the teams outside the top 150). I still think Southeastern has a solid shot if it wins this series at Sam Houston State this weekend, but that series might wind up being make-or-break.
- Mike Wallace (Charlotte): We know Strouman, Rodon, Gausman are your top pitchers right now...where would you put Ok States Andrew Heaney and Miss St Chris Stratton in that mix?
Aaron Fitt: I think you just named five of the very top
candidates for first-team All-America honors, and frankly Heaney, Stratton and Rodon are probably at the front of the list.
- Carlos (San Diego, CA): How does USD's Andrew Daniel (.351/.396/.490) compare with freshman infielders nationally?
Aaron Fitt: Really nice offensive player — love the quiet approach and line-drive swing. He needs to become a more consistent defender (he has 19 errors, but I feel like he has not made very many of late). Certainly in the mix for freshman All-America honors.
- Jim (Georgia): Who do you think wins the SoCon tourney? App St is probably going to end up #1 seed, CofC #2, Samford #3, Elon #4 and then WCU and GSU. Western has won the first 2 games at Elon but it is too little too late. Ill take Samford
Also how many get in? 1, 2, 3 or 4? Could the SoCon benefit from Asun,
Sunbelt only getting 1 team and possibly Southland only getting 1.
Aaron Fitt: I picked Samford early in the year; I’m not
sure, but I might have jumped off that bandwagon at some point during the middle of the year — I’m back on it now! Samford is charging hard, and I think its power bats and power arms could be separators. Certainly, though, I also like ASU and CofC — all three strike me as regional-caliber teams. Elon has fallen off; they’ll most likely fall out of my field of 64 in tomorrow’s Stock Report.
- Josh (Vail, CO): Hi Aaron, what are you hearing
about James Ramsey's draft status? Has his senior year improved his stock from last year when he was a 20-something rounder? And how about Jayce Boyd?
Aaron Fitt: Ramsey has managed to improve his stock considerably; he’s got sandwich-round buzz. Boyd is more of a 10th to 15th-round talent, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him wind up back at FSU for his senior year. He’s a R/R first baseman who lacks standout power — not a great pro profile.
- JT (Maryland): Seems like another lean year for
collegiate shortstops (then again, when was the last deep class?) UVA has two intriguing candidates - Chris Taylor and Stephen Bruno? Thoughts on their draft prospects? Bruno, in particular, intrigues me. If you believe he can play short, isn't his combination of offense and defense as intriguing as Nolan Fontana's, and wouldn't he offer a better
bat than Deven Marrero?
Aaron Fitt: I suppose last year wasn’t bad for college shortstopsï¿½two first-rounders (Levi Michael and Joe Panik) plus Brad Miller, Nick Ahmed and Jace Peterson in the second round. 2008 comes to mind too — Gordon Beckham, Ryan Flaherty, Danny Espinosa, Chase D’Arnaud and Brandon Crawford were all college shortstops who have since
reached the big leagues (though generally not as shortstops). Anyway, I
like Taylor as a top-three-rounds kind of guy — chance to stay at shortstop, strong arm, good athlete, a little speed and surprising pop. I
don’t think most people see Bruno as a shortstop — more of a second baseman down the line, though he does have arm strength and athleticism.
- Dave (Eugene, OR): How likely is it for Oregon State to host a Regional? Their series wins over Stanford and UCLA are impressive, but their loss to USC last week really hurt.
Aaron Fitt: You’re right — the Stanford and UCLA series wins put Oregon State in the discussion, but the USC series loss and getting swept at Arizona State do hurt. The problem is, due to a combination of conference standings and RPI, Oregon State is clearly behind four other teams in the Pac-12 (Oregon, UCLA, Arizona, Stanford).
I don’t see the Pac-12 getting five hosts (remember Fullerton as a likely fifth Western host), so the Beavers need to finish stronger than Stanford, and I think Stanford’s remaining schedule is a bit more favorable.
- David (Seal Beach, CA): What are your feelings on the Long Beach State Dirtbags? They began the year 6-14 (9 of those 14 losses by one run) and now are 17-7 since that time (with 4 of those 7
losses by one run), for an overall record of 23-21. They have won 7 straight weekend series and they are 11-4 in conference and trail the Fullerton Titians by one game. They play each other in the final weekend
of the season. Do the Dirtbags need to win the conference to get a bid into the postseason?
Aaron Fitt: Probably. The next two weeks will be RPI drains (Davis and Pacific), the overall record is still an eye sore, and
so is the 4-11 mark against the top 50. Winning the automatic bid is still the likeliest path to regionals for the Dirtbags — but they have at least put themselves in the at-large mix, a possibility that would have been pretty hard to fathom six weeks ago.
- Jbly (Chapel Hill): Who would you consider the top 3 closers in college baseball this year?
Aaron Fitt: In no particular order, Corey Knebel, Michael Morin, Michael Wagner, Austin Maddox. I know that’s four, but I can’t narrow it down to three right now!
- Kam Mickolio (Japan): Where's Utah Valley? How long would its winning streak have to be for them to get in the rankings? Or in the NCAA tournament?
Aaron Fitt: I hope you’re the real Kam Mickolio, and if
you are, I hope you’re enjoying Japan! Utah Valley is a legitimately good club, but the Great West jut doesn’t afford it many opportunities to build a top 25-caliber resume. All but one of these 28 straight wins have come against teams outside the top 100 in the RPI, and all but three against teams outside the top 200. Putting together a streak that long against anybody is impressive, but the Wolverines are still just 2-5 against the top 50, so they’re really not in the mix for a Top 25 ranking. UVU’s RPI has climbed to the point that, if it keeps winning out, I hope the committee is suitably impressed by the winning streak to
give it an at-large spot even if its RPI is in the 60s or so — below standard at-large range.
- Arnie (Tallahassee): Adam Brett Walker seems too athletic to waste at 1B? Looked to smooth against FSU in outfield. Your opinion.....
Aaron Fitt: He is a good athlete for his size, but he is also a huge man. I think he could play a corner outfield spot, but I also think first base is an underrated defensive position — if you’ve got a big guy with athleticism there, that can save your infield a bunch
of errors. And as he gets older, I suspect he’ll lose the mobility required to roam the outfield.
- Kevin (Eugene, Oregon): What are the chances for Oregon to get a National seed?
Aaron Fitt: Very strong.
- Tom (Fort Worth, TX): What should be TCU's outlook on the postseason? We've built some momentum against lesser competition but will it hold up in regionals and possibly super regionals?
Aaron Fitt: TCU strikes me as a No. 3 seed in a regional with a chance to make a little noise if that offense can put it
all together and play up to its talent level. But right now I don’t see
TCU winning a regional — the offense has not yet clicked, and the pitching is good but not really special like it was two years ago.
- Elijah (San Diego): How good is Kris Bryant? I mean, is he the best pure hitter in the sophomore class or what?
Aaron Fitt: He is a real blue-chip stud — Rich Hill compares him to Andrew Luck in today’s Golden Spikes Spotlight, in Three
Strikes over on the College Blog. Check it out!
Aaron Fitt: OK, that’s all for today. Thanks to you all for the outstanding questions, as usual!