College Top 25 Chat

Q:  Paul from Northern California asks:
Aaron, what does UC Riverside need to do to crack the top 25?

Aaron Fitt: Hello all, let's get right to it. As I wrote last week, I'm very impressed with the Highlanders—but sweeping Columbia doesn't really enhance their resume from where it was last week. If UCR gets through this next week in good shape—with five games against UCSB and Fullerton—then I promise you, Riverside will be in the top 25. This time next week, we'll have a better idea just how good the Highlanders are.

 Q:  Carlton from Columbus, Ohio asks:
Buckeyes are now 13-2 and they are still not recieving any credit. They are really hitting the ball well and I believe Burkhart might be the best all around catcher in the Big Ten.

Aaron Fitt: The Buckeyes aren't getting any credit in the rankings because they're not playing anyone. Honestly, should we rank Ohio Stat because they beat SIU-Edwardsville, UMBC and North Dakota State? Winning those games doesn't tell us anything about how good Ohio State actually is. OSU's best win all year is against Notre Dame, and the Irish are a fringe regional team. That said... how about Alex Wimmers, with 15 strikeouts against Pitt? He looked great in that win against Notre Dame the first weekend (check back on the College Blog for more details about his stuff and performance), and he looks like a top contender for Big Ten pitcher of the year honors.

 Q:  alex kovaler from moscow, russia asks:
Aaron, Just curious why Cal State Fullerton is ranked behind Texas A&M after comprehensively beating them this past week?

Aaron Fitt: The Aggies did still win a series against a top-five team. I don't think one midweek game—which was close until the final inning or two—is reason to form any definitive conclusions about either club, and does not cancel out A&M's superior weekend and the fact that the Aggies were already ahead of the Titans in the rankings.

 Q:  Jeff from Los Angeles, CA asks:
Aaron, are Baseball America's Top 25 rankings based on your perceived best teams currently or what team's have accomplished during the course of the season?

Aaron Fitt: It's a combination of both. Think of it as a sliding scale: in the preseason, the lever is all the way over to our expectations for each team based on our assessment of each team's talent, coaching, intangibles, etc. As the season progresses, the lever gradually slides toward the "on-field results" side of the scale, as our preseason predictions are either supported or refuted by the results.

 Q:  Mike from Boston asks:
How close ar the UK Wildcats to the Top 25? Only 1 run separated them from LSU over the weekend and UK has proven the pitching is excellent.

Aaron Fitt: The Wildcats would have been in the top 25 with a series win, but the fact is they lost the series, no matter how close. Kentucky is 1-4 against the two best teams on its schedule so far (Coastal Carolina and LSU). It'll take a couple more weekends of quality wins before the Wildcats are back in the top 25 picture. But I agree with you that the pitching is excellent. I like seeing Alex Meyer in the weekend rotation—by the end of the season, it could be hard to beat a rotation of Paxton-Rusin-Meyer.

 Q:  Dan from Fairfield, CA asks:
Tim Murphy of Sacramento State had at least eight scouts watching him on Sunday. I overheard two of the scouts talking about how Murphy's stock is soaring. Is this true, or is his early season success more reflective of the very weak competition he's facing so far?

Aaron Fitt: I assume you mean Tim Wheeler, since there's no Tim Murphy on the Sac State roster. Wheeler is the real deal—major league scouting directors voted him to our preseason All-America third team, and he ranked as the No. 22 prospect in the Cape Cod League last summer. Wheeler has excellent size and speed, to go along with a nice lefthanded stroke and average power, as well as a strong arm. He might be the best five-tool talent in the entire draft, including A.J. Pollack and Brett Jackson. I think he's almost certain to go in the top two rounds in June, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him jump into the first round.

 Q:  Jonathan from Charlotte, NC asks:
What's the deal with Seth Maness at East Carolina? Has he just had a couple of bad outings, or do you predict a sophomore slump? The Pirates hit a ton, but seem to have trouble getting guys out.

Aaron Fitt: I saw Maness' start in lousy weather Friday against UCLA, and he settled down some after a four-run first inning. His stuff was decent but not great—87-88 fastball, 78-80 changeup and big-breaking 74-75 curveball—but Billy Godwin said afterward that Maness might be throwing too many strikes, particularly when he's ahead in the count. He's a competitor and a strike-thrower, but he shouldn't be afraid to bury that big breaker now and then. I think he'll be OK. Also, Chris Heston looked very good with the exception of one inning where his control lapsed and UCLA scored five runs on one hit. Heston works down in the zone and throws four quality pitches for strikes: an 87-88 fastball, an 81-83 slider, a mid-70s curveball and an 81-83 change. Pretty nice repertoire.

 Q:  Dan from Fairfield, CA asks:
What is Grant Green's problem? How in the world does a player go from so good to so bad so fast? And if his season continues the way it started, does he still figure to go in the first round?

Aaron Fitt: Whoa, easy there. Barring some kind of unexpected circumstance (shark attack? rock-climbing accident?), Grant Green is going in the first round. He'll snap out of this funk.

 Q:  Craig N from Tempe, AZ asks:
Arizona State's pitching staff is a lot better this year in terms of starters with the big three of Leake, Spence and Blair, but how what do you think of the staff overall? Strong, weak? Do you think Spence or Blair will fade?

Aaron Fitt: Don't forget about Matt Newman, who has also been phenomenal. Really, that whole staff has been (they've got a 1.96 ERA). I expect Spence and Blair can keep it up—Blair has a big-time arm and looks to have matured quite a bit as a pitcher, and Spence is just a winner with a rubber arm. Those top four starters are rock-solid, and Jason Franzblau gives them a fifth veteran capable of giving them a quality start. They could use a little more from Jordan Swagerty in the bullpen, but I have confidence that he'll settle in, and then the Devils will have a very good lefty-righty punch in the pen with Mitchell Lambson and Swagerty. It's a deeper staff than ASU had a year ago, which could make a big difference in the postseason.

 Q:  Nick from Albany, NY asks:
How good is Tarheel freshman second baseman Levi Michael. 5 hr's already!

Aaron Fitt: He's already their third-best player, behind Ackley and Seager. Levi Michael is a legitimate impact player, a switch-hitter with real power, an excellent feel for hitting, speed, arm strength, good infield actions—he's going to be a big star for UNC.

 Q:  sam from oxford, ms asks:
What are your thoughts on ole miss at this point?

Aaron Fitt: We talked about this some in today's podcast, but I think Ole Miss is improved from a year ago offensively and defensively, but the pitching is a concern. Aaron Barrett and Drew Pomeranz simply have to be better if the Rebels want to make any kind of serious Omaha run.

 Q:  Paul T from Portland Or asks:
I was at the oregon state vs missouri state series this weekend and came away thinking that this years team isn't much different from last years team that didnt make it to a regional. Do we need to be concerned? What are there chances this year and what do they need to improve on? One thing that was exciting was that Kevin Rhoderick and Josh Osich were throwing some serious mid 90 gas where do you see these two going in the draft next year?

Aaron Fitt: That talented group of sophomore pitchers really has yet to blossom into a dominating staff, and that's a concern. There are a lot of huge arms on that staff, and there's no way Oregon State should have a 4.98 ERA right now. The offense is what it is—they're going to have to manufacture runs, as expected. The pitching was supposed to carry that team, and it hasn't, for whatever reason. You can give those guys a little extra time early in the year to round into form because of the weather up there, but Missouri State is in the same boat. The Beavers shouldn't lose that series in their home state. Osich and Rhoderick, by the way, are potential first-round picks next year if everything clicks.

 Q:  Jon from St. Louis asks:
Even though Missouri lost the series to UT what are your thoughts on how they looked this weekend? Do you see them turning the corner soon?

Aaron Fitt: I do. The most significant thing to come out of this weekend for Missouri is that Nick Tepesch was very good again in Sunday's loss. Missouri will win most series with Gibson and Tepesch throwing the way they did this weekend.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove, MO asks:
In your opinion, which pitcher has the higher ceiling and is more of a sure thing to be a future #1 - Strasburg or Price?

Aaron Fitt: I don't think it would be possible for me to like David Price any more as a prospect or a competitor... but I think Strasburg's ceiling is even higher. Scouts are saying they've never seen anything like Strasburg—ever. That said, Price is a slightly safer bet—he's already reached the majors without getting hurt, he's lefthanded and he has a more-developed third pitch.

 Q:  Dave from Charleston, SC asks:
UVa seems to be by far the hottest team in the ACC right now - how can BA justify slotting them at 23 this week, below the likes of Clemson, Georgia Tech, Miami and UNC, all of whom have lost questionable games?

Aaron Fitt: Are the Cavaliers the hottest team? Sure. That doesn't make them the best team. Especially since they have exactly one win against a team that will be in regionals this year (Florida State). Virginia gets off to a hot start against a soft schedule every year (11-0 last year, 15-1 in 2007), but the Cavs have yet to break through in the postseason. Let's at least see what Virginia does against Miami this weekend before we crown them.

 Q:  Jim from Fort Myers asks:
What are thoughts on the Miami Virginia series this coming weekend. Will this be Miami's first real test this season, or is Virginia in for a long weekend? thanks.

Aaron Fitt: Following up on the last Virginia question, I think the Cavaliers are absolutely good enough to win that Miami series. Danny Hultzen has been pitching better than Chris Hernandez all season, and UVa's offense has throttled Wake Forest, Florida State and everyone else. If I'm betting, I'm taking the Cavs this weekend. And then we can start talking about jumping them up the rankings.

 Q:  Davey Connor from Sparta asks:
What is ANYONE'S take on the San Jose State Spartans this year? Considering a team from the WAC won the title last year, I feel you guys are, for the most part, ignoring the league at this season's outset. Are the Spartans a team capable of playing well enough in May to make some noise ala Fresno 2008?

Aaron Fitt: I was getting ready to write about the Spartans after their 9-0 start, and then they went and lost three in a row. They rebounded to win that series against CSUN, but I'm not sold yet on San Jose State. Winning a series at Santa Clara was a nice start, and Northridge is improved, but I just don't think the Spartans have enough firepower to topple Fresno in the WAC, let alone make a Fresno-like run in the postseason. I would expect San Jose State will pad its record over the next three weeks, but we probably won't have a better idea who the Spartans are until that April 3-5 series at Hawaii.

 Q:  Maddog from Ashburn, VA asks:
Aaron: Knowing that it is still relatively early in the season, any surprises, disappointments, that you are seeing in the ACC so far? Anyone particularly stand out to you (for the good and bad). Thoughts?

Aaron Fitt: NC State is a huge disappointment. For a borderline top 25 team heading into the year to lose three of its first four weekends is very surprising. The Wolfpack needed to sweep Maryland at home—or at the very least win two out of three. It's going to be very hard for NCSU to recover from a 1-5 start in conference play, considering Maryland was one of the teams the 'Pack needed to pad its record against.

 Q:  thomas highstein from baton rouge, la asks:
is there a better 1-2 punch in the nation than anthony ranaudo and louis coleman (LSU)? both were impressive yet again over the weekend, with coleman doing a yeoman's job as a closer and starter.

Aaron Fitt: There certainly are better one-two punches in my book, but both those guys have been very good for LSU. Problem is, they really need somebody like Bradshaw to step up and start so Coleman can be that lights-out closer.

 Q:  Kevin McG from Dallas asks:
Why am I not seeing coverage on Brooks Raley of Texas A&M? Am I wrong that he is arguably the BEST college baseball player in the country? He is 4-0 in his Friday pitching spot with about a 2.00 ERA, and rarely does he give up BB or HBP. Oh yea, and he plays RF in the games he is not pitching and has no errors, he is batting .400, has 9 stolen bases, lays down bunts perfectly for sacrifice hits. It appears to me that he is not a power pitcher or a power hitter, but instead uses his head matched with developed skills. Not sure what all he translates into for MLB, but is he not one of the top college players in the country....your thoughts? Thanks.

Aaron Fitt: If you're not seeing coverage on Raley, you must not be looking. I raved about him on the College Blog from the Houston College Classic, and we featured him as a player on the rise in last week's Draft Tracker. I also plan to write a detailed feature on him later in the season—I think he's just about the most exciting player in the nation, and a he's a terrific interview to boot.

Aaron Fitt: That's all for today. See you next week.