College Top 25 Chat
Hey folks, sorry for the slightly late
start — let's get to it.
Dan (California): Who do you have winning the
auto bids from the WAC, Big West, WCC, and Mtn. West ?
Hm... Fresno State, Cal State Fullerton,
San Diego and TCU. I do think New Mexico State is a threat to win the
WAC — the Aggies can score a lot no matter where they play — and
Irvine will, of course, be a major factor in the Big West. But I'm
sticking with the Titans for now.
Blackie (Cincinnati, OH): Hi Aaron. Sonny Gray
and Jack Armstrong (solid start from him this weekend) are routinely
touted as 1st round talents for next year's draft, but how is Jason
Esposito's stock looking in that regard? And looking forward another
year, what are the impressions of Selman so far? He got touched up
pretty badly in an outing a couple of weeks ago and they seem to be
pitching him sparingly right now. I assume Vandy is just protecting an
arm they expect to be extremely valuable his soph and junior years?
I don't think Esposito's a lock
first-rounder like Gray, but I do think he could find his way into the
first round some where. The guy was offered seven figures out of high
school, after all, and he's hit very well as a sophomore so far this
year. He's got real power, and he's a good defender at third base, too.
Tim Corbin sort of compares Selman to where Jack Armstrong was a year
ago — he's got a huge arm, but he's got some maturing to do physically
and mentally, and like Armstrong, he gets better every time he touches
the ball, as Corbin put it. That staff is deep enough that they don't
need to count on Selman making a huge impact as a freshman, but as you
point out, he has a chance to be very, very valuable down the road.
Travis (Largo, FL): Aaron, what can you tell me
about Steven McQuail at canisuis...is he a top 5 round prospect?
I think he's more of a 10-20 round guy, but
he does have some pop in his bat and he's a good athlete at second
base. He has swung and missed more than you'd like to see this year,
Arkham (Danville, PA): Aaron, Your staff's
opinion of UCLA was clearly enhanced by the Bruins' series win over
Stanford, as evidenced by the three-spot leap to No. 3. But with Cole's
recurring control issues and the bullpen's sudden vulnerability (except
Klein), does UCLA look/feel like an Omaha team to you?
UCLA's jump was also a cumulative effect of
their first seven weeks of the season, and the fact that there was an
opening for the Bruins to move up because Virginia and Florida State
both lost. I don't think UCLA is particularly vulnerable anywhere on the
mound; Cole has been able to pitch around the walks, and I suspect
these two weeks were more of a midseason aberration, much like Taylor
Jungmann's two rough weeks before his strong start at Oklahoma. Is UCLA
an Omaha team? Well, the Bruins certainly have an Omaha-caliber pitching
staff, and the lineup has been very good, but I'll be curious to see if
those young UCLA hitters keep up their strong play down the stretch.
But it does seem like this program has a different vibe than it has the
last couple of years; the previous UCLA teams started slow and never
lived up to their potential. This team started fast and seems to be very
confident, in a way those other teams never were.
Blackie (Cincinnati, OH): Logan Vick of Baylor
appears to be having one of the better freshman seasons around. What can
you tell us about his pedigree and upside?
He has been a real sparkplug for Baylor
atop the lineup. He's not tall — just 5-11 — but he is strong and
pretty physical, and he can really run, and he has a strong outfield
arm. He's just a very good athlete with an exciting all-around tools
package, and he has a hard-nosed, blue-collar approach. Unsurprisingly,
he was a very good high school football player, and his aggressive
mentality translates well to baseball. I like his upside quite a bit,
and he's only going to get better now that he's concentrating on
Kevin B (Myrtle Beach, SC): Does Rico Noel have
a change to garner some National Player of the Year talk? He is hitting
.360 with 5 homers and 33 RBI to go along with his 22 steals and 0
errors in Centerfield. Not to mention his game winning Homerun against
Clemson last week.
I'll say this: elite college outfielders
are hard to come by, and Noel has a legit chance to be an All-American
at the end of the year. He's simply an electrifying player; watching him
for three straight days against San Diego last weekend, I came away
with a real appreciation for just how good he is. I'd like to see a
footrace between him and Gary Brown to settle who is the nation's
fastest player. Noel really knows how to put his speed to good use, too,
and he has a flair for the dramatic, as highlighted by his heroics
ScottAZ (Phx, AZ): Should the lack of any power
or real offensive threat in our (ASU) lineup scare me? Last year we had
Kipnis and Ramirez and couldn't keep up with Texas in Omaha. This year
we don't have a single bat that scares anyone. Yeah we are #1, but will
we make it out of a SR with this lineup?
We talked about this in today's podcast:
Arizona State really is not nearly as powerful and explosive offensively
as it has been over the last decade. There's no Kipnis and Ramirez, or
Wallace and Davis and Paramore, or Buck and Larish — no power presence
in the middle that opposing teams have to really gameplan for. Obviously
it's still a good offensive team, it's just built more like, say, Texas
than Georgia Tech. ASU's lineup is deep and athletic and versatile, but
I think the real strength of the team is the bullpen. The
Swagerty-Lambson-Barrett trio is very formidable, and that allows the
Sun Devils to shorten games considerably, taking a lot of pressure off
the rest of the team. But to answer your question, I think Arizona State
absolutely can win a super regional as currently constructed, but I
also think ASU is not a slam-dunk Omaha team, and I still would not
consider ASU the favorite for the national title (I'll stick with Texas
and Virginia, our top two teams in the preseason, as co-favorites). The
lack of power and the continued absence of Josh Spence are legit
concerns, but Arizona State is an extremely mentally tough, resilient
team, and that's very important.
JH (Berkeley): I noticed Anthony Rendon shifted
to SS for a bit in a game last week. One Rice team preview I saw
mentioned that multiple guys in the Rice infield are capable of playing
shortstop, but that Hague took the position out of seniority. Is Rendon
capable of playing up the middle? Who moves to short for Rice next
year when Hague's gone, Rendon, Ratterree, or someone else?
Rendon was a shortstop in high school, and I
do think he's got the range and arm strength to play the position, but
he's just so spectacular at third base that I'm not sure Rice wants to
mess with it. But next year, I do think there's a chance he moves to
shortstop, and I bet he'd be very good there.
Steve (Owltown): What will it take for Rice to
get back in the rankings? Are you seeing signs of life?
This was a very encouraging week for the
Owls, going 4-0 and sweeping Houston — certainly I think that qualifies
as "signs of life." Clearly, the pitching is still a work in progress,
but Wall's gem on Thursday was huge. He really is capable of being a
very good No. 1 starter — Wayne Graham said next week he'd just like to
see Wall run his fastball a few ticks higher. He's been topping out
mostly in the mid-80s this year, and he needs to get up to 88 or so to
be able to put hitters away more effectively with his fastball. But he
can be dominant when he has his good fastball and his changeup is really
working. As for the rankings, the Owls will be back when they show a
little more consistency. Let's see what happens with that Tulane series.
Joe (SF Bay Area): Aaron
What are your thoughts on Cal's young team and their pitching staff,
especially their freshman Justin Jones?
They've got some talented guys on that
club, and they've shown a few signs of putting it together, taking two
at Rice and, of course, sweeping Arizona this weekend. Jones is very
intriguing, an unsigned seventh-round pick with an athletic, projectable
6-foot-3 frame and a loose, easy arm action. His curveball is a real
out-pitch, and he has a quality three-pitch mix. That was a real gem he
threw in the opener against Arizona — eight scoreless innings.
Roger (Virginia Beach): How will his dismissal
from the team affect Dustin Harrington's draft status at East Carolina?
Also, where do you see Devin Harris going in this year's draft?
Obviously it's a negative. I don't know the
details of that situation and don't feel comfortable speculating, but
certainly his dismissal raises makeup concerns. Of course, I think he
was more of a very good college player than a premium draft guy anyway;
he was probably an 8th-to-15th round type. As for Harris, I haven't
spoken with any scouts about his stock lately, but I'd have to imagine
it's on the rise. He was an eighth-round pick last year because he
needed to improve his offensive approach, but he's always had huge tools
— big-time raw power, speed, arm strength, the whole deal. Now he is
taking a lot more walks and cutting down on strikeouts a bit, and he's
still hitting for power. If he keeps this up, I could see him going in
the top three rounds.
Marc (Left Field): Texas flexed a bit in Norman
this weekend. Do you see the Horns running away with the Big XII, and
are they in pretty solid shape for Top 8 seed? I see their ISR is #4,
with SOS at #9.
I do see Texas running away with that
league. They entered the year as the preseason No. 1, and no other Big
12 team was in the Top 25. To me, that reflects the power dynamics in
that league this year. Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Kansas are all decent
teams — they'd all fit into the 20-35 range somewhere — but there is
no serious challenger to Texas for that league title. I'll be shocked if
Texas does not wind up with a national seed. As I said earlier, I'd peg
Texas and Virginia as my co-favorites to win the national title at the
Tom (Orange County): Is Christian Colon still
going to be a top 10 pick in this years draft? Where do you see Gary
Brown going? He has been doing just as well, if not better.
I think he's a first-rounder, and maybe a
top half of the first-rounder, but my gut says no college hitter will be
drafted in the top 10 picks. Colon and Brown have been dynamos atop the
Fullerton lineup lately, and that makes the Titans very dangerous.
Brown has been outstanding all year, really. He's a potential
first-round pick; he has learned how to use his superb speed more
effectively, and he's made real progress offensively.
John (Ashburn, VA): Aaron: Crazy weekend in the
ACC. Tough for anyone to sweep. UVA, FSU and Clemson don't seem to want
to pull away. My Tigers didn't do itself any favors by the way it
played BC this weekend. Although BC was a heck of a lot tougher and
played much better than other .500 teams. Of course, the Tigers made
Mickey Wiswall look like Mickey Mantle. Question: Although the Tigers
have depth, their lack of experienced middle inning pitching could come
back to haunt them come tournament time. Their weekend starters have
good numbers, but the kids in the middle of the bullpen lack a killer
instinct. Worries to come? Thoughts?
Clemson's middle relief is a bit of a
concern, yes. I'd like to see somebody like Kevin Brady step up and
become an overpowering bridge to David Haseldon at the back, the way
Jake Barrett has for Arizona State. Brady doesn't quite have Barrett's
stuff, but it's not far off — he just hasn't put it all together yet. I
think he's a key guy for the Tigers. In the meantime, I think Clemson
can mix and match in the pen with Cruz, Frederick, Meyer et al.
Charles (Huntington): Hey Aaron thanks for the
chats. Just curious as to whether or not the pitching staff at
Pepperdine is going to get any recognition or just be looked over
because of its offense-or lack there of. Through just 23 games, led by
Cook and Bywater, 150 IP, 5 CG, 2 SHO, 122 K's, and a 3.17 ERA. At any
other school, these numbers would equate to being a Top Ranked team.
We actually wrote about both Cook and
Bywater earlier in the year, but if Pepperdine can't start winning,
we're not going to spend a whole lot more words on that team. Hard to
believe the Waves are 8-15 with the kind of arms they've got. Then
again, it's not a terribly deep staff, and it's hard to win with a .244
team batting average. We'll see if the weekend off will help the Waves
Jonathan (Fayetteville, AR): What a win
yesterday for the Hogs vs Kentucky in a marathon game lasting almost
I believe the Cats lost the game by not pitching to a gimped up Andy
Wilkins, instead choosing to pitch to Collin Kuhn & all the Hog fans
know how that ended.
Which brings me to my question - no matter how long Wilkins is out I
have thought throughout the year, especially with the year Wilkins is
having, that the Hogs will go as far as he carries them. Having said
that and seeing as how the game went yesterday, I am now worried about
our pitching, so how far can we go with our pitching as long as Wilkins
comes back to the lineup as he did when he left it?
Thanks & love the chat - GO HOGS!!!!
It sounds like Wilkins could be back from
his hamstring injury in 10 days or so, and that offense is certainly
good enough to keep afloat without him. I was surprised how poorly the
Razorbacks pitched this weekend, but I would expect guys like Baxendale
and Eibner to bounce back from that. Right now, I'm not terribly worried
about Arkansas' pitching — let's see if this becomes a trend, or if it
was just a one-weekend blip.
Gerrit (florida): Florida Gators took the
series from Vanderbilt this past weekend. My concern is about our
offense , not so much of our young pitching staff or SEC leading
defense.. do you still think that the Gators our one of your favorites
to make to the CWS ?
Absolutely. The Gators are relying on an
awful lot of young players, and they are certainly going to have their
ups and downs this year, but I think they'll peak down the stretch. This
team is deep enough that the coaching staff can give the freshmen
breathers and keep them fresh, and guys like Austin Maddox, Nolan
Fontana, Mike Zunino and Kamm Washington are only going to get better.
Certainly, the Gators need Josh Adams to get going, and Preston Tucker
really hasn't found his power stroke yet either, but I have to believe
both of those guys will get hot soon.
H. Houdini (Las Cruces, NM): Great weekend for
the Yellow Jackets. What are your expectations for their next two
weekends @ Virginia and home against Clemson?
Those are two very compelling series, for
sure. This weekend will be a huge test: on paper, it doesn't seem like
Georgia Tech is built to win at a place like Davenport Field, which is
not conducive to the longball - which is Tech's forte. Much will depend
on which Brandon Cumpton and Jed Bradley show up Saturday and Sunday.
I've got to give Virginia the edge at home, though.
BL (Bozeman, MT): Hi Aaron, thanks for the
chat, and for the great work! Western Kentucky and Coastal Carolina are
obviously legit ball clubs that you've been on since the preseason, but
are there any teams from mid-major (hate that term, but you know what I
mean) leagues that have been a positive surprise this season?
Actually I think WKU is a significant
surprise. The Hilltoppers lost a lot from last year's regional final
club, and I thought they'd take a bit of a step back this year, but that
has not been the case. You could also throw New Mexico and The Citadel
into the discussion — I figured both teams would be solid, but both
look like regional teams right now, and that's a bit of a surprise.
richard (new orleans,la): hi aaron. tulane
seems to be coming into their own taking the weekend series at east
carolina. how are you and john feeling about their chances the rest of
the way? also, could you comment on the great year that robbie broach is
putting together on the mound for the green wave.
As I have maintained since the preseason, I
think Tulane is a regional team this year. At this point, with East
Carolina and Southern Miss both struggling, I think Tulane might wind up
as the No. 2 team in CUSA (I still think Rice will win it, though). The
Pirates could rebound, but losing Dustin Harrington was a huge blow.
Broach has had a really nice bounceback year, giving Tulane some
stability in the weekend rotation.
Jeramey (Atlanta): After Trey Watkins gets
injured on Friday night, Lsu moves Mahtook up to the lead off spot and
he goes nuts (4 for 10 6 runs scored 2 hrs and 4 rbis) and the balls he
got out on were just laser shots. It seems that Lsu hasn't missed
anything yet with Watkins getting hurt. What kind of effect do you think
it has on LSU's bats in the future?
The Tigers will miss Watkins, for sure —
he's a real sparkplug, a Paul Mainieri favorite, and it sounds like he
could be out at least a month with a dislocated elbow. But they are deep
enough to withstand it. Johnny Dishon is a very talented substitute;
having a fourth outfielder like that is a nice luxury.
OK everybody, that's all I've got time for
today — thanks for stopping by, as always. Check back later this week
for our Midseason Report.