Top 25 Chat: May 12





Moderator: Aaron Fitt will chat about the Top 25 beginning at 3 p.m. ET.

Aaron Fitt: Hi everybody. Hope you enjoyed another great weekend in college baseball. Let's get to the chat.

    Colby (Little Rock): I would argue that it is not Texas that is the hottest team in the country but Arkansas who has one 13 of it last 14 and has the team batting average up to 326. The hogs have an RPI of #2 in the country and everyone in the sec is looking up at Arkansas and South Carolina in the standings. My question is how did Zack Cox not make the midseason All America team with a batting average 120 points higher then Rendon? Also, wouldnt you agree that Arkansas would easily be a top 8 overall national seed if the season was to end today? This is a much better Arkansas team then last years team that made a run in Omaha.

Aaron Fitt: Arkansas is on fire, and I do think it would be a national seed if the season ended today. I also agree with you that it's a better team than last year's version — the offense is much more consistent, with a better overall approach, led by Cox. He's had a truly fantastic year, but we gave the nod to Rendon because batting average is no the be-all, end-all statistic. Cox was slugging less than .600 when we compiled that list, though he is no longer. Rendon still has a better OPS, 1.214 to 1.176, and Rendon has gotten less help in his lineup.

    Neil (Tacoma, WA): Where does Zach Varce fit in as a prospect?

Aaron Fitt: Varce, Portland's ace, is a solid prospect, a top-10-rounds candidate. He can run his fastball up to 93 at times, but he pitches more around 90. He dominated the Northwoods League last summer and has shown much better feel for pitching this year than earlier in his Portland career.

    Andrew Harken (Irvington NY): Is Texas just that good or is the rest of the Big 12 that mediocre this year? With their remaining schedule looking pretty favorable, can anyone catch them?

Aaron Fitt: Texas is really, really good, and the rest of the league clearly is not on the same level. If you put Texas in the SEC or Pac-10 or ACC, I think it would be a very compelling race between the Longhorns and LSU or Arkansas or UCLA or Arizona State or Virginia or Georgia Tech, etc. But I don't think there are any teams like that in the Big 12. Texas is going to run away with that conference by a wide margin. Oklahoma is probably the No. 2 team in that league, and Texas swept the Sooners in dominating fashion in Norman last week.

    Jim Fletcher (Harlingen, Texas): Aaron: What are your thoughts regarding the following comments? Yesterday Kansas coach Ritch Price said "First off, the race is over. They've already won the conference. What I just told my team is that Texas is the best team in America. Nobody is pitching at the level that they're pitching at. And with their defense, even with their offense they're the best team in America." Augie Garrido also mentioned that "we can play at a much higher level than we did this weekend." Considering that Texas will easily set a program record for home runs in a season, they'll continue to improve offensively, and they are now a really experienced college baseball team, things are looking really nice in Austin. Hook 'em Horns!

Aaron Fitt: Right now, I would agree with Ritch Price that Texas is the best team in America, just edging Virginia.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Aaron, your thoughts on Jed Bradley of Georgia Tech as a prospect? Got an opportunity to see him yesterday, and while UVA roughed him up he looked interesting: good build, FB sat 91-94 (though lacked movement), was working a nice changeup, and a lefty to boot.

Aaron Fitt: He certainly is an intriguing prospect, and he's been very good at times this year, though not terribly consistent. The Yellow Jackets really need Bradley, Cumpton and/or Pope to solidify the rotation behind Deck McGuire. I think it might be time to give Pope a crack on weekends in Cumpton's place.

    Alex (Portland): With Tyler Rahmatulla hitting the way he has been this season his draft stock for 2011 has to be rising right? In that loaded class what round could he play his way into?

Aaron Fitt: It is certainly rising. He has above-average speed and drives the ball well to all fields. He needs to refine his defense a bit and must improve against breaking balls, but he has a chance to be drafted in the first few rounds next year, which is amazing progress from where he was last year.

    Barrett (Huntsville, AL): Vanderbilt sophomore righties Jack Armstrong and Sonny Gray both looked very solid in their starts vs. South Carolina this weekend. How does their stuff compare, and how do they stack up for the 2011 draft?

Aaron Fitt: Gray is both more polished and more electric, but most scouts generally think he'll wind up in the bullpen down the road because of his size. I still believe he'll be drafted before Armstrong, but Armstrong is bigger and more physical and has a chance to be a power starter. But there's more risk with Armstrong. Both guys project as potential first-round picks next year; I think Gray is almost a lock first-rounder, and Armstrong is one of the big X-factors.

    Lance (Boston, MA): Connecticut at #25? Do you see them getting better as this season moves one? The pitching staff has been carrying this team. If the offense starts to become more consistent( Springer and Olt) Do you see them doing some damage?

Aaron Fitt: You are right, Springer and Olt haven't even hit their strides, but I think both of them will. If everything comes together, UConn is good enough to make a real run at winning a regional. Still, No. 25 is a very aggressive ranking for UConn, whose resume is a little short on real quality wins, but like with Virginia Tech last week, we gave the Huskies a bit of a boost because we believe in their talent.

    Woodside (Chapel Hill): What do you think of Jacob Stallings' performance since getting into UNC's every day lineup? Do you think the Tar Heels can win the next two weekends at Miami and Clemson?

Aaron Fitt: Stallings has provided a nice spark for the Tar Heels. He does a great job working counts and getting on base, and he does a fine job behind the plate. He's a good receiver who can really throw. As he fills out and gets stronger offensively, he could see his prospect stock rise. The Tar Heels pulled out a huge must-win series this weekend against NC State, and I think they are good enough to win that series at Miami, but I would certainly make them decided underdogs in both of those upcoming road series.

    Doug (Brewster): I saw that SS Taylor Featherston of TCU was HBP on Tuesday against Oklahoma and he didn't appear in any of the games against Houston this past weekend. Any word on whether he was injured or if he didn't play for some other reason?

Aaron Fitt: He had a knee injury and had an MRI, but it came back with good news for TCU — there is no structural damage. It's just a strain, and he is day-to-day.

    Josh (Mobile, AL): If Sam Dyson starts to pitch to his capabilities, is USC a Omaha team? And if you were coach Tanner, would let him try to work out the kinks, or bench him and try a different Saturday pitcher?

Aaron Fitt: Dyson has by far the biggest arm on that staff. I think the Gamecocks know they'll need him to make a deep postseason run, and it behooves them to stick with him.

    JAYPERS (IL): Aaron - I'm not sure if this can be answered, but with Bryce Harper now having 15 jacks and counting, I was wondering what the collegiate single season homerun record is, using wood bats only? Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: Put it this way: CCSN's school record for homers in a season coming into this year was 12, and that was set with metal bats in 2001. You can read more on Harper in today's Golden Spikes Spotlight in Three Strikes.

    Ben (Leland Grove): It's June 7th, 2010. Who are your top 5 draft picks?

Aaron Fitt: I will give you my top five college guys: Bryce Harper, Drew Pomeranz, Deck McGuire, Anthony Ranaudo and Chris Sale.

    jb (SC): What is going on at Clemson? It seems like the mid-year slide that has became famous over the last 5 or so seasons has started. With so many quality arms, how can the bullpen be so bad?

Aaron Fitt: It's a bit baffling; Clemson has just had a tendency over the last couple of years to play down to its competition when it faces teams it should beat. Duke is a solid team, but Clemson is considerably more talented and experienced, and Clemson really could have been swept this weekend (Duke let Saturday's game slip away). I think the bullpen would be helped if Clemson could get longer outings more consistently from its starters, putting less strain on the pen. Clemson certainly has a lot of arms in the pen, but it needs a power arm (like Kevin Brady) to emerge as a shutdown closer. David Haseldon has a real good curveball, but he's not an overpowering, lights-out closer. Tomas Cruz has an excellent changeup, but he works in the mid-80s. Those are very nice complementary pieces for a bullpen, but right now they're having to take on larger roles than that.

    Eason (Roanoke, Virginia): Where do you think Virginia Tech will finish in the ACC at the end of the year? I know they still have a tough road ahead but i think they could still finish 3rd or 4th in conference.

Aaron Fitt: I would be surprised if they finished that high because the schedule is so challenging. The Hokies have to go to UVa. and Georgia Tech over the next two weekends — as high as I am on the Hokies, they will be big underdogs in both of those series. I could see Virginia Tech finishing sixth in the league, though.

    Kenny (Durham): Aaron, BA's West Coast bias is showing through as you've put Cal, Cal State Fullerton, and Arizona back in the rankings. Just joking, but I've always wondered how crazy Mondays are around the office with having to do the rankings, podcast, and chat all on the same day.

Aaron Fitt: West Coast bias! Well played, Kenny. Mondays are indeed crazy — I seldom have time to eat lunch before the chat starts at 3, which is why sometimes the chat pace slows as I try to shovel down bites between answers.

    connor jensen (sacramento, ca): Is it just me, or is the talent level down in college baseball this year? I just don't see a lot of the stellar players of recent years (certainly no Strasburg or Weiters, or even Leakes or Beckhams). Do you agree and if so, what are your thoughts as to why — just a cycle? Thanks Aaron — keep up the great work.

Aaron Fitt: I think the talent is certainly down in the junior class, but I think it's very strong in the sophomore class — just a cycle is a good way to put it.

    Bryan (San Francisco): How tough of a loss was Brett Bochy for Kansas? He had some amazing numbers and it seems like they could have really used him in some tight games this weekend against Texas. Also, what kind of guy is Tony Thompson for the draft given that he had an injury early and a slow start. Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: I spoke briefly with Ritch Price on Friday, and he called the Bochy injury "devastating." It's easy to see why — you can make a strong case that he was the most valuable player on that team in the first half. Still, Kansas stayed afloat without Tony Thompson for the first several weeks, so clearly that team has some toughness and grit. But I'd tend to think their regional aspirations took a huge hit when Bochy went down. As for Thompson, he entered the year as a second- or third-round type, I'd say, and I still think he's in that third-to-fifth-round range. I bet he gets going in the second half.

    Scot (Columbia, SC): Hey Aeron, How does Clemson continue to stay atop the rankings after losses to Elon & Duke? I think Clem. is below .500 or right at it over the last 3-4 weeks. Vandy drops 2 of 3 to a good SEC team and drops out while the clem. loses to duke and only drops 1 spot. I am starting to wonder if there is a bias? When did ACC get more love than SEC, G-Tech. Thanks for the feedback.

Aaron Fitt: I'm digging that spelling of my name! Clemson's body of work on the whole is pretty good — a series win against South Carolina, a sweep of a Virginia Tech team that is proving it's pretty good, a couple of midweek thrashings of talented but underachieving SEC foe Georgia this week... Still, Clemson would have dropped further if there was somebody else deserving to come up. But six of the teams behind Clemson in the rankings lost their series, including the two teams directly behind Clemson. It was an ugly week in the back half of the rankings.

    john (pittsburgh): what do you think about Pittsburgh taking 2 of 3 from louisville this past weekend? Is Pittsburgh really that good? How do you think the big east standings will end up say the top 5?

Aaron Fitt: I wrote a pretty detailed piece about Pitt in "Under The Radar" in Weekend Preview about a week and a half ago — that is a veteran team with decent talent and an excellent approach, but I think the Panthers are a little short on arms. I'd say the Big East plays out roughly like this: Louisville, UConn, Pitt, South Florida, St. John's, Rutgers. For me, Louisville is the clear No. 1 team in the league even after this weekend, and I feel comfortable with UConn as the No. 2 team in the league. Those next four teams are pretty comparable.

    Chuck (Wichita): Still no love for K-State? 23-6, second in the Big 12...what do they have to do?

Aaron Fitt: Just waiting for a real quality series win. The sweep of Oklahoma State is pretty nice — that put the Wildcats on the Top 25 radar last week — but then they followed it up with a series loss to Texas Tech. Taking two out of three against last-place Nebraska doesn't do much for me. But if K-State wins that series against Baylor next week, I'll be convinced. The winner of that series probably will find its way into the Top 25 next week, assuming there's an open spot.

    Dave (Chicago): Is the most underrated player right now in the game is aaron senne for the missouri tigers? he's hitting .460 with 10 bombs. Also what is the draft status of his teammate nick tepesch, i've notice he isnt on your draft tracker?

Aaron Fitt: Senne was a tease for much of the first three years of his collegiate career. He's always had power potential, and he never quite put it all together until this year — it's great to see him having this kind of loud season. He could be a good senior sign for somebody. Tepesch's velocity was down in the first half of the season, and his stuff certainly did not seem as explosive when I saw him in the Houston College Classic as it had been in the past. But he clearly has a very good arm, and somebody will take him in the top 3-5 rounds — maybe higher if he has a strong second half.

    BL (Bozeman, MT): Thanks for the chat, and for the great work, Aaron. You tweeted that the Pac 10 may be the deepest league in the country on Sunday. After some reflection and kick-it-around time with John and the crew at BA World Headquarters, have you come to a firmer opinion on the subject?

Aaron Fitt: I'm going to stand by that particular dispatch from my Twitter feed (twitter.com/aaronfitt). It comes down to the Pac-10 vs. the SEC, and I think nine of the 10 teams in the Pac are legitimate regional contenders, whereas nine of the 12 SEC teams are legit contenders. Now, if you put Tennessee or Georgia or maybe Mississippi State in a different league, maybe those teams would be contenders too, but the same could be said for Southern California, which I think is comparable in talent to Mississippi State.

    Dan Ryan (Franklin, TN): While I understand that Vandy lost 2 of 3 to South Carolina last weekend at home, it is not like they got blow out, and with a timely hit or two they could have swept the series. How can the voters drop Vandy completely out of the polls while elevating/ranking teams like Connecticut? I believe in trying to represent the entire country, but I really doubt that the Huskies will be anywhere close to Omaha in June unless Gino takes over the program.

Aaron Fitt: You can certainly argue about UConn's merits, but they're hot (10-game winning streak) and they are talented, so we figured we'd reward them in a week where there was a vacuum at the back of the Top 25. Vandy simply does not deserve to be ranked; the Commodores are also very talented, of course, but they have lost three of their first four SEC series. Vandy's only quality series win is against Kentucky, and its nonconference series were against the likes of Niagara and Ohio. Give UConn some credit: the Huskies made a West Coast trip in Week Two and won a series against warm-weather Cal State Northridge, then won a game against USC, then beat Ohio State and Boston College (and lost a game to Tennessee). UConn at least challenged itself in the preseason and did pretty well.

    Sidd (Tibet): When compiling your weekly top 25, do you re-evaluate opponents retroactively, i.e. give more credit to a team that beat another that was lightly regarded earlier in the season but has proved formidable as the season has progressed, or less credit to a team that beat another that was thought to be a powerhouse initially but has proved to be much weaker than expected?

Aaron Fitt: We do, although we do not change the "records vs. Top 25 opponents" stats. But when looking at Florida State's 8-4 mark vs. the Top 25 this year, for instance, we discussed today that three of those wins came early against a Georgia team that is clearly not a Top 25 team. Those sorts of considerations are mitigating factors in our deliberations.

    Bob (Scranton, PA): Great Job as alwayas Aaron. Two questions. Any consideration for VMI to break the top 25? I realize their strength of schedule is not spectacular but at 28-5 and 10-2 in conference, I thought they might creep in. Top ten in BA and Home Runs....very productive offense. Hopefully wins against Virginia this week and a good series against Coastal will help their cause. Also, what are your thoughts on their Freshman 2B Corey Spangenberg? He is having a fantastic season. .404 Ave. with .1147 OPS. 20 extra base hits including 9 HRs. 38 RBI and 20 Stolen Bases!

Aaron Fitt: Thanks for the compliment, Bob. We do have VMI on our worksheet, but as you speculate, the weak schedule keeps the Keydets out of the rankings. Really, VMI's only quality wins are two against The Citadel, and The Citadel lost a home series to Indiana State this weekend. But we're keeping an eye on VMI, and the next two weeks will reveal a lot about just how good that team really is. As for Spangenberg, he was VMI's top recruit last fall — an above-average runner with strong defensive skills and a contact approach. He also has sneaky power to the pull side, but I did not expect him to hit so many home runs right away. Partly that's a function of VMI's soft schedule, but it's impressive nonetheless.

    Oski (Berkeley): Aaron, thank you for answering my question. What are your thoughts on the job David Esquer is doing with the young team he is fielding today? How far do you think the pitching staff will take them? Thank you

Aaron Fitt: That coaching staff is doing a great job — Cal is one of the pleasant surprises in college baseball this year. We knew the Golden Bears had some talent, but they have had plenty of talent this decade and haven't done a lot with it; this year, they are making the most of their talent with a young team. The front-line arms on that staff are legit (Erik Johnson, Justin Jones and Dixon Anderson are all very nice prospects); in the past, guys like Chris Petrini and Daniel Wolford would have been starting on weekends for Cal, but they weren't really front-line guys. Now they're able to fill more of a complementary role, and they are very nice complementary pieces. That team certainly could be dangerous down the stretch.

    Scott (Nebraska): Arkansas has been playing great recently and just swept Mississipi State; LSU just lost a series to Auburn. I know Arkansas dropped the series earlier to LSU, but without a middle-relief implosion in the 7th, the Hogs would have handled the tigers easily in that game. With the Hog's bats heating up and their pitching looking stronger, do you really believe LSU should be ranked ahead of them?

Aaron Fitt: LSU is ahead based on that head-to-head meeting, but it's a razor-thin line, and you can make a strong case that Arkansas is the better team. I think it's a toss-up, so we went with the team that won the head-to-head series.

    MJN (Michigan): How about the Michigan State Spartans? Tourney bound??

Aaron Fitt: I don't think so. I think the Big Ten is a one-bid league this year, and I still like Ohio State's chances to get that bid, with Michigan as my darkhorse. But Michigan State has played very well, and clearly Jake Boss can really coach; he did a great job in his one year at Eastern Michigan, and he's done a fabulous job with the Spartans. I hope to have more on Michigan State later this week or next.

    Steven (Sullivan): Why isn't UCF getting a little more respect in the polls and voting?? After an inconsistent start, they already boast a 22-12 record with defeats of #13 Miami and a sweep of Southern Miss. They also played Florida tough (7-6 @Florida) when they were ranked 5th. I've watched alot of college baseball this year, and I guess I just don't understand some why some teams are ranked over the Knights.

Aaron Fitt: Taking a series from Southern Miss is nice, but really, what has Southern Miss done this year? That team clearly isn't as good as we expected it to be. And UCF lost its previous two series against UAB and Houston — both of whom lost series this weekend. UCF has made great progress in Terry Rooney's second year — that program is well on its way to being an annual presence in CUSA. But right now it doesn't have even close to a Top 25 resume, or even a regional resume.

    Trevis (Columbia, SC): The Gamecocks win another road series, but it seems like BA might not be sold on them yet. They only moved up one spot and you seem to believe Clemson (with recent struggles) would host a regional over the USC. What do you think the Gamecocks need to improve on in order to secure hosting a regional and for that matter, a National Seed?

Aaron Fitt: It seems BA might not be sold on them? We ranked them No. 10 in the preseason — higher than anybody else, I'm pretty sure — and they are No. 10 right now. Clearly, we were very high on South Carolina coming into the year, and South Carolina has lived up to our expectations exactly. As I wrote in today's Three Strikes, South Carolina definitely has the inside track at hosting over Clemson after this past weekend. Last week, I gave Clemson the edge because it had won the head-to-head series against the Gamecocks. This week, Clemson dropped a road series to Duke, and South Carolina won a huge road series against Vandy. Just like that, South Carolina is in the driver's seat.

    Jeramey (Atlanta): Gibbs is a stub behind the plate and deserves the 1st team honors at the mid way point, however you have 2 other catchers that are really good in Rupp and Grandal. How close of a race was it between these three and are these two others 2nd and 3rd team catchers at the end of the year?

Aaron Fitt: It was extremely close between Gibbs and Grandal, with Rupp also in the mix but a little bit farther back. Grandal would have been a fine choice, too, but Gibbs is the heart and soul of a Top 10 team, and his numbers have been outstanding, so we went with him.

Aaron Fitt: OK everybody, that's all for today. I'll be traveling to New England this week for a funeral, so I apologize in advance if Weekend Preview is a little less bulky than usual and the blog a little less active. Thanks for stopping by, and see you again next week.