Aaron Fitt: Hi everybody — I’m on the road again today, and recovering from the flu, so it’s been a hectic College Monday. I’ll chat for about a half hour, then hand off to John Manuel for the rest of the chat. Let’s get going.
Jeff (D.C.): Your mid-major entrants into last week’s ranking fared about as well as the past mid-majors to make the ranking: Gonzaga (2-3), GA Southern (2-2), Houston (2-2) and South Alabama (1-3). Thankfully, Cal Poly’s has a knack for pulling out 1 run games at home against RPI 212. Do you think the high turnover rate at the bottom of the rankings indicates a large drop-off after the top 10-15 teams? Or is it simply the result of poor prognostication?
Aaron Fitt: I do think there is a significant dropoff after the first half or so of the rankings. We’ve had a lot of churn at the back of the Top 25 all year, and that’s because there are a lot of good but not great teams out there. We have tried to reward teams at the back of the rankings based on results, not prognostication — but there just aren’t 25 rock-solid teams out there that are good enough to be ultra-consistent week in and week out.
Donnell (Baton Rouge): Aaron, big series this weekend with LSU and UK. Which team has the better pitching rotation, which team has the better offense and who do you like in the series.
Aaron Fitt: I’d give LSU the pitching edge on Friday and Saturday, but Corey Littrell might be the best Sunday starter in the nation, so UK gets the edge in that one. I do like LSU’s offense better — that unit is fearsome right now, with speed, power and depth. LSU is really rolling right now, and I do like the Tigers in that series.
Brad (Chicago): I understand the RPI formula was modified to give greater weight to road games. Are the 2 UNC/BC games that had to be moved to Boshamer considered road games for UNC?
Aaron Fitt: No, those are home games. Considering BC’s struggles this year, you can make the case that moving that series to Chapel Hill hurt UNC more than it helped, because UNC probably would still have won that series easily on the road, and been rewarded more for it in the RPI.
Ryan (Charlottesville): Hi Aaron, Tweeted this at you and John, but figured I'd ask here as well. The umpiring in the UVA-Miami series was as bad as I have ever seen, with bad calls going against both teams and the strike zone changing pitch to pitch. O'Connor got thrown out in the top of the first of game 3 for arguing balls and strikes on a 3-2 pitch that was called a ball after the team completed what would've been a strikeout-throwout DP. He had finally lost his patience with the a crew that had been incompetent all weekend. Sadly, inconsistent strike zones and mediocre or worse umpiring seems to be the norm in college baseball. What are your thoughts on this and is there anything that can be done about it?
Aaron Fitt: We did address this in the podcast, but I’ll add my thoughts here too. I think umpiring in college baseball is generally pretty average — these are not major league umpires, after all. But I think the umpiring is rarely atrocious, and that bad calls very rarely determine who wins and who loses. As a general rule, I think fans tend to get way too fixated on umpiring. There are going to be good calls and bad calls, but those guys are doing the best they can, and generally I think they do a decent enough job.
Tim (Brentwood TN): I have been to every Vandy home game this season. Tyler Beede looks like a completely different pitcher this season as he is maintaining velocity all game. Can he challenge Rodon as top pitcher in 2014 class?
Aaron Fitt: He has a marquee pedigree, certainly — it’s not a stretch to envision him becoming the top pitcher off the board next year. The reports I’ve heard agree that his velocity has been outstanding, and I’m impressed with his knack for getting out of trouble, but he needs to cut down his walks, or eventually that’s going to catch up with him.
TJ (Missouri): Missouri State pitcher Nick Petree is not listed on many draft prospect lists although he led the nation in ERA last year and is following it up with a stellar start to this season (4-0, 0.86). Where do you see him falling in the draft?
Aaron Fitt: That’s a good example of the difference between pure statistical evaluation and scouting. Petree might be the best college pitcher in the country, but he’s a mid to upper-80s righthander, and you don’t see a lot of guys like that having tremendous success in the big leagues. But he really knows how to pitch, he has solid secondary stuff, and he will get a chance in pro ball. And given his track record of performing, I’m not going to bet against him working his way up the ladder.
Jordan (New orleans): Do you think Alex Bregman will win freshman of the year?
Aaron Fitt: Yes I do. He’s hitting .442 at a major program, slugging over .600, and playing a strong defensive shortstop — as a freshman at LSU, with all the pressure that comes along with that. The guy is just a superstar.
Bill (Atlanta, GA): Tough blow for Brandon Thomas and the Yellow Jackets. I would hope this won't hurt his draft prospects as a senior, assuming he returns for the last month of the season and post season.
Aaron Fitt: Yeah, he was obviously having a really nice year, and I feel for him. Mononucleosis is tricky — sometimes it can ruin a player’s season, and other times guys return from it more quickly and get back to form. But he has a pretty established prospect track record, so I think he still has a chance to be a good draft pick, especially as a cost-saving senior.
Mike Green (Toronto): Who do you think is the better pitcher right now Jonathan Gray and Chris Anderson and why? How does their stuff compare? How much consideration should we give to the fact that Gray plays in the Big12 while Anderson plays in the much weaker Atlantic Sun conference?
Aaron Fitt: I think Gray is more consistent and a little more explosive — Gray sits at 94-98 and regularly bumps 100, while Anderson is more 90-96. They both have good sliders, they both have improved their changeups, but from what I hear, Gray’s secondary stuff is probably a little better. The A-Sun isn’t a bad league this year, and Jacksonville has had some tough nonconference games (Anderson beat TCU, UCF and ECU), so I don’t think the caliber of competition is that much of a factor.
Drew (Mississippi): Will Ole Miss bounce back from this two week skid or were the Rebels way over rated? This upcoming week will be huge for them!
Aaron Fitt: I still like the Rebels, but I want to see better performance out of Mike Mayers and (obviously) Chris Ellis. We ranked that team very highly in the preseason largely because we thought that would be an elite rotation, but after Bobby Wahl, it hasn’t been elite lately. Yes, getting Vandy at home is a very big series this weekend — I imagine Swayze will be rockin’ for that one, and I suspect Ole Miss will play better. Of course, the Rebels struggled to hit this weekend, getting shut out in the final two games of that series, and Vanderbilt’s stellar pitching staff is not exactly the cure for a broken offense…
Greg (Orange, CA): Hi Aaron, thanks for the chat. Any worries about UCLA and their staff after this weekend? They gave up a bunch of runs to ASU
Aaron Fitt: No worries. That’s a hitter-friendly environment, and Arizona State’s bats got hot — tip your cap to them and move on. UCLA’s pitching is pretty reliable, I think, but it’s not like they’ve got Cole, Bauer and Plutko going Friday through Sunday. This staff is not as overpowering, and there will be days when they get hit.
Stewy (Virginia): Between North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida State, do you believe that the ACC will actually win a WS title? It seems that there are always high-ranked ACC teams throughout the season and then no ultimate result....
Aaron Fitt: One of these years, the ACC will actually win a championship — that conference produces too many great teams year after year for this drought to continue forever. South Carolina had never won a championship before 2010. Fresno State and Oregon State had never won championships before they broke through. Are you telling me that North Carolina and Virginia and Florida State are incapable of breaking through and winning their first championships, just because they play in the ACC? That just doesn’t make any sense. Those teams have a track record of getting to Omaha, and they have all been in positions to win championships, but have not ultimately closed the deal. That will change, whether this year or next year or some other time down the road.
Steve L. (Albany, OR): I hope you are feeling better. The Beavers sure need Smith back at SS! What is your prediction for the UCLA road series?
Aaron Fitt: Thanks — I’m on the road to recovery, but still not 100 percent. You’re right about Tyler Smith — he is such a key part of that team, and Andy Peterson made some costly errors at shortstop in Smith’s absence this weekend. I could see that UCLA-Oregon State series going either way. Suddenly, Oregon State’s pitching doesn’t look quite as invincible, and the defense obviously misses Tyler Smith. A week ago, I would have said I like Oregon State in that series, even on the road. Now, I’m not so sure… could go either way.
Mick (Chicago): B.A.'s preseason top 50 in each class looked very grim for shortstops. Have any emerged nearing the half way point of the season?
Aaron Fitt: It is grim! But thank goodness for the freshman class — Alex Bregman, Mikey White, Dansby Swanson and A.J. Simcox, to name a few, all have intriguing long-term potential. And Bregman, of course, is already a star.
Todd (Nashville): Aaron, Can you talk a little about Brian Miller of Vandy and his projectability? Obviously the numbers are staggering, but does his unusual 2 pitch arsenal have a place at the next level? Do you see the 90-92 MPH FB showing up more next year to validate him for scouts?
Aaron Fitt: He’s been a major weapon this year, obviously, and I definitely think there is a place for funky low-slot guys like him in professional bullpens, because he does have solid velocity and very good life on his fastball, and his slider is effective against righties. I don’t think he’s an elite prospect, obviously, but he’ll definitely get a shot at the next level, and in the meantime Vandy is very lucky to have him.
BawlmerBeav (Not lecturing, and we're all happier for it): Did the Oregon State-U. San Diego series this past weekend establish anything other than the first team to win the race to 6 errors is probably going to lose?
Aaron Fitt: Also that San Diego can be a very explosive offensive team, and when its bats get hot, look out. USD is clearly a flawed team — that defense remains a concern, and the starting pitching after Wagner — but that offense makes the Toreros dangerous against anybody.
Jake (Oakland): With the lack of college bats, is Andrew Knapp a first rounder? Switch hitting catcher who hit two bombs this weekend, seems like he is heating up. Thank you for the chat!
Aaron Fitt: I don’t think so. Sounds like scouts aren’t sold on his defense behind the plate — he’ll probably have to move to another position in pro ball, which impacts his stock significantly.
Tom (Columbia, SC): Did the Gamecocks calm some fears by sweeping A&M? While it's a little early, do you think they have what it takes to take on LSU and UF on the road and be in the position to potentially host a Super?
Aaron Fitt: Yeah, I didn’t think there was any big reason to worry last week anyway, but I imagine folks in Columbia are feeling a little better this morning. LSU and Vanderbilt look like the class of the SEC right now, but I don’t think there’s a huge gap between those teams and Kentucky, South Carolina, Arkansas and Ole Miss. All of those teams will be major factors for hosting and competing for national seeds.
Aaron Fitt: OK folks, I’ve got to run — John Manuel will take it from here. Thanks for stopping by!
David (Laguna Niguel, CA): Glad to see you have Cal Poly in the top 25 mix. If Poly can somehow pull off winning their series with Fullerton and win the Big West conference title, do you think they could be granted a regional host despite a lesser schedule? Is their facility good enough for the committee?
John Manuel: Hey everybody, Aaron had to check out on this hectic Monday, I’ll take about 15-20 minutes worth of questions to wrap the chat. David, Cal Poly is not a likely regional host with an RPI of 51 that likely won’t skyrocket in the Big West. It seems like Cal Poly more often that not is a team that was regional-caliber but left out over a lower-than-it-should-be RPI. So just getting into regionals is a plus for the program. And the way Fullerton is playing, I think you put it well — “somehow pull off” might be what it takes to take down the Titans.
GoNats (Virginia): Aaron - How much does the record versus Top 25 Teams factor into the rankings? It seems before conference play gets going in earnest that it ought to be a good indicator, but I see teams with poor (Oregon, S. Carolina, GT, ND) or very limited (NC, UH) records vs. Top-25 that are still ranked in the Top 20, some even very high. If they are playing an easy early season schedule (NC, Ind, FSU, Hou), shouldn't they have a good W-L record overall?
John Manuel: It’s a factor, or else we wouldn’t list it. Think of it as shorthand. For example, those teams that beat Mississippi State (and there are four of them!) all get Top 25 wins, but going forward, the Bulldogs aren’t a top 25 team. Same team, and we try to consider that when we do the rankings. We do try to look at overall schedule strength. Oregon, for example, I wouldn’t call 2-4 poor considering it was Vanderbilt at home and at Fullerton—went 1-2 in both series, which frankly is about what is reasonable to have expected. Bigger question for me re: North Carolina, for example, is that it’s played just six games away from home due to BC series change. But team has lost once all year. No matter the schedule, that’s impressive. Aaron talks Indiana in the podcast if you want to go into more there, but a 22-3 team from the North that won a series at Florida early in the year and has played all of 5 home games, I would not call that schedule “easy.”
Alan (Newport Beach): Michael Lorenzen, watched him over this past weekend. He is the real deal. Your thoughts on Michael Lorenzen?
John Manuel: Aaron also talked about this in the podcast. I can add that I talked to an evaluator this past week who noted Lorenzen’s swing has improved, and he’s getting to his raw power more frequently, as evidenced by 15 XBH and 5 HR, one at Blair Field. I’m a fan, love the athleticism and obviously the arm, and if he keeps this up with the bat, he’ll go good in the draft. Also putting himself in the College POY mix considering how much he means offensively and in the bullpen to a top 5 team.
Vin (Las Vegas): Hope you're feeling better, coach Vanderhook is doing an excellent job so far at Fullerton and did a a great job as a hitting coach while at UCLA, why did it take so long for him to land a head coaching job?
John Manuel: Best way to put this is that Hookie is not warm and fuzzy. He was not a guy who was built to win the press conference like athletic directors want. He can rub people the wrong way with his direct nature; I think that’s a fair way to put it. He’s a great baseball mind though and obviously is doing a tremendous job with the Titans.
Ryan (Chapel Hill, NC): What's Benton Moss' ceiling?
John Manuel: Pretty high, heard he was throwing harder this year, heard he was up to 94 yesterday. Moss throws strikes, spins a breaking ball that he commands and that gets swings and misses, he’s cerebral (he’s at UNC on a full academic ride) … lots of things to like about him. Give it up to Nathan Rode, he was all over Benton Moss back when he was a high school junior. Quite the 1-2 punch with Emanuel atop the UNC rotation
.Matt (south carolina): Afternoon Aaron. Seems to me Nolan Belcher's K/BB ratio is pretty much unfathomable. Does this type of ratio occur regularly, or is it as rare as I think it must be?
John Manuel: It’s rare, no doubt. That said, Thomas Eshelman at Fullerton has no walks in 50 innings, though he doesn’t have Belcher’s K rate. But yeah, your reaction to be impressed is very fair.
WISM (NYC): Aaron and/or John: How about that Brian "Dramamine" Miller. The sidewinding righty was up over 90MPH on the gun several times against UT and has had his Frisbee slider working all year. After 5 scoreless innings in picking up the win in relief of Ziomek against UT, his numbers on the year are now 4-0, 8 saves, 16 games (all games finished), with only 2 BBs and a .196 BAA in 27.2 innings. What other closers have dominated as much as Miller and which of them most of the unconventional variety (i.e., not over the top flamethrowers and/or fastball-slider guys like Sherfy)?
John Manuel: We also talked Miller on the podcast. Dave Berg at UCLA is a similarly low-slot joker who was an All-Americn last year and has similar numbers this year while closing. As some of you may know, I have a long-time love of #submarineclosers that I probably should blame on former North Carolina coach Mike Roberts, who had submariner Thad Chrismon when I was in school saving a ton of games in 1993 and then had Derrick “Lerch” DePriest doing the same in the late 1990s; others I have been fond of in the past include Auburn’s Colter Bean, Miami’s Jay Tessmer and Tulane’s Brandon Belanger. Of course South Carolina’s John Taylor was the best of recent vintage — peep his 2011 season: 8-1, 1.14 ERA, 50 G, 71.1 IP … he was a weapon.
Daniel (Columbia, SC): How do you explain the 0-3 record the Gamecocks have last week against Arkansas and then turn around and go 3-0 against the Aggies?
John Manuel: That’s baseball …
Alex D (Toronto): You mentioned a couple freshman SS that project to be above-average players, but what about Sophmore Trea Turner? He was injured for a bit, but has come back strong, and before his injury was tearing the cover off the ball. Is he high on draft boards for 2014?
John Manuel: When healthy, Trea Turner is the best position player in college baseball, and for me he’s as good a prospect as there is as well. If you want to nitpick on him, he needs to go to his right better. But watching him Saturday, he may not be 100 percent for the Wolfpack right now but his swing looks good and he’s moving fairly well. He’s a potential No. 1 overall guy next year; Rodon is not the only guy on that team who could go 1-1 overall. Amazing.
Carlos (San Diego): Kris Bryant has either driven in or scored over 40 % of his teams TOTAL run production ! He is on pace for over 70 walks a la Anthony Rendon and is averaging a HR every 7 at bats and has 10 INT BB already . Is there a more feared hitter in the NCAA than him ?
John Manuel: I don’t know about feared, but for me he’s the top position player in the junior class from a combination of bat (both present and future), solid athletic ability (dude plays CF when Lechich pitches for Toreros) and overall tools.
John Manuel: OK, guys, time to check out. Been a busy day and a new chat page on the relaunched BaseballAmerica.com and we’re still working out a few things. But thanks for the questions, your interest and your patience. Have a good week and we’ll do it again next Monday!