College Baseball Week 8 Chat With Aaron Fitt

Aaron Fitt: Hello friends, let’s jump right into it. Will probably keep this tighter than usual today, as John Manuel and I still have to record a podcast this afternoon (had technical difficulties earlier).

Frank (Vegas): Aaron, the Mountain West will be a multi bid league this year. Agree or disagree ?
Aaron Fitt: Agree! UNLV is in great position for an at-large if it doesn’t win the conference tourney, with a robust RPI, a strong nonconference schedule, and a good start to the conference season. San Diego State and New Mexico both have good clubs — all three strike me as regional caliber teams, and I think at least two of the three will make regionals, with at least chance for all three to get in.

Harry (Pearl, MS): What happened this weekend to Coach Cohens Dawgs? I thought we were in this top 10 and we lose to a team 3 times. i know its LS Who but dang son, we gots to beat them there boys at least once. Well, I guess the boys from Oxford are coming in to Starkville this coming weekend...Time to sweep those guys. Don't worry though i'll be a bringin and ringin! GO STAAATE!!
Aaron Fitt: Harry, it sure has been a rollercoaster first half for last year’s two CWS Finalists. UCLA is now out of the Top 25 altogether after two straight losing weekends. I think you’d expect Mississippi State to drop two of three on the road at LSU — home teams generally win series at home, and Alex Box is a tough place to play, as everybody knows. The Saturday game was winnable for the Bulldogs, and they just couldn’t pull it out, so they got swept. No reason to panic, certainly. That Ole Miss-MSU series should be a blast this weekend.

Billy (Warner Robins, GA): My Mercer Bears are 26-7 and 10-2 in the A-Sun. Assuming they do not win the conference tourney, what do the Bears need to do from here out to gain an at-large bid?
Aaron Fitt: I had high expectations for this Mercer team entering the season--they were just outside the preseason Top 25 for us--and I was a bit disappointed by their nonconference performance. But since getting swept by Auburn, the Bears have been locked in. If they can finish first in the regular-season standings and keep the RPI inside the top 50-55, they should be in pretty good shape for an at-large spot. But the RPI could wind up being a problem, because no other team in the A-Sun is inside the top 140. That tells me Mercer really needs to dominate that league and not have any hiccups at all to have any chance at an at-large spot.

Grant (NYC): Looking ahead to next year's crop, does Nathan Kirby project as a 1st rounder to you?
Aaron Fitt: I think he has a decent shot to be a back-half of the first-round guy. He was a blue-chip prospect out of high school who is pitching up to his pedigree. The fastball velocity is back up, the breaking ball is very good, and he’s throwing strikes and competing. He’s good.

Paul (Atlanta, GA): What does Freeland project as to you?
Aaron Fitt: I think he’s really good — he projects as a big league starting pitcher better than most guys in this draft class. John Manuel and Clint Longenecker walked away from his start Friday at Charlotte dazzled by his command of his fastball, his wipeout slider and his quality changeup. He’s a legit three-pitch lefty with advanced command and a great body--sign me up. We already saw him as a mid-first-rounder, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he winds up going inside the top 10.

Cas (Orlando): Big series win over Vanderbilt for UT this weekend. Does the quality of their team/year come down to developing a little more consistency from what seams to be a good, young core Serrano has put together?
Aaron Fitt: I was on hand for the first two games of that series, and even after Tennessee lost the Friday game, the Vols made a positive impression on me. The Saturday game wasn’t pretty, but Tennessee really battled, which was very encouraging. The pitching staff is a lot deeper than it was last year, and that team has the potential to be very offensive, as they were earlier in the season. That’s a regional-caliber club right now, with a chance to make real postseason noise in 2015. It’s hard to establish consistency in the SEC when you’re facing a top 25-level opponent just about every week--it’s not just Tennessee that’s struggling to do that. But the Vols dug deep in a must-win game Saturday and might have turned their whole season around. I’ll be writing more about Tennessee and the importance of that series in Three Strikes tomorrow morning.

Sun Belt Fan (Arkansas): I watched Louisiana Cajuns on TV Saturday. Was very impressed all around. Who in the top 10 can compete with UL in a series? Who can lineup with them pitching and hitting? Who has a closer like UL? That guy is huge and throws gas.
Aaron Fitt: Well, I think the top 6 teams are all pretty legit, complete, balanced teams. Virginia certainly has the kind of offensive talent to compete with the Cajuns, and even better arms, and a hard-throwing closer who is the real deal in Nick Howard. The Cajuns are the most offensive team in the country right now, and they do everything well, but I like all of those teams in the top 6.

Nick (UW Campus): What are your thoughts on Washington, especially after yesterday's dramatic win?! Thoughts on them as a National contender & possible Top 8 seed if they finish at worst 3rd in Pac-12?
Aaron Fitt: It’s time to acknowledge that the Huskies are bona fide national seed contenders, as improbable as that might have seemed heading into the season. We’re eight weeks into the season now, and Washington has the best RPI in the Pac-12, and sits alone in first place. The top team in the Pac-12 is generally a pretty safe bet for a national seed. I’m still betting on Oregon State to finish as that top team, but Washington looks like it will be in the hosting mix at least. How neat would it be for the Huskies to host a regional in their first year with the new ballpark?

Glenn (Baton Rouge): Who is Aaron Nola's top competition for Golden Spikes?
Aaron Fitt: I think his main competitor right now is A.J. Reed. Those strike me as the two front-runners.

Jeff (D.C.): What do scouts see in Rodon, Hoffman and Beede that isn't showing on the field? I watch Nola breeze through SEC competition with a fastball that sits 92-95, a very good breaking pitch and location unlike any other I've seen in college baseball, yet scouts don't even mention him amongst the elite draft eligible college pitchers.
Aaron Fitt: Do you talk to a lot of scouts? Because I do — and they all mention Nola as an elite prospect. I talked to a guy last week who said Nola could go anywhere from No. 3 overall to No. 15. I think he’ll go in the top 10 picks. I think you are selling the scouts short. They recognize special talent when they see it, and Nola has something special in his ability to command his quality stuff. His raw stuff is still not as electric as those other three guys, and he isn’t as physical, so there’s certainly a chance those other three could get drafted before him. But there’s also at least a chance he could be the first of that group off the board.

Matt (Lafayette): When was the last time your #3 team in the country lost series openers to Eastern Illinois and Western Kentucky?
Aaron Fitt: So 30-3 isn’t good enough for you, huh? If they were really the No. 3 team in the country, they’d be 33-0!

scottaz (phx, az): after an agonizingly slow start asu has seemed to turn things around. where do you see them finishing in the pac and do they still have a chance at hosting a regional?
Aaron Fitt: They certainly have turned it around — three straight quality series wins now, two of them on the road. The offense seems to be coming around nicely, but I’m still not in love with the pitching depth. The remaining schedule looks pretty favorable, and right now Oregon State and Washington look like the only teams on track to host regionals out of the Pac-12. You’d have to imagine a third team will be in that mix, whether it’s Oregon, UCLA or Arizona State. I’d still bet against ASU as a regional host, but the Devils are certainly back in the discussion. I think there is a chance the Big West gets three hosts, which could hurt the Pac-12, since the Pac looks a bit down this year anyway.

Brad (Cary): I also walked away from this weekend thinking LSU and Miss State are the 16th and 17th best teams in the country.....not really. Did you not see 17-4?
Aaron Fitt: And did you see LSU get swept last weekend? Did you see LSU win a series against any other regional contender in the first seven weeks of the season? Before this weekend, LSU had exactly 1 win against a legit regional team (the first game against Vanderbilt — a series it lost). The Tigers did make a statement this weekend, but they hardly have an elite body of work. The SEC is incredibly muddled — and LSU is right in the thick of that muddle. I’d have a hard thinking LSU is better than Florida (a team that swept it just last weekend).

Aaron Fitt: Sorry for the delay, had to take a call from a coach. I’ll go a few more minutes, than wrap this thing up.

scottaz (phx, az): 13 of your top 25 are acc/sec teams. please defend
Aaron Fitt: Well first of all, only four of those teams are in the ACC, and last week there were only 3 ACC teams in the Top 25, so those of you who love to bang on the ACC BIAS drum need to get with it. You think it’s unreasonable that 4 teams in a 14-team league are in the top 25, when two of them (FSU and Virginia) are very clearly elite teams? Secondly, there are 8 SEC teams currently in the rankings. Last time I checked, 4 plus 8 was 12, not 13. And thirdly, the SEC is really, really deep. It is a lot deeper this year than any other league — it is certainly a lot deeper than the Pac-12, which strikes me as down this year, relative to what is usually is. Do Pac-12 teams play tough nonconference schedules? Sure. But a lot of those Pac teams have also struggled against teams from other power conferences this year (Oregon got swept by Fullerton, Arizona State lost home series to Tennessee; Stanford lost series to Vandy, Rice and Texas, etc).

David (San Diego, CA): After missing the first few weekends of the season due to the Phillies, Ben Wetzler is off to a blazing start. 6-0 with a 0.38 ERA and in 47 innings only 16 hits and 13 walks and a .106 b/avg against. It looks like he may have made the right decision to come back to Corvallis for his Senior season. Do you think his draft stock has improved (5th round last year) and if so what round do you think he will go in?
Aaron Fitt: Yeah, I think he could go a bit better than the fifth round this year, because he has performed at an incredibly high level, and he’s a senior so he’ll probably save some money for whoever drafts him. I’ll say third to fifth round range.

Dale (Greenville): Aaron, My ECU Pirates took 2-3 from rice and are now in a logjam of 2nd place in CUSA. How strong is the league and can we take 2-3 from ODU. A 2-2 or 3-1 week would be great. Can you talk about the job Billy G has done with this team also?
Aaron Fitt: Give Billy Godwin credit for turning this thing around--they’ve been red-hot since the day I wrote them off at 8-10 overall, after losing that opener against Tulane. Billy Godwin is a good coach, and I think people around Greenville need to realize that. But C-USA looks like it’s going to have some real RPI problems, so the Pirates need to keep winning series to put themselves in at-large position. Could be a one- or two-bid league.

Randy Worrell (Houston,Tx): After 4 weeks in the American conference who do you like to win the title?
Aaron Fitt: Houston and Louisville are clearly the two best teams in that league, and you can put them in either order. I think I actually like Houston better, but we should learn more after they go head-to-head this weekend.

Aaron Fitt: OK, I’ve got to run and record that podcast, sorry for going short on the chat today. See you guys next week.