College Top 25 Chat: April 25
Hi everybody. Before I get started, just
wanted to highlight some breaking news: South Carolina has announced
that an MRI on Jackie Bradley Jr.'s left wrist has confirmed a tendon
injury, which will sideline the All-American indefinitely. He will see a
hand specialist today to set a course of treatment. It goes without
saying that this is a huge blow for the Gamecocks.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Have you heard any recent
news on Purke's shoulder? Assuming it turns out to be good news, would
you still project him to be a 1st rounder? If not, what will this mean
There is nothing new to report —
everyone's waiting on the Purke family to shed some light on this. I'll
refrain from further speculation about his draft stock until there is
more information out there.
Ben (Leland Grove): How much has George Springer's stock improved as of late? Would he be a top 10 guy for you right now?
I never really downgraded his stock
significantly during his early-season struggles — I always thought he
was a top 10 pick, and I still think he is. But it does sound like he's
made some adjustments at the plate — his uptick in offensive numbers is
not solely a result of feasting on inferior pitching. That's probably
reassuring for teams that would consider him in the top 10. Regardless,
he's a huge-upside guy with some risk that he won't hit at the high
levels — that is what he has always been, and what he remains. I
believe he will hit in pro ball, and I think plenty of clubs out there
think he's got a real chance to, as well.
Andy (Baton Rouge): What's your take on LSU's
season? Is it a case of youth? Lack of talent? Coaching? Hard to
believe this is the same team that swept Fullerton last month. Fans are
starting to get restless down here in Baton Rouge.
To be fair, fans in Baton Rouge get
restless if the Tigers have a one-game losing streak — that fan base is
not exactly renowned for its patience and levelheadedness. But clearly,
there is reason for restlessness right now — 4-14 in conference play
is not pretty. I just think the pitching is just OK, not great like the
hot start might have falsely caused people to believe, and the lineup
has underachieved a bit. I expected more from Tyler Hanover and Trey
Watkins, and JaCoby Jones returned to earth a bit after his hot start.
But still, the schedule opens up quite a bit for LSU now — the last
four series are all very winnable, and I'm not writing off this team for
a regional spot. Right now, they're not in the field of 64 — but they
have a real chance to play themselves back in.
@Jaypers413 (IL): How would you grade Mahtook's tools on the 20-80 scale? Thanks.
It's pretty much 50s and 55s across the board — not a real carrying tool, but a very nice all-around package.
jb (SC): How far is Clemson from the top 25 and where do you see them in the post season?
Thanks for the terrific coverage!
Back in the Top 25 discussion, but that 1-8
record against the Top 25 is a killer. Good for Clemson for taking care
of business against the softer part of the ACC schedule over the last
three weeks, but it's still not a Top 25 resume or a hosting resume
until the Tigers can rack up some signature wins. The schedule affords
two such opportunities down the stretch — against Georgia Tech and at
Florida State. The Tigers will be underdogs in both series, but they're
certainly capable of taking two of three from the Yellow Jackets at home
this weekend. I'm not saying they will, necessarily, but they could. If
they do, they'll likely vault back into the Top 25 and edge their way
back into the hosting discussion — which is very crowded in the ACC
right now, with Virginia, Florida State, Georgia Tech, North Carolina
and Miami already ahead of Clemson in the pecking order.
Jonathan (Johnson City): I've seen Vanderbilt
the last 2 weekends on ESPN2. What do you think about their Sunday start
Taylor Hill? Also, where do you see him and Westlake going in the
Taylor Hill is a quality senior with a real
nice sinker, a good split-finger and a solid slider — he's a definite
top 10 rounds talent, and could climb up into the top 4-5 rounds as a
money-saving senior. I'm a big Westlake fan, and I know some scouts who
love him even more than I do — it's just a great lefthanded swing and
all kinds of strength and leverage in the swing, and he squares balls up
consistently. I'll bet he goes in the top 3 rounds — could go higher
if this wasn't such a strong draft, and he still might go higher,
because he's one of the better college bats out there.
Ben (Leland Grove): I read that you once thought of Sean Gilmartin as more of a sandwich rounder. Has that prediction changed for you of late?
Spoke with a national crosschecker recently
who reaffirmed that opinion — said the latest he'll go is the second
round, and he'll probably go in the sandwich round. The fastball is no
better than fringy, and the same goes for the slider, but his changeup
is really good, and he's pretty risk-free — you know what you're
getting with him.
George (Columbus): You have mentioned several
times how the Big Ten is so jumbled up as it was last year at this
point. I am wondering who you have as the favorite to win the regular
season and then who is your favorite to win the tournament and go to a
regional (since it is looking like a 1 bid conference)?
I'm sticking with Michigan State as the
team to beat, with Minnesota as my next choice — the Gophers got back
on track with a sweep of Indiana this weekend, and they have a history
of finishing strong, like they did last year.
Kenny (Starkvegas): The Big Three from the SEC
East are 23-4 against the West. 3 of the 4 losses are to Miss. State. Do
you see State making the SEC tourney? Who is the best team in the West
which is best for 5th place overall in the SEC?
Mississippi State's remaining schedule is
pretty favorable (no more SEC East heavyweights to deal with), so yes, I
do see the Bulldogs making the SEC tourney and a regional. Love what
John Cohen and his staff have done there, remaking that roster and
winning with an athletic, versatile club. Best team in the West? Your
guess is as good as mine at this point — the three leaders are all
.500! Arkansas and Ole Miss have the more challenging remaining
schedules (each must still play Florida and South Carolina), so I guess
I'll take Auburn, which won series against both of the other two.
Alabama's still a factor too... talk about wide open.
Shannon (Gainesville, FL): Nick Maronde has had
an impressive bounce-back year after struggling with his stuff last
season. What have you heard from scouts on him, and where does he
project in the draft in your opinion?
Throwing a lot more strikes, his changeup
has gotten a lot better, and he pitches comfortably around 93 from the
left side — pretty nice package. I feel like we're going to wind up
with 500 guys labeled "top five-rounders", but Maronde sure feels like a
top five-rounder, and I may be selling him short.
Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Aaron, thank you for
the chat and all of the outstanding work this year. In looking forward
to the 2012 draft, how has Kenny Diekroeger looked this year? Does he
seem like a solid bet to stick at short?
I told a West Coast crosschecker that we've
got Diekroeger atop our 2012 board, and he told me I had the right guy
— unless Mark Appel goes ahead of him (we've got Appel at No. 4 on our
preseason Top 50 sophomores list). Diekroeger has made some errors at
short, but it's just a matter of being more consistent — his tools are
certainly good enough to handle the position, and he can really hit.
Schaeffer (Hattiesburg, MS): What are your thoughts on the big C-USA match up between So. Miss and ECU this weekend?
Southern Miss is the much more offensive
team, and that is an offensive ballpark, so I like USM's chances. I'd
give ECU the edge on the mound if Seth Maness comes back — he missed
his first career weekend start this past weekend because of a sore
forearm. ECU can really pitch, but it will have its hands full this
weekend, even at full strength. The Pirates scored a bunch of runs
Sunday, but I still think Southern Miss has good enough pitching to keep
that lineup in check. Should be a good series, with a great crowd that
ECU should feed off, but I'd still lean toward Southern Miss.
Alex (Fairfax, VA): UConn definitely seems to
have righted the ship with an 18-3 month, but at #62 in the RPI estimate
and, if I remember right, you guys recently questioning whether they'd
even get an at-large bid unless they won the Big East as expected, what
made you change your mind so fast?
P.S. I'd put early "money" on them as the #2 in a UVa regional. Hultzen
v. Springer anyone??
I'm still not saying they'd get an at-large
bid — they need to go 15-2 down the stretch to finish in the top 45 of
the RPI (per the RPI Needs Report), and they're good enough to do that,
but even if they do they'd be on the bubble. But they're certainly
talented enough to be a major factor in the postseason — I still
believe that — and this 18-3 stretch coupled with their talent was
enough to get them back into our Top 25, independent of whether or not
they'll get an at-large bids. There are lots of talented teams that
won't necessarily get at-large bids because of the RPI — Kent State
comes to mind. We also debated Kent State for the Top 25 this week, but
its resume was lacking in quality wins. Georgia Southern is another one
— I actually like its resume more, with series wins against Elon and
CofC, but the RPI makes an at-large spot a long shot. Even so, the
Eagles could play their way into our Top 25 if they stay hot.
Marc (Left Field, Texas): OK, so Texas is in
the Top 5-6 in most polls, but RPI numbers are lacking. If we win the
final three series vs #14 Oklahoma, @ Nebraska, vs #6 Texas A&M is
there a chance we get a Top 8 Seed? Or is there only one slot open to
the winner of the Big XII (technically Texas could win their last three
series and still finish a game behind Texas A&M)? Seems odd that Top
5 team could be traveling during the Supers ...
It does seem odd, and wrong. The RPI drives
me nuts — there's no way Texas should be precluded from a national
seed based on the RPI, which is dragged down by six games against Brown,
Houston Baptist and UTPA. Texas has played a strong schedule — it
played Stanford, it went to Hawaii (which is a quality trip even though
the RPI doesn't reflect it), and it's cruising through the Big 12. But
the Big 12 isn't in great RPI shape this year, which hurts Texas. In the
end, I suspect Texas A&M will get a national seed and Texas will
not, whether that's fair or not.
Randy (Greenville, SC): Aaron,
Who wins the SEC east and the overall SEC regular season title? If you had to bet on it today who would you take?
The Bradley injury hurts South Carolina.
Maybe the Gamecocks keep winning without him — they have proven to be a
resilient bunch — but I can't take them over Florida and Vandy without
their best all-around player. Vanderbilt has the slightly easier road
than Florida, and it helps that it gets the Gators in Nashville. So I
guess I'd lean toward Vandy.
Mike Huntley (Eugene): Who is the best team in the West given Fresno State's mastery of Oregon State early in the season?
I'm not sure a pair of one-run wins against
a cold-weather team in February really counts as conclusive proof that
Fresno State is better than Oregon State — I certainly wouldn't use the
word "mastery." Obviously I've been impressed with the Beavers —
they've got the best resume so far of any team in the West. But if I'm
looking forward, I still can't shake the feeling that Arizona State and
Cal State Fullerton will be the two best teams in the West at the end of
the year, with Oregon State and Fresno State right in the mix.
Taylor (Houston): Can we all say Texas A&M
is legit this year? And how close are they to locking up a national top
seed, if they haven't already? Thanks!
Oh, they're legit. With four weeks left in
the season, you can't say anyone has locked up a national seed — they
could go 4-12 down the stretch and fall right out of that mix. But
that's not going to happen, and I think the Aggies are a very strong bet
for a national seed. I wrote about them in today's Three Strikes.
shawn (Fort Worth): TCU had a very impressive
weekend (without Purke) against an underrated UNLV team. We play DBU
tonight, OU tomorrow night and Oklahoma State this weekend. With an
impressive week (beating OU and taking the series against OSU), do you
see TCU back in contention to host a regional for the third year in a
row? Also, how does Jason Coats draft stock look right now? As always,
thanks for the coverage.
Yeah, I think a 4-1 record against OU, OSU
and Baylor over the next couple of weeks would put the Frogs in good
hosting position. Coats feels like a 5th-8th round type in this strong
Juan (Naperville): Aaron, thanks for taking my
question . Please compare the ACC vs. the SEC. In my opinion the ACC is
just as tough as the SEC . With UVA, NC, Miami,Georgia Tech and Flordia
State this is some tough competition . Please don't treat the ACC as
your red headed step child .
SEC fans are choking on their own guffaws
right now. But you're right that the ACC has some quality teams at the
top — it just doesn't have nearly the depth that the SEC does. I'm just
not real impressed with the bottom five teams in the ACC — that's the
biggest difference. And the top three teams in the SEC are better than
the top three teams in the ACC (assuming Virginia is a wash with whoever
you like as the best team in the SEC).
Taylor (Houston): Aaron, the Top 25 Tracker
seems to be getting a little bare. I depend on that to catch up on all
the highlights across the nation. What gives?
We scaled back Top 25 Tracker at midseason,
choosing instead to bulk up the daily roundup posts on the College Blog
and add a Sunday roundup, which seemed to make the old Tracker
redundant. I'd welcome feedback on this new format — if you miss the
old bloated Tracker, send me an e-mail and let me know! If you think the
detailed daily roundup blogs are a fine substitute, let me know that as
Mike (west hartford ct): Good to see the Huskies back in the top 25. They seem to finally playing up to expectations.
With an RPI of 62 is there a chance they can host a regional as one of the last 2 seeds? or a 3?
I think there's pretty much no chance of that.
FloydsWorld (NY): How many D1 hitters do you
think are hitting .350 or better, have an OPS greater than 1.000, have
more walks then K's, and making contact 85% of the time or greater all
at the same time?
How would you classify this type of hitting prospect? Perhaps
collegesplits can provide that?
It would be interesting, as by a quick check on some high profile names,
C.J. Cron? Not sure the contact rate, but
he meets the rest of your criteria — and he's high profile. I think
he's the best hitter in college baseball.
Mike (CT): What do you think of the Big East
this season? Why have the cards struggled? The Johnnies have a decent
low 40s rpi - any chance its a 2 bid league?
Louisville's just not a great offensive
team. We figured the Cardinals would take a step back after losing all
those key veterans in the lineup from last year's team, and they have —
this group is much less physical. St. John's could make a run at an
at-large spot with a strong finish (13-4 would get it into the top 45 in
the year-end RPI, and that's bubble range). We had St. John's in the
preseason Top 25, so we clearly like their talent. Outside chance to be a
two-bid league — I still wouldn't bet on it.
MJ (New York): What are your thoughts on Miami
after they finally beat a ranked team this weekend in taking 2 of 3 from
UNC on the road? It would have been nice to see a better performance
on Sunday but otherwise they seem to be playing better and better each
week and they have great opportunities to move up further with the FSU
series this weekend and Virginia in 3 weeks. After a slow, is Miami in a
great position to host a regional?
I wouldn't say "great" position to host —
they're still probably fifth in the ACC hosting pecking order (or best
case, fourth, just ahead of UNC), and they also must compete with
Stetson for a third host spot in Florida. Stetson is 14-3 vs. the top
100 in the RPI, while Miami is just 16-9. But this weekend put Miami
back in the discussion, in earnest.
Steve (Owltown): Welcome back from Omaha. What
is your scouting report on the new Zestos location? Did the burgers
and chocolate malts survive the move? Will the new venue for the CWS
favor any particular team or style of play?
A canceled flight left me with almost no
time to explore the surrounding area before the game, so I'm afraid I
didn't even locate Zesto's. As for style of play — I think it's going
to play much more pitcher-friendly, because there is a lot of foul
ground, and the park is no longer up on a hill with winds gusting out.
Expect a much more low-scoring CWS.
3xWahoo (Charlottesville): Aaron
Do you think it is healthy for a team to lose some games throughout the
season? Last year Virginia held strong at number 1 most of the regular
season and went completely flat entering the supers. One month before, I
think they would've taken any team in the country. This season is
shaping up eerily similar. With only 4 loses, would it do us some good
to lose a few more and reveal any weaknesses before the tournament?
I think conventional wisdom says it's never
good to lose, and I'm sure my stathead pals like Ben Badler will tell
me just because a team has sustained winning ways for a long period of
time, that does not mean they're any more or less likely to lose in the
postseason — if anything, the stats probably show that a team that wins
more in the regular season wins more in the postseason (that seems
pretty obvious and intuitive, right?). But how often do we hear coaches
say, "In retrospect, losing (such and such series) was the best thing
that ever happened to us"? We hear it a lot, right? There's something to
be said for the wake-up call, for the bump in the road that forces you
to make an adjustment, to reveal any fatal flaws, like you said. Not
every team needs those, but it takes a very special team to go wire to
wire without any hiccups (trust me, I'm a New England Patriots fan...).
That's a long way of not really answering your question. Statistically,
maybe there is nothing to gain from losing a series in the regular
season, but I'm not so sure there isn't some intangible benefit, at
least in some cases.
Greg (NYC): Aaron, when you advanced Oregon
State several spots (including jumping Vandy for the #3 spot), you noted
that you were rewarding a spectacular hot streak. In their last 17
games, Vanderbilt is 15-2 (with the two losses coming at #2 South
Carolina). In their last 17, Oregon State is 14-3 (with a loss at
Arizona and one each while hosting sub-.500 squads UC Santa Barbara and
Washington State). Vanderbilt has played a tougher schedule than OSU,
has a better road record, a better home record, a better Top 50 record, a
better average runs per game (both scored and allowed) and, well, a
better team. Please explain your rationale for continuing the #3 / #4
You make a strong argument, Greg, and I do
think the margin is razor-thin there. I guess the bottom line is this:
We ended up moving Vandy down a few spots when it lost a series last
weekend (albeit a very competitive series against a very good team on
the road). But we generally try not to move teams down when they win
weekend series, and OSU did win its series this weekend. At the end of
the day, do I think Vandy is better than Oregon State? Yes I do. There's
plenty of time for that to bear itself out — no reason fretting about a
one-spot difference in the Top 25 in April.
Ryan (Honolulu): Hi Aaron! Wanted to know your thoughts on the WACky WAC, Kolten Wong, and on Hawaii's postseason chances?
Obviously I still like Fresno State in the
WAC (we do have the Bulldogs ranked 13th, after all), and the RPI means
that Hawaii will have to win the automatic bid in order to go to
regionals. As for Wong, he's the nation's best second baseman, and soon
he'll be a first-round pick. He's not real big, and he's a second
baseman, but the guy flat-out hits, and he's athletic, and he's a gamer.
Lots of great questions left in the queue, but I'm out of time. Thanks for stopping by — see you next week!