Preseason Top 25 Chat

Q:  Chris from Goleta, CA asks:

What are your thoughts on UCSB this year?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Hello everyone. Thanks for joining me on this historic day (and snowy
day here in North Carolina!). I’ll try to answer as many questions as
possible, but please stop by again on Thursday to see our Top 25
capsules, which give detailed breakdowns on all of our preseason top 25
teams. Let’s get to it!

Aaron Fitt: UC Santa Barbara is
one of my favorite sleepers for 2009, and if we had ranked 30 or 40
teams in the preseason instead of 25, the Gauchos would certainly have
been included. I love the weekend rotation of Ford, Hollands and
Gardner, and the lineup contains quality veterans like Brian Gump,
Shane Carlson, Eric Oliver and Robbie Cummings. That’s a team that can
realistically contend for the Big West title.

 Q:  Bryan from San Francisco asks:

What
can you tell us about Kyle Witten at Fullerton? I’ve heard he might be
the Friday guy. Does he have that kind of stuff? Thanks!

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Staying in the Big West for a moment, Witten certainly has Friday
starter stuff, with a four-pitch mix that includes a solid 88-92 mph
fastball and good two-plane slider. He’s just the kind of quality
veteran JC transfer that Fullerton has had plenty of success with over
the years, and I see him battling Daniel Renken for that Friday spot.

 Q:  Calvin from Des Moines, IA asks:

Any bright spots for Gonzaga this year? Can they battle USD et al for an NCAA berth?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
The WCC is going to be very competitive this year, and Gonzaga should
be right in the mix with USD, Pepperdine, Santa Clara and a few others
for regional bids. It’s a team with some extremely promising freshmen
(Ernesto Ortiz, Royce Bollinger, Ryan Carpenter) but also some steady
veterans (Drew Heid, Matt Fields, Evan Wells, Ryan Weigand). The WCC
should be a strong three-bid league this year, but it’s probably got
four to six teams that I see as regional-caliber clubs. St. Mary’s
could be another sleeper, San Francisco should be solid, and LMU has
some very good players as well, though probably not enough depth.

 Q:  Dale from Fayetteville, AR asks:

Will Arkansas have the pitching to contend in the SEC-West? What impact will Zack Cox have as a two-way player?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Clearly we believe in the pitching at least somewhat or else we
wouldn’t have ranked the Hogs in the top 25. TJ Forrest is a key
newcomer for them to go along with Dallas Keuchel and Mike Bolsinger in
the weekend rotation. It’s not a spectacular rotation, but it should be
decent enough, especially with the power and defense that club should
have. Cox and Eibner are two of the nation’s most exciting two-way
players, and both will figure prominently in the bullpen, with
fastballs in the 90-93 range.

 Q:  James from Knoxville,TN asks:

Tennessee
brings back a lot of talent from last year including top prospect
Kentrail Davis. How do you see them doing in the SEC this year?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Put Tennessee in just about any other conference, and I think they’re a
very strong regional contender. But that conference is just so deep, as
usual, that the Vols could have some trouble climbing the standings,
and I don’t have them pegged in my field of 64. I certainly won’t be
too surprised if they make a regional though, thanks to Davis and the
Hernandez-Morgado duo atop the rotation. I like Cody Hawn as a breakout
candidate too — very nice power bat.

 Q:  Bob from Chicago asks:

I
was curious why you don’t have Coastal Carolina in your Top 25. Is it
because of the Bobby Gagg situation? Do you see a significant drop off
for the Chanticleers after losing Doyle, Andrelczyk, Baldridge etc?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Once again, Coastal is the heavy favorite in the Big South, an
experienced club with power, speed and solid pitching. Gagg is a key
piece though, the veteran anchor they need in the rotation. Him being
declared eligible is critical.

 Q:  Taylor from Houston asks:

We’re
pretty pumped down here in Houston with the quality of ball this year -
TAMU, UT, Rice, Baylor, Houston – and we’ve even got Irvine and UCLA
visiting MMP! But Texas A&M is #1, huh? They’re pretty solid. Can
we expect 3 Super Regionals within 3 hours of each other come June? A
4th in Waco might be a stretch?! Thanks.

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Yeah, Minute Maid is absolutely going to be the place to be that second
weekend of the season — what an incredible field. Three
super-regionals in Texas is entirely possible, but I’d say four is
extremely unlikely. I think it’s more likely that those four teams are
all in Omaha than that they’re all hosting supers — the committee does
like some geographic diversity, and somebody’s got to finish third in
the Big 12, no matter how talented all those teams are.

 Q:  Steve from San Francisco asks:

What are your predictions for the 08′ World Series participant Stanford Cardinal?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I worry about the lack of punch in the offense without Castro, Molina,
Ratliff and Phelps. We are betting that Stanford’s pitching and defense
will be solid enough to make the Cardinal a contender in the Pac-10,
but they really need guys like Gerhart and Kaskow to take steps
forward, too.

 Q:  mark from scottsdale,az asks:

How is oklahoma state not in the top 25 and oklahoma is? how can that be justified?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Andy Oliver’s situation is a major question mark with Oklahoma State.
Even if he is ruled eligible and is allowed to play, the Cowboys will
have a dynamite weekend rotation but a very inexperiened bullpen and
plenty of unproven pieces in the offense. After Medchill and Belza, who
are you going to hang your hat on in that lineup? OSU has plenty of
potential, but the Sooners are a safer bet — more quality veterans in
the lineup, and plenty of power arms on the mound also.

 Q:  Will from Greenville asks:

ECU! Not in the top 25?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Nope. I do like the Pirates as the No. 2 team in CUSA, with a very
strong lineup, but pitching questions kept them out of the top 25.

 Q:  Andrew from Boston asks:

I
guess it is understandable leaving Fresno State out of the top 25 since
they lost some good players. But I’d like to know BA’s specific reasons
for leaving the Bulldogs out.

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
It’s completely because of the pitching. Fresno lost its top four
starters and its senior closer. I really like the guys they’ve got back
in the lineup, but we’ll wait to see how guys like Holden Sprague, Sean
Bonesteele and Jake Floethe do in the weekend rotation before running
the Bulldogs back into the rankings.

 Q:  Woody from Westwood, CA asks:

Not
certain about you rankings. Can UCLA replace Alden Carrithers, Jermain
Curtis and Brandon Crawford? Are you assuming the pitching will pick up
the slack?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
UCLA’s ranking is based mostly on its absurdly deep pitching staff, but
the Bruins should be OK with Tyler Rahmatulla and Niko Gallego in the
middle infield, Casey Haerther sliding to third base and Alex
Weber-Shapiro at first.

 Q:  superfrog from fort worth asks:

Where
do we fit in the rankings would you say? Our pitching staff was pretty
solid last year and remains intact except for Cashner leaving.

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
TCU is another one of those teams that fits into the 25-35 range,
probably toward the top half of that range. I like the power arms, I
like the veterans in the lineup. Just a solid team all around that I
expect will find its way into the rankings at some point in 09.

 Q:  Brett from Princeton asks:

Michigan
lost quite a lot from last year’s squad – Putnam, Abraham, Recknagel,
Christian, etc. What type of year does it look like in Ann Arbor? Will
they be able to challenge for another Big 10 title?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Those are some very big losses, but the Wolverines could still compete
for the Big Ten title with guys like Fetter, Travis Smith and Eric
Katzman in the rotation. The key will be for guys like Ryan LaMarre and
Mike Dufek to blossom into front-line type guys in the lineup.

 Q:  Taylor from Houston asks:

Aaron,
thanks for taking my questions. I didn’t expect Texas to be ranked so
high. Please convince me why you have them at #4. Thanks, enjoy the
chat.

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I love UT’s sophomore class — guys like Chance Ruffin, Brandon
Workman, Cole Green, Kevin Keyes, Tant Shepherd, Connor Rowe and
Cameron Rupp could be in for big years. And they’re surrounded by
steady vets like Austin Wood, Preston Clark, David Hernandez, et al.
Should be a good, balanced, explosive club.

 Q:  ScottAZ from Phx, AZ asks:

Aside from DVontrey Richardson at FSU, Mitchel at LSU, who are some of the best two-sport athletes in the country?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt: Eric Decker at Minnesota and Toby Gerhart at Stanford are the first two that come to mind.

 Q:  Bill from San Diego, CA asks:

Great
to have you guys back! Can the Toreros of USD finally take that next
step and move on to a super regional? They couldn’t do it with Matusz
and Romanski, so how will their chances look in 09?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
It’s amazing that USD never won a regional with Matusz and Romanski,
but that pitching staff could be just as good, or even better, in 2009.
Kyle Blair, Sammy Solis and Matt Thomson are for real, and there might
not be a better 1-2 punch in any bullpen better than A.J. Griffin and
Darrin Campbell. Crazy as it sounds, USD might have a better chance to
get to Omaha this year even without Matusz and Romo.

 Q:  Vinny from Orlando asks:

There are a lot of good teams in the top 25 that I agree with, but where are those Florida Gators?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I like the Gators and see them as a solid regional team and potential
top 25 team as the year progresses. But there are questions with that
club, most notably in the bullpen.

 Q:  Mike from Boston, MA asks:

Big
UK fan here and I was surprised the ‘cats didn’t make the Top 25. They
lost some offense in Cowgill and Carroll but the pitching staff returns
strong and very deep. Please elaborate on why UK is on the outside
looking in. Thanks.

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
That pitching staff has a chance to be amazing with Rusin, Paxton and
Meyer on weekends and Darnell at the back of the pen. Partly, it’s just
a matter of numbers — there are 11 teams in the SEC that you could
make a case for being in the top 25, but there just isn’t room for
everybody. Kentucky will need freshmen Andy Burns and Cory Farris to
mature quickly and give them some offensive punch. If that happens, the
Wildcats will be in the top 25 sooner than later.

 Q:  ScottAZ from Phx, AZ asks:

How good is this class for ASU? As good as 05′ with Walace, Paramore, Davis?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I suppose it’s got a chance to be better, although I’ll hold off on
making that proclamation. Maybe Zach Wilson and Abe Ruiz blossom into
the new Wallace and Davis, and Jordan Swagerty becomes some sort of
Mike Leake/Petey Paramore hybrid, and Zack MacPhee is the new Pedroia,
and Riccio Torrez becomes Christian Colon. But maybe not. Either way,
this should be a fun group for ASU fans to watch.

 Q:  Clark from Los Angeles, CA asks:

Aaron,
please explain UCLA’s high ranking, again. John Savage has proven that
he is a 30-35 win coach. That was his limit at UC Irvine, and that has
been his limit at UCLA. Why is this the year the Bruins will break
trend and actually be a top 15 team? After last year’s debacle of
ranking UCLA #1, I thought you would have learned. Instead you are
leading the Savage train once again. At least Florida State and
Fullerton are actually ranked this year.

 A: 

Aaron Fitt: All aboard the Savage train! Come on, don’t be scared — there’s plenty of room…

Aaron Fitt:
Look, we are going to keep on making predictions based on what we think
is going to happen. We are not going to be timid just because certain
predictions have not worked out in the past. That’s the nature of this
business — sometimes, when you’re putting yourself out there, you’re
going to get burned. But anyone who was afraid to rank Fresno State
last year just because of a lack of postseason track record would have
simply been wrong, as it turned out. At least we had Fresno ranked 18th
in the preseason last year, because we believed in their talent. That
one worked out OK. And if we’re too high on UCLA again this year, so be
it. But I will say this: on the preseason ballots that Pac-10 coaches
turned in to us, the Bruins were the leading vote-getters. So clearly
we’re not alone on the Savage train — the Pac-10 coaches are on there
with us.

 Q:  Pete from San Diego asks:

You guys seem to have skipped over #9 Irvine…what’s your thoughts on this team offense and the killer bee’s on the hill?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Yeah, we didn’t talk much about the Anteaters in the podcast. I love
that offense — those guys are going to be hell to defend, with players
that “can skill it up” one through nine, as Mike Gillespie said. And
Bibona, Bergman and Pettis are fierce competitors on the mound.

 Q:  Bernie R. from Torrence asks:

Pepperdine returns so many starters – what do see as a bigger strength for them this year, their pitching or hitting?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I actually like the lineup better, although it sorely lacks power. The
Waves are built kind of like UC Irvine, with plenty of speed and pesky
outs up and down the lineup. Like Irvine, they don’t have a dominant
No. 1 starter with power stuff, but also like Irvine, they have solid
starters and a proven closer. I just like Irvine’s personnel a little
better.

 Q:  Willie from North asks:

Congratulations
on identifying the talent of Kent State at #18. I like the weekend
power arms(Smith-Stillings-Pokorny) and deep bullpen loaded with LHP.
Their offense should be powerful with Rohan, Klafczynski, Gallas, and
the remainder are all solid hitters with experience and pop also.
The Flashes have all the ingredients, pitching, hitting, power and
pretty good defense.
Keep an eye on freshman Travis Shaw as a potential impact kid and
freshman LHP Andrew Chafin has some great stuff also.

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Those are some good sleepers you identified. I really like everything
about Kent State — it’s more than just those power arms in the
rotation. As you correctly ascertain, that offense should be very
powerful indeed.

 Q:  Bitter Bulldog from Beiden Field tailgate area asks:

Aaron…
Love your work on college baseball. But what a slap in the face to not
throw a -pun intended- bone at the Bulldogs. By the way, that’s the
defending national-champion Fresno State Bulldogs. While I agree the
pitching losses make this team a longshot to repeat, the bulk of the
offense returns with the potential to score runs in bunches. Yet you
rank two mediocre SEC teams, Arkansas and Alabama, put Georgia at 14th
without those Bulldogs’ heart and soul (Fields and Beckham) and tout
both San Diego and Pepperdine despite heavy pitching losses of their
own. If Fresno State were a defending champ from the SEC, Big 12 or
Pac-10 they’d be in your Top 10 right now.

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
It’s no slap in the face. Last year was last year, this year is this
year. Pop quiz: who was the defending national champion last year?
Answer: Oregon State. We ranked the Beavers in the top 10 in the
preseason, and we were wrong; they didn’t even make a regional. Now, I
do believe Fresno will make a regional, but just because you’re the
defending national champion doesn’t mean you DESERVE to be ranked the
following year. It’s not the same team, and it doesn’t have the same
players. We ranked Fresno No. 1 in the final poll last year — that’s
what matters. That was Fresno’s “reward” in the rankings for winning
the title. Everything resets in the offseason.

 Q:  Bill from Tampa, Fl asks:

What rank is Florida? How good will Tommy Toledo be this year?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I’m guessing Toledo won’t be very good this year, since he had
offseason shoulder surgery and is going to miss all of 2009. That is a
really big loss, too.

 Q:  Jared from NC asks:

I
thought Levi Michael was transferring to UNC to play shortstop for them
this spring? Are the Tarheels are going to play Graepel over him, or
split time btw them?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Levi Michael is indeed at UNC, and he’s got a chance to be a very good
player, but it’s unclear as of yet how he’ll fit into the lineup as a
freshman. Right now, the Tar Heels still have Graepel penciled in as
the starter at short.

 Q:  Luke from Des Moines asks:

Aaron,
thanks for the college chat. What do you think Vanderbilt’s chances are
this year? Which of their young players do you expect to step up and
take major roles?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Yet another talented SEC team that couldn’t fit into the rankings but
has a shot to be pretty darn good. The Commodores should have a
terrific pitching staff, with one of the nation’s best in Minor plus
Caleb Cotham and an electric freshman in Sonny Gray. The lineup has a
lot of talented young players who need to prove themselves.

 Q:  Dan from Fairfield, CA asks:

Aaron,
thanks for the chat, always glad to benefit from your expertise! Would
you give us a sneak peek at the top five freshmen and sophomores in the
country?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I have not finalized either list, but some leading contenders for the
freshman list are Gerrit Cole, Alex Meyer, Sonny Gray, Zack Cox and
Brian Humphries. As for the sophomores, let’s go with Matt Harvey,
Kentrail Davis, Victor Sanchez, Barret Loux and Drew Pomeranz, with
shortstops Rick Hague and Christian Colon right in the mix also.

 Q:  Chuck from Wichita asks:

What
do you think of Wichita State’s very young roster, and will they be
able to win the Valley and make the tournament yet again?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
That’s a very young team. I’ve got Missouri State as the preseason
Missouri Valley Conference favorite, but the Shockers might be the No.
2 team in that league if they can mature quickly. I am very high on
their freshman class.

 Q:  John from Charlotte asks:

Two
questions… did Fresno lose THAT much talent to not make the top 25
after winning the national championship?
Could you possibly have given Conference USA any LESS respect? No
Houston? No Tulane? No Southern Miss? No East Carolina? But yet you
rank Kent State in the top 25? Does the MAC even have a baseball
league?
Guess that was several questions

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
There it is! The first chat question of the year to snarkily bash
Northern baseball! I had set the over/under on 30 minutes, but it took
a full hour and 20. I wonder if you were one of the people asking
whether or not Oregon State even had a baseball program a couple of
years ago?

 Q:  Tony from La Mesa, Ca asks:

Will Strasburg get SDSU a playoff berth?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I like their chances to earn at at-large with Strasburg, Nate Solow and
Addison Reed leading the pitching staff. There are questions in the
lineup, but it should be an athletic bunch. I still like TCU in the
Mountain West, though.

 Q:  Tiger Hopeful from Columbia, MO asks:

Isn’t
#10 a bit optimistic for Missouri? Neither Kyle Gibson nor Nick Tepesch
have demonstrated a great deal of consistency to be considered the
anchors of the Tiger rotation.

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I would agree that Tepesch is largely unproven, but his talent is
enormous and I expect he’ll have a major breakout year. Part of what we
do here is try to predict things like that. And I would argue that
Gibson has actually been quite consistent — he has 17 wins and 173
strikeouts in 154 innings to this point. That’s pretty darn good. Also,
Missouri’s lineup has a chance to be better than it’s been this decade.

 Q:  Dave from Manhattan asks:

What can we expect from Tulane this year.

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
The Green Wave has the look of a solid regional club to me, similar to
last year but maybe a bit more consistent. I’ve got them fourth in
CUSA, behind Rice, ECU and Southern Miss. Houston’s got to be in that
mix somewhere, too, and Memphis and Marshall could be dangerous. That’s
a deep league, but Rice looks like the only legit CWS contender, to my
eyes.

 Q:  James from Starkville asks:

Will Cohen’s impact be immedeiate at State or will it take a while?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I suspect Mississippi State is in for a rough transition year — there
are too many other good teams in that league. I’ve got them pegged for
last in the SEC.

 Q:  Steve from Houston asks:

Aaron…Let’s
talk about Houston native Brett Eibner for a second. Is he a potential
1st rounder next year? How would you rate his offensive game?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
He’s got enormous talent — potentially a legit five-tool player. He’s
got power potential, speed, arm strength, and could wind up as a darn
good center fielder. He just needs to continue to refine his offensive
approach.

 Q:  Franklin from Houston asks:

I
am pleasantly surprised with Ole Miss checking in at #6. What does
their lineup look like for this season, especially offensively. Thanks.

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
If you click on Mississippi in the top 25 flash presentation that our
whiz designer Linwood Webb put together, you can look at the Rebels’
projected starting lineup. I think the lineup will be the strength of
that club this year, along with Pomeranz at the front of the rotation
and Bittle at the back of the pen.

 Q:  Doug from Durham, NC asks:

Do
you expect the same kind of progress from Freshman to Sophomore year
for Matt Harvey as Alex White made a year ago? If so, do the Tar Heels
ever lose a series?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I do expect that. But either guy could have a bad outing once in a
while — it’s hard to ever expect any team to go a whole year without
losing a weekend series, which is exactly what UNC did last year.
Pretty remarkable.

 Q:  Royal from Los Angeles asks:

Will the USC Trojans gain a regional spot in ’09?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I believe they will. On paper, that looks like a talented club, led of
course by perhaps the nation’s best player in Grant Green. He could
have an impact on that team this year similar to what Gordon Beckham
did for Georgia last year.

 Q:  Greg from Malibu asks:

Love
the college baseball chat! Will the Pac 10 live up to their billing as
one of the top conferences on the West Coast this year. Zero top 10
teams is a big change for the Pac, but the middle tier teams provide
quality depth no?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
You’re exactly right. I don’t think there is a single dominant team in
the Pac-10 this year, but the depth is very solid. I could see any one
of five or six teams winning the league.

 Q:  Sean from Brea, CA asks:

Aaron,
no Miami? I know they lost just about everything, but isn’t this just a
repeat mistake of last year with Florida State and Cal State Fullerton?
Programs like that have proven they don’t have down years. A down year
at Miami is a 36 win, #2 regional seed. They are always ranked.

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
And I should add that a 36-win season and No. 2 regional seed, followed
by a 1-2 performance in regionals (like Miami had in 2007) is not a top
25 season. I absolutely think Miami can win 36 games again and be a No.
2 seed in a regional again. I do not think that is a top 25 season.

 Q:  Mike from Columbia asks:

Where do you see South Carolina this year after losing so much talent in the infield?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Competitive, probably a regional team. Deangelo Mack, Whit Merrifield,
Parker Bangs, Sam Dyson — all should step forward to help the
Gamecocks keep their heads above water.

 Q:  Ron from San Jose, Ca. asks:

Good
to have this chat back. Was Santa Clara close to being in the Top 25? I
know they have some strong returning players and some promising
newcomers. Thanks!

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
I’m very excited about Santa Clara, and strongly considered them for
the top 25. That offense should be very, very good, and if promising
newcomers JR Graham and Jon Hughes can complement Thain Simon and Nate
Garcia on the mound, that team will compete strongly for the WCC title.

 Q:  jordan from baton rouge, la asks:

most are aware of the potent offense LSU will have this season, but is the team’s defense as good as anyone’s in the country?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
The Tigers are just so athletic, they’re going to get to a lot of balls
other teams wouldn’t particularly in the outfield. They look
particularly strong up the middle, with Gibbs, Schimpf, Lemahieu and
Landry.

 Q:  Maddog from Ashburn, VA asks:

Think
Clemson at #19 is pretty ambitious? Lots of uncertainty on the mound.
Do they have the pitching to get them to regionals? Or should we expect
a lot of 9-8 games?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
Clemson is incredibly deep on the mound, with six guys competing for
weekend rotation spots and a potentially stellar bullpen. Stoneburner
needs to step up and be the true ace, but after that I’m confident
they’ll find some good starters from the pool of Delk, Dwyer, Brady,
Hinson and Gullickson. They have a proven vet closing games and
excellent middle relievers in Harman, Sarratt and Weismann. Not many
teams have that kind of depth.

 Q:  from asks:

when does the full baseball preview come out?

 A: 

Aaron Fitt:
This seems like a good way to wrap up. We are going to start rolling
out College Preview content on Tuesdays and Thursdays over the next
three weeks, starting with the Top 25 capsules this coming Thursday and
the projected field of 64 and small college preview next week. Then
it’ll be wall-to-wall college coverage with fresh content going up
every day for the two weeks leading up to the Feb. 20 start date. It’s
a busy time of year here at BA.com, and we hope you enjoy reading our
preview material as much as we enjoy producing it. Whether you agree
with us or not, it’s always good to generate discussion about college
baseball.

Aaron Fitt: Thanks for all the questions, and I look forward to the first College Monday chat of the year on Feb. 23.

College | #2009 #Chat

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