College Top 25 Chat: April 25

Aaron Fitt: Hi everybody. Before I get started, just wanted to highlight some breaking news: South Carolina has announced that an MRI on Jackie Bradley Jr.’s left wrist has confirmed a tendon injury, which will sideline the All-American indefinitely. He will see a
hand specialist today to set a course of treatment. It goes without saying that this is a huge blow for the Gamecocks.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Have you heard any recent news on Purke's shoulder? Assuming it turns out to be good news, would you still project him to be a 1st rounder? If not, what will this mean for him?

Aaron Fitt: There is nothing new to report — everyone’s waiting on the Purke family to shed some light on this. I’ll refrain from further speculation about his draft stock until there is more information out there.

    Ben (Leland Grove): How much has George Springer's stock improved as of late? Would he be a top 10 guy for you right now?

Aaron Fitt: I never really downgraded his stock significantly during his early-season struggles — I always thought he was a top 10 pick, and I still think he is. But it does sound like he’s made some adjustments at the plate — his uptick in offensive numbers is
not solely a result of feasting on inferior pitching. That’s probably reassuring for teams that would consider him in the top 10. Regardless, he’s a huge-upside guy with some risk that he won’t hit at the high levels — that is what he has always been, and what he remains. I believe he will hit in pro ball, and I think plenty of clubs out there think he’s got a real chance to, as well.

    Andy (Baton Rouge): What's your take on LSU's season? Is it a case of youth? Lack of talent? Coaching? Hard to believe this is the same team that swept Fullerton last month. Fans are
    starting to get restless down here in Baton Rouge.

Aaron Fitt: To be fair, fans in Baton Rouge get restless if the Tigers have a one-game losing streak — that fan base is
not exactly renowned for its patience and levelheadedness. But clearly,
there is reason for restlessness right now — 4-14 in conference play is not pretty. I just think the pitching is just OK, not great like the hot start might have falsely caused people to believe, and the lineup has underachieved a bit. I expected more from Tyler Hanover and Trey Watkins, and JaCoby Jones returned to earth a bit after his hot start. But still, the schedule opens up quite a bit for LSU now — the last four series are all very winnable, and I’m not writing off this team for
a regional spot. Right now, they’re not in the field of 64 — but they have a real chance to play themselves back in.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): How would you grade Mahtook's tools on the 20-80 scale? Thanks.

Aaron Fitt: It’s pretty much 50s and 55s across the board — not a real carrying tool, but a very nice all-around package.

    jb (SC): How far is Clemson from the top 25 and where do you see them in the post season?
    Thanks for the terrific coverage!

Aaron Fitt: Back in the Top 25 discussion, but that 1-8
record against the Top 25 is a killer. Good for Clemson for taking care
of business against the softer part of the ACC schedule over the last three weeks, but it’s still not a Top 25 resume or a hosting resume until the Tigers can rack up some signature wins. The schedule affords two such opportunities down the stretch — against Georgia Tech and at Florida State. The Tigers will be underdogs in both series, but they’re certainly capable of taking two of three from the Yellow Jackets at home
this weekend. I’m not saying they will, necessarily, but they could. If
they do, they’ll likely vault back into the Top 25 and edge their way back into the hosting discussion — which is very crowded in the ACC right now, with Virginia, Florida State, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Miami already ahead of Clemson in the pecking order.

    Jonathan (Johnson City): I've seen Vanderbilt the last 2 weekends on ESPN2. What do you think about their Sunday start
    Taylor Hill? Also, where do you see him and Westlake going in the draft? Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: Taylor Hill is a quality senior with a real
nice sinker, a good split-finger and a solid slider — he’s a definite top 10 rounds talent, and could climb up into the top 4-5 rounds as a money-saving senior. I’m a big Westlake fan, and I know some scouts who love him even more than I do — it’s just a great lefthanded swing and all kinds of strength and leverage in the swing, and he squares balls up
consistently. I’ll bet he goes in the top 3 rounds — could go higher if this wasn’t such a strong draft, and he still might go higher, because he’s one of the better college bats out there.

    Ben (Leland Grove): I read that you once thought of Sean Gilmartin as more of a sandwich rounder. Has that prediction changed for you of late?

Aaron Fitt: Spoke with a national crosschecker recently
who reaffirmed that opinion — said the latest he’ll go is the second round, and he’ll probably go in the sandwich round. The fastball is no better than fringy, and the same goes for the slider, but his changeup is really good, and he’s pretty risk-free — you know what you’re getting with him.

    George (Columbus): You have mentioned several times how the Big Ten is so jumbled up as it was last year at this point. I am wondering who you have as the favorite to win the regular season and then who is your favorite to win the tournament and go to a regional (since it is looking like a 1 bid conference)?

Aaron Fitt: I’m sticking with Michigan State as the team to beat, with Minnesota as my next choice — the Gophers got back on track with a sweep of Indiana this weekend, and they have a history of finishing strong, like they did last year.

    Kenny (Starkvegas): The Big Three from the SEC East are 23-4 against the West. 3 of the 4 losses are to Miss. State. Do
    you see State making the SEC tourney? Who is the best team in the West which is best for 5th place overall in the SEC?

Aaron Fitt: Mississippi State’s remaining schedule is pretty favorable (no more SEC East heavyweights to deal with), so yes, I
do see the Bulldogs making the SEC tourney and a regional. Love what John Cohen and his staff have done there, remaking that roster and winning with an athletic, versatile club. Best team in the West? Your guess is as good as mine at this point — the three leaders are all .500! Arkansas and Ole Miss have the more challenging remaining schedules (each must still play Florida and South Carolina), so I guess I’ll take Auburn, which won series against both of the other two. Alabama’s still a factor too… talk about wide open.

    Shannon (Gainesville, FL): Nick Maronde has had
    an impressive bounce-back year after struggling with his stuff last season. What have you heard from scouts on him, and where does he project in the draft in your opinion?

Aaron Fitt: Throwing a lot more strikes, his changeup has gotten a lot better, and he pitches comfortably around 93 from the left side — pretty nice package. I feel like we’re going to wind up with 500 guys labeled “top five-rounders”, but Maronde sure feels like a
top five-rounder, and I may be selling him short.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Aaron, thank you for the chat and all of the outstanding work this year. In looking forward to the 2012 draft, how has Kenny Diekroeger looked this year? Does he seem like a solid bet to stick at short?

Aaron Fitt: I told a West Coast crosschecker that we’ve
got Diekroeger atop our 2012 board, and he told me I had the right guy — unless Mark Appel goes ahead of him (we’ve got Appel at No. 4 on our preseason Top 50 sophomores list). Diekroeger has made some errors at short, but it’s just a matter of being more consistent — his tools are certainly good enough to handle the position, and he can really hit.

    Schaeffer (Hattiesburg, MS): What are your thoughts on the big C-USA match up between So. Miss and ECU this weekend?

Aaron Fitt: Southern Miss is the much more offensive team, and that is an offensive ballpark, so I like USM’s chances. I’d give ECU the edge on the mound if Seth Maness comes back — he missed his first career weekend start this past weekend because of a sore forearm. ECU can really pitch, but it will have its hands full this weekend, even at full strength. The Pirates scored a bunch of runs Sunday, but I still think Southern Miss has good enough pitching to keep
that lineup in check. Should be a good series, with a great crowd that ECU should feed off, but I’d still lean toward Southern Miss.

    Alex (Fairfax, VA): UConn definitely seems to have righted the ship with an 18-3 month, but at #62 in the RPI estimate
    and, if I remember right, you guys recently questioning whether they'd even get an at-large bid unless they won the Big East as expected, what made you change your mind so fast?

    P.S. I'd put early "money" on them as the #2 in a UVa regional. Hultzen v. Springer anyone??

Aaron Fitt: I’m still not saying they’d get an at-large
bid — they need to go 15-2 down the stretch to finish in the top 45 of
the RPI (per the RPI Needs Report), and they’re good enough to do that,
but even if they do they’d be on the bubble. But they’re certainly talented enough to be a major factor in the postseason — I still believe that — and this 18-3 stretch coupled with their talent was enough to get them back into our Top 25, independent of whether or not they’ll get an at-large bids. There are lots of talented teams that won’t necessarily get at-large bids because of the RPI — Kent State comes to mind. We also debated Kent State for the Top 25 this week, but its resume was lacking in quality wins. Georgia Southern is another one — I actually like its resume more, with series wins against Elon and CofC, but the RPI makes an at-large spot a long shot. Even so, the Eagles could play their way into our Top 25 if they stay hot.

    Marc (Left Field, Texas): OK, so Texas is in the Top 5-6 in most polls, but RPI numbers are lacking. If we win the final three series vs #14 Oklahoma, @ Nebraska, vs #6 Texas A&M is there a chance we get a Top 8 Seed? Or is there only one slot open to the winner of the Big XII (technically Texas could win their last three series and still finish a game behind Texas A&M)? Seems odd that Top
    5 team could be traveling during the Supers ...

Aaron Fitt: It does seem odd, and wrong. The RPI drives
me nuts — there’s no way Texas should be precluded from a national seed based on the RPI, which is dragged down by six games against Brown,
Houston Baptist and UTPA. Texas has played a strong schedule — it played Stanford, it went to Hawaii (which is a quality trip even though the RPI doesn’t reflect it), and it’s cruising through the Big 12. But the Big 12 isn’t in great RPI shape this year, which hurts Texas. In the
end, I suspect Texas A&M will get a national seed and Texas will not, whether that’s fair or not.

    Randy (Greenville, SC): Aaron,

    Who wins the SEC east and the overall SEC regular season title? If you had to bet on it today who would you take?

Aaron Fitt: The Bradley injury hurts South Carolina. Maybe the Gamecocks keep winning without him — they have proven to be a
resilient bunch — but I can’t take them over Florida and Vandy without
their best all-around player. Vanderbilt has the slightly easier road than Florida, and it helps that it gets the Gators in Nashville. So I guess I’d lean toward Vandy.

    Mike Huntley (Eugene): Who is the best team in the West given Fresno State's mastery of Oregon State early in the season?

Aaron Fitt: I’m not sure a pair of one-run wins against
a cold-weather team in February really counts as conclusive proof that Fresno State is better than Oregon State — I certainly wouldn’t use the
word “mastery.” Obviously I’ve been impressed with the Beavers — they’ve got the best resume so far of any team in the West. But if I’m looking forward, I still can’t shake the feeling that Arizona State and Cal State Fullerton will be the two best teams in the West at the end of
the year, with Oregon State and Fresno State right in the mix.

    Taylor (Houston): Can we all say Texas A&M is legit this year? And how close are they to locking up a national top
    seed, if they haven't already? Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: Oh, they’re legit. With four weeks left in the season, you can’t say anyone has locked up a national seed — they could go 4-12 down the stretch and fall right out of that mix. But that’s not going to happen, and I think the Aggies are a very strong bet
for a national seed. I wrote about them in today’s Three Strikes.

    shawn (Fort Worth): TCU had a very impressive weekend (without Purke) against an underrated UNLV team. We play DBU tonight, OU tomorrow night and Oklahoma State this weekend. With an impressive week (beating OU and taking the series against OSU), do you see TCU back in contention to host a regional for the third year in a row? Also, how does Jason Coats draft stock look right now? As always, thanks for the coverage.

Aaron Fitt: Yeah, I think a 4-1 record against OU, OSU and Baylor over the next couple of weeks would put the Frogs in good hosting position. Coats feels like a 5th-8th round type in this strong draft.

    Juan (Naperville): Aaron, thanks for taking my question . Please compare the ACC vs. the SEC. In my opinion the ACC is just as tough as the SEC . With UVA, NC, Miami,Georgia Tech and Flordia State this is some tough competition . Please don't treat the ACC as your red headed step child .

Aaron Fitt: SEC fans are choking on their own guffaws right now. But you’re right that the ACC has some quality teams at the top — it just doesn’t have nearly the depth that the SEC does. I’m just
not real impressed with the bottom five teams in the ACC — that’s the biggest difference. And the top three teams in the SEC are better than the top three teams in the ACC (assuming Virginia is a wash with whoever
you like as the best team in the SEC).

    Taylor (Houston): Aaron, the Top 25 Tracker seems to be getting a little bare. I depend on that to catch up on all the highlights across the nation. What gives?

Aaron Fitt: We scaled back Top 25 Tracker at midseason,
choosing instead to bulk up the daily roundup posts on the College Blog
and add a Sunday roundup, which seemed to make the old Tracker redundant. I’d welcome feedback on this new format — if you miss the old bloated Tracker, send me an e-mail and let me know! If you think the
detailed daily roundup blogs are a fine substitute, let me know that as

    Mike (west hartford ct): Good to see the Huskies back in the top 25. They seem to finally playing up to expectations.
    With an RPI of 62 is there a chance they can host a regional as one of the last 2 seeds? or a 3?

Aaron Fitt: I think there’s pretty much no chance of that.

    FloydsWorld (NY): How many D1 hitters do you think are hitting .350 or better, have an OPS greater than 1.000, have more walks then K's, and making contact 85% of the time or greater all at the same time?

    How would you classify this type of hitting prospect? Perhaps collegesplits can provide that?

    It would be interesting, as by a quick check on some high profile names,
    none qualify.

Aaron Fitt: C.J. Cron? Not sure the contact rate, but he meets the rest of your criteria — and he’s high profile. I think he’s the best hitter in college baseball.

    Mike (CT): What do you think of the Big East this season? Why have the cards struggled? The Johnnies have a decent low 40s rpi - any chance its a 2 bid league?

Aaron Fitt: Louisville’s just not a great offensive team. We figured the Cardinals would take a step back after losing all those key veterans in the lineup from last year’s team, and they have —
this group is much less physical. St. John’s could make a run at an at-large spot with a strong finish (13-4 would get it into the top 45 in
the year-end RPI, and that’s bubble range). We had St. John’s in the preseason Top 25, so we clearly like their talent. Outside chance to be a
two-bid league — I still wouldn’t bet on it.

    MJ (New York): What are your thoughts on Miami after they finally beat a ranked team this weekend in taking 2 of 3 from
    UNC on the road? It would have been nice to see a better performance on Sunday but otherwise they seem to be playing better and better each week and they have great opportunities to move up further with the FSU series this weekend and Virginia in 3 weeks. After a slow, is Miami in a
    great position to host a regional?

Aaron Fitt: I wouldn’t say “great” position to host — they’re still probably fifth in the ACC hosting pecking order (or best case, fourth, just ahead of UNC), and they also must compete with Stetson for a third host spot in Florida. Stetson is 14-3 vs. the top 100 in the RPI, while Miami is just 16-9. But this weekend put Miami back in the discussion, in earnest.

    Steve (Owltown): Welcome back from Omaha. What
    is your scouting report on the new Zestos location? Did the burgers and chocolate malts survive the move? Will the new venue for the CWS favor any particular team or style of play?

Aaron Fitt: A canceled flight left me with almost no time to explore the surrounding area before the game, so I’m afraid I didn’t even locate Zesto’s. As for style of play — I think it’s going to play much more pitcher-friendly, because there is a lot of foul ground, and the park is no longer up on a hill with winds gusting out. Expect a much more low-scoring CWS.

    3xWahoo (Charlottesville): Aaron

    Do you think it is healthy for a team to lose some games throughout the season? Last year Virginia held strong at number 1 most of the regular season and went completely flat entering the supers. One month before, I
    think they would've taken any team in the country. This season is shaping up eerily similar. With only 4 loses, would it do us some good to lose a few more and reveal any weaknesses before the tournament?

Aaron Fitt: I think conventional wisdom says it’s never
good to lose, and I’m sure my stathead pals like Ben Badler will tell me just because a team has sustained winning ways for a long period of time, that does not mean they’re any more or less likely to lose in the postseason — if anything, the stats probably show that a team that wins
more in the regular season wins more in the postseason (that seems pretty obvious and intuitive, right?). But how often do we hear coaches say, “In retrospect, losing (such and such series) was the best thing that ever happened to us”? We hear it a lot, right? There’s something to
be said for the wake-up call, for the bump in the road that forces you to make an adjustment, to reveal any fatal flaws, like you said. Not every team needs those, but it takes a very special team to go wire to wire without any hiccups (trust me, I’m a New England Patriots fan…). That’s a long way of not really answering your question. Statistically, maybe there is nothing to gain from losing a series in the regular season, but I’m not so sure there isn’t some intangible benefit, at least in some cases.

    Greg (NYC): Aaron, when you advanced Oregon State several spots (including jumping Vandy for the #3 spot), you noted
    that you were rewarding a spectacular hot streak. In their last 17 games, Vanderbilt is 15-2 (with the two losses coming at #2 South Carolina). In their last 17, Oregon State is 14-3 (with a loss at Arizona and one each while hosting sub-.500 squads UC Santa Barbara and Washington State). Vanderbilt has played a tougher schedule than OSU, has a better road record, a better home record, a better Top 50 record, a
    better average runs per game (both scored and allowed) and, well, a better team. Please explain your rationale for continuing the #3 / #4 ranking.

Aaron Fitt: You make a strong argument, Greg, and I do think the margin is razor-thin there. I guess the bottom line is this: We ended up moving Vandy down a few spots when it lost a series last weekend (albeit a very competitive series against a very good team on the road). But we generally try not to move teams down when they win weekend series, and OSU did win its series this weekend. At the end of the day, do I think Vandy is better than Oregon State? Yes I do. There’s
plenty of time for that to bear itself out — no reason fretting about a
one-spot difference in the Top 25 in April.

    Ryan (Honolulu): Hi Aaron! Wanted to know your thoughts on the WACky WAC, Kolten Wong, and on Hawaii's postseason chances?


Aaron Fitt: Obviously I still like Fresno State in the WAC (we do have the Bulldogs ranked 13th, after all), and the RPI means that Hawaii will have to win the automatic bid in order to go to regionals. As for Wong, he’s the nation’s best second baseman, and soon he’ll be a first-round pick. He’s not real big, and he’s a second baseman, but the guy flat-out hits, and he’s athletic, and he’s a gamer.

Aaron Fitt: Lots of great questions left in the queue, but I’m out of time. Thanks for stopping by — see you next week!