College Top 25 Chat: Feb. 28




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Aaron Fitt: Hi everybody, sorry I'm a couple of minutes late. Let's get going.

    Arkham (Danville, PA): UCLA? Bauer and Cole? Uh-oh?

Aaron Fitt: I wouldn't say "uh-oh." It's just one weekend, and I'd be surprised if both of those guys lose in the same weekend again this season. Of course, I was very surprised it happened this weekend. Bauer's stuff was good—he was 93-94, a scout told me, and his secondary stuff was good, including his "reverse slider"—and I think the delay affected Cole, who threw nine pitches Friday and then had to wait until Sunday to continue his outing. Weird weekend, but tip your hat to San Jose State. That's a pretty good club that just won a huge series.

    Brian (New York): Any Northeast teams surprize you this weekend? Do you see any making some unexpected noise this year?

Aaron Fitt: Stony Brook is the obvious answer — did not expect the Seawolves to open their season by taking two of three from a veteran, talented Florida Atlantic team. Stony Brook is the favorite in the America East, and Nick Tropeano gives it a chance to win every Friday.

    Marc (Tallahassee): Two part question here: 1) Is Taylor Jungmann poised to have one of the best years ever for a division I pitcher? What is the record for complete game shut-outs in a single season? 2) After playing such a weak schedule and remaining undefeated (with the exception of a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies), what do you make of Florida State? They seem to have a lot of good hitters in the lineup that hit for both average and power, and some solid, though maybe not dominant, starting pitching.

Aaron Fitt: Jungmann is off to the best start of any college pitcher, obviously, with back-to-back shutouts. He has dominating stuff, and he came out of the gate in midseason form, with great command of four really good pitches. He was a preseason first-team All-American, and I'm willing to bet he'll be a postseason first-team All-American. He looks like the very, very early front-runner for College Player of the Year at this point. I think you've summed up Florida State pretty well. Very good lineup and a solid pitching staff. The 'Noles aren't loaded with overpowering arms, but they compete, they throw strikes, and I think the staff is deeper than it has been in recent years.

    Joel (KCK): Another dominating performance by Danny Hultzen this weekend. Are his accomplishments so far the results of facing lesser competition or is he the real deal? From everything I've heard he's more of a high floor guy than a high ceiling guy. Exactly what kind of stuff does this guy have, and how do you think it will translate to the pros?

Aaron Fitt: The competition he's faced has been decent — UAB isn't bad, and East Carolina should contend for regionals. He's just extremely polished, and he does have good stuff. His velocity's been up a tick — he's sitting 89-92, reaching as high as 94, and he has a superb changeup and a nice breaking ball. He can just really pitch, and he's so athletic and competitive. It's not front-of-the-rotation big league stuff, but he can be a very solid mid-rotation big league starter, I think.

    Kurt (Tallahassee): Not that poll positions really matter that much, but how did your staff justify dropping FSU a position after starting 7-0? I realize VMI & Hofstra were cream puffs, but Jacksonville U is 6-2 (and one of the losses is to FSU). All the other polls moved us up one to two spots. Just curious. Thanks for your coverage of college baseball.

Aaron Fitt: It was a bit of an awkward week in the Top 10. We very seldom drop teams that win weekend series, especially teams that sweep weekend series, but this week we slid Arizona State, Florida State and Clemson each down a spot to make room for teams that have leapt over them. We do like to reward teams that challenge themselves early, and those three teams really have not done so. They've certainly taken care of business, but I'm frankly more impressed with Cal State Fullerton taking a series at No. 4 TCU, or Stanford being 4-3 after road series against Rice and No. 3 Vanderbilt, plus a midweek game against a talented and red-hot Cal team. Stanford lost two games by one run on the road against a loaded Vandy team, then won the Sunday game. That's an awfully good 2-2 week, and we felt Stanford has shown more by its performance against marquee competition than those other three teams have shown by beating up softer opponents.

    RSN (Georgia): So far what are your thoughts on the SOCON? CofC(7-0) and Elon(5-2) are off to great starts and GSU(6-2),WCU(5-2) and App St(5-2) off to decent starts. Citadel(3-5) has struggled big time with loses to Towson, 2-Gardner Webb, 2-Wright St. Do you still have just one team projected to make a Regional? And if not who gets in. thanks

Aaron Fitt: I won't revise my field of 64 until midseason, but certainly the SoCon has a chance for two or three bids, as usual. We were going out on a limb predicting just one SoCon team for regionals, frankly, and it looks like Elon and Georgia Southern won't be terribly affected by the new bats. Both those clubs look like legit regional contenders, and I like Western Carolina too. It's early yet, too early to really know how the SoCon will shake out, but I do still think Charleston is the class of the league.

    Bill (Atlanta): I was really interested in seeing St. Johns in Atlanta this weekend after you were pretty high on them. As you know, 18 shutout innings before they blew us up on Sunday - largely GT's own fault. How close is a ridiculously young GT team to being in the Top 25 with you? And, under your system, would they get credit for going 2-1 against a team that was in your Top 25 at the time, but not thereafter? Thanks for the chat.

Aaron Fitt: Georgia Tech was knocking on the Top 25 door — the Jackets beat two very good Northern teams over the first two weeks, but the weather advantages for Tech temper those accomplishments just a tad. Still, if Tech had gone 4-1 this week instead of 3-2, it would probably have been in the rankings this week. I'm still very high on Georgia Tech's pitching, and Matt Skole's return bolstered the lineup this weekend. The Jackets should have some ups and downs with all the young players in the lineup, but the pitching should keep them in most games and prevent them from falling into any prolonged funks. Certainly looks like a Top 25-caliber club. But there are a bunch of Top 25-caliber clubs that aren't in the rankings right now, as we wait for the picture to clarify a bit.

    Pat (Chicago): Tulane has had pretty good pitching, thus far, but the fielding and hitting have not been good. If we assume the fielding will come around, what are your thoughts on the hitting? Is there a lack of talent or is it just that several of the sophomores, that hit well last year, are just off to super slow starts? Thanks

Aaron Fitt: I don't think Tulane will have an explosive offense this year, but that's no change from my preseason opinion. I do think the Green Wave will hit better than it has so far— those sophomores will come around. Those guys aren't marquee talents, but they're capable of getting on base and using the gaps. Chalk it up to slow starts.

    Benson (Brentwood, TN): Is there another team in the country who can match the power arms of Vanderbilt? Against Stanford they were running guys out of their bullpen throwing mid-90's heat, and one of their top prospects (Armstrong) didn't even throw! Also, assess the stuff and draft prospects of RHP Sonny Gray. Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: Vanderbilt, UCLA, TCU, Florida, Texas and Fullerton all have truly elite pitching, with power arms and depth. It's very hard to separate those staffs for me. Vandy's bullpen has been stellar so far—it's really solidified around Navery Moore, Mark Lamm, Will Clinard and Kevin Ziomek. Gray is a likely top-10 overall pick; when he's at his best it's 93-96 with filthy arm-side run and the best power curveball in college baseball.

    Tom (Jacksonville): What do you think about the A-SUN overall? Stetson and Jacksonville's are off to good starts, what is your take on these two teams? Do you see these two teams having a shot at helping the A-SUN get more than one team in a regional in 2011?

Aaron Fitt: I'm also very high on Mercer and think Florida Gulf Coast will be a factor as well. Looks like a banner year for the A-Sun, which really does have a legit shot to send multiple teams to regionals. All of those teams look like regional-caliber clubs.

    Ryan (Vicenza, Italy): Cal dominated the competition at the Caravalle Resorts Tournament in Myrtle Beach, SC. Is there any chance at all that they could field a baseball team in 2012? As a Stanford supporter, it wouldn't be the same without our bay area rival annoying us every year!

Aaron Fitt: Cal is really good, and it's great to see that the off-field stuff has galvanized that team — I think a lot of people are pulling for those guys. Sadly, my sense is that the chances Cal will field a team next year are slim; the announcement a couple of weeks ago had the air of finality about it. I think there are some people in that administration that are just hell-bent on killing baseball in order to make a statement that the athletics department has to tighten its belt just like the rest of the university. The program and the players deserve so much better.

    Mike (Chicago): I saw on twitter you got a chance to watch Kyle Gaedele play this weekend. What were your observations on him, and where can you see him getting picked in the draft?

Aaron Fitt: I thought he looked really good — very athletic, very physical, good bat speed. He went 1-for-3 in the game I saw, showing the ability to hit breaking balls, a nice approach, and hit two balls hard — a single to center on a first-pitch slider, and a hard line drive to the center-field warning track. I chatted with a scout who was similarly impressed. Could be a top-three-rounds pick out of Valparaiso this year, I think.

    Tripp (Charleston, SC): OK Aaron, I'm sure you'll get plenty of these questions today, but break down the Clemson-south carolina series this weekend for us. Though I'm a Clemson fan, I don't see this as a good match-up for the Tigers with facing three quality LHP over the series (and we know what Roth can do to this line-up with that sidearm action to lefty batters). My thoughts are that Weismann and Haselden (filling in for an injured Leone) will have to be lights out and Brady just has to keep doing what he is doing in order for the Tigers to take the series. What say you?

Aaron Fitt: Looks like a great breakdown to me, Tripp — does this mean I don't have to write Weekend Preview? Seriously, you're dead on — Roth made Clemson's potent offense look feeble in the CWS. The Tigers will have to do better against the lefties this weekend. Love what Brady has done through two weeks; he's the biggest story for Clemson, I think.

    Bob (Danville): Why no love for San Jose State after a huge series win ? Do you see the WAC as a potential 3-bid league this year with Hawaii, Fresno, and San Jose ?

Aaron Fitt: San Jose State jumped from off the map into the Top 25 discussion this week, and we strongly considered the Spartans for No. 25. Let's see if they can sustain this hot start — I think they just might have the pitching to make a nice run this year. Hard to see the WAC as more than a two-bid league, but then again, the Mountain West got three teams in a couple of years ago, and that's a comparable conference. Maybe this is the year for the WAC.

    Dan (Lewisville, TX): Hi Aaron, How close is SE Louisiana to cracking the polls after big Wins against Tulane, Bama, South Bama and UCF this past week? Also, what are the draft prospects of Jefferson and Boudreaux?

Aaron Fitt: Very close — in that group with Southeastern Louisiana, San Jose State, Georgia Tech, Miami, Tulane, Arkansas, Ole Miss and St. John's just outside the rankings. SELA was a good club last year, and it looks even better in 2011. Boudreaux is an athletic shortstop who can swing the bat — got a chance to be a nice draft this year, I'd say, although I haven't spoken with a scout about him yet this spring to get a better feel for where he might fit in. Efferson is a solid senior sign righthander — not overpowering stuff, but solid stuff, and he competes hard and knows how to pitch.

    Drew (Greenwood, MS): Aaron, What do the Rebels have to do this Week to Crack the Top 25. Also what are your thoughts on the way Austin Wright has pitched so far this season. Thanks for the weekly Chat.

Aaron Fitt: I'd say a weekend series win against Tulane next week ought to put the Rebels in the rankings, provided there is room. Ole Miss was a 26-35 type team for us heading into the year, and it's gotten off to a solid start. Wright was solid each of the last two Sundays, and I think that's very encouraging for the Rebels. He's really a key piece — he's got big-time arm strength, but he had to show he has the makeup and command to handle a weekend starter role for an SEC team, and so far, so good.

    Eric S. (Orlando, FL): I'm all for pitching and defense, but there are entire teams in your top 25 who have yet to homer this season, including two in the top 10. Is it possible we've gone too far in the opposite direction from the late 90's? I don't want #9 hitters with double digit homers, but I also don't want the home run removed from the equation entirely.

Aaron Fitt: The jury is still out on whether the new bats will be a good thing or not, but it's clear that home run production will be drastically down. I don't think homers have been removed entirely, but hitters have to square balls up to hit them out, instead of missing the sweet spot and still getting "metal bat" homers. My gut says that's a good thing, but there is certainly a danger that the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. I'm suspending judgment until after the season, I think.

    Bryan (San Francisco): I'm asking this question from 30,000 feet in the air using Southwest's new WiFi...Anyway, it looks like Oregon and Cal have potentially dominating pitching staffs. Combined with UCLA, does the Pac-10 have the deepest pitching? Also, what can you tell us about the three big arms at Oregon for the draft? Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: Those three staffs and Stanford's are all loaded, and there are plenty of good arms at ASU, Washington State, Arizona, Southern California and Oregon State also. So to answer your question, yes, I think the Pac-10 has the deepest pitching this year. Anderson's a polished four-pitch lefty who really competes — he's somewhat similar to Danny Hultzen, but without as smooth a delivery. Madison Boer is a power righty who was up to 94 with a good slider in relief in the Northwoods last summer — if he keeps pitching like he has through his first two starts, he could climb into the first few rounds as well. I don't think Scott McGough has gotten off to a great start, and he's a bit undersized, but he has a very quick arm and a quality three-pitch mix of his own. Probably a top-five-rounds guy, maybe better.

    Brad (Texas): How much has George Springer's moderately slow start adversely affected his draft stock?

Aaron Fitt: Not at all, I'd say — see my Scouting Report on UConn from last week's Weekend Preview. Scouts will be patient with him; his tools are huge, it's only Week Two, and he plays for a Northern team.

    Johnny (Boston): What kind of prospect is your website coverboy today - Mark Lamm from Vandy?

Aaron Fitt: Saw him last week — it was 90-93 with a good slider and changeup. I'd say that makes him a pretty good prospect. Vandy doesn't need him to start, but I wonder if he's got a chance to do that in pro ball — seems he's got the stuff and maybe the feel for pitching too.

    Taylor (Houston): I read somewhere before Sunday's game that the Texas A&M pitching staff had a ridiculous ERA around something like 0.75, and now I see its 1.52. I know it hasn't been against the best competition, but just how good is this staff? And is Wacha a true high end prospect like I'm reading about everywhere? Wish i could make it Saturday to see what should be a Stilson/Rendon matchup...

Aaron Fitt: It's a very good staff, and yes, Wacha is a high-end guy, I think. He's big and durable, a strike-thrower who works downhill with a plus fastball and improving secondary stuff. I'm looking forward to seeing him and Stilson this weekend in Houston.

    Chris (Dana Point, CA): Soft bats are real, so are teams playing differently?. The 35% reduction in HRs per batted ball in play thru 10 days stat you forwarded via tweet was right in line with many preseason predictions; big impact, but not a surprise. Surprisingly I also heard that not a single base runner had tested Florida Catcher Mike Zunino's arm in over 50 innings of work behind the plate this year. Has this also been the case? Are teams being very conservative on the base paths? Game situations dictate a lot, but if well coached teams want to score against good pitching they are going to have to put runners in motion. I predict FSU and Miami run (or at least try to) against Florida this week. Your thoughts?

Aaron Fitt: Some teams are playing conservatively, but others are playing much more aggressively — like Baylor, which has 18 steals in 19 attempts this year. I think teams will have to take chances to generate offense when they can, but they also can't afford to be reckless with runners on base — it's a fine line. Against an elite defender like Zunino, I think caution is probably prudent. Miami is a speed-oriented team; I anticipate the Hurricanes, in particular, will try to run this weekend.

    Jonathan (Troy, AL): Any love for Troy after winning the series against Southern Miss over the weekend? Troy is now 6-1 and have a really home-friendly schedule with 21 of their first 23 games at home.

Aaron Fitt: Really a great series win for Troy — mentioned it in today's Three Strikes. I thought FIU and FAU were the teams to beat in the Sun Belt; through two weeks, Troy looks like it will be a major factor, too. Lot of good teams in that league — should be a fun race.

    Tman (Myrtle Beach): S Carolina is currently ranked 4th in BA national poll, yet would be only 3rd in the SEC east... Although it is extremely early, how do you see the SEC east playing out this year? Thanks,

Aaron Fitt: I still like those teams in the order we have them ranked — Florida, Vandy, South Carolina. All three are legit national title contenders.

    Dane (Kentucky): I know LSU has a young pitching staff, but I figured they would be ranked a little higher, especially the way they swing the bats. Will the series against Cal St. in a few weeks answer alot of questions?

Aaron Fitt: Yeah, it's hard to really know how good a team is when it plays at home against overmatched competition. I feel like I know a lot more about Vanderbilt after two very tough road series than I do about LSU after two easier home series. LSU's scheduling will probably benefit it — that's a young team that needed to build confidence early in the season — but we won't really know how good the Tigers are until Fullerton comes to town in two weeks. But you have to be encouraged by the way the youngsters (Gausman and McCune in particular) have pitched so far.

    Johnny (Oxford, MS): How do you have UCONN still ranked at 2-4? I guess if you keep them in the ranking they can improve to top ten once the week Big East season starts.

Aaron Fitt: They were preseason No. 9 because they are extremely talented and experienced. They had two tough weekends to open the season, so they dropped to No. 22 — I think that's very reasonable. Any preseason top 10 team that lost its first two weekends would have fallen similarly in our rankings, and would likely have stayed in the 20s also. I believe in UConn's talent, even after two disappointing weeks. It's February, and that's a Northern team that is still rounding into shape. If they go 1-2 again this week, the Huskies will be unranked. But I say this every week, I feel like: our rankings are not based solely on won-lost records, obviously. Our evaluations of a team's talent factor in, particularly early in the year. If you don't care about our evaluations of a team's potential, feel free to just look at standings to determine who the best teams are.

    Kyle Warsaw (Newport Beach): Do you think the Anteaters have a chance of winning the Big West this year.

Aaron Fitt: I like Irvine, and it looks like the No. 2 team in the Big West, but I still feel strongly that Fullerton will win the Big West. Just a much more experienced pitching staff.

    Mac (Ft Worth Tx): What are your thoughts about the Freshman pitcher for TCU, Andrew Mitchell?

Aaron Fitt: He's a stud. He's got a 93-94 mph fastball with heavy sink and a power curveball at 84. He's been lights-out in his first three appearances — he's a real weapon.

    J (Arkansas): I know Arkansas hasn't really played anybody yet, but the freshmen look really good so far. The pitching, though young, seems deeper than the past couple years. How good can this team be by the end of the year?

Aaron Fitt: Very talented young team — I'm looking forward to getting a look at them out here in SoCal in two weeks, especially Ryne Stanek. If the youngsters hold up, that team has a chance to win the SEC West and make a nice postseason run.

    Tripp (Charleston, SC): Aaron, I didn't bring this up earlier as I try to make it a point not to "complain" about the rankings; it always works itself out. I mention it now because of a comment you made about FSU and Clemson getting bumped in favor of Fullerton due to lighter schedules. I don't disagree with that one bit. However, your rankings show the gamecocks leaking their way up three spots to number 4 and they have wins over Santa Clara (3) and Southern Illinois (3) and none of the six in particularly dominant fashion. If strength of schedule is that much of an early factor how can those wins justify a 3-spot vault into the top 5?

Aaron Fitt: Just "poll mechanics" — South Carolina was already ahead of those other three teams, and there was room for it to move up with TCU and UCLA losing, and Texas having a 2-2 week. There was a larger gap between TCU/UCLA and ASU/FSU/Clemson, so we did not want to jump the latter three teams over the former two based on one week. Maybe not a very satisfying answer — like I said, the Top 10 was a bit messy today. Making the sausage is not always an easy, satisfying process.

    Paul (SW Missouri): Thanks for the note on Loyola Marymount in last week's Weekend Preview. They swept Nevada and are off to their best start in more than a decade. I don't think this is a middle-of-the-road WCC team, as the coaches voted before the season started. What do you think?

Aaron Fitt: It's hard to know this early — even Jason Gill was just cautiously optimistic when I spoke with him last week, and the WCC is really wide open, with not a ton of separation between most of the teams in that league. But I really like LMU's pitching staff, and I have a feeling it will carry the Lions toward the top part of the WCC standings.

    Jeff (The District): "I feel like I know a lot more about Vanderbilt after two very tough road series than I do about LSU after two easier home series." The Vanderbilt/Stanford series was in Nashville, wasn't it?

Aaron Fitt: Sorry, I meant to say I feel like I know more about Stanford.

    guest (conn): I don't buy the "northern team" excuse for UCONN as there are several nortern teams winning and bashing, and pitching well right out of the gate. Overrated, probably they are.

Aaron Fitt: I'm not saying it's an excuse — they've still dropped from No. 9 to No. 22 in two weeks, and that's a significant drop. I'm just saying that it's way too early to write this team off. If you think they're overrated, that's fine, but I'm going to disagree with you, and we'll see how the season plays out.

    John (Fresno): Good prediction Mr. Fitt on Fresno State being an Omaha caliber team year. They certainly have been impressive so far this season. The pitching staff which has been a weak part of the team in past seasons has looked great under the tutelage of new pitching coach Steve Rousey. After two weekends what are your impressions of the 2011 Bulldogs? Thanks.

Aaron Fitt: Very good, experienced offensive team that has gotten a lot better on the mound. Great to see Derek Benny pitching well on Friday — been waiting for him to make the leap, and it appears he has.

Aaron Fitt: OK everybody, that's all for this week — thanks for stopping by!