College Top 25 Chat With John Manuel

Moderator: John Manuel will chat about the new Top 25 and anything college baseball at 2:30 p.m. ET.

 Q:  Marc from Austin asks:
Just
back from Stillwater, where Texas dominated OSU and became the 1st team
to sweep the Pokes in Allie P Reynolds since it opened. Our pitching
was nails, and we dominated without our Top 4 hitters having their A
game. Give me your impressions of Texas, anyway Texas does not get a
Top 8 seed ? Omaha bound ?
 A: 

John Manuel:
Hey guys . . . I’ll do my best to pinch-hit for Aaron Fitt this week as
he’s out West watching what appears to be some great baseball.
Meanwhile, we didn’t get a chance to see Texas dominate OK State, but
the numbers speak loudly on their own. Adrian Alaniz is having an
outstanding year, and his big-game experience will come in handy in the
postseason. Texas is dominating the Big 12 and doesn’t seem to have too
many holes. To me, it’s a lock Top 8 national seed, and I’ll be shocked
if they aren’t Omaha, but the Longhorns have to do it on the field, not
in the rankings. That’s the great thing about college baseball; we’ll
find out on the field.

 Q:  Josh from North Carolina asks:
How
do you continue to ignore what CofC and Western Carolina have done
versus quality SoCon competition and continue to honor West Coast teams
such as UC Irvine and the other average teams that seem to continue to
be ranked once they have a good week? I think it is getting a little
rediculous that the West is getting so much love for average seasons.
 A: 

John Manuel:
Josh, just for what it’s worth, I just checked a different poll with
one of those teams ranked 30th and the other not ranked; I hope you
sent e-mail that way too. Glad you think the Big West is “average” or
that West teams are “average.” I see West teams in Omaha every year,
and I don’t see a lot of Southern Conference teams making it. I respect
Charleston quite a bit but it’s had to rank 25 teams when you honestly
think teams 15-35 are all pretty similar. We have to draw the line
somewhere. How is Charleston more deserving than, say, Charlotte, which
beat the Cougars 2 out of 3 in a series? Charleston went 15-2 in April,
that’s loud. It’s a top 25-caliber team. We just have 25 spots. Western
also is hot and its non-league schedule’s a bit more impressive,
actually, but it got swept by Charleston. Both are regional-caliber
teams, but for me, not in the top 25.

 Q:  Josh Mitchell from Lumberton texas asks:
Can you give me the top 8 seeds as of right now? Is Fsu in trouble with there starting pitching?
 A: 

John Manuel:
I’ll give you an informed opinion . . . I only wish I had the power to
name them. Vanderbilt, Rice and Texas are locks for me, with Arkansas
an all-but lock. That’s half the battle. I see two of the three ACC
teams getting top 8 seeds, but not Fla. State, UVA and UNC. I’m going
with UVA and UNC. Florida State’s non-league RPI hurts, but more
important, its schedule looks tough with trips to Maryland and Georgia
Tech sandwiching a series against Clemson. It’s the toughest road left
of the 3 teams. The other two spots look way up in the air, but I’ll go
with Arizona State (Pac-10 2nd place, good non-league schedule) and go
off the board with San Diego. Gotta respect the Toreros, whose RPI will
keep improving as Texas keeps winning. The committee won’t care if that
happened in February, all that will matter is that it happened, and
that team is playing lights-out right now (11-3 in April). Oregon State
might be on the outside looking in as far as top 8s go thanks to that
sweep at Arizona.

 Q:  Dave from NY asks:
How
many teams do you think the Big East will have going to the tournament
this year? And how big is the matchup between St. John’s and Louisville
this weekend?
 A: 

John Manuel:
That league actually looks deserving of three bids this year; it’s hard
to tell a difference right now between Louisville, Rutgers and St.
John’s. It’s unusual for the league to get three bids but not unheard
of. In a year where the SEC and CUSA are a little down, though, this
may be the year for the Big East to get extra bids. Obviously
Louisville-St. John’s is huge since those teams are a game apart in the
standings. Louisville’s team ERA was under 3.00 the last I checked, and
this weekend they showed impressive resolve by winning a series despite
the first bad start of the year by junior righty Zach Pitts. St. John’s
identity of late has been great pitching, and sophomore Scott Barnes
gives them that this year, but this is a powerful offense, all over the
NCAA leaderboard, and in this 11-game winning streak the Red Storm is
on, the fewest runs scored in a game is four. So you have the classic
pitching vs. hitting weekend matchup; I’ll pick pitching and go with
the surprisingly deep Cardinals staff. I still think Rutgers is
regional-worthy too but the Scarlet Knights have work to do after
losing that series to Notre Dame.

 Q:  Eric from Huntington Beach asks:
Boy
what a weekend!!
The Big west is the best I have seen ever. I have been a fan for 20
years. Long Beach and Riverside are definitely on the inside track with
a huge series on the weekend of the 18th of May. I see it as wide open
and anything can happen.
In your opinion who comes out and gets the big west, regional, and
super regional? Long Beach seems to have the inside track because of
their RPI rating at 5.
 A: 

John Manuel:
The Big West is wide open . . . not sure there’s an Omaha team in the
bunch, but I also think at least four teams are deserving of regional
bids. Cal Poly probably can’t get an at-large bid, but if Cal Poly wins
the league, if the rest of the schedule breaks right, I could see the
league getting five bids. That would be historic and it also makes more
sense to me than giving the SEC nine bids in a year where the SEC is
clearly down. Still, there’s no dominant team in the Big West. Aaron
thinks UC Irvine is the most complete team in the league; I’d probably
go with UC Riverside but the reality is, there IS no complete team in
this league. One of them will have to dominate on the bump to get to
Omaha. Fully healthy, Riverside has the best staff. LBSU and Fullerton
are always threats because of their coaching staffs and the way they
play.

 Q:  Justin from Monterey, CA asks:
Fullerton
fell from #15 to out of the top 25 this week. Has any team taken this
big of a fall in the rankings before, in a one week span? I know they
went 1-3 on the weekend, including being swept by #25 UC Riverside, but
I thought two of the three losses to Riverside could have gone either
way.
 A: 

John Manuel:
Justin, it was a tough call, but look at Fullerton’s overall resume and
compare it to other teams at the back of the rankings. Every time we
matched up the Titans with those teams, we came down on the side of the
other team. Close losses, yeah, but a loss is a loss. They got swept.
Matching CSF up with LBSU (better in the league at 7-2) and UCR and UC
Irvine (both won head-to-head series with Fullerton and are even or
better in the league), we chose those other teams. Other teams have
fallen out from that perch but it’s rare; it’s not something we like to
do.

 Q:  Bob from St. Louis asks:
With
Missouri now in sole position of second in the big 12, granted they
have a tough schedule remaining, how are they not even ranked in your
top 25?
 A: 

John Manuel:
Lots of great questions in the queue, hope I get to them guys, but
thanks. Missouri was a tough call; its league wins can’t be ignored,
but saying that, Mizzou has yet to play Texas or OU or OK State, and it
lost 2 of 3 to Texas A&M. So yes, it’s second in the Big 12, but it
hasn’t played (or played well against) the other contenders for that
No. 2 spot. And one win against Arizona State in non-league play is
really all Mizzou has going for it outside that Big 12 record; just
couldn’t pull the trigger.

 Q:  John from Fort Worth, TX asks:
TCU
looks like a team on a mission and not even all of their injuries are
going to hold them back. If they win out is there a chance to host?
What are Demel and Arrieta’s chances of hearing their names called in
the 1st round? Thanks for taking my questions
 A: 

John Manuel:
TCU helped its cause to sneak into the back as a host, maybe it’s a NO.
2 seed host with USD or some such as a No. 1 seed. They helped on the
field with a key sweep of SDSU and a record crowd at Lupton Stadium.
TCU can earn a host site if it keeps dominating its league and puts in
a very competitive bid, and if the committee is open-minded. For me,
Texas and Rice are locks; a third regional in the Lone Star State would
be fine by me but TCU probably is contending with the Oklahoma schools
and Mississippi or Mississippi State to be a host, and those schools
(a) draw more fans and (b) have traditions as good regional hosts. Taht
cannot be overlooked.

 Q:  BL from Bozeman, MT asks:
Hi
John – Nice to have you back for a college chat, thanks a lot. It
appears that the strongest factor keeping Creighton from the top 25
with 11 straight wins and a 30-11 records is non-conference strength of
schedule. If that’s the case, do the Blue Jays – or any team with
geographic restraints similar to Creighton’s – earn some sympathy
points for playing on the road for the first month of the season, where
TCU made only two weekend trips out of their home state?
 A: 

John Manuel:
Thanks Bill . . . the main thing keeping Creighton out is how hard it
is to rank these teams, so much parity. Creighton has won 11 straight,
it’s very impressive, but it’s tough to say, “Hey, they swept Northern
Colorado,” or a .500 Indiana State team. Also, when they play all those
games on the road, it’s not that different from Michigan or Minnesota.
We have ranked Michigan obviously and are close on Minnesota, just like
we are on Creighton. I do think the Blue Jays are a regional team, and
that Evansville has played its way onto the bubble. I think the MVC
should earn three bids though, it’s a good league this year.

 Q:  BL from Bozeman, MT asks:
As we head toward conference tournaments, what are the handful of teams you’re looking at as fighting for at-large bids?
 A: 

John Manuel:
hey again Bill and thanks in the last question for the kind words. The
SEC and CUSA are very interesting for me to watch their league
tournaments and see who’s in and who’s out. The SEC probably will get 8
bids even with seven deserving teams; heck it might get nine bids. You
never know with the committee. CUSA is wide open; Central Florida and
Marshall are playing spoiler, with UCF sweeping Tulane this weekend,
putting Tulane in deep trouble, and Marshall having won 2 straight
league series from Houston and Memphis. Right now, that’s a 3-bid
league, with Rice, Houston and ECU, I don’t think Memphis and Tulane
are in at this moment, but they and Southern Miss could play their way
in. All bubble teams. Fitt details the SEC in 3 strikes, check that
out.

 Q:  Daniel from San Diego asks:
So how good is the 1-2 punch of Matusz and Romanski? Is there a better FridaySaturday rotation in the country?
 A: 

John Manuel:
Very good obviously, we have USD in the top 10. As for 1-2 punches,
there aren’t a lot out there, are there? Arkansas’ weekend rotation is
up there though, with Schmidt, Welker and Todd, I like the ‘Hogs trio a
lot, and Schmidt with either one is formidable as a tandem. Wichita
State might have the best one with Banwart and Schafer, but of course
Shafer is a bit banged up. I also like Zack Putnam and Mike Wilson at
Michigan. Another interesting tandem is Dan Moskos and David Kopp,
whose draft stock is rising, at Clemson.

 Q:  Logan from Marysville, GA asks:
Cory
Gearrin had another 2 saves and another great weekend. (Joe Smith
anyone?) I keep seeing the Fields’ and Pelzer’s perform poorly. Who do
you rank as the top 5 closers for this years draft after Weathers?
 A: 

John Manuel:
Pelzer’s been OK but blew up as a starter yesterday. I saw Fields the
other day on TV against Georgia Tech, his fastball was electric, I
still think he’ll go higher than Gearrin because of the pure heat and
what he did last summer; he’s missed Roger Williams, his pitching coach
last year, and his summer slider morphed into a not-so-good curveball
this year, a major issue. Eddie Kunz and Brett Cecil are right at the
top in closers for me, and Gearrin might still be just outside the top
5, but we had Cory in the top 60 college prospects in November and he’s
made that prediction look good. Hard to argue against him. Another
closer who’s come up this spring is Sam Demel at TCU, another more
conventional power arm. I’m a sucker for low arm-angle guys though . .
. I mean, I like Colter Bean, for crying out loud.

 Q:  Warren from Texas asks:
Josh
Fields is slipping in the draft rankings and not putting up the numbers
he did from last year. What is the difference in his “stuff” from last
year to this year? Does he still project as a closer in MLB? Beau Mills
draft stock, on the other hand, seems to be improving. What has changed
for him? Thanks for the chat.
 A: 

John Manuel:
I just touched on Fields in the last question. Man his arm is quick;
I’d draft him if he asks for a reasonable bonus (he is a Scott Boras
client but a lot of Boras clients sign for slot, so being a Boras
client does not equal tough sign necessarily). Beau Mills has hit for
three years; he hit at Fresno State too. Then he hit in Alaska. He
hits, and this draft has precious few hitters. That’s why his stock has
risen, supply and demand. Plus, he’s a lefty bat with a chance to play
third, two advantages he has over Matt LaPorta, a right-right first
baseman.

 Q:  Bruce Wayne from Gotham asks:
In
terms of long term mlb potential who would you rather have LaPorta or
Smoak. Also what type of numbers does each realistically project to hit.
 A: 

John Manuel:
Smoak switch-hits and has a better glove; he can do more. Will he hit
like LaPorta has this year though? I like Smoak better but it’s a
question worth asking the way LaPorta hit in ’05 and is hitting this
year.

 Q:  Jeff from NYC asks:
Manhattan
College, the team that beat Nebraska last year in the Lincoln Regional,
is 17-0 in conference. If they finish the year at 24-2 in the MAAC, do
they still need to win the conference tournament to get a bid? I know
the the MAAC is a one bid conference, but shouldn’t an incredible
season like this be recognized, even if they have a poor showing in the
MAAC tournament? Thanks
 A: 

John Manuel:
great question Jeff. I wrote a column about it back in 2002 (I know,
half of you probably were in middle school back then . . . sigh). I’d
like to see teams that dominate their leagues in such fashion get
at-large bids. What Manhattan did last year probably shouldn’t have
anything to do with it, it’s a different team. I do believe when
programs and coaches do it over and over again over time, the committee
should take that into account, but one year isn’t a trend. First things
first: Nick Derba & Co. need to keep winning, keep owning the MAAC.
Then worry about at-large bids.

Moderator: Here’s the link to that column, by the way: http:www.baseballamerica.comonlinecolumnistsmanuel0212.html

 Q:  Michael from Starkville, MS asks:
Looking
at Mississippi State’s schedule from here to the end of the season,
what do you think our chances of hosting a regional are?
 A: 

John Manuel:
I think losing that series to Ole Miss really hurt; hard to see the SEC
earning 5 regional hosts. No one has asked but I’ll venture with my 16
hosts right now: Vandy, Fla. State, UVA, Rice, Texas, N. Carolina,
Arkansas, Oregon State, Wichita State, Arizona State, Texas A&M,
South Carolina, Michigan, Texas Christian or Texas A&M (tough
call), plus UCLA (if it wins the Pac-10, if not Arizona) and either
Long Beach or Fullerton. OK State’s home sweep hurts . . . OK State
still in the mix too. It’s not easy, I don’t envy the committee’s
choices.

 Q:  Paul from Chicago asks:
Are
there any teams that are starting to get hot, that are ranked real
high, that could be World Series contender? Also, how is Michigan
ranked that high? They have played one team in the top 25 and got beat!!
 A: 

John Manuel:
Paul, I guess you mean teams that are NOT ranked high . . . so Omaha
sleepers, that’s how I’m taking this question. I’m a believer in the
two Big 10 teams this year, Minnesota and Michigan, as real threats, as
well as College of Charleston and UC Riverside. It wouldn’t shock me if
TCU got hot though the offense there is a bit banged up. As for
Michigan, it’s amazing how some fans never think we should rank
Northern teams. Michigan’s 30-8; that doesn’t happen in baseball often.
It won 3 straight out of the gate at Bethune-Cookman, a solid team; won
at Mississippi State; lost to USD; split two with Troy; and beat
Oklahoma. All before it ever practiced outdoors, not to mention playing
a home game. The Wolverines have won 24 of 26. I think that’s
impressive. That’s how they are ranked that high.

 Q:  Allan Shaver from Zebulon, NC asks:
John,
please assess North Carolina’s chances of being a national seed &
how they need to finish to maintain or improve to host a super
regional. Thanks.
 A: 

John Manuel:
Huge week for North Carolina, to beat ECU, beat High Point’s ace Eammon
Portice and then win 2 of 3 at NCSU after Robert Woodard was hammered
on Friday night. The Tar Heels’ remaining schedule is rather favorable,
with a home series against Ga. Tech and a roadie at Maryland. If UNC
wins both series, to me it’s going to be at the back of the top 8
national seeds, despite a rather easy, home-loaded schedule. It’s a
pretty complete team, a better defensive team than last year’s model,
with a deep offense and deeper (but not as good) pitching staff than
the ’06 team.

 Q:  David from Charlottesville asks:
With
my Cavaliers now 12 game ahead of UNC in their division in the ACC,
does that cement the likelihood of them hosting a super regional (if
the manage to get out of the regional round finally?) Also, any chance
Doolittle, with his down year, sticks around for another year?
 A: 

John Manuel:
I do think there’s a chance Doolittle comes back, don’t know what the
bonus demands are, but when juniors have years like his, not playing
quite up to scouts’ (and their own) expectations, and they don’t have
prototype pro bodies, these are the kinds of guys who come back as
seniors. Virginia is, as I’ve said, in the driver’s seat for a top 8
seat compared to UNC (UVA won the head-to-head) and FSU (better
non-league schedule, better schedule the rest of the way). Thompson
gives them a bona fide ace, the lineup is deep, and Doolittle is a
winner.

 Q:  Anthony from Corvallis, OR asks:
If Oregon State does not win the pac-10, what are their chances of hosting a regional if their record ends up around 42-14?
 A: 

John Manuel:
Still think the Beavers will host on their body of work, even if they
finish 2nd or 3rd in the Pac. That Arizona sweep is the only blemish
really for the Beavers all year . . .

 Q:  Kendall L from Hanahan S.C asks:
Do you think South Carolina can bounce back from two series losses and if they do, do you consider them a national seed?
 A: 

John Manuel:
I do because of Ray Tanner & Co., great coaching staff. But the
Gamecocks have to find some pitching. Gotta hold a 10-2 lead; just no
excuse there. But S. Carolina has a good schedule to play with
Kentucky, at Tennessee and home to Georgia. Those are all winnable
series, not easy but winnable.

 Q:  Jackson from Dallas, TX asks:
So what should we take from the Texas Ok State series? Is Texas pitching that good or was Ok State’s offense overrated?
 A: 

John Manuel: The former; Texas is just really, really good.

 Q:  james m from bradenton, fl asks:
John, who are your 1st team AA pitchers at this point? Where does Bryan Henry fit in?
 A: 

John Manuel:
Good one . . . Adam Mills of Charlotte starts the team, he threw a
one-hitter this weekend and has an ERA of 0.97. David Price is on
there, I can go for Bryan Henry, plus UVA’s Jacob Thompson and USD’s
Brian Matusz. Henry has competition from Adrian Alaniz (UT), Kyle
Nicholson (TAMU), and Arizona’s Preston Guilmet.

 Q:  John Walters from San Diego, California asks:
I’ll
be direct with this one …what are the chances of the Toreros being an
Omaha bound team this season!!? Thanks! I love your chats..
 A: 

John Manuel:
John, I’ll pass that compliment on to Aaron and finish the chat by
saying yes, USD is a legitimate Omaha contender, that’s what happens
when you get some seniors to stick around after being drafted as
juniors and get guys like Matusz, a 4th-round pick in HS, to come to
school. Rich Hill got the job done at San Francisco but has really done
an amazing job at USD. It’s not quite Chatham ’92 but it’s close . . .

 Q:  Bill from NC asks:
Do
scouts really care how players do in the summer leagues? It seems the
only focus is on the Cape becuase thats a league full of big name
scools. Do scouts even look that hard at the other leagues and why does
it seem that guys that have good summers not get a far look just
because they are not from a big school or in the Cape?
 A: 

John Manuel:
Bill, of course they do. Just was talking with a scout today who
dropped some summer college knowledge on me for a player in his area
that I didn’t know. We search long and hard to find scouts for our
summer college top 10s, but we find ‘em, and that is a key part of
projecting whether a college hitter will hit with wood, and also
whether or not a pitcher will adjust to working inside and pitching off
his fastball, rather than working away, away, away and pitching away
from contact against metal bats. Other leagues than the Cape get
scouted, in some cases heavily (Northwoods, Alaska just to name two).
We did like 16 summer league top 10s last year, so yes, scouts notice
and so do we.

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