2013 Preseason College Top 25 Chat With Aaron Fitt
Hi everybody, and welcome to the first
college baseball chat of 2013. Hope you have enjoyed our College Preview
kickoff today — we'll have more content next week on Tuesday and
Thursday, and then daily content from Feb. 4 through the start of the
season. Let's chat!
Ryan (Charlottesville): Virginia...Too many
questions due to pitching holes and injuries? The offense looks like
it's going to be very good IMO, but the pitching staff will be relying
on a ton of young guys.
You nailed it, Ryan. I am excited about the
athleticism and upside in the lineup with guys like Fisher, Papi and
Cogswell mixing nicely with the solid core of veterans. But I'm really
not sold on the pitching. I think Kyle Crockett will be fine as the
Friday guy, though I don't see him as an elite ace. The Cavs need
freshmen to mature in a hurry behind him.
TJ (The Ville): Louisville has been ranked 22nd, 15th, and now 4th in the polls. What makes you so high on the Cards?
If you read my scouting report on them,
you'll see why we are so high on them. I just think they are a very
complete team — tons of experience in the lineup and on the mound,
outstanding speed, strong defense, a quality offense, and power arms
galore. What's not to like?
Dave (San Diego): How do you feel Loyola
Marymount will do this year in the WCC? I know they have some good youg
pitching and a strong nuclues returning. Do you feel they make the WCC
end of season tournament and can get to a regional? As we saw last year
year once you get to a regional anything can happen. Look forward to
I am quite high on LMU this year. The
rotation has a chance to be very good — Megill and Welmon have the
talent to form a dominant 1-2 punch, and Aaron Griffin is a solid senior
on Sundays. There are some questions in the lineup, but I love the core
of seniors up the middle in Colton Plaia, Cullen Mahoney and Matt
Lowenstein. Those are really nice college players who do a lot of little
things to help their team win.
MsStateBaseball (Mississippi): How would you rank John Cohen and staff as coaches? I see your capsule on players, what about the coaches?
I think it's a fantastic staff. Butch
Thompson was voted by 70-plus head coaches onto our list of top 10
future head coaching prospects a few weeks back — he is one of the
nation's most respected pitching coaches. I hear a lot of good things
about Nick Mingione, a real up-and-comer. And I love that Cohen's teams
always play really hard, with a little chip on their shoulder. I think
he has a knack for imbuing his teams with toughness.
Aaron (Austin): I noticed in the preseason
scouting report for Oregon State, there was no mention of Jace Fry's
injury. How big of a loss for the Beavers is this? Was his injury taken
into consideration when ranking OSU?
Yeah, when Fry went down, my first reaction
was that we'd have to rank Oregon State a few spots lower in our
preseason Top 25, because he is a premium talent. But when I looked
closer and broke the Beavers down, I think they'll be just fine — this
team is simply loaded. If Fry were healthy, maybe they would have been
1-3 spots higher, but not definitely. I think all those teams are very
Greg (Orange, CA): Who is the biggest wildcard for the UCLA offense? They seem to have a bunch of holes in the lineup from last year
I think an awful lot rides on Shane Zeile.
He's got the tools to be a real impact player, but the Bruins are not
strong behind the plate, so it is imperative that Zeile is able to
handle that conversion from the infield to catcher. I'm very intrigued
by UCLA's sophomore bats — Zeile, Kevin Kramer, Eric Filia-Snyder and
Chris Keck. The Bruins look like they have holes at first glance, but if
those four guys are as good as UCLA thinks they might be, this team
won't miss a beat.
Mike Arnold (Dallas, Tx): Who does Rodon compare to in the big leagues?
I think he's got a lot of David Price in
him. They both have mid-90s fastballs, devastating sliders and
incredible competitiveness. Like Price did, Rodon is working hard on
developing his changeup, and he says he is pleased with how it's coming
along. They are both big, physical lefthanders with similar stuff and
makeups. It is certainly praise for Rodon, but I think he's got that
kind of ceiling.
Rick (Arizona): What's you top 3 rotations in the SEC heading into the year.
I'll go Ole Miss, Florida, Vanderbilt, with Kentucky, LSU and Arkansas not far behind. So much pitching in the SEC this year...
Jeff (Washington D.C.): Aaron-
I assume a #1 ranking by Baseball America means that team is your pick
to win the College World Series. What makes 2013 UNC different from the
past ACC teams (Miami, Florida State, UVA, UNC, Clemson, GA Tech) which
have failed to live up to Baseball America's unrealistic expectation for
an ACC program?
What's unrealistic about it? ACC teams are
in Omaha every year — is it really so far-fetched to imagine that one
of these days, one of them will win the championship. UNC reached the
finals twice in the last 7 years, and reached the semifinals another
time. There is no inherent flaw in ACC teams that allows them to win 50
games and reach the precipice of a national title, but stops them from
winning the last game or two. Should we have given Vanderbilt or
Arkansas the nod instead because they play in the SEC, and the SEC has
won championships? Guess what: Vanderbilt and Arkansas have never won
the title either. Why should they get credit for South Carolina's and
Brian (East Lansing, MI): Who do you think are the early front runners for National Freshman of the Year?
Alex Bregman at LSU, Max Schrock at South
Carolina, Justin Garza at Fullerton, C.J. Hinojosa at Texas. Those are
some of the guys I think will be big stars, and I expect them to have
major impacts as freshmen. I think my pick is Bregman.
Warren (Texas): I knew Texas would not be
highly ranked, but not ranked at all? That was a surprise. What is your
prognostication for their upcoming season? Strengths/ Weaknesses? Thanks
for the chat!
Texas was on the short list of contenders
who just missed our rankings, along with Miami and Arizona State. It is
strange having a preseason Top 25 without any of those three programs —
that's college baseball royalty. I suspect the Longhorns could be fun
to watch this year, because I think they are going to be a lot more
athletic and they should be able to create a lot of pressure with their
speed. But they are relying on a bunch of newcomers who need to prove
themselves, and I don't think the pitching staff is as deep as we're
used to seeing from UT. Dillon Peters needs to take a big step forward
as a sophomore, and Chad Hollingsworth has to shoulder a significant
load as a freshman. Those guys are talented, but let's see them do it.
Navin (Pasadena, CA): Which freshman do you
think will have the best chance to start for UCLA on either Sunday or
midweek? And what are the odds two freshmen plug in behind Plutko and
Vander Tuig? Thank you!
I get the impression Grant Watson is the
front-runner for the Sunday job, leaving Zack Weiss to compete for the
Tuesday spot with Hunter Virant and Cody Poteet. Virant has the biggest
name of any UCLA freshman, but I think Poteet and Kaprielian stood out
more this fall. Kaprielian looks slated to close, and he's got a chance
to be really good in that role.
Marcel (Oakland): Who are your early top-5/10 guys for the 2014 draft behind Rodon? How does Trea Turner and Brett Austin fit in that group?
Turner definitely fits in that group — you
don't see middle-of-the-diamond players with his speed and athleticism
too often. If scouts aren't sold he can stick at shortstop, he can still
have serious value as a Gary Brown-type center fielder. Austin's got a
chance to be a top 10 pick if he proves he can handle catching duties,
and if he takes the step forward with the bat that we are anticipating.
He's a switch-hitter with power and a very nice swing — it's a good
place to start. Some other names that come to mind: Michael Cederoth at
San Diego State, Mason Robbins at Southern Miss, Kevin Cron at TCU, Nick
Burdi at Louisville, Alex Blandino at Stanford, Michael Conforto at
Oregon State, Derek Fisher at Virginia, Tyler Beede at Vanderbilt. Just
an informal, top-of-my-head list — apologies to any obvious guys I'm
Warren (Texas): What players, who you feel are
now flying under the radar, could have breakout seasons as far as pro
prospects go? Thanks for the chat!
Richard Prigatano at Long Beach State — I
think he can really hit, and I'm expecting a big sophomore year. Adam
McCreery at Arizona State — big lefty with power stuff, and finally
healthy. Auston Bousfield at Ole Miss — stronger, faster, primed for a
jump to stardom. Put Chris Elllis in there too — stuff jumped in the
summer and fall, and he could give the Rebels a real edge on Sundays.
Chris Marsical, Fresno State — played every day as a freshman and took
his lumps, but he's got the all-around ability to be a star.
Brad (Chicago): You have Vanderbilt, Arkansas
and Mississippi State and 2, 3 & 5 respectively in your preseason
rankings. These programs finished 5, 6 & 7 last year in their
conference. MSU was put out of a regional by Samford. Vanderbilt didn't
make a Super Regional. Can you explain why you expect these teams to
dramatically improve on the field?
I would direct you to read our Top 25
scouting reports, which break down these teams in great detail. I think
all three teams are experienced, talented, balanced and deep. The SEC is
so competitive that when you lose some key players, like Florida and
South Carolina did, you can expect other teams that have more quality
veterans back to leapfrog you a year later, even if you reload like the
Gators and Gamecocks did. Also, I think it's important to note how well
Vandy, Arkansas and MSU played at the end of the year last year. Vandy
turned around what looked like a lost season, reaching the SEC
tournament final and playing itself all the way up to a No. 2 seed. They
lost in a hard-fought regional to a loaded NC State team, but the Dores
were very, very dangerous at the end of the year. The same is true of
Miss State, which finally got healthy late and won the SEC tournament.
Arkansas went all the way to Omaha. Why should we be conservative on
those teams because they might have struggled in March of 2012? It's now
2013 — time to recalibrate expectations.
Steve (Toronto): How much pressure is there in
Nashville for Tyler Beede to live up to expectations this year? Is his
success the difference between a Super Regional caliber team and a team
that could make a deep run in CWS?
Beede and Kevin Ziomek both need to live up
to their talent this year for Vanderbilt to be a bona fide national
championship contender — that's pretty obvious, I think. We obviously
believe both of those players are up to the task, or we wouldn't have
ranked Vanderbilt No. 2. The Commodores are blessed with outstanding
pitching depth, and they could potentiall survive an injury or
underperformance from one of their weekend guys by sliding somebody like
Carson Fulmer into a rotation spot. But there's no doubt, Beede is a
key for this team to reach its ceiling.
Baseball Guy (Tx): Really looking forward to
Friday nights in C-USA this year (Hoffman, Blair, Moll, Kubitza, Pierce,
Napoli, Lively). Who are your top 3 for C-USA Pitcher of the Year? 2-
Which 3 are your best pro prospects? Thanks
Good call — that's a nice group. For C-USA
POY, I think it's Pierce, Kubitza and Blair. For long-term prospect,
I'll go with Hoffman, Kubitza and Blair. But I like all of those guys.
Greg (Texas): Is UNC at no. 1 a HOMER pick or
do you truly believe they're the best team in baseball? And I'm not
taking the latter seriously if that's your answer.
And I'm not taking this question seriously.
I don't know why you'd bother asking it if you don't have any interest
in the answer! I know, it's pretty shocking that a program that has been
to Omaha five times in the last seven years might be preseason No. 1.
Outrageous! Where do we come up with this stuff?
JD (SC): Your thoughts on Tanner English going to switch hitting and how it might affect the SC offense?
It's certainly intriguing. I'm usually
skeptical of players who start switch-hitting at this stage of their
careers, but if he can do it, it obviously makes him that much more
valuable as a table-setter. He's a major key for the Gamecocks this
season, no question.
ScottAZ (Phx, AZ): Is this the 1st time in BA
history that ASU has not entered the year ranked? How far off were they
and in a best case scenario were could you see their season going?
This is, in fact, the first time Arizona
State has not been ranked in the preseason. The Sun Devils were right on
the cusp, along with Miami and Texas. I could certainly envision
Arizona State playing well above our expectations, if guys like Jake
Peevyhouse, Drew Stankiewicz, Kasey Coffman, Trevor Allen and Rouric
Bridgewater take big steps forward like ASU hopes. But those are a lot
of players who need to establish themselves, and the same is true on the
pitching staff behind Trevor Williams. Seems like there is plenty of
talent in place there, but plenty of question marks too, for me. Of
course, I've been impressed with ASU's toughness and resilience under
Tim Esmay, and I have a feeling these guys will play with a chip on
their shoulders this year because they want to prove to everybody that
they are better than we all think. That said, it won't be easy to break
into the top tier of the Pac-12, because Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA
and Oregon all look very strong.
jb (SC): Whats the deal at Clemson...Will we ever see them at the level they were at 10 years ago?
Sure, it's not like Clemson's been so far
removed from that level. It was just 2010 when they were sitting 2-0 in
their bracket in Omaha. The Tigers are very excited about their freshman
class; this team could be dangerous in the second half if those young
players mature as hoped. Matthew Crownover and Clate Schmidt have a
chance to give Clemson a very strong pitching foundation to build around
for the next few years.
Anthony (Fan): How will Stanford replace the three outfielders that got drafted and remain successful .
Well, Austin Wilson is back, and you can
make a case that he has more raw ability than any player in college
baseball — and he's a junior now, so it's reasonable to expect a big
year from him. I think Dominic Jose is a big-time breakout candidate.
The Cardinal is high on freshman Johnny Locher in center, but he's more
of a question mark. Still, there are a lot of really talented players
all over the diamond for Stanford — there's nothing to worry about.
Glenn (Baton Rouge): Tell me great things about LSU.
You have some of the best food in college
baseball! Oh, and Aaron Nola is a stud, JaCoby Jones is going to make
the leap this year, Mason Katz and Raph Rhymes are fantastic veterans,
Alex Bregman might be the best freshman in the country, Ryan Eades has
electric stuff, and the bullpen has plenty of depth. How's that?
Matthew (Tampa, FL): Do you think the Indiana Hoosiers or Wichita State Shockers can make a run in the NCAA Tournament?
I think Indiana is the team to beat in the
Big Ten, and Wichita State should be right near the top of a strong MVC,
along with Missouri State (I also like Illinois State and Indiana
State). I don't expect either team to make a deep postseason run, but
anything can happen in the tournament — it all depends who gets hot at
the right time.
Jeff (Bald Head Island): I attended the CWS
last year with some buddies and had a blast. We all decided we would go
to a game on-campus this year. Where should we go to get the best
college baseball experience?
Pick an SEC venue, really. You can't go
wrong with LSU, Arkansas, South Carolina, Ole Miss. Some non-SEC
candidates: Florida State, Texas, Texas A&M.
Andrew (Irvington, NY): I notice in the top 25
you most Northern schools are Oregon, Oregon St. and Kentucky. Was
there any discussion for some love for the Big East schools or Big Ten?
Also, is the Big 12 going to have that down of a year to only have TCU
Well, Louisville is still in the Big East,
and it checks in at No. 4. I also really like Notre Dame this year —
could see those guys playing their way into the Top 25 this year. No Big
Ten schools were too close to breaking into our Top 25 — seems like a
lot of parity in that league, but no standout team this year like Purdue
a year ago. I don't expect a great year for the Big 12 — strikes me as
a four-bid league (TCU, Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor).
Bill (Hamilton, NJ): Hey Aaron....hope you are
If Matthew Grimes was healthy, would GaT be higher in your poll? Team
showed character last year overcoming injuries to 3 Starting pitchers to
reach regional. Which pitcher besides Farmer has to step up to replace
After a solid week-plus of gorgeous
mid-to-high-70s and sunshine, we are back down in the 60s today. Life is
tough in SoCal... To answer your question, yes, I think Tech would be a
couple spots higher if Grimes were healthy. Our major question about
that team is the pitching after Farmer. Dusty Isaacs has pretty good
stuff, and the Jackets need him to solidify that Saturday spot. I'm not
terribly excited about Cole Pitts, but he could be an adequate Sunday
guy, or they can go with one of their freshmen. Certainly some questions
that need to be answered on that staff, but it's got a chance to be
Randy (Columbia, SC): I liked what I saw when I
was at the South Carolina Fall scrimmages. Hitting looked much
improved, and the newcomers didn't seem to be playing like newcomers. I
know there is a huge difference between practices and live games, but
how do you think this team can compare to last years, and can they win
those last 2 with the added experience of the younger guys. And is
there one player that has to step up to fill the shoes of one of the
This team obviously has a much different
identity with Price, Roth, Walker and Marzilli gone, but I am very high
on the holdovers — I expect Pankake, Greiner and Montgomery to take big
leaps to full-fledged stardom as sophomores. The fact that they all got
invaluable Omaha experience as freshmen is so important, I think. I'm
extremely bullish on Max Schrock, who just sounds like an awesome
player. They've got a nice core of seniors in Dantzler, Holmes and
Vergason. Basically, I think there is a lot of reason to believe the
Gamecocks can get back to Omaha and compete for another title. As for a
key guy, I think the spotlight is really on Tanner English. He's got the
speed to be a major weapon if he can get on base consistently.
Alex (Miami): How close was Miami to the top 25? Is the ACC the best conference this year?
The SEC is certainly the best conference —
I don't think there's any doubt about that. But the ACC looks solid,
and I'm positive Miami will find its way into the rankings in 2013,
because it was right on the precipice in our preseason deliberations.
Plenty of athleticism in that lineup, and there should be a bit more
firepower too, with the addition of David Thompson and the expected
improvement of Carey and Mack. I think Alex Hernandez and Brandon Lopez
are going to be fun to watch in the middle infield. I think the bullpen
still needs to materialize around A.J. Salcines, and the Canes need
Bryan Radziewski and Andrew Suarez to come back strong from Tommy John.
That is critical.
Chris (Evanston): An east coast school is #1.
The highest ranked west coast school is at #6. Manuel is in NC. Fitt is
in CA. I guess we know who is still the boss at Baseball America.
Well, he is the Editor in Chief! But that
has nothing to do with why the teams are ranked as they are. I love how
many people think where we are based really has any bearing on our
rankings. Guys, I talk to dozens of coaches all around the nation to
prepare for the season — trust me, I'm as informed about West Coast
teams as I am about East Coast teams. I don't have any rooting interests
— this is my job, not my hobby, and I take it very seriously. The same
goes for the rest of our staff.
Chandler (Albuquerque): Obvisouly UNM will go
as far as their pitching will take them but what do you think their
ceiling is? And who do you see as their biggest competitor in the
shallow Mountain West??
Honestly, I think their ceiling is Omaha.
This offense is going to be so good that the pitching does not need to
be special — it just needs to keep them in games. If the Lobos get hot
in the postseason, they can mash their way all the way to the CWS. As
for the Mountain West, the team to watch is Fresno, no question. Fresno
was also in our 26-30 range — they've got star power with Aaron Judge
and Tyler Linehan, and they've got a nice group of supporting veterans.
That team should be very good also.
Troy (Baton Rouge): Who are three sleepers we should watch out for this season?
Last year I gave you Stony Brook in this
chat, but honestly, that was an easy one — those guys were loaded, as
the rest of the country found out in June. This time around, I'll go
with Austin Peay State, Sam Houston State and Saint Louis. All three
teams are well stocked with veterans who have been in regionals, where
those teams have played well. Really like the pitching for SHSU and SLU,
and I love Austin Peay's lineup, led by Jordan Hankins and Reed Harper.
Their pitching is a bit more of a question mark, but Lee Ridenhour has a
big arm and might be ready to put it together this year at APSU.
Jason (Minnesota): Hi Aaron,
Chances Vandy starts 7-15 this year? OK seriously, what team in the Top
25 might be overrated based on potential and struggle early?
Ha, I think the chances of Vandy doing that
again are zero. But it's a good question — our rankings are based on
how good we think these teams will be this season, not necessarily in
Week One. I suppose Mississippi State could struggle a bit early while
its young starting pitchers get acclimated, but I don't really expect
that. Arizona is relying on a bunch of young players who could take a
little time to get settled in, and maybe Oklahoma too, but I think its
starting pitching will keep it afloat if its lineup struggles. That
bullpen needs to gel, though. I think Sunny Golloway is very good at
reassessing his team as the season progresses and making the necessary
adjustments to put players in position to succeed.
tim (815): Who will be this year's Stony Brook? That team you will eventually wish you watched a bunch more of.
I mentioned a few sleepers a minute ago,
but a couple other teams I'm expecting to take big steps and make
regionals: Virginia Tech, Notre Dame. Both those teams have a couple of
guys with impact tools (Chad Pinder and Tyler Horan for the Hokies, Eric
Jagielo and Dan Slania for the Irish) surrounded by nice veteran
complementary pieces. Stony Brook had a similar recipe last year, with
Travis Jankowski, Willie Carmona and Tyler Johnson providing the star
power. Of course, Va Tech and Notre Dame are not in the America East
Conference, so I'm not trying to compare them to what the Seawolves
accomplished last year.
Jeff (Rocky Top): How far away from the Vols
from getting back into the discussion in the SEC? Looks like they have a
ton of new players this year. Any of them stand out to you?
I think A.J. Simcox and Vincent Jackson
have very bright futures. Simcox will start every day as a freshman and
has the look of a real impact player. Jackson has a chance to be a
difference maker as a pitcher and a hitter, though he's not as polished.
It's a very nice core to build around, but the pitching is still short
(besides Zack Godley, who will keep the Vols competitive on Fridays).
Give Serrano another two years, and I think Tennessee will be right in
Not Jaypers (Wi): Aaron, Does Cal State Fullerton have the pitching to make it to Omaha this year?
Pitching is the question with Fullerton,
which will be relying on a pair of freshmen in the rotation. I'm not at
all worried about Justin Garza — I think he's going to be a star. The
Titans are also excited about Eshelman, and if he lives up to their
expectations, I could definitely see Fullerton getting to Omaha, because
I'm quite high on the everyday lineup. They're loaded with athleticism
and experience, and they've got some emerging talents in that sophomore
class, led by Matt Chapman and J.D. Davis. Clay Williamson is an
under-the-radar guy to keep an eye on — I like him quite a bit.
WISM (NYC): Aaron, Vanderbilt has four position
battles in the Spring. The preview seems to indicate that BA thinks (i)
McKeithan beats Swanson at SS, (ii) Conde beats Turner at 3B; (iii)
Lupo beats Cooper, Norwood and Wiseman in LF; and (iv) Norwood beats
Harvey, et al at DH. How do you personally feel those four position
battles play out? Also, do you see Jared Miller as the midweek guy
instead of the shutdown reliever?
Thanks and great capsule previews!
I think those talented freshmen could
probably benefit from a little more seasoning, and Vandy is fortunate
that it can ease them in behind those older players who are ready to
assume more prominent roles. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Turner
and Swanson wind up playing prominent roles on this team, and it could
happen early on, but the impression I got is that the veterans have the
slight upperhand right now. If Harvey has a good spring and winds up as
the DH, and Norwood or Wiseman winds up in left, I think the lineup has a
lot more upside. But the Commodores really value heady veterans who can
handle the bat and grind out at-bats, so don't overlook Lupo.
Chigoy (New Orleans): What are your thought on
Tulane? Pitching staff looks like it will be a strength this year. Can
the bats be solid as well?? Regionals and farther a possibility??
Tulane is interesting. Assuming they can
finally stay healthy, the pitching staff looks a lot deeper this year.
I'd love to see Randy LeBlanc re-establish himself, but it sounds like
his stuff was down in the fall. The Green Wave is excited about Anthony
Rizzotti, who was a big-deal recruit for TCU who didn't pan out and now
gets a second chance in D-I, potentially as a weekend starter. You've
got some nice veterans with Byo and Napoli and Facundus to anchor the
staff, and a quality sophomore in Massey — it's got a chance to be a
good group. And I actually kinda like the lineup, now that Cannizaro,
Middleton and Boudreaux are established seniors at key up-the-middle
spots. In fact, this lineup could have eight upperclassmen, and
experience really matters in college baseball. Yes, I certainly think
it's a regionals team.
Ryan (Bettendorf, IA): The Southern Conference looks tough this year. What do you think of College of Charleston making a run at Omaha this year?
I agree, I think it should be another
strong year for the SoCon. I like Samford's returning talent quite a
bit, and CofC has a nice group of solid seniors on the mound, plus five
returning regulars, led by Brandon Murray. They've got power in the
lineup, and good athleticism in the infield. I don't know that they have
the pitching firepower to get to Omaha, but I do like that team.
Aidan (Seattle): Can you see Washington breaking into the tournament this year after being so close last year?
The Pac-12 is tough, but I do think
Washington is making real progress under Lindsay Meggs. They've got an
exciting group of emerging sophomores in Trevor Mitsui and Robert Pehl,
who could be stars in the lineup. I liked what I saw of Nick Palewicz
this summer in the Cal Collegiate League, and the Huskies think he is
ready to anchor the weekend rotation. Austin Voth also has power stuff,
so that could be a nice one-two punch. I haven't crunched the numbers
for my projected field of 64 yet, but I do think Washington has a chance
to make it.
Craig Dragash (Carmel, Indiana): How far will Purdue drop off in the Big Ten with their losses from last year?
They lost a ton, and the Big Ten is always competitive. I expect a big drop-off this year for the Boilermakers, honestly.
Paul (Nashville, TN): Mississippi State has a
tough conference schedule...opening with LSU, @UK, @Arkansas, Florida,
@TXA&M, and round out the end of the season @Vandy, @Ole Miss, and
South Carolina. The SEC is will be extremely difficult this season and
could be costly to several teams vying for a Regional hosting spot due
to "beating up" one another.
Do you believe Hunter Renfroe is a leading candidate for SEC player of
You make a fine point, but the SEC also has
such a deep group of hosting contenders that I think it's a wash. In a
14-team league, I think five SEC hosts is a safe bet, and I think six is
a realistic possibility. As for Renfroe, if you ask John Manuel, he's a
leading contender for national player of the year! I'm not as sold on
Renfroe's feel for hitting, but his raw tools are awfully impressive. If
he puts it all together, watch out.
Travis (Chapel Hill, NC): How do you feel (if
at all) the change in bats has shifted the paradigm from slugging teams
in college baseball over to the programs that value pitching and defense
a little more strongly? Hope to see you soon at the Bosh!
Hey Travis — that shift has been
particularly evident at TD Ameritrade Park, which is a graveyard.
Arizona was a very offensive team last year, but it was not a home
run-hitting team — it was an athletic bunch that thrived by driving the
gaps, and it played outstanding defense. South Carolina has been a
classic pitching-and-defense outfit during its run, and look how
successful it has been in Omaha. By contrast, Florida led the nation in
home runs last year, but it fell flat in TD Ameritrade (though it
reached the Finals a year earlier, because that team was amazingly
talented and versatile enough to beat teams other ways). Anyway, I think
the lesson is you can win with pitching and defense and timely hitting,
and power is just not necessary.
Dave (Fullerton): What are your thoughts on the
Big West after Fullerton? How many regional teams do you see - 2, 3 or
4? Irvine has lots of guys back on the mound (health permitting) and
Cal Poly returns most of their team except for Haniger, Miller and
I'll be working on my Big West preview this
weekend, so I haven't yet decided how I think it will shake out, but I
think Irvine, Poly, Santa Barbara and Long Beach will all be in the mix
to contend for regionals. Hawaii could be a factor too — their addition
makes this league stronger. I really think the Big West is in store for
a big bounce-back season.
@Jaypers413 (IL): If Rodon was draft eligible this year, would you take him over Appel or Stanek?
I would, yes. He's lefthanded, and he's the
complete package. You can nit-pick with those other two guys, but I
don't think you can really nit-pick with Rodon.
Jeff (Auburn): Auburn Tigers - what's your
take? Other than a blip in 2010, it has been a while since they have
been relevant. What's your thoughts on them this year? They have a good
lineup back with Tella, Glevenyak, Wacker and Cooper all back from a
team that led the SEC in hitting but the rotation looks pretty young and
inexperienced. Is this a make-or-break year for Pawlowski (year 5 and
only 1 NCAA berth)? Also, do you like the SEC Tournament going to 12
Yes, they have a lot of nice returning
pieces in the lineup, and if you recall we ranked their freshman class
very high this fall — I expect Sam Gillikin can be a difference maker,
though he's got some things to polish. Should have three capable
sophomores in the rotation with McCord, Koger and Cochran-Gill, and
decent depth behind them, though the bullpen needs to come together.
Feels like a pretty good club to me; it's just so hard to make headway
in that conference because it is so absurdly deep. We've got 8 SEC teams
in our preseason Top 25. I think the SEC sends 10 teams to regionals,
with A&M and Auburn being the other two. As for the 12-team
tournament, I know they they're doing it, but I don't like it. I think
it should mean something to make the conference tournament, other than
that you just didn't finish last. This seems like a cop-out to me.
Steve (Raleigh): I realize that the preseason
rankings are, to a large degree, guess-work; but, given the recent
success of Kent State and Stony Brook, it would have been nice to see
you take a guess on a team or 2 from the Midwest or NE. Anybody get any
The funny thing is, we've taken shots on
unconventional teams in the preseason Top 25 in the past, and it hasn't
worked out so well. A few years back we ranked Old Dominion in the Top
25 (Fullerton fans will never let me forget that one); I believe we
ranked Evansville in 2007, and that did not work out either. Of course,
we also have been very high on teams like Michigan and UConn when they
had strong teams, and both of those programs rewarded us by making
hosting regionals and/or making super regionals. So we're not opposed to
taking chances in the rankings; I would venture to say we do this more
than any other rankings do, because we always try to evaluate based on a
team's talent in a given year, rather than the name on its jersey.
Heck, even this year we're putting ourselves out there on New Mexico,
which has never been ranked in the preseason in our 30-plus year
Gary Johnson (Idaho): Thoughts on gonzaga's chances in the WCC lead by all american Marco Gonzales?
Very high on Gonzaga — that's the other
team that landed in our 26-30 range (along with Fresno State, Texas,
Miami and Arizona State). Love that one-two pitching punch with Gonzales
and Tyler Olson, and I like the seniors in the lineup, although I don't
think it's going to be an exceptionally potent offensive attack. But
they will compete for the WCC title and should be in a regional. Looks
like another very strong year for the WCC, because I also like LMU and
Pepperdine and USF.
Dude (KY): What is the timetable on the release of other preseason college materials? thx for the chat!
This is a good place to end. Our Small
College preview is coming Tuesday, followed by the All-America teams
next Thursday, and Early Draft Preview stuff on Friday. We'll roll out
our conference previews the first week in February, and have plenty more
goodies in the week leading up to opening day. We hope you enjoy
everything! Thanks for chatting today — lots of great questions still
in the queue, but I've got to call it after 2 hours, 40 minutes. We
truly appreciate all the interest in what we do, and in college baseball
as a whole. Have a great afternoon!