College Top 25 Chat: March 11
Aaron is wrapping up a file, so I'm going to pinch-hit for him for a few minutes here to get the chat started.
Bill (Atlanta, GA): Are you looking at Furman as a potentially ranked team? I wouldn't want to see them in an "Atlanta Regional".
That's a great start to the year for
Furman, with two nice series wins in SoCon play over Elon (on the road)
and Appalachian State. Plus the road wins at Coastal and loss at South
Carolina will be good for RPI purposes, if the Paladins can keep this
up. I like how they nearly swept that series this weekend, rallying
against App State's solid closer, Rob Marciello. According to the
release I got, this is Furman's best start since 1926! So I'm not sure
if they are printing regional tickets yet, but the SoCon looks very
deep, and Furman's strong start is a reason why. The bullpen has been
outstanding to this point, and that team has a lot of juniors &
Harry (Pearl, MS): Mane Aaron, I can't belive
MS Staate dropped that much. You have any ideas on what went wrong with
Coach Cohens and the dawgs this weekend against Central Arkansas?
Thanks for the chats bud!! GO DAWGS!!
There's more on Central Arkansas in 3
Strikes, but we talked about MState on the podcast some. The big
questions there have been injuries, with Wes Rea out, the hand injury
that hasn't seemed to slow Hunter Renfroe much, and now Jacob Lindgren's
status after his leg injury Friday. The Bulldogs are a different club
without him, because even with their pitching depth, I think they need a
Friday guy, and Lindgren is the best bet to emerge as an ace. Most of
that drop was them having a hiccup, which is natural, but give credit to
the Bears. Good series win.
Joel (KCK): I know the strikeouts have been
there all year, but how can one explain Carlos Rodon's two bad outings
from an earned runs standpoint? Will more games like this affect his
status as the consensus #1 prospect in 2014, or are they simply just
Hard to know if they are "simply
aberrations" or what. The Ks are there. We have reports of his velocity
fluctuating from start to start, but it does sound like consistently,
his fastball velo is down a bit this year. That always creates injury
rumors, and that's all they are at this point—rumors. Rodon is still
showing swing & miss stuff, but he has made mistakes with his cutter
& changeup and has been punished for them. The other thing to keep
in mind is, he's human. He's a college sophomore. No one is perfect. At
his best, he's better than anyone else in the 2014 class. He hasn't been
at his best yet this year on two occasions in four starts.
Eric S. (Orlando, FL): Has Florida dug
themselves too deep a hole to pull out of? They are now 8-9 and play 17
of their next 19 games against Florida State, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Ole
Miss, Miss State, and South Carolina. We thought this would be a team
that plays a lot of 3-2 games, but the pitching just hasn't held up
their end of the bargain. A 4.53 team ERA in the BBCOR era simply isn't
Yeah, you should be worried about the
Gators. That team has talent but not much margin for error. I think
players are getting more used to the BBCOR bats, so I think we'll see
offense improving in college baseball. But the Gators, while they have
pitching talent, have little pitching experience. Hudson Randall, Brian
Johnson, Austin Maddox, Pado Rodriguez — that WAS Florida pitching for
three years. Jonathon Crawford has struggled adjusting to being The Man
on Fridays. The quality of depth isn't the same. And to use the bullpen
to shorten games, you have to take early leads, and Florida's offense is
not the juggernaut of past seasons. Lots of issues there for me. I
think the offense wears some the blame as well. No way around an SEC
schedule; there are no real soft spots. So the young Gators are just
going to have to grow up.
John (Ashburn, VA): Aaron: Okay, let me see if I
get this right - UVA steamrolls over veritable NCAA powerhouses like
St. Peters, Toledo, GW, Harvard and Bucknell, splits with Maryland - all
played at home - and they get ranked at 22? And to make it harder to
grasp and understand, they move up three places from last week? Let's be
real - is the ranking based on actual performance to date or Baseball
America's perception of a team's potential? Looks like the annual love
fest for UVA continues.
I take it John is a Hokie fan? Virginia
won a 3-game series this weekend in conference play (not a split). It
also swept East Carolina on the road to open the season. It also has a
strong track record in recent years with several trips to the College
World Series. I'd say it's more BA's respect-fest for Virginia's body of
work & track record under Brian O'Conner and his staff. Also,
listen to last week's podcast to hear Aaron's annual rant about how
frustrating it is for UVA to play some of the creampuffs on its
schedule. It's a good one!
John (Ashburn, VA): Aaron: If the Clemson
chorus hasn't begun, please allow me to start: taking two of three from
NCSU (in Raleigh!!) doesn't cut it?
Ah, so you're a Clemson fan John ... now I
got it. You're a one-man Clemson chorus — 9-5 didn't cut it. I do like
this team's toughness though, and that it's more offensive this year
with the players Aaron detailed in last week's Weekend Preview. I'm a
big Daniel Gossett fan and like Clemson's trajectory; it's a fairly
young team growing up fast, and they didn't have a hangover after losing
that series to South Carolina.
Time to pass the mic back to Aaron Fitt.
He knows more college baseball than I have forgotten. (I think Pat Riley
said that ...)
Hi everybody, hectic morning today —
thanks to John for filling in for me in the early innings. Let's see if I
can channel Pedro Martinez out of the bullpen in the '99 ALDS and go 6
hitless innings to nail this thing down...
Justin (Mississippi): After this weekend, I
honestly believe that Stuart Turner from Ole Miss is the best catcher in
college baseball, he is an outstanding catcher and is batting .491, do u
believe he is the top catcher in college baseball?
I'll tell you what, he's been the best
catcher through four weeks — it would be pretty hard to be more
valuable than that. He's a complete player with outstanding defensive
skills and an impact bat. I have a feeling he's vaulting his way up the
list of catching prospects for this draft, too.
WISM (NYC): Aaron - It was a sloppy week for my
Commodores, who relied on stellar pitching from Buehler, Ziomek, Beede
and Pfeifer to come within one E5 of sweeping the weekend in Eugene.
While VU starters have been nearly unhittable all year (yielding 0 or 1
ER in 14 of 17 games), they've relied on catcher Spencer Navin to
backstop them with his defense. Navin injured his left ankle on Sunday
and (though no word is out yet on what the injury actually is) even a
mild sprain would mean at least a week or so out of the lineup. While
it's far better that this happen now than in May or June, how much do
you think this impacts the Dores heading into SEC play? Is Chris Harvey
ready to step it up?
I chatted with Vandy pitching coach Scott
Brown today for a Golden Spikes Spotlight on Kevin Ziomek (check Three
Strikes blog in a few minutes for that). He said he thinks Navin has a
sprain, but "did not seem to be serious; he was walking around in the
boot afterward." It's too soon to tell how severe the injury is and how
much time he will miss, but I think Vandy is fortunate to have a backup
as talented as Harvey, who has made progress with his defense, from
everything I have gathered. Navin might be the best defensive catcher in
college baseball, so if he misses any meaningful time it will be a
blow, but Harvey was a blue-chip recruit who should be a more than able
Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Aaron, thanks for the
chat. Getting myself oriented for FSU coming to College Park this
weekend and I was curious about your thoughts on Marcus Davis? Watched
some video on him and reminded me a bit of Jonathan Singleton.
Yeah, he's really strong, and he's got a
good approach from the left side. Plate discipline is almost a
prerequisite for Florida State hitter, and he's got it. Davis and Jose
Brizuela have really stepped forward to lead that offense, which looks
formidable as usual.
Jeff (D.C.): 7 Louisiana State 10-1
Where would LSU be ranked if you counted their 4 wins this week?
Thanks, wise guy — that typo has been
corrected. We obviously knew LSU's record was 15-1 when we ranked the
teams — but no team ranked above them has more than two losses, and
they've all played stronger schedules. Although sweeps of Maryland and
Washington are solid weekends; both those teams have some talent, and I
will admit that I thought Washington was a borderline regional team
heading into the year. Looks like I was probably wrong about that one.
Barry (Mansfield, Texas): Is it time to just
default FSU into your preseason top ten every year, regardless of roster
turnover? Amazing job Number 11 does ever year with that squad.
It is pretty crazy — I've often had that
same thought. Of course, Florida State has yet to play a road game, and
its four weekend opponents have an aggregate record of 15-38 (.283), so I
think it's too early to pronounce this an elite team yet. I'll be
curious to see how they handle the next three weekends, with Georgia
Tech and Virginia Tech on tap. We'll know a lot more about FSU at the
end of March than we do right now.
Brad (Chicago): Hey Aaron-
If you were to rank only the teams that you have watched play this year, what would the rankings look like? Thanks
Fun question. I'll say: 1. North Carolina.
2. Oregon State. 3. Cal State Fullerton. 4. UCLA. 5. Rice. 6. Arizona.
7. Oklahoma. 8. UC Irvine. 9. San Diego. 10. Texas A&M. Others not
far off: Houston, San Diego State, Minnesota, Pepperdine. This list is
going to grow in the next few weeks — I'll see Oregon this weekend,
then Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida, Mississippi State and Louisville the
following weekend, and LSU and Arkansas a few weeks after that.
Randy (Columbia, SC): The Gamecocks got all
they could handle this weekend from a very good Rider team. Rider's arms
shut us down 2 of the 3 games. Joey Pankake has had to carry the load
offensively the last 2 weeks. With Colby Holmes' ineffectiveness and
Jordan Montgomery and Tanner English out will this eventually catch up
I think you should be encouraged by
Pankake's surge — he needed to be a key piece of the offensive puzzle
this year, and it's good to see that happening. It doesn't sound like
the Montgomery and English injuries will be long-term issues, so I don't
think there is any cause for concern. I have to imagine Holmes will get
it going too — he's a savvy senior with so much experience, I think
he'll figure it out. I'm not the slightest bit worried about the
JH (California): Is Skye Bolt establishing himself as the front runner for freshman of the year? Any thoughts on other contenders?
He's certainly on the early short list,
along with Alex Bregman at LSU, Eshelman and Garza at Fullerton, Andrew
Moore of Oregon State, Ryan Kellogg at Arizona State, Brandon Waddell at
Virginia. I'm sure I'm missing plenty of others, but those are some
that come to mind.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Hey, Aaron. Saw the video of
Jonathan Gray's start yesterday, and the kid looks amazing. Does he
remind you of anyone in particular, and could you envision him going in
the first ten picks?
I mean, I know it's high praise to compare
him to a former No. 1 overall pick, but he reminded me of Gerrit Cole.
Just the way he held that high-90s velocity deep into the game (and
generated that kind of heat with minimal effort), the way he could throw
his slider in any count, the way he mixed in a nice changeup — it was
very impressive. I saw a lot of Cole during his UCLA days, and he never
hit triple digits on the BA Stalker gun as often as Gray did Saturday.
He sure looked like a top 10 pick to me.
Dee (Orlando): Gray, Anderson and Shipley have
popped up as potential first round pitchers this year — are there any
pop-up hitters with similar talent this year or next?
All three of those guys were already on the
radar, but you're right that all three of them have really boosted
their stock. I think Gray and Shipley were closer to first-round
consideration heading into the year than Anderson, who has made the
biggest leap so far, for me. Well, Gray has made a huge leap too — he
was a completely different guy Saturday than I saw a year ago at
Pepperdine, when his command was erratic. On the hitter side... you
know, I don't think there have been any huge surprises so far, guys that
have jumped into first-round range from off the map. I have to imagine
Daniel Palka is helping his stock with his stellar start, but they also
haven't played the best competition, and I haven't chatted with any
scouts about him recently. Here's a guy for next year: Dylan Davis at
Oregon State has all kinds of talent, and he's really putting it
together as a sophomore. He hasn't hit any home runs yet, but there's
real juice in that swing, and it's encouraging to see him hitting for
ScottAZ (Phx, AZ): Is this ASU better than thought and do they have a chance at one of the 16 regional hosts?
I'm still going to reserve judgment a
little longer on ASU. I think the pitching is very good, although I
always get a little nervous about teams that rely too heavily on
freshman pitchers, who so often wear down in May and June. I'm still not
in love with the offensive firepower, but I do like the hard-nosed
mentality of this lineup. If I have to make a pick right now, I think
Arizona State is the fourth or fifth best team in the Pac-12. I still
like Oregon State, UCLA and Oregon more, and long-term probably Stanford
too (I still think the Cardinal will be very formidable when healthy).
ASU and Arizona both have a few more warts, but at the moment ASU feels a
little better than Arizona, to me.
Andy (Louisiana): Thoughts on the SEC as we
head into conference play this weekend? How have your thoughts changed
since your preseason projections?
The only major adjustment for me would be
Florida, which is clearly not a top 20 team as we had it ranked in the
preseason. I still believe the Gators could be a regional team by the
end of the year, but right now they are just inconsistent, in the same
boat as Texas A&M. But I still believe the seven SEC teams we rated
highest in the preseason are all really good teams that are all capable
of hosting regionals and could finish in any order — I'm talking about
Vandy, South Carolina, Ole Miss, LSU, Kentucky, Mississippi State and
Harry (St Louis, MO): Keith Law thinks Kevin Ziomek is likely a second rounder. Would you concur with this, or does he possess first round stuff?
I think he could be a first-rounder, but I
don't think he's a slam dunk. His delivery is unconventional, which
could put some scouts off. Still, a lefty with his quality stuff and now
results to match? If he keeps this up, I'll bet he climbs into the
Frank (DC): Aaron, what is up with the MWC ?
Fresno, Nevada, SDSU, and New Mexico are all off to disappointing starts
while UNLV is playing out of their shoes. Is this a one bid league if
UNLV wins the conference tournament ?
It's bonkers, isn't it? Fresno State has
been horrific — really did not see that coming. I was not terribly
impressed with Cal in the four-game look I got at those guys last week,
and Cal just swept Fresno in a four-game set. The Aztecs aren't bad, but
they have been swept in four-game series by two teams that are clearly
just a lot better than they are, Oregon State and Arkansas. New Mexico
will rebound — I trust Ray Birmingham to find a way to get that
pitching staff to perform well enough to win a bunch of games, given the
quality of that offense. UNM was never expected to be a great pitching
team, and it doesn't have to be, as long as its pitching isn't horrible
like it has been. The Lobos will need to get hot in order to build an
at-large caliber RPI after this disappointing start, but I think they're
capable of doing that — or of slugging their way to the automatic bid.
It's awfully early to say this is definitely a one-bid league, but as
of today, it's headed in that direction. UNLV is off to a great start,
but I still believe New Mexico is the team to beat. We'll see how it
Daniel (Arkansas): Why isn't UCA ranked after
taking the weekend series against then #3 Mississippi State? Currently
14-2 on the year with their only losses being to #2 Vandy and
The Bears have played themselves right into
the mix for our Top 25, which is a pretty huge step forward for this
program even though they haven't cracked the rankings yet. The thing is,
I still have reservations about UCA's talent level, so I'll need to see
a few more wins against quality opponents before I completely buy in.
Right now, the best wins on the resume other than this weekend are
against Kansas and Wichita State — those are decent wins, but not great
wins. If UCA goes on the road next weekend and wins a series at
Southern Miss, then I will be convinced this is a top 25-caliber team,
because that will represent sustained success against very talented
opposition (even though USM has scuffled lately).
Matt (Louisiana): I know the SEC is loaded, but
with the emergence of Cody Glenn, does LSU have one of the top 1-2
rotations in the conference? Also, have can you give a brief scouting
report on Glenn? Is he a legit prospect in 2014? Thanks for the chats!
Yeah, Glenn's emergence has addressed one
of our primary question marks about LSU coming into the season — that
is a strong rotation now. Glenn is a solid lefty with an upper-80s
fastball, a good curveball and feel for a changeup. He has gotten better
in Baton Rouge working with Alan Dunn.
Jason Rice (Clarksville, TN): No love for
Austin Peay? I understand that they are a mid-major, but they've shown
in the past couple of years, and with a 13-2 start this year, that they
can get the job done.
I really like that Austin Peay team —
wrote about them as a threat to win a regional heading into the season.
They've been on our Top 25 worksheet for several weeks, but right now
the resume just lacks a real signature win, like UNLV's sweep of
Stanford, or Indiana and FGCU winning series at Florida. When you don't
play top-level competition, you can still break into the rankings with
sustained, consistent excellence, but it takes longer.
Navin (Pasadena, CA): Do you have an update on
the injury status of UCLA closer James Kaprelian? I know UCLA ran up
against some stellar pitching Friday an especially Saturday, but how
concerned should I be about the slumping offense?
John Savage told me Saturday that
Kaprielian is going to have an MRI on his shoulder just to be safe, but
he said all indications are that there is nothing structurally wrong,
that it's likely a little impingement. Sounded to me like he expects
Kaprielian back before too long, but we'll see. I don't think there is
much cause for concern about the offense; we never thought it was going
to be an elite offense, but guys like Brian Carroll and Kevin Kramer
have taken steps forward as hoped to become offensive leaders, and I'm
confident Eric Filia isn't far away from getting — he's flashed that
innate hitting ability we know he possesses. The Bruins simply won't be
as dangerous offensively as they were a year ago, but they should score
enough runs to win behind that outstanding pitching staff.
Dougner (New Mexico): Hi Aaron,
CSF has played a pretty difficult schedule so far, do you think these tough games will serve them well over the long haul?
By the way, your coverage of Cal State Fullerton and UCLA is always spot on and I am appreciative, ignore the trolls!
Ha, I take it you saw my Twitter feed last
night... To answer your question, yes, I think teams benefit by playing
strong competition early in the year. The Titans will head into
conference play as a battle-hardened unit, and they won't shrink when
they encounter adversity. I love the way Fullerton schedules every year.
Justin (Fullerton, CA): Hey Aaron, what are you
hearing from scouts regarding Lorenzen on the mound? Any teams looking
to draft him as a pitcher or are most looking at him for his
bat/outfield? Also, what are your thoughts on Richy Pedroza? Does a team
take a chance on him as a late round senior sign?
Let's do another Fullerton question, then
I'll have to wrap up. I saw the Titans yesterday, and Lorenzen didn't
have his best stuff or command in the ninth, as he doesn't usually pitch
in back-to-back days but he wanted the ball Sunday. I've usually seen
him 94-96, and yesterday he was more 93-94, with less power to his
slider. The Aggies touched him for two runs, but he showed poise by
escaping a bases-loaded jam to end the game. Heading into the season,
plenty of scouts were down on Lorenzen's bat and we heard more talk
about him as a pitching prospect, but now that he's off to a good start
offensively, I think a lot of scouts still prefer him as an outfielder.
He can do a lot of things as a position player — he plays a great
center field (and made a fantastic diving catch on a sinking liner
yesterday), he obviously throws very well from the outfield, and he has
bat speed. It was a limited look yesterday, but I thought he looked more
confident in the batter's box than he did last year, too — there is
just something different about his bearing. Maybe I'm reaching, but I
think the coaches feel the same way. As for Pedroza, yes, I firmly
believe he will get a shot in pro ball — I know some scouts who like
him. Sure, he's small, but he has bat speed from both sides, he's a good
athlete and he avails himself well all over the infield. And he's a
really smart player.
OK folks, that's it for today. I don't feel
like this was a Pedro-in-99 performance, but maybe something comparable
to Dan Slania's relief work against Oklahoma yesterday. Thanks again to
John for getting things started today. Have a great week, everybody.