Preseason College Top 25 Chat
Good afternoon, everyone! I'm fired up for
the college baseball season, and I hope you are too. The countdown is
on. Let's kick it off with our first college chat of the year.
Daniel (Seattle): Who would be your top ten non aq schools that are currently outside of the top 25?
I don't have a formal list outside the Top
25, but here are some teams we were strongly debating for spots:
Mississippi State, St. John's, Jacksonville, Stetson, Cal, Virginia, UC
Irvine, Baylor. Couple other sleepers: Georgia Southern, FIU, Kentucky.
Bob (Texas): Thanks for the chat Aaron. I'm a
huge UCLA fan but losing Cole and Bauer are two huge losses. I'm a bit
wary that a team can compete like they did when those two were at UCLA.
How does this team earn that #14 ranking even without those two
superstar and what kind of offense can we expect?
I think it's quite a testament to UCLA's
ability to reload on the recruiting trail each and every year that the
Bruins enter the season ranked 14th after losing Cole and Bauer. The
Bruins really did a great job preparing for the post-Cole/Bauer era last
year, bringing in Plutko, Vander Tuig and Weiss — three guys are are
going to be rocks for them the next two years. I am a little concerned
about the depth of the staff, but I really like those front-line guys
(I'll bet Plutko winds up as an All-American at the end of the season),
and I think the offense will be dramatically improved. Check out my
preseason top 25 capsules for more details.
Daniel (Fresno): Will Fresno State be a contender to host a regional by the end of the regular season?
I think that's too ambitious — the
Bulldogs lost an awful lot from last year — Greg Gonzalez, Danny Muno,
Dusty Robinson, Jordan Ribera just to name four very important pieces. I
like Fresno's young talent — especially Chris Mariscal at shortstop —
and I think those guys are probably the team to beat in the WAC as
usual, but they won't be in the hosting discussion.
Al (Wisconsin): DJ Baxendale had pretty impressive numbers in the SEC, how does he rank against other top College pitchers?
He is among the best Friday starters in
college baseball, for sure. From a prospect standpoint, he's a good
prospect but not a first-round kind of guy, but he does have good stuff
and knows how to use it. Great competitor, resilient arm — there's a
ton to like about him.
Mike E. (NC): Aaron, I'm a cold weather
baseball fan and enjoy seeing premium college players come from the
Midwest. Ive heard Torsten Boss from MSU has a chance to be a premium
pick in June. Should I keep my eyes on him and anyone else?
I don't see Boss as a premium pick — more
of a top-10 rounds guy. He's a nice athlete, and I think moving from
third base to center field will probably be good for him, but his value
would have been higher if he could have stayed at third, I reckon. On
that same team, keep an eye on Ryan Jones at second base — really good
pure hitter, and a heady player. For next year, I'm really excited about
RHP David Garner, who will be a weekend starter for the Spartans this
year. Power arm, 91-94, very good slider.
Chris (New Orleans): Aaron,
With a healthy pitching staff and quite a few returning starters, what
are your thoughts on Tulane this year? Were they being considered in
your preseason top 25?
We certainly considered them (if you
recall, we had Tulane ranked last preseason, and it looked like a pretty
good pick until the injury bug bit them hard). To me, it all depends on
Randy Leblanc and Kyle McKenzie — if those guys really are healthy and
can stay that way, Tulane can be really good, because those are two
serious power arms. I love the athleticism up the middle, and there are
some promising bats on the corners. The bullpen has a lot to prove.
James (St Louis): After a couple of disappointing years at Mizzou how do you see them stacking up in their last year of Big XII play?
Probably middle of the pack — a bubble
team for regionals. Potentially a really nice one-two punch atop the
rotation with Eric Anderson and Rob Zastryzny, but I think the key is
for the talented outfielders — Blake Brown, Dane Opel, Brannon
Champagne — to live up to their potential as juniors. Those guys have
great athleticism and upside, but it hasn't really all clicked for them
Dustin (Jackson Ms): How good do you think Southern Miss will be this year? How good will CUSA be?
I suspect Southern Miss will be a very good
offensive team and a very athletic defensive team — very fun to watch.
They've got some real exciting talents on the diamond (Dillon Day,
Kameron Brunty, and of course the two freshmen, Connor Barron and Mason
Robbins). The pitching staff is a major question mark, however. I loved
their recruiting class this past year — I think we ranked it second in
the nation — but the Golden Eagles will be asking an awful lot from
newcomers right out of the gate, especially Jake Drehoff and Andrew
Nick DiCo (Raleigh, NC): Hey! Could this be the
year the ACC finally breaks through in Omaha? With 3 of the Top 5 most
CWS appearances, can the ACC finally break through and win their first
title? Or are we looking at another year of SEC dominance?
It's certainly possible — we've got five
ACC teams in the Top 25 — but I wouldn't bet on it. This strikes me as
another SEC year, or maybe a Pac-12 year. Most of the teams I regard as
the strongest title contenders are in those two leagues, including all
of our top five. The ACC teams are interesting, but they all have
question marks. UNC is the team that has the best shot, I think, because
of its Omaha experience and overall balance.
Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Aaron, thank you for
the chat! Feels good to be kicking off the '12 college season. I
certainly can't say they are conspicuous by their absence given the loss
of talent, but how far off the pace of the Top 25 is UVA? Also, where
do you see a personal cheesball favorite Derek Fisher lining up amongst
this year's top Freshman?
Joe, I am very intrigued by UVa. once again
this year. I'm a huge fan of Chris Taylor (and of course Keith Werman)
in the middle of the infield, and don't forget about Stephen Bruno, who
actually beat out Taylor for the SS job before getting hurt early last
year. He's a talented guy. The outfield has a chance to be extremely
athletic and exciting — Fisher is one of the highest-upside guys in
college baseball, though I would expect there to be a learning curve for
him this year. I think you'll see Mitchell Shifflett bring some
excitement out there, and Fr. OF Mike Papi could make a bigger impact
than Fisher in the short term. The question is how will the pitching
come together after Branden Kline, who is moving to the Friday starter
job. It won't be easy to replace Hultzen/Roberts/Winiarski/Wilson. I bet
this is a team that will get better as the season progresses and could
be dangerous by June.
hornontherange (Wyoming): With Jordan Etier now
returning to Texas would that have affected the ranking of the
Longhorns in your preseason poll (he's not listed in the lineup in the
He's not listed because I'm not convinced
he's really better than Marlowe, though he is certainly more experienced
and he probably will wind up playing more. But Marlowe is going to be a
good little player. Etier's return had no real impact on where we
ranked Texas — it's not like they're getting Brandon Loy back.
Greg (Ohio): Aaron how does Nolan Fontana compare with Deven Merrero?
Marrero has the higher upside — more
athletic, more range and arm strength, a better chance to stick at
shortstop, more power potential. Fontana plays above his tools; he's
steadier defensively, he is incredibly disciplined and patient at the
plate, he does a great job getting on base, his baseball instincts are
off the charts. He's just a winner; I think he's a big leaguer, but I
think he's more of a second baseman down the road, though I'm not
writing off his chances to stay at short. Marrero, by the way, also has
great makeup and instincts — he's the whole package. Marrero might be
the top college position player drafted this year.
Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Aaron, though he
lacks really significant power, the package of tools possessed by
Michael Lorenzen is extremely intriguing (and one would think should
continue to translate well to Titan-style baseball). What are your
thoughts on him as a prospect for the next level?
Really like Lorenzen — great speed,
fantastic arm, good feel for playing the game, and I like the bat. I
think he'll grow into some power at some point, too. I think he'll be a
blue-chip guy for next year's draft.
Dan (Charlotte, NC): Predictions for the SOCON this year? and is this the most MLB draft talented mid major conference in the country this year?
Georgia Southern has to be the favorite, I
think — obviously it starts with Roache and Beck, a pair of likely
first-round picks, but the supporting cast isn't bad, either. I really
like Eric Phillips at shortstop, the best all-around player on the team.
Michael Burrus and Scooter Williams are nice complementary pieces, and
Josh Adams has good experience behind Beck in the rotation. I'm also
quite high on Samford — great arms in the rotation (Kyle Putkonen,
Charles Basford, Josh Martin), a huge arm anchoring the pen (Lex
Rutledge), and a nice lineup built around Philip Ervin, who was a
freshman All-American last year.
Greg (DC): What do you think of Jake Lamb?
Lamb, the third baseman at Washington, is
very interesting — physical, lefthanded-hitting third baseman with plus
raw power potential and a strong arm at third base, though he needs
work defensively and needs to polish his offensive approach. Plenty of
Chad (SC): Being from east coast I do not know much about Stanford. Please tell us why you feel they are #2
Just read my capsules! That team is just overflowing with talent.
Jeff (California): Aaron: Love following your
chats. Although it has been awhile since a Big Ten team has made it to
Omaha, they always end up with one or two impressive teams at the end of
the season. Who do you feel will be the powerhouse in that conference
I think this is the year Purdue finally
breaks through and snaps its century-long Big Ten title drought. Should
be a dangerous, physical, veteran offense led by Kevin Plawecki and
Cameron Perkins, a solid rotation filled with savvy strike-throwers, and
a shut-down closer in Nick Wittgren. I also like Michigan State and
Minnesota to factor heavily into the equation in the Big Ten.
Gary S. (Fort Myers, FL): Who is the team not currently in the top 25 that could potentially surprise in college baseball?
I'll go with Stony Brook. I honestly will
not be shocked if the Seawolves win a regional. Travis Jankowski is the
best player in the North, and maybe the best all-around outfielder in
college baseball, and they've got a lot more than just him. Willie
Carmona is a valuable two-way guy, Maxx Tissenbaum and Pat Cantwell are
really good players at up-the-middle spots, and Tyler Johnson-Brandon
McNitt should be a real nice one-two punch on the mound. Stony Brook
guys were pretty outstanding all around the Cape last summer — they're
not intimidated by quality competition.
Greg (Fullerton, CA): Are Legg and Trajano
similar to older CSUF MI's (Dave Bacani comes to mind)? Do they have
enough tools to help lead Fullerton to a regional or super regional this
You've got the right idea. Legg and Trajano
fall under the "gritty" category — nobody is going to draft them No. 4
overall like Christian Colon. That's going to be an athletic, dynamic
Fullerton lineup that will put a lot of pressure on people. There is a
ton of competition for jobs all over the outfield and infield, which
will make everyone better. I think Fullerton wins the Big West again,
but I don't see it as a super regional-caliber pitching staff. Of
course, I feel like the Titans always rise up when people doubt them...
Ben (Leland Grove): Which round does Nolan Fontana project to get picked in, as of today?
I'll go with round 2.
Grant (NYC): Does Florida's Brian Johnson's draft stock have more value as a hitter or a pitcher?
One of the few guys that really could get
drafted either way — personally, I love the power in that lefthanded
bat. Last summer, I informally polled about four scouting directors
about this, and they all hemmed and hawed, but in they end they all said
they'd take him as a pitcher — lefthanders are just too valuable, and
he's got size, stuff and excellent pitchability.
Daniel (Crowson): It seems to me South Carolina
should be ranked no lower than second in the opening poll. Just look
at the guys on this roster you have played meaningful roles in two
national championship runs. Also, this will be Tanner's best pitching
staff since he arrived at USC. Why do we continue to doubt this
Well, I think the outstanding pitching
staff and the team's overall toughness and confidence is why it's ranked
as high as No. 3, even though it must replace starters at all four very
critical up-the-middle positions. If you don't think Scott Wingo and
Peter Mooney and Jackie Bradley Jr. and Brady Thomas were key parts of
this run, you are fooling yourself. That said... we ranked them No. 3! I
think that's a pretty strong sign of our regard for that program and
the players that are back in the fold.
Frank (Chicago): Does Appel draw any comps to you?
Something between Brandon Morrow and Justin
Verlander — two tall, electric-armed RHPs who were also roughly .500
pitchers in college. Like those guys, Appel has incredible upside, and I
think it's only a matter of time before it clicks.
Dan (CA): When can we expect the Top 50 by class rankings? Care to hint at the top Freshmen and Sophomores today?
I believe those are coming out on Feb. 2. I'll give you this one: Tyler Beede is the No. 1 freshman.
Johnny (Charlotte, NC): Hey Aaron,
How soon will it be until Gamecock fans accuse BA of not giving them any respect?
You're too late!
Luke Gaspar (Franklin TN): Do you see Vanderbilts pitching staff as a top 10 program all season?
I think it's got that kind of upside — the
notion of Kevin Ziomek, Tyler Beede and Sam Selman all pitching up to
their potential is frightening. I'm sure there will be bumps along the
road — Ziomek was disappointing in the Cape last summer, so I'm eager
to see how he adjusts to a starting role now that he's going to be
fresher and more conditioned for starting. And Selman is really a great
X-factor, but his raw ability is crazy. Can he command the zone
consistently? We'll find out; it's a vital question for Vandy.
Javier (Miami Gardens): Can you tell me about
the Miami Hurricanes situation at first base? They seem to have had a
big hole there since Yonder Alonso left.
Miami is pretty excited about a freshman
named Esteban Tresgallo, a guy they found in Puerto Rico who really has a
great feel for the barrel. I think he'll be a real impact player for
them, though not an Alonso-level star.
Jeff (Columbia, SC): Do you think the SEC
tourney expansion helps the lower teams in the league by giving them
more exposure or hurts the higher seeded teams by exposing them to
conference tourney upsets?
I feel like most of the time, the
higher-seeded teams in the SEC tournament have already pretty much
locked up hosting spots and, often, national seeds. Upsets in the
conference tourney won't hurt them much. I'm not sure the No. 9 and No.
10 SEC teams will get a huge bump by being in the conference tournament
— I think making the SEC tournament will just lose some of its luster
as a barometer for NCAA tournament worthiness — but a chance to win a
few more games could be a benefit to them.
Matt (South Carolina): I know you went to SC's
practice last week, what do you gather from the new look infield at SC
and the time you spent one on one with Michael Roth?
I think the infield is pretty exciting —
Joey Pankake is going to be a great player, but he's going to make some
errors as a freshman, because that's what freshman shortstops do. Chase
Vergason and LB Dantzler should be steady at second and third —
Dantzler is very physical and will give them a nice presence in the
middle of the order. The biggest thing is South Carolina just brought in
so many athletes last year, between English and Costen and Carson and
Pankake. As for Roth, spending a day with him was a blast — as everyone
knows, he's a fun dude to be around.
Carlos (San Diego, CA): What are your thoughts
on my 2 area teams USD and SDSU? Both are young and seemed to tone down
the difficulty/competitiveness of their schedules for this season.
I could see USD winning the WCC this year
— that league looks pretty wide open, as it often is, but if Covey
continues to progress, the pitching could be awfully good. Getting
Calvin Drummond back was huge, and I'm excited about Michael Wagner,
who's also a guy who can run it up to 94. Paul Sewald, Paul Paez, James
Pazos — nice pieces there. Bryant is a great lineup anchor, of course,
and I think you're going to enjoy watching Austin Bailey and Andrew
Daniel in the middle infield for the next few years. San Diego State
also has some intriguing young talent — Swanson and Cederoth can be a
pretty good one-two atop the rotation. I think the Aztecs probably need
another year to mature before they're back in the regional discussion,
Case Smith (Texas): What was the deciding factor that kept Baylor out of the top 25? They have a lot of talent and leadership returning.
You're right, and I really like their
lineup. I think Turley will be solid on Fridays, and Garner has
potential as the Saturday guy, but overall the pitching strikes me as
just decent, not great. Still, they were right on the cusp of the Top
25, and I think they're the No. 4 team in the Big 12.
David (Los Angeles): Aaronm as a Pac-12 fan one
thing I did not notice in your take on Arizona State was their move
from the VERY hitter friendly on-campus stadium to the deeper and more
traditional Spring Training complex that will now be their home. Any
thoughts on how that may impact the line-up and their approach ... Does
this make going into ASU a lot easier than before?
Good point, David — that will be
interesting to watch. Arizona State had already become more of a
gap-to-gap team than a home run hitting team, but the difference is they
played on a very fast track before, which played to their strengths
athletically. ASU had a serious home-field advantage before; I'll be
curious to see if it still does.
John (Tuscaloosa, AL): Interesting BA has Ole
Miss ranked #22 despite losing their entire weekend rotation. I realize
the SEC is strong and Ole Miss is still talented (Alabama fan here) but
why them over Mississippi State or even Alabama and Auburn? Thanks.
One reason is the all the veterans in the
lineup, especially the infield. I also think Bobby Wahl has a chance to
thrive in the Friday role, and I think you'll see major improvement out
of Hively and Mayers behind him. And Josh Laxer and Hawtin Buchanan are
going to be studs for Ole Miss — serious impact freshmen. I just think
that's a balanced club, moreso than Bama and Auburn. Mississippi State
is very close — those guys have a lot of upside if all the new starters
in the infield perform, because the stable of power arms is very
impressive. I'm intrigued by guys like DeMarcus Henderson, Adam Frazier,
Daryl Norris and Taylor Stark, but those guys are unproven. I prefer to
have veterans I know I can trust in the infield in this BBCOR era, when
it is so important that you don't give away outs because every run is
Megan (AZ): I understand Stanford being ranked
as high as they are, and I do think that they will do extremely well
nationally,however I don't think that they will win the Pac-12. I also
understand why ASU is ranked lower on here than them, but consider
this...since ASU has no chance at a post-season this year and they
return an excellent pitching lineup and some of their top hitters, don't
you think that they have a great opportunity to win the Pac-12 with how
I think you're dead-on. They're going to
play loose and easy and with a chip on their shoulders. I won't be
surprised in the slightest if Arizona State wins the Pac this year.
Brian (Georgia): Can you explain the optimism about Georgia?
Tons of proven pitching back (look for Alex
Wood to have a monster year, and Palazzone is very reliable and
competitive), good balance and experience in the lineup, and the makeup
of this team cannot be questioned. They proved their toughness last
year, and now they can just go out there and enjoy playing without
having to deal with any catastrophic injuries, finally.
OK everybody, lots of great questions still
in the hopper, but I'm afraid I've got to cut this off after almost two
hours — back to working on the College Preview issue. Thanks to
everyone for coming by — very enjoyable chat. Remember, starting on
Feb. 1 we'll be rolling out fresh college preview content every day
leading up to the start of the regular season, so be sure to check back