College Top 25 Chat: March 12
Hi everybody, hope you enjoyed Week Four. Let's get to the chat.
Matt (Jackson, MS): Aaron what are your
thoughts on the Ole Miss squad this year? About to enter SEC play this
weekend with just 2 OOC losses and scoring runs in bunches. How far do
you think they can go with hot bats and suspect/unknown pitching?
I believe we've been higher on the Rebels
than any of the other rankings in the preseason and the first month of
the season. We've got them No. 12 now, which is a good indication that
we think highly of them. I really like their offense — as you said,
they can score runs in bunches. It's a deep lineup with three really
good centerpieces in Alex Yarbrough (one of the most underrated players
in college baseball, and one of the best pure hitters in the SEC), Matt
Snyder and the red-hot Zach Kirksey, who has really put it all together
as a senior. Ole Miss thought he had turned the corner in the fall and
told us they expected Kirksey to hit double-digit homers and steal
double-digit bases this spring. He hasn't stolen any bases yet, but he
has six homers already and is hitting .467. But I've actually been
encouraged by what Ole Miss has done on the mound so far, too. Bobby
Wahl has proven that he is capable of being a legit front-line ace, as
hoped, and Hively and Mayers have generally been pretty good behind him.
Ole Miss entered the year with pitching question marks, but the Rebels
have gone a long way toward answering them, for me, heading into
Matt (Texas): Is Buster Posey a good comp to Mike Zunino?
You know, I don't think I've heard any
scouts make that comparison, but I don't think it's a bad one. I think
Posey was more athletic than Zunino, but their offensive impacts seem
quite similar, and both did a nice job behind the plate. Posey was the
runaway choice for College Player of the Year as a junior, and Zunino
might be on track to follow suit. He has been a force of nature so far
for the Gators.
jb (SC): What's going on at Clemson? I know
it's early but their is a reason to hit the panic button. How do you
feel about this team and it's recent struggles?
I'm not hitting the panic button yet. Those
were all close games this weekend, and Clemson lost two of them in the
ninth inning or later. I know it is discouraging when a team can't seem
to win those close games in the late innings, but it also means they are
only a break or two away from winning those games — it's not like
they're getting completely out-classed. North Carolina and South
Carolina are better than Clemson — we believed that in the preseason,
and we continue to believe that. I never thought this Clemson team
really looked like an Omaha club, but I do think that team will get back
on track and be a Top 25 team with a chance to win a regional.
Michael (Georgia): What is your take on the
Southern Conference for first month and rest of season(hows the league
end up and how many bids)? Elon won 2 of 3 at CofC last week and swept
GSU this week even though they are hitting .219 as a team? CofC is 12-3
overall but lost the Elon series. App St is 13-2 and won 11 strait.
Samford just won 2 of 3 at UNCG. WCU is 12-4 but struggled in winning 2
of 3 at Citadel. GSU is falling hard and fast losing 8 of 10 since
losing Roache. UNCG started great vs weak schedule and lost 2 of 3 at
home to Samford.
That's a pretty good snapshot of the
league, Michael. It's going to be very competitive, I think, as usual.
We liked Georgia Southern the best coming into the year, but without
Roache, I'm abandoning that ship. We had Samford as our pick to finish
second in the preseason, and I think I'll go with the Bulldogs to win
the league now, just because I really like their pitching staff and some
of the power in the lineup. But I could certainly see College of
Charleston (another pretty balanced team with some nice, experienced
arms), Elon and App State being in the mix as well. I see the SoCon as a
two-bid league with a chance for three, and those four teams are the
ones I like best, followed by Western Carolina. Really, it's going to be
a dog fight, and I wouldn't be surprised if any of those five teams
came out on top.
Celeste Thompson (Miami, Florida): Was College
of Charleston right outside the Top 25 after posting a 5-0 record this
previous week and a top 20 pitching staff in America (team 2.00 ERA)?
Those guys have played over 1/2 their games truely on the road(not
neutral sites) and have the nations best road winning streak at 8-0.
Thanks Aaron and BA!
Just to piggyback on the last question, I
do like CofC, but right now it would be hard to rank those guys ahead of
Elon, which won two of three at CofC just last weekend.
Bill (Atlanta, GA): It's not so upsetting that
the Yellow Jackets lost a road series to a good team, it's the way they
did it - looking like the "Bumblingbees". The loss to GA State mid-week
was no better. Should GT fans panic?
John Manuel was on hand for two of those
games this weekend in Raleigh, and he came away with the impression that
Georgia Tech's defense is a real area of concern. I wouldn't advise
panic — I seldom do — because I think Tech will score enough runs most
weeks (and pitch well enough most weeks, too) to win plenty of games.
But right now, that team does not play Omaha-caliber defense in the
infield — not even close. They're going to need to find some answers.
Dougner (Albuquerque): Hey Aaron, After tough
weekend series with Florida, TCU and A&M, Cal State Fullerton has
been impressive so far. Do you believe they have the arms or enough
power for a series run to Omaha?
I'm still not in love with Fullerton's
pitching staff, but what I really like is that team's toughness, which
is usually its greatest asset anyway. By going 10-5 against a really,
really difficult schedule over the first three weeks, Fullerton put
itself in great shape to host a regional if it can win the Big West like
it usually does. And if you host a regional, you have a pretty darn
good chance to get to Omaha. Maybe this isn't a powerhouse Fullerton
team loaded with pitching like last year's team was, but it is easy to
envision this team going farther in the postseason than last year's team
Taylor (Houston): Got to see the
A&M/Fullerton matchup on Friday, and came away very impressed with
Wacha and the Ags. Wacha was dominant, and Fullerton looked very
average. What happened the rest of the weekend?
To follow up on the last question,
Fullerton does have a tendency to look average, but somehow find ways to
win. If you look at the box scores from their two wins this weekend,
nothing really jumps out at you — there are no brilliant starting
pitching lines, no huge individual hitting efforts. They just win.
Ultimately, though, I do think A&M is the better team and will go
farther in June, but you've got to tip your hat to Fullerton for winning
that series in College Station this weekend. That was awfully
impressive. Fullerton definitely has a more impressive body of work than
A&M, and I even advocated moving the Titans up above the Aggies in
our rankings meeting today. I lost that argument, in part because
A&M was 13 spots ahead of Fullerton last week, which is an
indication that we think A&M is considerably better. Fullerton
narrowed the gap this weekend — what happens on the field matters,
after all. But we do place some trust in our evaluations, and I will
continue to believe that A&M has the brighter future this year,
until I have more evidence to suggest I am wrong about that. Two one-run
games is not overpowering evidence — this is baseball, after all. Good
teams lose back-to-back games.
Frank (Denver): It's fairly easy to get a sense
of players' offensive results through published stats, but not so easy
to get a sense of players' defense. Who are the elite defensive
infielders and outfielders among likely early round draft choices?
In the preseason, we rated Arizona State's
Deven Marrero as the Best Defensive Infielder in this draft crop, and
Stony Brook's Travis Jankowski as Best Defensive Outfielder. Those
assessments are based on evaluations from scouts of the players'
abilities, not based on fielding percentage or any other statistical
analysis. Some other premier defenders: Nolan Fontana is as reliable a
defender as you'll find in college baseball, though some scouts see his
range and arm as better fits for second base than shortstop at the next
level. And Tyler Naquin at Texas A&M has one of the best arms in the
country; scouts would love to see him play center field, where he would
profile very nicely, but he has played right for the Aggies, and he
plays it very well.
Michael (Austin): Was Texas State's midweek win
over Rice diluted by the fact that Rice played so poorly against
Stanford. I noticed that Texas State only moved up one spot in the
I wouldn't say Rice's weekend diluted Texas
State's win at all — Rice is a great club, and that is a great win for
the Bobcats. If Texas State had swept UT Arlington instead of going
2-1, it probably would have jumped up a couple more spots. But UCF did
sweep its weekend series (despite losing a pair of one-run games to
Florida State midweek), so we didn't feel like there was cause to move
the Knights down much.
Arthur (Denver): If Kevin Gausman keeps
pitching like he did on Friday, does he moved himself into contention
for the No. 1 pick in June? Hoping he stays around No. 10 so the Rockies
can grab him.
Yeah, I think he's on the short list of top
candidates for No. 1 overall. Read my Golden Spikes Spotlight on
Gausman in today's Three Strikes blog for more about Gausman's
Bryan (Palo Alto, CA): With the way Mooneyham has been pitching has Stanfords staff exceeded your expectations or is there still room for improvement?
Yes, I think the Cardinal staff has
exceeded my expectations a bit. I think we knew Mooneyham was capable of
pitching this way — he is very talented — but I wanted to see him put
it all together before buying in completely. And John Hochstatter has
performed better than anyone could have imagined on Sundays. Stanford
looks like a pretty darn complete team right now.
Patrick (Memphis, Tennessee): I know that a
13-2 record is impressive, but Ole Miss hasn't played stellar
competition just yet. They have Louisville and Southern Miss coming up
soon, so do you think they'll be able to keep winning the way they have?
Do you think they'll be able to hold on to their rank?
Maybe Ole Miss hasn't played elite
competition yet, but that schedule has not been a bunch of creampuffs.
UNC Wilmington, Miami (Ohio) and Houston are all solid programs that
gave the Rebels a nice test, and TCU was obviously a very nice series to
start the year. Yes, I think Ole Miss is legitimately good, though it
will experience ups and downs in SEC play just like almost everyone does
in the SEC.
Steve L. (Corvallis): What is your take on the Freshman Duo of Dylan Davis and Michael Conforto for the Beavers?
I think they are really dangerous. We need a
good nickname for them — the Rakers of Redmond? Surely somebody can do
better than that... Anyway, those are the two most physically talented
players in Oregon State's lineup, and they have really changed the
complexion of that offense, I think. When you have a couple of legit
power threats like that in the middle of the order, everyone else
Ryan D. (Tampa, FL): I know they didn't have a strong weekend opponent, but how long until we see Pepperdine in the top 25?
Pepperdine is in that next group of teams
we considered, along with USC, Stetson, East Carolina, San Diego,
Kentucky, Wake Forest and TCU. I'm actually more impressed with
Pepperdine's body of work than I am with any of those others' — those
series wins against Oklahoma and Fresno State are nice, and the road
series at Louisville was only a minor setback (it was a tight series
that could have gone either way). The next three weeks will give
Pepperdine plenty of more chances to make some noise and break into the
Top 25 (Kent State, Texas A&M and Gonzaga coming up).
shane (oregon): what was your impression of the nike showcase at Oregon State and Oregon? what team made the best impression?
The Beavers played their way back int our
Top 25 with a 3-1 week, but how about Illinois going 3-1? The Illini
have a nice athletic club with a pitching staff that is starting to come
together, led by Kevin Johnson. They will be a factor in that
competitive Big Ten race this year.
Joel (KCK): Which college players if any, have a
legitimate shot to challenge Mark Appel for the number one selection in
this year's first year player draft? Is Kyle Zimmer a real
possibility? What about Kevin Gausman? Thanks!
I think Appel is still far from a slam dunk
at No. 1. Zimmer and Gausman are two of the strongest challengers, but I
would also throw Mike Zunino and Deven Marrero in the mix. If you're
looking for a big of a sleeper, consider Michael Wacha. I think his
stock has really improved — gotten great reports on his stuff, and he's
Ryan (DC): What did you think of Wake Forest
sweeping MD this weekend. Maryland looked a little sloppy, but Wake
seems like a borderline top 25 team, and could they challenge the big
guns in the ACC this year?
I wrote about Wake in some detail in last
week's Weekend Preview — I think that is an intriguing club, with
quality pitching and some athleticism in the lineup. Whether or not the
Deacs can challenge the top teams in the ACC has yet to be determined —
I still tend to think there is a divide between the top seven or so
teams and the rest of the conference, and I would still consider Wake to
be in that second group. But Wake will be competitive pretty much every
weekend, I suspect, and will win its share of games.
Jared (Charlotte): How good can these two
freshman pitchers Rodon and Jernigan be? Then with Austin, Turner, and
Fincher also key players already as freshman....is there hope for Omaha
in the near future??
Rodon and Jernigan look like blue-chippers.
John Manuel came away from this weekend raving about them both — there
aren't many weekend rotations that can match the kind of velocity the
Wolfpack is rolling out there. We rated that recruiting class No. 4 for a
reason — those guys are awfully good, and that foundation definitely
gives NC State a chance to break through to Omaha in the next three
Ryan (Arlington, VA): Who are the best MLB prospects on this year's Wake Forest team who is riding 13-game winning streak and began ACC play 3-0?
Though he's not eligible this year, OF
Kevin Jordan has the highest upside of any Deacon — incredibly
athletic, multi-tooled player who is starting to figure it out at the
plate. The best prospect for this year is LHP Tim Cooney, who has good
feel for pitching, an average MLB fastball and a good curveball.
Alex (Concord, NC): ECU had a nice weekend down
in Alabama completing the sweep at the tournament. There hitting came
alive a little bit more but still wasn't anything to get excited about.
Also they got pound at Troy during their mid week game. How does ECU
truly shape up? They have out standing weekend pitching, below average
hitting and very shaky mid week pitching.
I think the bats will get better. A number
of ECU's key hitters (Wooten, McDonald, Reinheimer, Wright) haven't
really hit yet, but those guys are all better than they've shown so far
this year. They'll bust out of it, and when they do that offense will be
OK, that's all for today, folks. Thanks for stopping by, as always!