March 30 Defend The Poll Chat

Moderator: Will Kimmey will take you questions about the Top 25 and all of college baseball.

 Q:  Kevin Smith from Patterson, NY asks:
As of right now the Big Ten looks like it is struggling. Is the conference having a bad year or what is the deal. Also, Indiana has some players that are leading the conference in hitting especially Kevin Mahar. Why were they notlisted in the top prospects for the conference in the preseason?

Will Kimmey: Minnesota's probably the best team in that league, and I still see the Gophers ending up Golden at the end. They've played a very, very strong nonconference schedule early on this year, opening in Florida before hosting the Dairy Queen tournament and then spending nine days in California. The record doesn't look good, but they'll come up on top at the end. Conversely, Indiana has played one of the weakest nonconference slates in that league, so the Hoosiers have lots of Ws and some gaudy numbers. Switch their schedule with Minnesota's and see what the results would be. I'll wager the Gophers will be better prepared for league play with the teams they have played thus far.

 Q:  Chris from Cary asks:
Who do you like to win the ACC? It seems like the league is very wide open. Thank you for taking my question.

Will Kimmey: My sleeper in the ACC will be Clemson, which has lost a lot of very close games against some very good teams. North Carolina might be in the best shape at this moment, with conference series wins at Virginia and vs. Florida State already.

 Q:  Mike from Houston asks:
With the way Paul Janish is swinging the bat lately, could he be the best all around short stop in college baseball? Who would have thought Janish would lead the team in home runs and rbi's?

Will Kimmey: I'd say that title goes to Arizona State's Dustin Pedroia. Stephen Drew at Florida State's also in the mix. Janish is a very strong defender, and most likely the best of this group and his bat has been somewhat of a surprise this year as it has always been the question with him. Still, I wouldn't rate him ahead of Pedroia or Drew, who could each be drafted before the second round. Janish is tough to peg, but the fifth is probably as early as he'll go.

 Q:  Russ from NY asks:
Eric Beattie might pitch for a Div-II school (Tampa), so he doesn't get much attention, but is he one of the top 15 draft-eligible pitchers in college baseball this season?

Will Kimmey: We ranked him exactly at No. 15 (among college pictures) in our latest draft update, so yes. He has great command and feel for pitching because he didn't get his low-90s velocity until his senior year of high school, so he had to develop the other skills to survive.

 Q:  Greg from New Orleans asks:
How can you still rank Stanford at No. 1 when they play mostly cupcakes and mediocre teams? The only really tough team they beat was Texas. Most of their opponents have an RPI ranking over 50 and a few over 100. Cal State Fullerton was supposed to be tough, but look at them now.

Will Kimmey: Let's check the schedule and see Stanford beat Texas in a series, as well as solid top 50 teams in California, Cal Poly and Southern California. Put that with a 20-3 mark and it's hard to argue. It's true Fullerton doesn't look as good now, but you can't hold that against them in scheduling. The Cardinal's nonconference slate stacks up fine against that of LSU, South Carolina or Miami. Rice and Texas have had more challenges on their slates to be sure. All of these teams seem very even to me, however. Each is very balanced aside from maybe Rice which has a flatly dominant pitching and an opportunistic offense. There seems to be a solid six and then the rest.

 Q:  Brian from Nebraska asks:
What do you think about the big 12 this year? The only team in the Big 12 without a winning record is Baylor and we all know the talent that they have. Even K-State is showing signs of improvement with their new coach. What do you think about the league top to bottom?

Will Kimmey: It's not quite the SEC, but the Big 12 looks strong. Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn, who used to be at Nebraska, said the biggest difference in the two leagues is the depth of the pitching staffs and the fact that the Northern Big 12 teams have to fight the weather. Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Nebraska all look like good regional bets to me, and one team from the group of Missouri, Kansas State, Kansas probably can as well.

 Q:  Joaquin R. Balaguer from Orlando, Fl. asks:
UCF is playing great. Does playing in the Atlantic Sun Conf. hurt or help the Knights in the poll?

Will Kimmey: It stands to reason that playing in a so-called power conference only helps a team because of the competition and RPI. It also helps us in ranking them, being able to see them match up against other Top 25 teams. The Atlantic Sun presents interesting dilemmas as well with those two seven-inning games on Saturday. Central Florida opts to save Matt Fox and Kyle Bono to throw complete-games there and use the rest of the staff on the Friday nine inning game. So the Knights play four fewer innings than most teams each week because of this, and might win a game another team could have lost in the bullpen. None of this is the team's fault, but all of it is a factor in ranking, even so much as to just make the choices harder. But in the end, we try to judge the talent and ability of the teams through their records and talent and how they are playing in general.

 Q:  Jeff from Los Altos, CA asks:
Micah Owings hasn't been as dominate as some scouts would like him to be on the mound. Is there a chance he will be taken for his bat instead? Do you see him returning for his Junior year?

Will Kimmey: Oklahoma's David Purcey struggled as a draft-elgible sophomore last year, and opted to return to school. Jeremy Guthrie returned to school in his sophomore eligible year as well, moving from the third round to the first. I think being a sophomore just gives Owings more options. If he doesn't go in the first three rounds or get the bonus he wants, you'd have to think he'll return to Tech to try to improve his stock. Scouts like him a little better on the mound because his swing tends to get long, and he's slumping at the plate this year as well.

 Q:  Patrick from Austin asks:
For supposedly having such a dominating pitching staff, hasn't Rice been hit pretty hard this year?

Will Kimmey: Well, Rice has six losses. Three are to Texas and one to Arizona State. Both of those teams can really swing the stick. And Rice has 17 double-digit strikeout games this year. I'd say no; it's the hitting that's lacking there if anything. Niemann started a little slow, but he's dialing back in now, and Humber has been insanely good this year, with 30 K's in his last two starts. Just think how scary this team will be in the postseason with three top 15 draft picks in the weekend rotation. Those guys will all be sharp by then, and the offense might not need to score more than 4 or 5 runs to get wins.

 Q:  Matt from Stockton, CA asks:
How do you see the Big West unfolding this year? Is it a two-team race with UC-Irvine and Long Beach State...or can Fullerton or Cal Poly get into the mix? How many teams do you see making the post season?

Will Kimmey: Irvine won two close ones last weekend, but the Beach didn't have Weaver going. I'd say since the conference series is at Blair Field, the Dirtbags might get 2 of 3 there. Both teams should be NCAA locks, maybe already. Fullerton will have trouble getting past its record. Injuries and the toughest schedule in the land has left the Titans at 15-13 right now. They'll need a very strong finish to get in. Cal Poly has been very game this year and has a case.

 Q:  Walt Greenberg from Chicago asks:
Will, what's your latest thinking on the National Pitcher of the Year race and what college pitchers are most likely to go in the Top 10 picks of the draft? Obviously, Jared Weaver has done nothing to lose the top spot at this point, but with both Townsend and Humber being overpowering this year from the get-go, and Neimann appearing to have returned to his dominant 2003 form after struggling in his first three starts (all against Top 10 opponents)-- not to mention Sower and Verlander still very much in the mix-- it could be a race to the finish. In a related question-- Phillip Humber always had the great poise and control of his 3 - 4 pitches, but what has he done this year to take his game to the next level and suddenly become overpowering? The only thing I can come up with is he either added 2 - 3 MPH on his low 90's heater, or developed a Blyleven-esque curveball?

Will Kimmey: Weaver has to be the best in college right now. His numbers to this point are better than Mark Prior's were. He and ODU's Justin Verlander could battle for the top spot, and I wrote last week. For me, Humber is the third guy. He's fastball has been up to 96 and he has the best breaking ball of the three Ricers. Townsend, Niemann and Sowers are the next group. As far as awards, no one has out-performed Weaver so far. It's his to lose.

 Q:  Jeff from Los Altos asks:
I keep hearing two different opinions on Jeremy Sowers. Either he will be one of the quickest players in the upcoming draft to reach the majors, or that he is the next Bobby Brownlie with all the pitches he has thrown. Has Sowers been overused and how much of an impact do you see him making in the majors?

Will Kimmey: I happen to be in the camp that really likes him. Sowers will be a quick riser because he's nearly a finished product. His command is impeccable, as is his feel. Brownlie's been sidetracked by injuries. You can't predict those. Sowers has thrown a lot of innings, but his delivery is pretty effortless and Tim Corbin, his coach at Vanerbilt says a lot of those innings are low-stress and low-pitch. He doesn't strike out 15 guys per game, so he doesn't need more than 10 pitches per inning some time. The Glavine comparison is overused with lefties, but I can see Sowers as a command-type guy who can be a 2-3 starter.

 Q:  Derek from Oklahoma City asks:
Wichita State's Mike Pelfrey had another impressive performance against Long Beach--overshadowed by Jered Weaver's 16K pereformance. With WSU being a top ten team, how does their pitching staff stack up against other top rotations?

Will Kimmey: I'd say Pelfrey stacks up against anyone. He's got mad juice and a great breaker. Uhlmansiek and Jakubov both reach the low 90s and should keep getting better as the season moves on. Plus the team has a nice offense. Throw those factors, plus the fact that the committee likes Northern teams playing host to regionals, another factor that seems like the Shockers will get to Omaha.

 Q:  Joshua from Chicago asks:
How much weight should we put into Verlander's season to date. His control is so-so, his performance to date simply okay, the level of competition - not good (certainly not when compared to the Rice trio or Weaver)! They do have a couple games against NC St. in the near future, but are there any other barometer type matchups in the near-future for Verlander and ODU? If so, who? Is NC St even all that quality of a matchup?

Will Kimmey: I worry about that control simply in that he went from 3.3 walks per nine innings his first two years in school to being at about 4.8 per nine this year. If it was always 4.8, fine. But regressing is troubling to me. He won't face NC State because that's a midweek game prior to a conference weekend. He will face VCU's Justin Orenduff, another potential first-rounder, on April 7 in Norfolk.

Will Kimmey: Sorry, just got a phone call from a scouting director. I'll need a short break.

Moderator: Sorry for the delay . . . Will's still on the phone, so John Manuel has been called in to pinch-hit

 Q:  Kevin from Greensboro NC asks:
Hey, hows it going. I'm a Clemson fan, and the tigers started out slow, but seem to be getting things back together with a 3 game sweep over Wake Forest. Do you think the tigers could make some noise this year? How far in the Tournament? Thanks

John Manuel: Clemson is Will's sleeper team, as he wrote, and I tend to agree with him. The Tigers (a) played a tough schedule so far compared to some other ACC teams and (b) played on the road some in the early going, which I think gives them an advantage. The question is going to be offense, because in Mahoney, Josh Cribb, Jason Berkins, Tyler Lumsden et al, the Tigers have both depth and potential aces on the pitching staff. Jack Leggett has a track record for getting a lot out of his talent.

 Q:  Vandyman from Nashville asks:
When will Team USA announce its list of invitees for the 2004 National Team . Also will Ryan Mullins (NECL MVP) , Jensen Lewis (Collegiate Baseball All America) , and Warner Jones (Outfield 2003, All Cape Cod 3rd Base Summer 2003 , 2b 2004) -- be invited -- Thanks and go Dores vs. South Carolina.

John Manuel: Coach Frank Cruz and USA Baseball national team director Eric Campbell will be sending out the first invitations in the next month. It wouldn't shock me if those sophomores from Vanderbilt were on the invitee list when all is said and done. VAndy coach Tim Corbin has served Team USA in the past and is an excellent talent evaluator, and I would expect USAB would trust his recommendations. Other sophomores I would expect to be invited include John Mayberry Jr. (Stanford), Tyler Greene (Ga. TEch), Mark McCormick (Baylor) and Jeff Clement (USC).

 Q:  Jeff from Los Altos, CA asks:
Where do you project Justin Orenduff being taken in the draft? What kind of MLB career do you think he can end up having?

John Manuel: Sounds like he's a late first-rounder at this point, and it's still early enough for him to move up with a late push. I like Justin as a guy who can be a great reliever at worst because of his plus slider and solid (89-92 mph) velocity. He needs to be more consistent in his delivery, which would improve his velo, and also show better arm action on his change-piece.

 Q:  Anthony Peruchietti from Dearborn Heights, MI asks:
Do you see Michigan challenging the likes of Minnesota and Ohio State this year. Also, who are the top Big 10 draft prospects.

John Manuel: Ohio State's off to a rough start, and the loss of Chris Lewis doesn't bode well. I saw the Wolverines against Duke and was impressed with their bats, from Kunkel behind the plate to diminutive CF Kyle Boehm and A.J. Scheidt. We're Rich Maloney fans down here and expect him to get it done eventually, if not this year.

 Q:  Troy from Tulsa, OK asks:
Long-time reader, first-time asker ;) I'm a big-time Washington Husky fan stuck in Big 12 country. I know they're not top-25 worthy, but how close is U-Dub? Taking 2 of 3 at Arizona State had to have helped. Lincecum looks like the real deal. Freshman All-America or too soon to tell?

John Manuel: Washington is on the cusp of the Top 25, but their Missouri series (though the Tigers have been pretty good so far) and series loss at Wazzu hampered their chances for getting into the poll. However, Washington has some excellent signs so far. Their pitchers (Lincecum especially, as well as sophomore Keaton Everitt) have performed well, we like Richie Lentz' upside though he's struggling a bit, and it keeps Will Fenton's power arm in the pen. Brent Lillibridge is having a huge sophomore year, and Kyle Larson is once again providing the middle-of-the-order thump. This is a probable regional team in a topsy-turvy Pac-10, where down (Oregon State and Washington State) is up and up (Southern California) is down.

 Q:  Liam Gallagher from London, OH asks:
I realize the quality of Rice's staff is simply above and beyong anyone else's, but what about the workload that Graham puts on those arms. I've seen a few 130+ efforts already this year - does there seem to be any consensus in the college ranks about how coaches should be treating their pitchers' arms? Graham in particular seems to be pretty hard on his guys (I still remember Kenny Baugh's 171 pitch outing from a few years ago - and frankly, that's borderline criminal in my opinion!).

John Manuel: Well, the Tigers also should be considered "criminal" for using Baugh for 50 innings after signing him that year. It's not all the college coach's fault, I'm so tired of seeing them blamed for every pitching injury. Anyway, yes, Wayne Graham does work pitchers hard. He's coached baseball for 40 years and knows a thing or two about bringing pitchers along. Rice's trio (quartet wJosh Baker) consists of big, strong pitchers who throw a lot of fastballs but also throw curves that put a lot of torque on their arms. Niemann has had minor surgery; the other two guys have been pictures of health as collegians. I think clubs will take all those factors into account and consider those pitchers worth the risk.

 Q:  Russell Watkins from Austin, TX asks:
Who has the deepest pitching depth in all of collegiate baseball?

John Manuel: I'll sign off by saying North Carolina. They have two former weekend starters (Adam Kalkhof, Scott Manshack) who aren't starting right now, two promising freshmen (Daniel Bard, Andrew Miller) in the weekend rotation, a solid junior (Gary Bakker) and a very deep bullpen, where Whitley Benson, Scott Senatore, Kevin Brower and Michael Gross all have closing experience.

Will Kimmey: I say Texas.

Moderator: And that will do it; we have a meeting to go to. Thanks for tuning in to this fractured chat.