Baseball America

College Top 25 Chat With Aaron Fitt

Moderator: Aaron Fitt will discuss Baseball America’s preseason Top 25 at 2:30 p.m. ET.

 Q:  Dave from Manhattan asks:
Tulane is finally back home to Turchin stadium this year after two years! How do you see the Greenwave’s season shaping up? Do you think a strong recruiting class and a number of transfers will bring the program back to it’s prekatrina levels?

Aaron Fitt: Hello everyone, and welcome to the year’s first Top 25 chat. I’ll try to get to as many questions as I can.

Aaron Fitt: I really think last year was an aberration for Tulane, and there’s no reason to think this program can’t get right back to where it was before Katrina, especially now that beautiful Turchin Stadium is ready to go. Tulane got a great group of transfers to rebuild their depth, and the power arms combined with an experienced group of position players gives Rick Jones plenty of reason to feel very optimistic about his team’s chances heading into the season. I think Aaron Loup will have a major breakout year coming off his big summer in the Clark Griffith League, and Robby Broach could be one of the nation’s best freshman pitchers when it’s all said and done.

 Q:  Dave from Atlanta asks:
Which pitching duo has the most pro potential: UNC’s Alex White and Matt Harvey, Missouri’s Aaron Crow and Kyle Gibson or Mississippi’s Lance Lynn and Cody Satterwhite?

Aaron Fitt: Wow, terrific question. I think I’ll go with Crow and Gibson by a hair, because I wouldn’t be at all surprised if those guys went No. 1 overall in back-to-back years. Right now, Gibson and White are fighting for the top spot (along with Stephen Strasburg of San Diego State) on my ’09 top 50 college prospects list, and Harvey is an obvious No. 1 on my 2010 list, so I’d go with UNC’s duo next. Lynn and Satterwhite probably have the most combined pure arm strength of the three, but I rate them a little lower because Lynn doesn’t quite have the electric arm those other guys have, though he’s very, very good, and I’d like to see Satterwhite refine his command a little bit. If he does, he could conceivably be the best arm off all of them.

 Q:  eric from houston asks:
Why such a low ranking for Arizona State.

Aaron Fitt: The Sun Devils only return four starters among their position players, and while Wallace, Davis, Paramore and Roling are very good, there are other questions in that lineup, particularly up the middle. Replacing Sogard and Romine really will not be easy — those guys are the biggest reason ASU led the nation in fielding percentage a year ago.

 Q:  Dave from Atlanta asks:
What ever happened to South Carolina’s Nick Fuller and Lonnie Chisenhall?

Aaron Fitt: Chisenhall landed at Pitt (NC) CC, and I understand that Fuller is at Walters State (Fla.) JC. Fuller was sentenced to 18 months probation, plus community service and restitution, but I haven’t seen if Chisenhall has been sentenced yet. Don’t expect any jail time.

 Q:  herman from sc asks:
Where is last year’s regional hosting Coast Carolina University? How Come they arent preseason ranked? They kept more than they lost dont you think?

Aaron Fitt: I really like Coastal, and I think that team is clearly the favorite to repeat in the Big South. David Sappelt and Tommy Baldridge are terrific players who lead an offense that should be solid, and Bobby Gagg is back on Friday nights, but they did lose two-third of the weekend rotation, plus Chris Raber and his 17 homers, plus Dom Duggan and Matt Rademacher, so there are some questions there. I think David Anderson will move into the rotation and be solid, and we considered Coastal quite a bit for the top 25, but in the end I’d like to see how some things shake out there before ranking them.

 Q:  Sean from Brea, CA asks:
Aaron, I must have just missed the spot where Cal State Fullerton was ranked, right? The Titans have finished the season #9, #3, #9, #1 and #3 by Baseball America in the last five years? Isn’t that a fairly convincing trend?

Aaron Fitt: Convincing, indeed. And while I do think history is important, we are evaluating the team for 2008, and I think Fullerton has some serious question marks, particularly on the mound. Remember, last year’s Fullerton team struggled through the regular season and wasn’t far from missing out on regionals, before getting hot in the postseason and reaching the CWS. That team lost its two best players in Clark Hardman and Wes Roemer, not to mention its leading home run hitter in Nick Mahin and a very solid, experienced catcher in John Curtis. I really like the potential that Gary Brown and Christian Colon bring (especially the electric Brown), but those guys are freshmen, and it may take some time for everyone to settle in. And the weekend rotation after Kaplan has some serious questions. I think Michael Morrison could emerge as a quality starter, but I’d like to see a track record of a little more success there. Same goes for Arbiso. I fully expect the Titans to be in the top 25 at some point this year, and at this point I would never write the Titans off, because I wouldn’t be shocked if they reached Omaha with their coaching staff. But there are some serious questions, and I don’t think it’s a preseason top 25 team.

 Q:  Tom from San Diego asks:
It looks like the Pac 10 is solid from top to bottom this year. Do you see Stanford working its way back into the Top 25 this year or in the near future. Also, why is USD not in the top 5 with that proven pitching staff and the additional help they brought in with the freshmen class? Thanks for your insight!

Aaron Fitt: Looks like an incredible year for the Pac-10. We’ve got four teams in the top 10 from that league, and we seriously debated USC, Cal and Stanford as well. Stanford has a lot of talent, and I think the Cardinal will be back in the rankings this year. Bleich, Inman and Davis has a chance to be a boffo rotation, and I love their outfield with Ratliff, Gerhart and August. Erik Castro and Brent Milleville need to have big years for them as well, and both are capable. As for USD, they have the best pitching in the nation, and I think their offense will be better at the end of the year than it will be early, but there will be some growing pains in the beginning. The Toreros lost their three best hitters in Abruzzo, Snyder and Buschini, and it will be very tough to replace that production. It all comes down to a pair of talented freshman corners, Victor Sanchez and Stephen Kaupang.

 Q:  Joe from Easton, MD asks:
A little off-topic, but could you see Grant Green putting up the type of season that catapults him to being the best SS in the country?

Aaron Fitt: Absolutely. Incredibly talented player on both sides of the ball, and I expect him to take the leap this year. Between him and Brandon Crawford, folks out in LA will get to watch two of the most exciting shortstops in the nation this year.

 Q:  Joe from Easton, MD asks:
Alvarez, Smoak, Alonso: Top 3 college hitters? Anyone else even close?

Aaron Fitt: Honestly, no one else even comes close to matching the combination of power and average that those three guys deliver, with the possible exception of Allan Dykstra and Brett Wallace. To me, those are the next two guys on a list of the best college hitters.

 Q:  Joe from Easton, MD asks:
Obviously UCLA has enormous talent but should there be concern over the fact that basically this same team looked so inconsistent last year?

Aaron Fitt: First of all, it really isn’t the same team. Without Jermaine Curtis, UCLA really struggled last year; with him, they were a completely different team. He really is the glue guy there, and he’ll be ready to go all season. Secondly, their rotation should be much better, now that Charles Brewer’s mono is completely behind him and Tim Murphy has a year of experience. He’s always had electric stuff, but he learned to become a much better pitcher this summer and fall. Third, that was just a young team last year, and they overcame all sorts of adversity to reach a super-regional. That’s exactly what you hope to see from a young team, and now they’re a very experienced, supremely talented team. There’s no reason to think they’ll be inconsistent again. We realize UCLA is a bit of a bold choice, given their record a year ago and given the more popular choices out there for No. 1, but we think UCLA will be the nation’s best team, and we ranked the Bruins accordingly.

 Q:  Joe from Easton, MD asks:
Brandon Crawford’s horrible 2007 summer: reason for concern?

Aaron Fitt: Reason for motivation. He’s out to prove people last summer was a fluke, just like Kyle Russell a year ago after his brutal summer in the Cape. And just look how great of a year Russell had in 2007. Talking to John Savage this fall, the things he said about Crawford coming off that summer reminded me very much of what Augie said about Russell coming off his summer a year before. I expect a monster year from Crawford.

 Q:  Mark from Starkville asks:
Despite the bulldogs absence from the preseason top 25, what are there chances of making some noise this year with a strong returning pitching staff and pretty good hitting? also, is ole miss as good as advertised?

Aaron Fitt: Mississippi State might actually have one of the top pitching staffs in the SEC, with Pigott, Crosswhite, Bowen in the rotation and Weatherford overpowering in the bullpen. I just worry about the offense after losing their three best hitters in Easley, Moreland and Rea — those guys were the foundation there. I still think it’s a regional team, however.

 Q:  Andrew from Prescott, AZ asks:
ASU’s offense or UofA’s Pitching? Which is more doninating?

Aaron Fitt: Arizona’s pitching, assuming Ryan Perry lives up to his mammoth expectations. Guilmet, Perry and either Coulon or Colla is just amazing, and Stoffel is a beast at the end of games. ASU’s offense will be very good again, but second base, shortstop and the corner outfield spots are questions. I think Kipnis will be great in center, and I have faith that Newman and Sontag will be solid on the corners, but there are no guarantees with those guys, and I wouldn’t expect much production out of the middle infield.

 Q:  Kevin from Los Angeles asks:
Where do you Ryan Babineau’s draft stock at right now? You are not going to find a better defensive player and his bat continues to develop.

Aaron Fitt: His defense alone will make him a top-five-rounds pick, in my opinion, and he said a few weeks ago that he’s made some mechanical adjustments at the plate that have him feeling very confident offensively. If he has a good year with the bat, he could go in the second round or supplemental round.

 Q:  SekShocker from Iola, KS asks:
What made you put Wichita State at #20 instead of in the top 10? Do you think they have what it takes to make it to the CWS this year?

Aaron Fitt: Great pitching staff, but a lot of questions with the offense, and Gene Stephenson will be the first to tell you that. Their offense was just OK a year ago, and they lost Sublett, Brown and Schermerhorn. Players like Dusty Coleman, Ryan Jones and Cody Lassley have a lot of potential but need to prove they can do it. I do really like Conor Gillaspie and Josh Workman in that lineup, assuming Workman stays healthy. That might be the greatest X Factor with the Shockers, the health of Workman and Shafer (he’s fine now, but he’ll need to stay that way all through the year).

 Q:  Ace from Detroit, MI asks:
I was pleasantly surprised to see Michigan ranked #8. What is the overall strength of the Big 10 this year? Who are Michigan’s top challengers?

Aaron Fitt: Michigan is a big favorite in that league, but as usual, expect some competition from Ohio State and Minnesota. The Buckeyes have a few questions in the lineup but should be very strong on the mound behind JB Shuck, Jake Hale and a healthy Dan DeLucia. The Gophers are the opposite, with plenty of experienced contributors back in the lineup but plenty of new faces on the mound. I also think Penn State could make a run, and keep an eye on RHP Drew O’Neil for the Nittany Lions, a guy that could really climb some draft boards.

 Q:  jake from baton rouge,la asks:
how will LSU do this year

Aaron Fitt: I really think the Tigers are an interesting sleeper this year, thanks to their dramatic overhaul with that dynamite recruiting class. Expect newcomers like Jordan Brown, Ryan Verdugo and Austin Ross to make immediate impacts on the mound, and D.J. Lemahieu, Matt Clark, Rene Escobar and Chad Jones to do the same in the lineup. In particular, I think Clark and Brown could have monstrous years, and if they do and the other guys contribute, LSU could really make a run this year.

 Q:  Wayne from Houston asks:
Where does TCU fit into your rankings? I know they lost a lot but do you see them competing for a Super or how do you see them finishing up this year? Thanks for your time

Aaron Fitt: The Horned Frogs lost a lot, but I still think they’re the favorites in the Mountain West. I think the rotation will be solid with Seth Garrison on Friday nights, Steven Maxwell coming off a fine summer in the TCL going on Saturdays, and exciting newcomers Andrew Cashner and Greg Holle competing for the Sunday job. The infield should be solid, and the return of Matt Carpenter from arm surgery will be crucial to the offense. Good club, certainly a regional club, I think.

 Q:  Joey from South Carolina asks:
What’s your reasoning behind having teams like UCLA and Oregon State ranked above teams like Arizona State (CWS back to back) and Miami?

Aaron Fitt: Because it’s not just about offense (although you could make a case that UCLA will have a better, more balanced offense than ASU). Especially with the compacted schedule, pitching depth will be crucial, and Miami is sorely lacking in that area, despite an offense that I think is the best in the nation. I love the arms at UCLA and Oregon State, even though some of them will be young arms — at least they’re young power arms, and those guys can carry teams a long way. ASU does have some good pitching as well, though the Sun Devils can’t match UCLA for depth, and there are those other concerns I’ve already addressed.

 Q:  Jonathan from Memphis asks:
How will Clemson’s young team this year stack up against the other powerhouses of the ACC?

Aaron Fitt: Like you said, it’s a very young team, but a very dangerous one — I really like their pitching staff. The key will be how well this team discovers its offensive identity throughout the year, but I think guys like Addison Johnson, Wilson Boyd and Ben Paulsen could have breakout years, especially Johnson. And don’t underestimate the importance of having Widmann back.

 Q:  paul from ny asks:
Yikes!!Believe it or not Aaron there is college baseball played east of the Mississippi and north of the Mason Dixon Line.I thought since you were the last rankings out you would have had more time to come up with the selections.

Aaron Fitt: I do think you can make a case for St. John’s in the top 25, and I think Notre Dame could surprise some people thanks to a very talented pitching staff, but outside those guys and a few Big Ten schools I’ve already talked about, there isn’t an awful lot else up that way that excites me. (I’m considering Kentucky and Louisville below the Mason-Dixon line, which I believe they are. Both those teams should be good as well.)

 Q:  Mike Mieszanek from Greenville, NC asks:
How high do you see East Carolina rising in the ranks this year?

Aaron Fitt: It all depends on those new arms. Obviously we’re placing some faith in Matt Cox and Justin Bristow and Sthil Sowers to put ECU in the top 25, and if those guys hold up, I think ECU’s offense will do more than its share. Dangerous team — one of my favorite sleepers of 2008.

 Q:  James from Chippewa Falls, WI asks:
How do you think the universal start date and subsequently more mid-week games will effect the college game? Does this give a natural advantage to teams like Rice and San Diego that have a starting staff that goes 4-5 legit starters deep?

Aaron Fitt: You nailed it on the head. Also Arizona and Mississippi will have enough pitching depth to really thrive with the compacted schedule.

 Q:  James from Chippewa Falls, WI asks:
There has been some talk that Cole St. Clair will be used as a starter this year, particularly since Bryan Price started to get batters out with greater efficiency last summer. Does Rice stick with him as their closer, or will he see some weekend starts this spring?

Aaron Fitt: I still think he stays in the bullpen. I don’t know why the Owls can’t start Price — he made a few starts in the TCL this summer and seemed pretty strong, and his stuff is potentially very very good.

 Q:  Brian from Phoenix asks:
after the Dirtbags, the only Bg West team in the 25, who else is close?

Aaron Fitt: Fullerton, obviously, was in strong consideration for the top 25. Irvine and Riverside return some good parts, and UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly could be sleepers this year.

 Q:  Red from Fullerton asks:
Do you really think that Old Dominion is better than Fullerton? Not much respect for a team that has made the college world series four of the last five years.

Aaron Fitt: Stack Fullerton’s pitching staff up against ODU’s, and it’s not even close, I’m sorry.

 Q:  James from Chippewa Falls, WI asks:
Some big tournaments kick off the beginning of the college season in Tempe, Houston, San Diego and Minneapolis. Of all of the projected matchups, Shooter Hunt of Tulane vs. Brett Hunter of Pepperdine may be the most intriguing matchup in the least unexpected locale (Minneapolis). What other matchups during the early part of the season are stacking up to be the best on paper at this point in time?

Aaron Fitt: Nice call — I love the field up in Minnesota. Also, how about the field in San Diego the weekend of Feb. 29? You’ve got potentially Aaron Crow against Tyson Ross, Kyle Gibson against Stephen Strasburg, and Tanner Scheppers against Brian Matusz. Wow.

 Q:  Dave from Dallas, Texas asks:
What is the biggest question mark for Ole Miss this year? And what new additions do you see having the biggest impact?

Aaron Fitt: I don’t think there are a lot of question marks in Oxford. Obviously the pitching staff should be one of the nation’s best, but that lineup is awfully darn good also, with Power and Overbeck and Henry all back, plus crucial additions in Michael Guerrero and Michael Hubbard. I think both of those guys will have big years — just terrific high-impact transfers.

 Q:  Brendan D. from Atlanta, GA asks:
What do you expect from Georgia Tech this season? Are there any specific players you expect to have a big season for the Yellow Jackets?

Aaron Fitt: Could be a sleeper thanks to a very solid pitching staff. I like the David Duncan, Eddie Burns, Zach Von Tersch weekend rotation quite a bit. The key will be how guys like Ussery and Dupart develop as sophomores, and how Derek Dietrich handles starting shortstop duties as a freshman.

 Q:  Johnny from Dallas asks:
How far out was OK State on the list? Tough to see an ODU, East Carolina, or Lousianna-Lafayette ahead of the boys in orange, although the Ragin Cagins have been good for awhile.

Aaron Fitt: Oklahoma State was another of those teams we considered strongly. I think the offense will be excellent, led by Jordy Mercer, Matt Hague, Luis Flores, Rebel Ridling and Dylan Brown, and I think Andy Oliver could become a true ace on Friday nights, but I’d like to see a few more proven commodities behind him. The two Tylers, Blandford and Lyons, really need to take steps forward this year. If they do, Oklahoma State could make a deep run.

 Q:  Nick from (SF) asks:
Aaron: As a former Gaucho, I have to ask… how does UCSB stack up this year? Thanks.

Aaron Fitt: You know, that’s a real interesting UCSB squad. The Gauchos should be strong up the middle with Chris Fox in center and Chris McMurray behind the plate, plus a sophomore shortstop who should take a step forward in Matt Valaika. Mike Ford should be solid on Friday nights, and they’ve got a couple of sleepers on the mound in Mario Hollings and Mike Martin. Hollings, who redshirted last year, has lots of life on his 88-91 mph fastball and deception in his delivery, and Martin has made a strong recovery from Tommy John surgery and could give UCSB a quality midweek guy. They’ll need it going up against all those strong teams on the West Coast.

 Q:  A. Smith from Jackson, MS asks:
What do you see for Southern Miss this year with 3 teams from CUSA in the preseason top 25?

Aaron Fitt: That should be a good club, a regional club I’d say. Good experience back on the mound with Barry Bowden, David Clark and Tyler Conn (all seniors), plus a lineup that has some firepower in star first baseman Trey Sutton, outfielder Michael Ewing and DH Trey Cuevas.

 Q:  Mack from LA asks:
Pepperdine completely out of the top 25? What are their strengths/weaknesses?

Aaron Fitt: Not to label half of Division I as sleepers, but this is defintely a sleeper for 2008. The weekend rotation is loaded with big-time power arms in Brett Hunter, Scott Alexander and Nate Newman, and freshman Cole Cook is another. Other than Hunter, most of those guys still need to prove themselves at the D-I level, but their potential is through the roof. And there’s some experience in that lineup with D’Arnaud, Thames (breakout candidate, mark my words), Donald Browy, Heroy and Duron. Juco transfer David Harris has serious tools and is another guy to keep an eye on. Very dangerous club, and I think a certain regional club.

Aaron Fitt: OK everyone, that’s all for today — really enjoyed the questions, as always. We’ll be back with our full college preview bonanza in about two weeks, after we wrap up our Top 10 Prospects tour with the American League West.

College | #2008 #Chat

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