College Top 25 Chat: March 26




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Aaron Fitt: Good afternoon, everyone. Just scarfed down some pizza, I'm ready to go — let's chat!

    Steve L. (Corvallis, OR): Surprised you dropped Arizona in the rankings since they won the weekend series on the road against Oregon State. Did you expect Arizona to dominate and they didn't?

Aaron Fitt: Well, we expected Arizona not to get swept at home in two midweek games by New Mexico State. Taking two of three in Corvallis mitigated that somewhat, but on the balance we've been more impressed with UCLA and Texas A&M, so we moved them up and dropped Arizona just a couple of spots.

    Jason (Minnesota): Aaron, Despite Vandy's poor start, their start to the SEC schedule went larger to form. Being swept at Florida and a home series win against Georgia was highly likely even before the season started. Do you think Vandy can keep the ship righted, and finish above .500 to be considered for a regional?

Aaron Fitt: That's a fine point, Jason — the Commodores just have to put the preconference schedule in the rear-view mirror and treat the SEC as its own season. Conference play does give teams a chance for a fresh start. I thought Tyler Beede's start Saturday was very encouraging for Vandy, and moving Will Clinard into the rotation makes sense to me. Ideally you'd love to have him at the back of the bullpen, but the 'Dores have had trouble taking leads late into games because of their starting pitching. Clinard has a chance to stabilize things.

    Ralph (Montana): How many of these college pitchers are going to go in the top 10 this year. It seems as thought right now there are at least 5 or 6 that could be there.

Aaron Fitt: Right now, I see Appel, Zimmer, Gausman, Wacha and Stroman as strong contenders for the top 10. I would drop Chris Beck out of that group (I would have pegged him as a top 10 candidate heading into the year).

    ScottAZ (Phx, AZ): as an ASU fan I have to ask whats up with Jake Barrett? He was 95-97 as a freshman but now sits 91-92. Is it still just rust early in the year, is he holding something back, or is there some concern?

Aaron Fitt: I saw him sitting 93-94 in both appearances last weekend at UCLA, with a really good power slider at 85-87 and a dirty changeup at 80 that I did not expect. I don't think there's the slightest reason for concern — I think he has improved his command, and if that means throwing 93-94 instead of 95-97, so be it.

    Mike (Chicago): Since Louisville fell out of the top 25 they have gone 8-1 with the only loss coming in a 2 game split with #16 Mississippi. What else do they have to do to get back into the top 25?

Aaron Fitt: I know it, and Louisville has been right in the thick of our top 25 discussions each of the past two weeks, especially this week. It came down to Louisville, Missouri State and San Diego for one spot, and frankly we had some difficulty deciding between the three — all were worthy, I think. We talked about Louisville some in today's podcast — like how some of those young hitters have developed, and I still really like the bullpen, though I expected a little more out of the starters than we've seen so far.

    Luke (Minnesoooota): While I agree that Purdue has a very solid club this year, and are deserving of a top 25 ranking- don't you think the 6 spot climb to #19 is a tad generous? Going 2-1 over an average OSU team (IMO), doesn't seem to add up to that large of a jump in my eyes.

Aaron Fitt: I agree with you, Luke — that was higher than I really wanted to move Purdue (just as No. 18 was higher than I really wanted to move Texas), but this was an ugly week for the rankings, with teams 18-20 all posting losing weeks (Georgia, Oregon State, NC State), and team 23 getting swept (Texas State). We had a lack of teams to move up into the vacuum, so Purdue and Texas got bigger bumps than they probably deserved.

    Steve L. (Corvallis, OR): Will Tyler Smith (Avg. 0.463, Slg % 0.597, OB% 0.538) ever make the Weekly Stat Roundup?

Aaron Fitt: He's really gotten off to a brilliant start for the Beavers, which surely is opening some eyes amongst Northwest scouts. That stat roundup is for guys we anticipate as top-five-rounds prospects, and I haven't gotten a sense that Smith is that kind of prospect, but we'll have to do some more asking around to see how much of a bump his draft stock has gotten from his performance. He does have tools and athleticism — very nice player.

    Ron D. (Fayetteville, NC): Any thoughts on Campbell University who extended their nation-leading win streak to 18 games with a Big South sweep of Winthrop over the weekend running their overall record to 23-3?

Aaron Fitt: I touched on that streak in today's Three Strikes — Campbell is one of those teams that has gone from way off the radar to a team of interest, but until the Camels beat an opponent with a top-100 RPI, it's hard to get too excited. Winning 18 in a row is difficult against anybody, but that series at Liberty in two weeks will tell us a lot more about just how good this team is.

    Arkham (Danville, PA): Aaron, Curious to hear your thoughts on the UCLA offense and its chance to remain potent over the course of the season. Thanks very much.

Aaron Fitt: A scout asked me this weekend which is the best college offense I've seen so far this year. I have yet to see Stanford, Florida or Florida State in person, so I thought about it and answered UCLA. I really do believe in that offense — it's really deep, experienced and athletic. There may not be much power other than Gelalich, but the lineup is stuffed with accomplished line-drive hitters. That offense is for real.

    Matt (Buffalo, NY): What do you think of San Francisco pitcher Kyle Zimmer. He is 2-1 with a 1.62. He has 47 strikeouts and 6 walks. Where do you think he will go in the draft.

Aaron Fitt: If the draft were today, I feel pretty strongly that Zimmer would be one of the top three picks, and quite possibly No. 1 overall. Go back and read my Draft Blog post on him around Week 2 or 3 for more info — he's a very exciting talent.

    Andy (Baton Rouge, LA): Thoughts on the LSU-Arkansas series in Baton Rouge this weekend? Should be a couple of excellent pitching matchups on Friday and Saturday. Have to think LSU's offense will have to step it up for the Tigers to have a chance to win the series.

Aaron Fitt: I like Arkansas considerably more than I like LSU this year, and I think Arkansas is good enough to go into Baton Rouge and win two of three, just as Florida was good enough to win two of three on the road against South Carolina. That said, LSU's pitching will allow it to compete against anybody all season long, so the Tigers are entirely capable of winning that series. I expect runs to be hard to come by for both teams, so it will come down to which team gets the timely hits. I think Arkansas is a better offensive team that is more likely to get more big hits against front-line pitching, but it should be a very competitive series.

    Brian (Camden, Ar): I know no.1 Florida has the best weekend rotation in college baseball but who has the second and third best in your oppinion also who has the best bullpen if its not the no.3 razorbacks they have to be close to the top

Aaron Fitt: The only flaw for Arkansas is the lack of a real consistent No. 3 starter — Randall Fant has had a tendency not to pitch very deep into ballgames. I love that Arkansas bullpen, and of course the one-two punch with Baxendale and Stanek is exceptional. I'd give Texas A&M an edge for rotation quality over Arkansas — Wacha/Stripling is just as good or better of a duo atop the rotation, and Rafael Pineda has been better as the No. 3. If Forrest Koumas can return to last year's form, South Carolina has a chance for an elite rotation as well, and LSU's group (Gausman/Eades/Nola) might be better than any of them outside Gainesville. As for the bullpen, I'd put Arkansas right there near Florida. I thought Rice had the country's best bullpen coming into the year, but so far that group has not met my expectations. I still think it has a chance to be special by season's end.

    Greg (New York): Hey Aaron,I know this is college talk but now that Lucas Goilito is sidelined,although its not serious.Do you think this hurts his chances of going #1 in the draft??? Thanks,Greg

Aaron Fitt: It certainly hurts his chances of going No. 1 — I don't think there's any way he goes No. 1 now, when there will be plenty of other high-ceiling guys who have played all spring. You have to imagine this increases the odds he winds up at UCLA, because under the new draft rules a team can't take a gamble on Giolito at the end of the first round and pay him, say, $4 million. Of course, maybe the injury will make him realize the risk of being an elite athlete and make him more likely to sign for less, just to get his pro career started. That will be fascinating to watch.

    jb (SC): Alright, is it time to hit the panic button for Clemson? I get the feeling that this team just does not have the answers yet and may find themselves at home when the post-season rolls around this year.

Aaron Fitt: Now that we're six weeks into the season, and Clemson is a .500 team that has been swept twice in conference play, I think it is very fair to ask that question. The thing is, coming into the year, I figured Clemson would be a rather average offensive team (we even gave them a 50 hitting grade on our 20-80 scale in the College Preview). But I thought the pitching would be good enough to carry the Tigers, and it just hasn't been. Yes, I'm worried about Clemson. With NC State looking much improved, and Wake Forest, BC, Duke and Maryland all showing they are capable of beating quality opponents, a regional appearance is no longer a shoo-in for Clemson. With a quality Miami team coming to town this week, Clemson could find itself having to dig out of a big hole just to make the ACC tournament.

    Tony (Chicago): How about the St. Louis Billiken's out of the A-10 winning 13 straight. Will they win the A-10 title? What seniors have a shot at getting drafted?

Aaron Fitt: Yeah, a Billikens question in the chat! As I mentioned in today's Three Strikes, Saint Louis' winning streak (like Cambpell's) has come against soft competition, but 13 straight is 13 straight, and it makes Saint Louis a team of interest. The Billikens' best prospect is probably sophomore lefthander Damian Rivera (though he hasn't gotten off to a great start and he's not eligible for the 2012 draft). Closer Travis Parker and catcher Connor Gandossy have chances to be late senior signs. As for the A-10, I think that league is pretty wide open now that Charlotte has gotten off to a slow start. So maybe this is the year for the Billikens.

    chris (Myrtle Beach): what are your thoughts on Coastal Carolina's Josh Conway?

Aaron Fitt: Like him quite a bit — had him 89-93 in the Cape last summer, with a solid-average to plus slider and a solid-average changeup. It's a quality three-pitch guy, good feel for pitching and a competitive streak. Only question scouts had about him was his long-term durability, because he's not particularly physical, but I like the stuff and the makeup, and he's gotten off to a terrific start this spring.

    Blackie (Cincinnati (OH)): Hi Aaron. Thanks for the great Mike Wacha game report. I was surprised to hear about the slider, and had read in the off-season that Wacha was working on a cutter. Did he confirm that he's throwing a slider, and is there any relation between the pitches. Anyone who's followed him knows that the absence of a reliable third pitch has been his primary weakness, and it's good to hear that he's wisely continued using his curve as an early count strike as he was at the end of last season.

Aaron Fitt: Wacha and Rob Childress both talked about the slider and made no mention of a cutter, and I didn't see a cutter, so it seems that's not part of his attack. Childress mentioned that the curveball has really improved and is not just a show pitch�he says it's a pitch Wacha can put hitters away with. It did have good shape and depth, and it will be interesting to see if Wacha starts throwing it more as an out pitch, because he did not really use it that way Friday. I'll have more on Wacha tomorrow on the College Page.

    Rodney (Austin): Hey, Aaron. Keep up the good work. My texas longhorns are very slowing creeping up in your rankings. Can you tell me what you formula is for ranking them 19th with a 13-9 record?

Aaron Fitt: As I mentioned earlier, it had a lot to do with the teams ahead of them losing, leaving us with no better candidates to fill out the top 20. That 13-9 record has also come against a stout schedule, which matters. And Texas has played well over the last two weeks, getting the offense going, in particular.

    B (Springfield): Missouri State gaining any traction towards the top 25? The pitching staff led by Pierce Johnson has been very good and the Bears appear to have more offense than they have had in a while.

Aaron Fitt: I really like that Missouri State team — wrote about them in today's Three Strikes as well. I really like the experience in the lineup, and the pitching staff is excellent. I've gotten some reports that Missouri State is a very dangerous club, and I believe it. As mentioned above, the Bears and Louisville were right in the mix with San Diego for a top 25 spot.

    Justin (South Carolina): Do you like Matt Price better out of the bullpen or starting for the Gamecocks?

Aaron Fitt: I think he just belongs in the bullpen — he gives that team so much confidence when he's back there. It makes everybody believe they're going to win every close game. In some ways, it can be harder to find a shut-down closer like Price than to find a weekend starter. Price's makeup just makes him special at the back of the 'pen.

    Justin (Toronto): After a consensus top 3 of Stanford, UCLA, and Fullerton in California, how would you rank the second tier of teams like USD, Irvine, Cal, USC, etc...? Could you see any of these second tier teams surprise some teams and maybe win a regional?

Aaron Fitt: That's a tough one. I think San Diego is the next team (which is why we moved the Toreros into the rankings), but I think that group with USC, Cal, Irvine, Pepperdine, Cal Poly and Fresno State is all jumbled together — none of those teams has separated itself from the pack yet. They've all shown signs of considerable promise, but all of those teams have holes, too. They all strike me as regional-caliber clubs, but they won't all make regionals.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Aaron, thank you for the chat today. I've never really been keen on Deven Marrero as a possible 1-1 guy so I may be picking on this unfairly, but has his so-so season thus far dropped his stock for this year's draft?

Aaron Fitt: You know, I think it has a little bit. I've seen a good bit of Marrero over the last three years, and it seems he always has quiet games with the bat every time I see him. Then you look at the numbers, and you realize he's never really put up loud numbers with the BBCOR bats. Marrero is a special defender, a true major league-caliber shortstop — that is the scouting consensus, and I agree with it. But he is not a great runner, and he is not special with the bat. I know scouts who think similarly. I don't see Marrero as a 1-1 kind of guy at this stage, and he's feeling more and more like a middle of the first round type.

    Ronaldo (Danville, VA): It seems like it's still is anyones league to win, but who is your pick to win the SOCON and how many bids does the league get this year?

Aaron Fitt: It is tough to get a read on the SoCon. Elon has won series at CofC and vs. App State, but in between the Phoenix dropped two of three to Davidson. Really, I think it's going to be a free-for-all between those top five teams (CofC, App State, Samford, Elon and Western Carolina), and I could see any one of them winning it. If Samford can get Lex Rutledge going (and it looks like he struck out three in a scoreless inning yesterday, which is encouraging), I think I'm still most intrigued by that club. But it strikes me as a one-bid league this year, with a chance for two.

    Alan (Newport Beach, CA): Fullerton vs. ASU midweek games tomorrow and Wednesday should be good ones. I have to give it to Fullerton playing the schedule they are playing and most of them are away games. Who do you like in these two games. I think they each win one.

Aaron Fitt: A split feels likely — neither one of these teams gets swept, they're just too hard-nosed. You've gotta love that Fullerton nonconference schedule. Count me among those who think playing quality competition on the road early in the year makes your team better in the long term. And Fullerton has more than held its own against that schedule, even with a young pitching staff. So impressed with the Titans' first six weeks.

    Mike (Jackson, MS): Is there a team with a better pair of true freshman in the field than USM? Barron (BA-357) and Robbins (BA-411) are having an enormous impact on this young club. Most thought Barron could push for frosh of the year in college baseball and right now you could argue he is not even the best frosh on the team. Sky is the limit with these two.

Aaron Fitt: There's a reason we ranked the Southern Miss recruiting class third in the nation last year (and if we had known C.J. Hinojosa would not wind up enrolling early at Texas, I would have ranked USM second). Barron and Robbins are the best duo of freshman position players in the country — true cornerstone pieces for Southern Miss to build its teams around. Sky is the limit, indeed.

    Bill (Atlanta, GA): You were rougher than I expected on the Yellow Jackets - maybe deservedly so. There were few bright spots last week but Isaacs pitching in an error-free win Saturday was one. I haven't given up on them yet.

Aaron Fitt: Nor should you give up on them, because I do still like the talent. But let's see Georgia Tech get healthy and put together a string of quality all-around performances, especially on defense. The last three weeks, Tech has not played like a Top 25 team.

    wayne (camarillo ca): who's the best college hitter?

Aaron Fitt: Right now, I think I have to say James Ramsey of Florida State. Tyler Naquin of Texas A&M is, I think, a better pure hitter, but Ramsey also can really hit and has considerably more power than Naquin, making him more dangerous overall. I wouldn't argue if you wanted to take Florida's Mike Zunino here, either (and as a catcher, Zunino is the best prospect of the lot).

    Ryan D. (Tampa, FL): Pepperdine: Bad weekend against a good team or just a decent team?

Aaron Fitt: I think Pepperdine is a solid club — a legitimate contender for a spot in regionals. This weekend it was playing against a team that has the look of an Omaha club to me. A&M is just at a different level, I think.

    Jeff (Greenville, NC): You're thoughts on NC State vs UNC tonight, who takes the rubber match?

Aaron Fitt: I'm very intrigued by the Logan Jernigan vs. UNC's hitters matchup. The Tar Heels have a very patient, disciplined lineup, and Jernigan has had some trouble with walks — could be a recipe for trouble. Should be a very fun game (sounds like yesterday's affair got a little testy — love those rivalry games). Looking forward to watching on ESPNU.

Aaron Fitt: OK gang, that's all for today. Thanks for coming by, as always!