College Top 25 Chat: April 23
Hi everybody. Exciting morning out here in
SoCal — experienced my first earthquake, though it was just a little
one. But that's not gonna break my stride — let's chat!
joey (oxford): Do you see Ole Miss hosting a regional? We only have 1 series against a top 25 team left and we have them (LSU) at home.
Yes, I believe I do, but I'll dig deeper
into that question in tomorrow's Stock Report. Right now you have to
move Ole Miss ahead of Arkansas in the pecking order, for sure. And the
remaining schedule is manageable.
Matt (Phoenix, AZ): If Oklahoma State keeps winning, do they have a shot at getting into the tournament?
I really don't see an at-large bid coming.
They're No. 123 in the RPI, and the resume really lacks any quality wins
(the Cowboys are just 3-9 against the top 50).
Russell (Austin, TX): How do you think the
Longhorns are playing right now? I mean
one week they do good, the next week they do mediocre, I just don't know
what to make of them this year. Can you give me your expertise on the
job they are doing this year?
I think they're playing pretty well —
they've won five straight Big 12 series. I just don't think they're a
great team. A good team, yes. But this strikes me as one of the weaker
Texas teams in years. I think they've done a nice job cobbling together
quality innings from that young pitching staff, but the lack of
workhorse starters who can consistently go deep into games is jarring.
The offense is fine for a Texas team, but it's not exceptional, and
neither is the pitching. The 'Horns are good enough to win a bunch of
games in that aggressively mediocre conference, but I don't think
they're good enough to make an Omaha run. Not this year. I think they'll
be very dangerous next year when some of those youngsters are more
Garrett (Orlando Fl): I think you have to give UCF more respect, they should be at least approaching top 10 soon
I think we as a species need to work
together to solve our global "Respect" shortage — it seems like nobody
is ever getting any of that! It's a real crisis. As for UCF — they did
move up two more spots to No. 14 — I think that's "approaching the top
10." I really like the Knights and think they have put together a truly
outstanding season, but you know, the resume just doesn't have the kind
of quality wins that merit a jump over teams like Stanford (11-7 vs. the
top 50), UCLA (13-9) and Arizona (9-8). UCF is just 3-5 against the top
Kate (Houston): Matthew Reckling has been
lights out all year for Rice, and his performance Friday night had to
have been his best all year. How high do you see him climbing in June's
I've written about Reckling in today's
Golden Spikes Spotlight in my Three Strikes column, which should be
posted shortly. He's really turned the corner with his command this
year, cutting his career walk rate nearly in half as a senior, which has
made all the difference. The stuff is very good, and he has learned how
to use it. That's not my draft area, but I'll bet somebody could take
him in the top five rounds as a cost-saving senior with some upside.
Bill (Atlanta, GA): GT's series win at Chapel
Hill was certainly necessary but not sufficient to get back being safely
in the post-season, in my opinion.
Would you put the Jackets in the tournament if selection was today?
You're right, Bill — there is more work to
be done. Georgia Tech can't afford to stumble much in its last three
ACC series (all decent challenges against Clemson, UVa and Miami) just
because it has a series win in Chapel Hill. But as of today, I would put
Tech in, partly because it's hard to get to 64 without 8 teams from the
ACC (if you assume no upsets in mid-major conference tournaments, which
we do for this exercise), and Maryland drops after getting swept this
Justin (Toronto): Teams like Baylor, Kentucky,
Purdue, USD, NMSU, and Sam Houston State have been pleasant surprises,
while teams like Vandy, Georgia Tech, Georgia, Oklahoma, TCU, and UC
Irvine have not really lived up to expectations. Who are your top
surprises and disappointments of the season so far?
You've got a pretty good handle on it.
Baylor and Kentucky are teams we liked in the preseason that have far
exceeded expectations by becoming elite clubs — I don't think anybody
saw that coming. We were really high on Purdue coming into the year
(look back at the feature we wrote on the Boilermakers in our College
Preview issue), but that's another team that has been even better than
we thought. But Sam Houston State and New Mexico State are teams that
weren't really even on our radar in the preseason — those are the true
"out of nowhere" teams. Vanderbilt is probably the biggest
disappointment, a preseason top 10 or so team that has struggled against
a very tough schedule, then lost a really bad series to Alabama this
weekend just when you thought maybe the 'Dores had a chance at salvaging
a regional bid. I'm disappointed with Irvine too — that was my
preseason Omaha sleeper, and that team just isn't special, and won't
even be in a regional. Watch out for Georgia, Oklahoma and TCU down the
stretch — I think those teams are all still dangerous, even though they
haven't had great first halves for various reasons.
Greg (Fullerton, CA): Should the Bruins be
worried about their pitching staff besides Plutko and Griggs? The other 3
starters they've used have been pretty shaky
I don't think they should really be
worried. We talked about this on the podcast today: you don't need to
have dominant pitching to win a ton in college baseball nowadays. If you
have a good offense (which UCLA does) and can play catch defensively
(which UCLA can), you just need guys who will throw strikes and compete
and keep you in games on the mound. UCLA's pitching staff largely fits
that mold�it's not that much different from the way Baylor is
constructed, or Florida State, or UCF, or Purdue. All those teams have
veteran, mature lineups and solid but not overpowering pitching. That's a
Will (Missoula, MT): Aaron, I am a big fan of
the 'the top 25 chat'.
Give me your thoughts on Oregon State. It looked like they were fading
into the background but a nice 2 weeks and a huge series win over UCLA
this past weekend. I noticed you left them out of top 25 (granted the
back half of the top 25 did their job this past week). Where do you
think they will end the season and what do they need to worry about?
The Beavers and Louisville were the two
teams just outside our rankings this week, and we had a hard time
ranking Oregon State over Arizona State because the Sun Devils did just
sweep OSU two weeks ago. But I like the Beavers, and that UCLA series
win was big for them. That OSU pitching staff has really come together
nicely — the talented weekend guys are pitching well, the bullpen is
very reliable. And I think the offense is more dangerous than it was
last year, when those guys went to a super regional. The Beavers are a
very intriguing second-half sleeper.
Andy (Oxford, MS): Alex Yarbrough has been on a
tear this season. He has consistently produced at the plate against
some of the best teams in college baseball. I've seen him make some
great plays on defense, as well. Does he fall into the category of
elite second basemen this year?
I think he definitely does — he was the
second baseman on our midseason All-America team, and right now he looks
on pace to capture first-team All-America honors at second base at
season's end. He's one of the best pure hitters in the country, and he
is a very steady defender. Great player. Looking forward to watching him
next week on my SEC trip.
Landon (Oceanside, CA): True or False, Shaffer will be a big league full time third baseman.
False. I see him more as a first baseman,
or maybe even a corner outfielder. I'm not saying he has no chance at
third, but the general scouting consensus I've gathered is that a move
will eventually be inevitable.
Mike (Cleveland): Would you be shocked if Chris Stratton was a top 10 pick?
I would be surprised — I see him more as a
sandwich type pick, with a chance to get into the second half of the
first round. Certainly he has an electric arm, but he hasn't shown much
of a changeup, which he will need to stick as a starter. But a guy who
can touch 95 with his fastball, has a quality slider and has improved
his overall feel for pitching — he's definitely got a chance to be a
Joe (Tacoma, WA): The Barrett Barnes hype seems to have stalled. Is that with good reason?
I think you're not hearing as much about
him because Texas Tech isn't having a great year, but what more do you
want from Barnes? He's hitting .342 with power — lots of doubles and
triples, he's got a respectable 6 homers, he's 18-for-18 stealing bases,
he has more walks than strikeouts. That's a damn good year, and his
tools are impressive. I know some scouts aren't sold on him as a center
fielder and see him as a bit of a tweener, but I believe in that
power/speed package. I'm in on Barnes.
Jerry (Seattle): Zimmer or Wacha and what separates them the most?
Zimmer has the much better breaking ball,
but Wacha's changeup is just fine as an out-pitch against righties as
well as lefties. I think Zimmer has the more athletic delivery, looser
arm and higher upside, but there is an awful lot to like about Wacha
too. Not a huge gap between those guys.
Matt (Texas): Is Kevin Gausman the best pitcher in college baseball?
I'll take Marcus Stroman on that one, but Gausman is certainly in the discussion.
Jeff (West Palm Beach): How about the raphing
Raph Rhymes is putting on the SEC this year? Hitting an even .500 in 140
ABs with these bats is impressive. The kid took a fastball off the
forehead at Florida then had one sail over his head Sunday at Kentucky.
What happened on the next pitch? He took it out to left for a homer and
finished the game 4 for 4 with 3 RBI hits. Does he have the Golden
Spikes on lock?
Raph Rhymes is a bad man. Hitting .500
after 10 weeks? That is hard to fathom. Definitely a strong Player of
the Year candidate.
James (Rome,WI): Aaron, thanks for the great
college baseball coverage! Okay, I don't want to sound the panic button
but is Miami's season slowly going down the tubes?! In the back of my
mind I think they might be able to put it together to make a run at it.
It seems they can't get anything going. I know injuries have hurt them
lately but it's been a tend over the past few years...no defense, and
inconsistant pitching/hitting. Are we seeing a once proud program taking
some steps backward? As a huge Canes fan here in WI, it's been
troubling over the years. I miss seeing them in Omaha.
Miami has been in a bit of a down cycle
over the last few years — the program has been surpassed by Florida and
Florida State, and Jim Morris said as much earlier this year. That
said, they're still a No. 2 seed in regionals even in down years, which
says a lot about the caliber of this program. A good recruiting cycle or
two and Miami can be right back among the nation's elite. But I never
thought this year's team would be elite, and indeed that is proving to
be the case. Miami can still make a run at hosting a regional, but right
now I think the 'Canes are on the wrong side of that bubble. Looking
like a No. 2 seed again�maybe this time they won't get sent to
Andrew (Irvington, NY): So did the 2-1 series
win by Purdue this weekend on the road at Nebraska and the mixed results
from all the other games pretty much tie up the B1G as a 1 bid league
barring a tourney upset? Can Purdue transcend the mediocrity of the B1G
and nab a national seed?
One bid certainly seems most likely, though
MIchigan State is still hanging around in the at-large discussion —
but the Spartans really need to get hot. I do think Purdue can get a
national seed regardless of the mediocrity of its conference because its
resume is sterling. A series win at UCLA in two weeks would be a huge
feather in Purdue's cap. Win that series, win the Big Ten regular-season
and tournament titles, and I think Purdue gets a national seed, as
remarkable as that sounds.
Brooks (Charleston, SC): Aaron, it seems the
Gamecocks have finally figured out how to hit and are putting it all
together like the last 2 years (pitching, defense, timely hitting).
Plus, Ray Tanner's gambles are paying off like our title teams and he
made the dynamite move to put Price back in the closer's role! Do you
like our chances to win SEC, get national seed, and defend our title?
It certainly seems like South Carolina is
gelling once again, doesn't it? Tanner is one of those guys who always
seems to push the right buttons and put his players in position to
succeed, and I think he's done that again this year. Moving Jordan
Montgomery into the rotation was a masterstroke — really like the way
that pitching staff sets up now, with Price back anchoring the bullpen
where he belongs. South Carolina won't catch Kentucky in the
regular-season, but the Gamecocks will be a force to be reckoned with in
the postseason, as usual. They are right back in the thick of the
national seed discussion.
Marco (Maryland): How do MLB scouts view
Branden Kline? Is he viewed as a starter, or do they prefer him in the
pen? The ceiling seems awfully high if a lot of things go right, as the
change seems to show well, but the fastball also seems to flatten out
and the breaking ball comes and goes. Sandwich round, earlier, later?
My colleague Conor Glassey saw Kline last
week at Duke and came away with the feeling that Kline would fit better
as a reliever in pro ball — just stick him in the pen and let him
attack with his fastball and slider. Conor made the same observations
you did about the fastball flattening out at times and the slider coming
and going, but he does like Kline's body, athleticism and arm speed.
Call him a second rounder, with a chance for sandwich.
Roger (Nebraska): How bout you give us your 8 for Omaha which you've promised but have not delivered to date.
Oh fine, Roger, you have shamed me into it.
I'll wrap up with this one. It's a tough year to forecast, I'll be
honest — I've been avoiding this question while trying to get a better
feel for the landscape at the top of college baseball. I can't shake the
feeling that Texas A&M will be very dangerous in June, but I can't
keep picking those guys in good conscious after they got swept by
Baylor. Kentucky and Baylor have proven they are for real — I'll go
ahead and pencil them in, along with Florida State, Florida, Rice (love
that bullpen) and South Carolina (I've learned better than to pick
against the Gamecocks). The Pac-12 is a toss-up — I like all of the top
four teams that are next to each other in the rankings, but I think I
still believe Stanford and Arizona will prove to be most dangerous at
the end of the day, so I'll go with those two from the West. LSU and
North Carolina are tough omissions, but how many teams from the
Southeast can we take? UCLA is a tough omission too — still think that
club is the most dangerous in SoCal, with apologies to the scrappy
OK, that's all for this week. Thanks for
all the great questions, as always. I'll be in Baton Rouge and
Starkville this weekend, and will chat from the Magnolia State next
Monday. Until then, have a great week.