College Top 25 Chat: April 16
Hi everybody. Hope you enjoyed Week Nine — let's chat!
Arkham (Danville, PA): Aaron, I recall at least
one favorable in-game/post-game tweet about UCLA's Scott Griggs. I was
curious if you've formed a broader opinion on his immediate future and
pro potential? Thanks very much.
Sorry for the delay — had to take a quick
phone call. Griggs has all kinds of ability—
it's a really big arm, with a
fastball that regularly sits 93-94 mph, and I think he has made great
strides with his pitchability this year. I think he has gained more and
more confidence at the back of that bullpen, and I think he has a chance
to be a nice power reliever in the big leagues someday if he can
continue to refine his command and feel for pitching. His progress is
Matt (Oklahoma City): Good Morning Aaron,
Baylor has started off the Big 12 season 15-0; are they the real deal
& how do you see the series vs. my Aggies unfolding this weekend?
Does the winner most likely win the conference & get a national
Hi Matt — I think Baylor is the real deal
as far as being a team that will host a regional, maybe get a national
seed and have a chance to get to Omaha. It's a very balanced club, with a
bunch of tough outs in the lineup, some thump in the middle and some
quality college arms in the rotation, though they're not going to blow
anybody away with big velocity. Certainly, it's a winning recipe. But I
do still like the Aggies in that series—
Wacha and Stripling give A&M
such a huge leg up in any three-game series—
and I still like the Aggies
to wind up atop the Big 12 standings. I do think the winner of that
series this weekend will win the Big 12 and earn a national seed. And
the way Baylor is playing, you have to give the Bears a real chance to
win it, of course—
but I am sticking with the Aggies.
Patrick (Lake Forest, CA): Hey Aaron it was
great meeting you at the Fullerton-UCI game yesterday. After
yesterday's devestating loss, what kind of finish to the season does
Irvine need to have to have a chance to get into the postseason?
Hi Patrick, thanks for saying hello
yesterday. I wrote in detail about Irvine's plight in today's Three
Strikes column, which should be posted shortly. The short version is
this: Irvine is in a lot of trouble, and it needs to get extremely hot
and stay that way for the rest of the season to have a chance to keep
that regionals streak alive. There is no more margin for error.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Worried about Zimmer's velo drop? Would you still consider him to be an overall Top 5 pick?
His velocity was down this weekend—
I was at
that LMU game, and Zimmer topped out at 94 in the first, then settled
into the 89-91 range by the middle innings, pitching mostly at 90 mph. I
don't think it's too much of a cause for concern — it's a long season,
and pitchers will have ups and downs — but it's something to monitor
going forward. I do still see him as a top five pick, but I feel more
wary about that prediction now than I did a week ago. His curveball was
still really good—
he used it as the putaway pitch on all five of his
and I actually thought he showed decent feel for the slider
and changeup at times, but his fastball command wasn't great Friday. The
top of this draft is still really wide open, I think.
Steve L. (Corvallis): Is Michael Conforto (.358, 8 HR's, 50 RBI's) a front runner for Freshman of the year?
I think it's shaping up as a two-man race
between Conforto and Carlos Rodon of NC State. It's apples and oranges
— a dominant pitcher versus a powerful run producer — but right now
I'd lean toward Rodon because of the impact he has made for an NC State
team that finds itself in the thick of the regional-hosting race. Two
great candidates, for sure.
Shannon (Gainesville, FL): The state of the
Florida starting rotation has been unexpectedly unstable so far this
season, especially of late. Hudson Randall has now missed two starts
with a "tired arm," and Karsten Whitson is still clearly nowhere near
his usual self. Should Gator fans be concerned, or do you think things
will come together by the end of the regular season? Jonathan Crawford
has been solid filling in for both pitchers, but there has still been,
by necessity, a heavier reliance on the bullpen this season, and it's a
bit concerning how much Steven Rodriguez and Austin Maddox have been
leaned on so far. Both have over 30 innings pitched, and Greg Larson
isn't far behind. Those three are going to be extremely important once
the postseason comes around; is there a danger of them being overworked
at that point if their load isn't lightened some?
Shannon, I think you have perfectly
expressed my concerns about the Gators — which is one reason we dropped
them to No. 7 last week after a second straight series loss. With three
preseason All-Americans at full strength in the weekend rotation,
pitching deep into games and putting less strain on the bullpen, Florida
would be a juggernaut. But until Randall and Whitson get back to full
throttle, the Gators are vulnerable, and there certainly is a danger of
burning out those bullpen arms before the meaningful postseason games
begin. But I have faith in Kevin O'Sullivan's ability to handle a
pitching staff, and I have a feeling he'll find a way to put the Gators
in position to get the most out of their arms at the end.
Greg (Fullerton, CA): Is Tyler Heineman a legit pro prospect?
Yes he is — he can really catch and throw,
and he's a switch-hitter with the ability to make consistent contact.
Catchers are always in demand, and I think he's a good one.
Greg (Fullerton, CA): Finish this sentence- the Pac 12 will have two or more teams in Omaha if ____
if ... the conference doesn't implode in
June. I think the Pac-12 is very strong, and I think it is loaded with
legit Omaha-caliber teams, starting with the three at the top of the
standings. I still feel like Stanford will get back on track down the
stretch, too, and ultimately find its way to Omaha. I believe in the
talent, and the Cardinal always play hard for Mark Marquess. Don't write
that team off because of a couple bumps in the road.
Brian (Camden, Ar): Well its settled my hogs
are not a top 10 team they just dont have the offense to compete with
the best in the nation ive denied that fact all season but its time to
admit it and move on I figure they will host a regional and hopefully
win that and have a chance to sneak into omaha what do u think Aaron am I
Well right now, Arkansas is not in position
to host a regional, I suspect. I still think the Hogs are good enough
to get back into position to host, but this weekend was a setback —
gotta take care of business at home, especially with a couple of
daunting road series coming up against Ole Miss and Florida. But even if
they don't host, Arkansas is good enough on the mound to make a very
deep postseason run. Its offense still needs to gel, and I think it's
fair to wonder if the offense just isn't that good, with only three
regulars hitting better than .300 and only two with OBPs above .400. But
I still believe you can win the national title without a dominant
offense — Arkansas just needs to make incremental improvements, and its
pitching is good enough to carry it a long way.
Tim (New Orleans): Aaron, how far away is
Tulane from the Top 25? Would a weekday win vs Southeastern and a series
win vs UCF put them in? I would think that going 3-1 this week would
solidify a regional berth for the Green Wave, barring a falter down the
stretch. Your thoughts?
Tulane is still not close to the Top 25 —
that resume lacks anything close to a series win against a legitimate
regional team. Its best series win is against Memphis (RPI No. 96). At
No. 92 in the RPI, Tulane has a lot of work to do to get back into the
at-large discussion, but fortunately the next two weeks present an
opportunity to make serious headway, against UCF and East Carolina. I
think both are must-win series for the Green Wave; then we can start
talking about their chances to make an at-large run.
Jimmy (AZ): This season the PAC-12 Teams have
bounced around all over the place in the top 25 Rankings..... Which
PAC-12 Team do you see as the best overall, and which Teams do you see
making some major noise during the post-season?
I'm about ready to give up on trying to
figure out which Pac-12 team is the best — I like a bunch of them, but
they all have warts. Oregon has the best resume — I'm so impressed by
what the Ducks have done over the last three weeks — but I'm still not
convinced Oregon is the best team in the league. I still feel more
comfortable predicting UCLA, Arizona and Stanford to go deeper in the
postseason than Oregon, because those teams are more offensive. Oregon
has the most consistent pitching of the four, but I continue to harbor
reservations about its pitching depth — eventually, will that lack of
depth catch up with the Ducks? But this is why this race is so
compelling — there is no clear front-runner. It's really a free-for-all
at the top, and it's going to be fun to watch it unfold.
Christian (Lincoln, Nebraska): What are the chances Nebraska could win 2 of 3 this weekend in Lincoln against a red hot Purdue team?
Purdue is red-hot, you're right. But I
thought Nebraska showed a lot of character this weekend after getting
trounced by Ohio State in the series opener, bouncing back to win the
next two. The 'Huskers got good starting pitching in each of those wins,
and they'll need plenty more of it to beat the Boilermakers. I like
Purdue in that series, but I think it's a compelling series, and it's
one I'll spotlight in Weekend Preview this week.
AJ (Waco,TX): Aaron,
Ever seen a team like Baylor be on a roll like they have been?
Sure — Texas swept five straight Big 12
series as part of a 21-game winning streak in 2010, and that was against
a much stronger Big 12. LSU went on that incredible winning streak en
route to the 2009 national title; South Carolina ended last season by
winning 10 straight NCAA tournament games. Baylor is on a great hot
streak, but it's hardly unprecedented.
Andy (Baton Rouge, LA): Where would rank LSU's
starting rotation among others in the SEC and the nation? Their bullpen
seems to be developing nicely too. I think the hiring of Alan Dunn as
the pitching coach can't be understated.
With Florida banged up, I think LSU has the
best rotation in the SEC, and one of the very best in the country (I'd
probably stack it up next to Texas A&M's at the top of the list, and
I'd give LSU a slight edge because I think Nola is a little more
capable of being dominant on Sundays than Rafael Pineda is). Agreed on
Alan Dunn — he has a tremendous reputation, and Paul Mainieri raves
about the job he has done with that pitching staff. Great hire.
Justin (Toronto): Do you think the state of
Texas will produce 3 nationals seeds (A&M, Baylor, and Rice)? What
do the Longhorns have to do to have a 4th regional site in the state of
I think that's a long shot — two feels
more likely, and one feels just as likely as three. Rice has some work
to do to solidify itself as a national seed candidate, but I do like its
chances of making a real run down the stretch. I think whichever team
wins the Big 12 gets a national seed, and the other team has a shot at
another, especially if Rice doesn't put itself into national seed
position. As for Texas, I just think that team needs to sustain a hot
streak to boost that RPI from the 40s into the teens. I don't expect
Texas to host, but it could.
Jim (Waco, TX): Who are your 8 National Seeds right now, and how do you see them changing between now and the end of the season?
I'll examine this question, plus the races for hosts and at-large spots, in tomorrow's Stock Report.
Carlos (San Diego, CA): USD keeps winning in
different ways (sometimes with big offense, sometimes with solid
pitching) against diverse teams. What do you predict for USD?
I think it's a very dangerous club. Love
the power arms on that staff, love Kris Bryant in the middle of the
lineup, really like the improved depth of the lineup. This is one of
USD's best offensive teams in a long time. Only concern is the defense,
which is still a work in progress. I see the Toreros winning the WCC and
being a dangerous No. 2 seed in a regional.
Daniel (Kingston, Jamaica): I let last week go
as perhaps an overreaction to consecutive disappointing series, but now I
can't help but wonder how many times UF has to beat FSU before they get
some more respect in your rankings. Not only is UF 3-0 against the #1
team in your poll, but they have 13 wins against the top-25 (by far the
most in the nation) compared to just two for FSU, and although UF has
one more loss than FSU, FSU has four losses to unranked teams compared
to just 2 for Florida (UK also has 2, the rest have more).
I concede that UF has some problems in its rotation right now, but four
of the six losses that UF has had in its skid have been by one run,
including two one-run losses to #4 LSU, one of which featured an
inexplicable base-running error.
I realize that rankings aren't all that important right now, I just want
to get the benefit of your thinking on UF's #5 ranking given its
resume. Even with the recent struggles, their record seems to compare
favorably to FSU's, the latter having done very little against ranked
opponents (only two one-run wins over the same UCF team UF beat 8-0).
Wow, during the O'Sullivan era, has anyone
ever accused Baseball America of not having enough respect for the
Florida Gators? I think the rest of the country must be sick of hearing
us rave about Florida week after week... Look, Florida has a great
resume, and a great team, but the pitching concerns right now are
legitimate, and the fact is the Gators have lost two weekend series,
however tight those series might have been. Florida State and Kentucky
have lost zero weekend series. I think we've made it pretty clear over
the years that we place more value on weekend games than midweek games
(for evidence, just look back to last year, when the Seminoles owned the
Gators midweek, but we kept the Gators ahead in the rankings all
season, I believe). I agree that FSU has not played as strong a
schedule, obviously. But the Seminoles have utterly dominated the ACC —
that's not a pushover conference, even if it's not as strong as the
SEC. Florida State has the best ACC record by four games — that's loud.
Florida will be a high national seed, and Florida will be in Omaha, and
Florida might very well win the national title. But at this point in
the season, we cannot justify jumping a team that lost back-to-back
weekend series back over a team that is undefeated in weekend series and
is dominating the ACC. Strength of schedule and quality midweek wins
certainly weigh into the calculus — that's why we left Florida No. 1
even after it lost its first series against Ole Miss. But there is more
to the puzzle. Maybe that's not a satisfying answer, but it's the best I
Greg (Columbia, SC): Aaron, George Horton seems
to have the Ducks playing at a very high level, but I haven't seen or
heard much about the team. What is their M.O. and do they have the
depth to make a run at a national seed? Thanks!
If you haven't heard much about the Ducks,
you need to read more Baseball America, Greg! I wrote about Oregon twice
last week, in Three Strikes and again in a notebook piece on Tuesday.
Right now, Oregon is squarely in the middle of the national seed
discussion — it has earned that place over the last three weeks.
Looking forward, do I think Oregon has the depth to secure a national
seed? I don't think so, but Oregon has surprised me all year long, so
what do I know?
Drew (DC): Is East Carolina in your Top 30?
Yes, probably team 26 or 27 in our
deliberations this week. We didn't have an opening in the Top 25,
though, so we didn't get down to talking much about who to bring in.
Katie Casey (The City): Can Kris Bryant stick
at third at the next level? If you HAD to bet, would the smart money be
that he is a top 5 draft pick in 2013, or would he be later than that?
I really think he's got a chance to stick
at third, although I know some people like him as a power-hitting corner
outfielder — he could cover some ground out there with those long
strides, and he has a strong arm. And yes, I will bet on him going
top-five next year. Not many players have all-around tools packages to
Andrew (Valparaiso, IN): What are the chances
that Purdue will be able to host a regional one of the minor league
parks (Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Gary) in the state? I know the
construction on their stadium won't have it ready in time, but it would
be great to have a regional up this way.
I feel pretty confident Purdue will be able
to put together a bid to host at one of those sites, and I think the
committee will jump at the chance to award the Boilermakers a regional.
What a neat story.
Dan (Houston): Rice's starting pitching finally
put together a great weekend as a whole (0 runs, 19.2 IP, 22 SO). Do
you think this team is close to where we expected them to be at the
beginning of the year?
Yes I do — feels like Rice is about to
embark on one of those second-half runs it seems to make every year.
Kubitza is back on track, the bullpen once again looks like a major
strength, Reckling is a stud — the pieces are in place.
Joel (KCK): Could you help shed a little light
as to why Kevin Gausman isn't being mentioned in the same group with
Appel, Zimmer, and Wacha? From what I've seen Mark Appel gets hit a lot
more frequently than someone with his kind of stuff should, Wacha
doesn't miss enough bats for my liking, and Zimmer routinely faces
weaker competition so he's hard to gauge. I personally hope Gausman
with his combination of size, stuff, numbers and competition, falls to
my Royals at #5. Thanks!
I think Gausman is mentioned right in that
same group. In fact, we had Gausman No. 5 in our midseason Top 60 update
last week, one spot behind Appel and two behind Zimmer — and if I had
to revise that list today, I might move Gausman past those other two (in
light of Zimmer's lackluster outing at LMU). Gausman's stuff is
dynamite, he performs against top-level competition, he has great makeup
— I really wouldn't be surprised if he solidifies himself as the top
college pitcher in this draft by season's end.
Chris (Columbus): Richie Shaffer has a total of
4 home runs. Why do I keep hearing from sources that he is going to be a
power hitter in the majors?
He has seven home runs — and he has big-time, easy power potential. Scouts do more than just look at numbers.
Brian (San Diego): Aaron, totally love these
chats because they make my Monday afternoon. Right now who is the best
among these three freshman powrful lefty hitting
outfielders?....Southern Miss' Mason Ribbons, Oregon State's Michael
Comforto, and Virginia's Derek Fisher? Who will be the best by draft day
2014? Even though it is still early how good are the chances that all
three are first rounders?
Oh boy, that's a tough one, Brian. Conforto
has been the best of the three so far — he has the most present power,
but Fisher probably projects for just as much or more down the road.
Robbins and Fisher probably have better all-around tools than Conforto,
but Conforto's bat is special, I think. Very, very tough to pick one —
but if I have to pick one for the 2014 draft, it might be Robbins, for
his combination of across-the-board tools and ability to use them.
College outfielders aren't usually a strong source of talent in the
draft, but we could be looking at a college outfielder bumper crop in
OK folks, that's all I've got time for today. Thanks for all the great questions, as always — I enjoyed it! Happy Patriots' Day, and a special congratulations to my dad for completing his seventh Boston Marathon on a very hot day in Beantown.