College Top 25 Chat: April 30




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Moderator: Aaron Fitt will answer your college and Top 25 questions beginning at 2 p.m. ET.

Aaron Fitt: Greetings from Mississippi! Since I'm on the road, I'll probably have to keep this to about an hour. Let's get to it!

    Joel (KCK): Out of the top draft eligible college pitchers (Gausman, Stroman, Appel, Zimmer and Wacha,) how many project to be true #1's in the show, or do they all project better as #2's? Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: I've spoken with a couple of crosscheckers who think all those guys would have fit more in the 8-15 range in last year's draft, suggesting they all profile better as No. 2s (and any club who drafts one of those guys would be very happy if they become legit No. 2 starters in the big leagues). But they all have high ceilings; it's just a matter of reaching their potential. After seeing Gausman this weekend, I must say I was very impressed with how polished he has become. He's not a finished product, of course, but he really does have feel for five different offerings (he throws a sinker in addition to that explosive four-seamer, has a plus changeup, an improving slider and a curveball that he can still mix in effectively at times). As I wrote this weekend, Gausman does some advanced things, like getting swing-and-misses with his changeup against righthanded hitters and commanding the inner half. I think he has the best chance of this group to be a bona fide No. 1 in the majors.

    Pat (Chicago): Thanks for the chat. If Tulane takes 2/3 from USM, Marshall and Houston and splits LSU/ULL midweek games will that be enough to make the tourney? Also, who do you see being drafted first from Tulane and approximately what round? Thanks

Aaron Fitt: Maybe; Tulane is currently 59th in the RPI, and the RPI Needs Report says it needs an 11-0 finish to land inside the top 45 (the Needs Report is just an approximation, but it gives you an idea how how strong Tulane needs to finish). A top 45 RPI is not a prerequisite for an at-large bid, but it's a good target. Personally, I think Tulane's resume might be short even if it wins those last three series; getting swept at home by UCF was a big blow. But if it wins all three series, it should be right on the bubble�and given the lack of worthy at-large teams at the back of the field of 64, that might be enough. As for the draft question, I know some scouts like Jeremy Schaffer as a quality senior catcher; I could see him going inside the top 10 rounds, though I must confess I haven't been able to bear down on Tulane's draft prospects, as John Manuel handles that region for Draft Preview coverage.

    Matt (OKC): Hey Aaron the Top 25 Chat is the one thing that gets me through my Monday work days! A&M's weekend starters all looked like Friday night guys this past series vs. texas. How do you see the combo of Wacha, Stripling, and Pineda playing out the rest of the season and are the Aggies ready to make a run at a National Championship?

Aaron Fitt: Glad to give your Mondays a boost, Matt! I continue to believe that A&M and LSU have the nation's best weekend rotations, and today I'd probably give the Aggies a slight edge. Pineda isn't overpowering, but he has very good feel for pitching for a freshman, and as he showed Sunday, he is an excellent Sunday guy. Wacha and Stripling are warriors, of course, with very good stuff. I do have the Aggies as one of about 10 teams I could see winning the national title (and I don't think any of those 10 has separated itself as a clear-cut favorite).

    Sloan (Columbia, SC): While I understand that it is just for fun, the Boyd's World RPI Needs Index has Florida locked in as a national seed even if they lose their final 11 games. Can you imagine any scenario where they drop to 33-23 (which won't happen) and yet actually hold on to a Top 8? Or for that matter, FSU finishing 2-10 and doing the same?

Aaron Fitt: No way. A top-eight RPI is no guarantee of earning a national seed, first of all, and I think Florida has already found its way onto the national seed bubble by losing three series in the last five weekends. They're in the "BUBBLE (IN)" category, but with another series loss this weekend at Kentucky (a very real possibility), the Gators could be in trouble. If Florida loses two of its last three series to finish with five series losses in the second half, I don't care what its RPI is, it should not be a national seed.

    Dave (Omaha): Is this Canes team really as bad as they are playing or is the loss of O'Brien just too great right now? Any chance this team gets it back together in time for a deep run?

Aaron Fitt: There's no way they are as bad as they played this weekend — those last two games were really, really ugly. But even with O'Brien, I never thought Miami was a GREAT team. They are much as they were the last two year�a decent team that will be a No. 2 seed in a regional. That's what we thought they'd be coming into the season, and that's what they are. I don't foresee a deep postseason run.

    Biil W. (Virginia): What is the main factor that has turned around Virginia's season? They seem like they are playing hard with confidence all of a sudden.

Aaron Fitt: Two things strike me: Derek Fisher's emergence as a force in the middle of the lineup has been big. That was a big-time recruit with monstrous potential, but he was really raw when he arrived at UVa., and the Cavs weren't sure what kind of contribution they could expect out of him as a freshman. But he has figured it out, it seems, and he changes their lineup in a way that reminds me of how Jarrett Parker impacted the lineup when he came into his own. Secondly, I really like how the bullpen has coalesced�Crockett and Halley came up huge this weekend, as they have been for much of the season, and Justin Thompson has quietly had a fantastic year as the first-year closer. It seems like Virginia always has that guy at the back of the bullpen it can really rely upon, and coming into the year they needed somebody to prove he could handle that role. Thompson has done so. Virginia has such a great coaching staff, that you knew it was only a matter of time before they got that young team playing at a pretty high level. Brian O'Connor didn't think he had a top 25 team in the preseason, but he thought the Cavs might be by season's end, and as usual he was right.

    Ryan (Charlottesville): UVA hops into the rankings for the first time, but is now 14 in the RPI. What has to happen for them to host for a third straight year?

Aaron Fitt: To piggyback on the last answer, you do have to consider Virginia as a host now that it has another quality series win to go with those sweeps of Clemson and Wake Forest. Miami's fall certainly helps UVa., as the Cavs now look like the fourth team in the ACC hosting pecking order. I still see the ACC as a three-host league, but if Virginia keeps on winning series against Georgia Tech and Maryland, I could see the Cavs forcing their way in there. It will, of course, depend in part on how some other teams do as well, like Arkansas, Ole Miss, UCF — some of those other fringe host candidates.

    Bob (Myrtle Beach, SC): Aaron, How big was Coastal Carolina's series sweep @ Liberty this weekend?

Aaron Fitt: The Chanticleers clearly asserted themselves as the class of the Big South, as usual. Now, with an RPI of No. 36, you have to feel good about Coastal as a safe at-large choice. This weekend was huge in solidifying that position, certainly.

    Big Bill (Cordova, TN): Arkansas just pulled 2 of 3 in Gainesville. They finish up SEC play with South Carolina and Auburn at home, then at Tennessee. What are their chances of A)catching LSU and B)getting back into the mix of hosting a regional? For the record, LSU finishes at Ole Miss, home against Vandy, at South Carolina.

Aaron Fitt: I do think Arkansas has the much more favorable remaining schedule�those are all winnable series, and I would even make Arkansas the slight favorite against South Carolina because it will be the home team. So let's say the Hogs go 6-3 down the stretch to finish at 17-13; is LSU going to finish 2-7? I don't see that happening. I could see Arkansas going 7-2 in the next three weeks, but I don't think that will be enough either�although if Vandy can use this weekend as a spring board and catch fire, you never know. As for hosting, I think they've been in the mix all along, but this weekend certainly puts them in much better position. As for whether they're back among my 16 hosts, I'll let you know in tomorrow's Stock Report — I need to crunch some numbers.

    Joel (KCK): If power is Mike Zunino's only plus tool, how much can we realistically expect of him in pro ball? Does he even have a major league average hit tool?

Aaron Fitt: I do think he can be an average hitter in the big leagues. I think he can be a Jason Varitek type player, minus the switch-hitting: a hard-nosed, physical general behind the plate with solid catch-and-throw skills, good pop and an average bat. Just ask the Red Sox how valuable Jason Varitek has been over the last decade.

    Keith (Long Island): do you see St Johns having any chance of receiving an at large bid?

Aaron Fitt: The Johnnies have gotten hot, and that RPI is starting to creep up there now — up to No. 69 after this weekend. Remember, St. John's got an at-large spot with an RPI in the mid-50s last year, if I recall correctly, so the threshold is a little lower for Northern teams�as it should be, I think, because it is so much more difficult to construct a robust RPI playing in that part of the country. But St. John's handled its nonconference slate a little better last year; I think that 1-3 weekend at Liberty early on will come back to hurt it, because the resume is just lacking in real quality wins. Winning the USF and Louisville series is a must for St. John's to have a shot — and if it does, I think it will have a shot.

    ChaunceyCCU (Conway, SC): Aaron, What do you see from CCU the rest of the regular season, and post-season (assuming they get there)?

Aaron Fitt: I see the Chanticleers cruising to the Big South title and making a regional, but I don't see them winning a regional this year. This doesn't strike me as one of Gary Gilmore's most dangerous teams, but you have to acknowledge that the pitching staff has really come together and gives Coastal a chance to compete with anybody.

    T Dropping (Baton): With three weekend series remaining in SEC play, how many SEC teams do you see receiving national seeds? Do you think the winners of the UK/UF and LSU/USC series get the nod? Or maybe three of those 4 get a national seed?

Aaron Fitt: I think three of those four feels quite likely to me. The SEC got three national seeds all from one division last year; it is the best conference, it has the most elite teams, and it deserves three national seeds this year.

    chris (Toronto canada): Does John Cohen have Miss. State back on track to be an SEC power like they were during the Polk years?

Aaron Fitt: I really like the job Cohen and his fine staff have done there. Those guys all work really hard on the recruiting end, and I think they've got a winning formula in that ballpark and in this era, building around projectable power arms, standout athletes, speed and defense. The problem is, it is so much more difficult to sustain dominance in the SEC now than it was in the 80s and even the 90s, because the league is so absurdly deep. I think every team will have its rebuilding years from time to time now—just look at Vanderbilt this year—though in some cases they'll be able to still make regionals in their "down" years. I think Mississippi State is back to a level where it can compete for a regional every year, but I think it is too much to expect the Bulldogs to get back to dominating the SEC the way it once did. Those days are over in this conference.

    geo (texas): do u see any situation where texas is a regional host?

Aaron Fitt: I suppose if they just about win out, including a sweep of Baylor, they've got a chance, but even then they might need some help. I just don't see it happening.

    Steve (Southern California): How come New Mexico doesnt get any love?? They have 8 straight series wins, which includes a sweep of Gonzaga and 2 of 3 vs TCU, and DJ Peterson is a beast at the plate. I know the MWC isnt the SEC or PAC-12 but they are playing pretty good ball right now and would be a threat to anyone in the NCAA tournament.

Aaron Fitt: The Lobos (and Peterson, especially) have been on my list of teams to write about in Under The Radar for weeks now, but you know, I've got a lot of teams to cover. I have noticed what New Mexico has done, and I do hope to write about them soon. Can't say enough about the job Ray Birmingham has done turning that program around — they are a tough team to play against for anybody, because they play with a real chip on their shoulder, and they do have talent, too.

Moderator: Aaron has lost his Wi-Fi signal so we're going to have to wrap the chat 10 minutes early this week. Thanks for all the questions.