College Top 25 Chat: April 18

Aaron Fitt: Couple minutes late today, and will have to
keep this short because I’ve got to catch a flight to Omaha this afternoon for the TD Ameritrade Park opener tomorrow. Let’s get to it!

    Jonathan (Charlotte): C-USA seems to have several strong teams this year, although maybe not an elite team. How does C-USA stack up against the other conferences, and how many teams do
    they get into regionals?


Aaron Fitt: As I’ve written most of the year, I think C-USA is much stronger than it was a year ago. In particular, it’s just much deeper. You’ve got eight teams there with at least a chance at making a regional (though some have better chances than others, obviously). I think it winds up being a 4- or 5-bid league, and I think some of those teams will beat each other up which could hurt the league in terms of sending more teams to regionals. But for me it’s one of the five power conferences this year—behind only the SEC, ACC, Pac-10 and Big 12.

    Kirk (Washington, DC): Aaron: Slowly but surely, Clemson SS Brad Miller is putting up offensive numbers to justify his two-time selection to the USA National Team (.404, 12 of 14 in SB) and this year his fielding has been superb. In which round do you
    see him being drafted and is he likely to begin pro ball as a shortstop?

Aaron Fitt: I wrote about Miller in Weekend Preview last week — his stock is on the rise. It sounds like he’s been much more consistent defensively since returning from that finger injury, and
he has been more aggressive at the plate, which has helped. I think he’s a 3-5 round kind of guy in this deep draft, and I do think he’ll get a chance to stay at shortstop.

    GC from the OC (Laguna Niguel, CA): CSUF goes 4 and 0 for the week and four teams ahead of them go 2-2. The Titans are static at #8. Huh?

Aaron Fitt: Sorry, we had to jump Oregon State up there, which caused a couple teams that won series to move down a spot (Florida, Texas A&M, Texas) and kept us from moving Fullerton up. The Beavers are incredibly impressive, having gone 8-1 in the last three
weekends against Arizona, Arizona State and Stanford, with two of those
series coming on the road, and the last two series coming without Andrew Susac, the team’s best offensive player. As for 4-0 vs. 2-2, obviously those records do not tell the whole story—if a team goes 2-2 but wins a big series (like South Carolina), that can sometimes be a more impressive week than going 4-0 against lesser competition.

    Will (Alexandria, VA): Aaron,
    Can you talk a little about the decision process behind jumping Oregon State over Florida and Vandy? The Beavers had another nice weekend, but
    I think a rise from 9th to 5th would be quite enough reward for that. I
    don't see where they've done enough to warrant leapfrogging two elite former-#1s whose only crime is falling 2-1 to the defending national champs. It isn't even a scenario like USC/UVA where UVA has a significantly better record (and I'm a gamecock fan trapped up here).

Aaron Fitt: Like I said a moment ago, we just thought Oregon State being 8-1 in the Pac-10 against that schedule, and without Susac the last two weeks, is incredibly impressive. We’re riding the hottest team, with the best overall resume (See: 9-1 vs. Top 25).

    Glenn (Dallas): Thanks for taking my question, Aaron. I am a TCU alum and die-hard TCU Athletics fan. I know TCU Baseball has not lived up to expectations this year. What is your take on where the Frogs stand right now and are they still an Omaha team in your eyes? And what do you think they need to do in the back half of the
    season to make it back to Omaha this year?

Aaron Fitt: I saw TCU this weekend for the first time, and on the whole I remain very high on their team. The pitching depth is
a bit of an issue; they’re moving the outstanding Andrew Mitchell (he was as good as advertised, by the way, pumpig 92s with a wicked 81-82 slider) back to the Tuesday starter role, which I think is smart because
of all the big midweek games TCU plays against regional powers. Those games are very important for TCU’s hosting chances — but not having Mitchell as the regular closer leaves the bullpen vulnerable, though I do think you’ll still see him out of the bullpen on weekends at times. Erik Miller just needs to come on strong (he’s struggled most of this year), and Trent Appleby could provide some answers as well. Stefan Crichton also looked very good on Saturday, and I could see him settling
into the closer role, though he’s not as overpowering as Mitchell. The other concern, of course, is Purke — he did not look like himself on Saturday (see my Draft Blog post), and I don’t know if TCU can make another deep postseason run without him being a big part of it. But I like the offense (even though it’s been up and down) and the defense, and the team is battle-tested and plays hard. TCU definitely won’t be an
easy out in the postseason, and if Purke returns to form, I do think the Frogs can get back to Omaha.

    Todd (Florida): Who do you see as the 8 national seeds and which teams do you think are "locks" for national seeds?

Aaron Fitt: You’ll have to wait until tomorrow’s Stock Report!

    Ryan (Providence, RI): If stats alone determined draft status, would Trevor Bauer be your #1 guy to go off the board?

Aaron Fitt: Bauer or Hultzen, if it’s stats-only. Or Jake Lowery, I suppose… But I think Bauer and Hultzen will both go in the top five to eight picks anyway.

    Steve L. (Corvallis): What do you think of OSU's Kavin Keyes? He struggled at the beginning of the season, but now
    he is red hot with a 14 game hitting streak.

Aaron Fitt: He is red-hot, and he’s been a huge part of
Oregon State’s success, especially with Susac out. The Beavers always thought he could hit, they just weren’t sure how he’d fit in the infield, but he sure can hit. He needs to keep it going for them — he’s
really become a key piece.

    Mike (South Carolina): How can a team that has beaten 2 number 1's and not lost a series (SC) be ranked lower than a team that started the season as a lower ranked team (UVA)?

Aaron Fitt: I’ll try to lay this out. It’s a very, very
close call between those two teams, and South Carolina’s case certainly
centers around those series wins against Florida and Vandy, both of whom were very legit No. 1 teams — those are incredibly impressive series wins. But Virginia is 36-3! That’s awfully hard to do, no matter who you’re playing, and UVa. has played a strong schedule (winning series vs. Florida State and ECU, at Georgia Tech and at Clemson). Virginia’s .923 winning percentage is the best in the country (South Carolina’s is .800). That shows just how consistent Virginia has been this season. Virginia also went 5-0 this week, and South Carolina went 2-2 — and yes, obviously Vanderbilt is better than Duke, but the Gamecocks also lost a game to the Citadel. It’s hard to jump a team that
just had a 2-2 week over a team that went 5-0 and is 36-3 overall, no matter who SC just played. That said, we almost did it — the Gamecocks had plenty of support for No. 1 in our meeting. It’s splitting hairs.

    Andrew (Athens, GA): Is Michael Palazzone just a good college pitcher or a legit pro prospect?

Aaron Fitt: He’s a legit pro prospect who has really made strides with his feel for pitching this year. He’s definitely a top
10 rounds guy, and maybe a top five rounds guy.

    Paul (Greenville, SC): Michael Roth has been dominant this year and was just named SEC Pitcher of the Week. Do you think that he will have a good chance at winning the National Pitcher of
    the Year award if he continues to pitch the way he has? Also what are high draft expectations since he is draft eligible?

Aaron Fitt: Roth has been incredible this season — there is no question he’s on the short list of top candidates for first-team All-America honors and other awards. It’s a lot of fun to watch him pitch — he just carves hitters up. He really locates and really competes, and he is not cowed by pressure situations. His draft stock is still unclear — low-slot lefties without big velocity (he sits
in the mid-80s) often wind up being four-year players, but with the kind of success Roth is having, I suspect somebody will make a run at him — especially a club that heavily values statistics.

    Eric (LA): I have always been a fan of Big Ten Baseball. Many of the schools in the Midwest have had weather issues this year but some are doing very good like Michigan State and Indiana. Do you feel if these schools continue to win weekend series they will break into the top 25 and get an at large bid to a regional if they don't win the Big Ten Tournament.

Aaron Fitt: The Big Ten is awfully muddled — every team in the league is within three games of first place, and five teams are within a game of first. I still think Michigan State is the team to beat, but it lost a series to Ohio State this weekend, leaving no team in the conference anywhere close to the Top 25. This year, at least, the
Big Ten will be a one-bid league, for certain.

    Oscar (Miami, FL): I know you have Virginia ranked #1 over teams like South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Florida. But how do you think Virginia would fare in a 3 game series against each of those three teams?

Aaron Fitt: Any of those series could go either way. Just as South Carolina’s series against Vandy this weekend could have gone either way — the Commodores were leading after six innings in the rubber game, after all. Those are four elite, evenly matched teams, and if they all played each other 50 times, they might all be .500. To those
ACC doubters, I will point out common opponents for Virginia: Florida State is 3-1 this year against Florida, and Virginia took two of three from Florida State. South Carolina is 2-1 against Clemson, and Virginia swept 3 at Clemson. It’s all part of Virginia’s sterling overall resume.

    Dante (Charleston, SC): Just from a numbers standpoint does the SOCON have a chance 2 more potential 2012 first round picks, (along with Lex Rutlege, Samford) in Victor Roache of Georgia Southern, and Daniel Aldrich of CofC?

Aaron Fitt: You’re right about Rutledge being a strong candidate for the first round next year, and Roache and Aldrich both have huge, huge power potential — it’s early yet, but I could certainly
envision both of those guys moving into the first-round discussion. How
about Roache — he went bonkers again this week with five more home runs. He’s a big-time talent — go back and read our report on him out of high school. His tools are legit.

    Michael (Santa Clara): San Jose State has looked good at times (UCLA and Fresno State) but absolutely got shelled this weekend at New Mexico State. Does a series loss like that assure the WAC just one bid this season?

Aaron Fitt: I think it probably does. I do think San Jose State is a pretty good club, and a scout told me the same thing this weekend. He also said Spartans closer Zack Jones has been 93-98 mph
with a hammer curveball. Exciting draft guy for next year.

    Mike (Chicago): Is Vanderbilt planning on moving Jack Armstrong into the weekend rotation or are they going to keep him in the bullpen?

Aaron Fitt: Vandy likes its three weekend starters quite a bit, and there are no plans to move Armstrong into a starting role for now — they want to build him up in the bullpen so they have insurance. Remember the way Russell Brewer’s injury hurt Vandy in the bullpen last year? The ‘Dores want some insurance to prevent that kind of thing from happening again.

    Alex (Fairfax, VA): Who are the legit MLB CF prospects in this draft class? Are Springer and Mahtook CF or corner OF prospects? Who would Jackie Bradley compare with? Is Taylor Dugas MLB-caliber?

    CF is so weak in MLB right now, does that position's scarcity compare favorably with a #2 SP?

Aaron Fitt: All of those guys are legit center fielders. Dugas is undersized, but he can really play, he’s a really good hitter. It’s hard to project him as an everyday guy (you just don’t
see many big league outfielders who look like he does), but I could see
him as a big league reserve outfielder.

    Greg (Columbia, SC): Aaron, thanks for the great chats and the podcasts! Can you tell us a little on how you judge
    mid-week games? The Gamecocks have won series against #1 UF and #1 Vandy but also dropped mid-week games to Furman and the Citadel. Last year they didn't lose a single mid-week game. Do the favored teams prepare for and play the games differently than the underdogs? Do the coaches use those games to experiment with pitching and lineup changes to tune up for the weekend series?

Aaron Fitt: We place the most value on weekends, but midweek games are part of the puzzle when we’re looking at teams. Consistently winning midweek games is a sign of pitching depth, and a sign that teams simply find ways to win without their best guys on the mound. This time of year, you seldom see the underdog teams use their weekend starters in midweek games against power-conference teams because
it’s more important to do well in conference play.

    Jeff (Blythewood SC): Love your stuff and follow you reguarly... but as I know you probably have gotten a bunch of
    e mails on this..what your telling me by ranking Virginia number 1 and USC number 2 is that if they were to play this weekend in a three game series that your money would be on Virginia to win the series?? I'd take that bet. I respectfully disagree with your rankings. PS. Still love your stuff! Go Cocks!

Aaron Fitt: I respect your right to disagree, and I appreciate your civility! Fans, by their very nature, feel passionate about their teams, and too often fans fall back on words like “bias” as a
crutch when they disagree with a ranking or an opinion. It’s nice to hear from people who understand that there is more than one intelligent,
defensible position on a question like this! As for a series between Virginia or South Carolina — I have no idea who would win (I’d set the line dead-even). If they played 10 times, I bet it would be 5-5. But somebody has to be No. 1, and somebody has to be No. 2. Either choice would be perfectly fine. I really can’t quibble with anyone who takes the Gamecocks first — but we went with the team that is 36-3 and had a 5-0 week.

    Alex (Fullerton): Mr. Fitt,
    I know CSUF has the arms to get it done, but can thier bats get them deep into the CWS? (Not alot of power, decent team BA .304) Do you think
    the new bats are an advantage for a team like CSUF?

Aaron Fitt: I do think Fullerton’s bats will be more than sufficient. Nick Ramirez does have big power, and guys like Lorenzen and Lopez can hit the ball hard and will wind up with a few big
home runs, I predict. Lorenzen’s a very talented player — the word is he made another remarkable throw from the outfield this weekend. He just
puts on a show every weekend. Fullerton’s offense is nothing special, but I still think it will be more dangerous down the stretch than it has
been in the first half, and I think it winds up as a solid-average college offense in this era of new bats. And that will be more than good
enough, the way that team pitches.

    Jason (Austin): Corey Knebel the Freshman closer for Texas now has 11 and is starting to remind a lot of people of
    another Texas closer in Huston Street. What kind of prospect does he look like to you?

Aaron Fitt: He’s got a live arm — I saw him up to 93 out in Austin earlier this season, and I’ve heard he’s been higher — and he pounds the zone with his fastball. His secondary stuff is a work in progress, but he’s one of those guys who can dominate with the fastball, and he’s fearless — like Huston Street was. It’s hard to compare any pitcher to Street, the best college closer of the last decade, but Texas does seem to have a good one on its hands.

    Evan (Oxford, MS): I know the Ole Miss Rebels are not ranked currently, but do you think that things are starting to come together for the Rebs to make a run this postseason.

Aaron Fitt: I do. They’re 8-7 in the SEC tied for first
place in the West, and even though they’ve lost their share of series, they have not been swept. In the SEC, that is critical. Ole Miss back is
on track to make a regional.

    Chris (Rock Hill SC): As a Carolina Fan I have no issue with Virginia being #1 ahead of us. Their resume is impressive. It's a privilage to be in the discussion for the top spot. My question is this, had the roles been reversed, with Carolina being #2 going into this last weekend and Virginia being #3. And had the weekend played out the same as it did with USC going 2-2 with two wins against the #1 team but a lose midweek 12-30 citadel, and Virginia going 5-0. How do you think the debate would go for that top spot? Just a fun thought.

Aaron Fitt: South Carolina probably would have ascended
to No. 1 in that scenario. It’s harder to jump them over a team that was in front of them. And the reason Virginia was in front of the Gamecocks was because it has been so consistent this year, while SC has had just a couple of little hiccups (midweek games do actually count on your W-L record, after all). We’re splitting hairs again…

    Derek (Altoona): If you are the Pittsburgh Pirates, who do you take at 1-1?

Aaron Fitt: I love Anthony Rendon — really, I do. But if I’m picking No. 1, I don’t know that I can pull the trigger on him until he’s back out there at third base. If he returns to third down the
stretch and looks good, I’m taking him first. But if the draft is today, I’m taking Gerrit Cole.

    Matt STJ (STJ): Where do you put St. John's currently in the national picture. They did get swept by Uconn earlier this season but rebounded quite nicely this past weekend. Some will argue that Louisville is a better team than Uconn.

Aaron Fitt: I will not make that argument — UConn is the best team in the Big East, and St. John’s and Louisville are the next two, for me. At least, that’s how I see it playing out by the end of the year. I like St. John’s — we did have that team ranked in the preseason Top 25, and it’s good to see the Johnnies getting back on track, but I think it will be hard for that team to get back into the at-large picture. The RPI works against Northern teams, so they really have to get off to strong starts in preconference play, which isn’t easy
when you’re facing a bunch of warm-weather teams early in the year.

Aaron Fitt: OK folks, that’s all I’ve got time for — gotta catch a flight. Thanks for stopping by, and see you next week!