One advantage of a blog is that it allows us to increase our interaction with readers (you may have noticed that a number of insightful comments have already been posted in response to our blog items over the last week). I’ve always enjoyed reading Jim Callis’ terrific “Ask BA” column, and I thought the college readers might enjoy something similar here on the College Blog, where we could focus on college-specific issues. So I encourage you to send along any questions, comments or criticism to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will try to answer at least one mailbag question a week, as long as you send your questions along. Here is the first installment of the college mailbag:
I was just wondering why BA never gives the Troy Trojans any respect? The past two years we have won 2 straight conference championships and 6 players have been taken in the MLB draft. Last year we beat Alabama, Auburn, Southern Miss, and almost swept our conference. This year we have 5 or 6 players returning including all-American Josh Dew along with 7-0 Clegg Snipes and 6-3 Joe Hallahan. Also in the T-town regional we gave Alabama all they wanted for 8 2/3 innings. Last year our RPI was as high as 15 but we never even seemed to get considered to be in BA’s top 25. I was just wondering what you thought about Troy?
I wanted to address this question because I really like Troy’s program and what coach Bobby Pierce is building there. In fact, in our college preview, we highlighted Troy as one of two “Programs Rising” in the South. Of course, we then predicted the Trojans to finish third in the Sun Belt Conference and outside of the NCAA tournament, so I can see why Charlie’s a little indignant. There is plenty to like about the 2007 Trojans, starting with two-way stud Josh Dew, our preseason pick for Sun Belt player of the year. Dew slugged 17 home runs for Troy as a junior last year before slumping at the plate in the Valley League due to an elbow injury, but he figures to anchor a solid Troy offense that also includes senior DH Clint Robinson, who has big-time power and could be in for a nice year. But Troy also lost some punch, as Jared Keel and Blake Green (who combined for 20 homers in 2006) are gone. Second baseman Edgar Ramirez, who hit seven homers himself last year, could help fill that void as long as there are no lingering effects from shoulder surgery. The most intriguing piece of the lineup could be freshman shortstop Shohei Fujita, a walk-on from Japan who sat out during fall practice while gaining his eligibility. The 5-foot-8 Fujita impressed the Troy coaching staff from the moment he tried out for the team, and he could wind up replacing star shortstop Tom King, an eighth-round pick of the Padres last June.
Dew also anchors Troy’s bullpen, thanks to a low-90s fastball and solid breaking ball. Snipes is an excellent competitor with good command and an 89-93 mph fastball, but he’ll need to improve upon his 2006 ERA of 4.87. It won’t be easy to replace third-round pick Mike Felix in the rotation, and injuries to lefthander Steven Morelock and righty Jimbo Bunch won’t help–both players are likely out until March. Those pitching questions are the major reason we picked Troy to finish third in the conference this year, but the other reason is simply that Louisiana-Lafayette and South Alabama both have experience and talent. It wouldn’t be a surprise if any of those three teams wind up winning the conference.
As for the top 25, the Trojans were on our radar all season, and we were prepared to bring them into the rankings a number of times, but each time they dropped a weekend series or just had a less impressive weekend than somebody else on the periphery of the rankings. Just because a team doesn’t appear in the rankings doesn’t mean we’re ignoring them. A big factor in the rankings is quality wins. Troy opens its season against No. 7 Arkansas next weekend; winning that series would certainly put the Trojans in the top 25 picture.