College Top 25 Chat: April 7

 Q:  herb from fontana asks:

is the time of year where teams begin to seperate from the pack in
their conferences… how do you see the big west shaping up? Riverside
had a huge weekend vs Long beach, CSUF beat irvine. Also, darkhorse Cal
Poly gets swept by CSUN? The conference is bogged up.Davis and UCSB are
playing well. Help!


Aaron Fitt:
Hello everyone, sorry for the late start today. Herb, good luck
figuring out that mess. People talk a lot about the SEC for its
strength from top to bottom and volatility, but the Big West is right
there. I still think Long Beach will get hot again and make a run, but
I wouldn’t be surprised by anything, really. UCSB has gotten off to a
great start but still has all of the major contenders still to play on
the schedule. Fullerton’s in really good shape and might be the safest
bet after winning that series at UC Irvine.

 Q:  craig from riverside asks:

has been a huge dissapointment. They are young and inexperienced. Just
when I’m about to give up on them they take 2 of 3 from top 10 LBSU. I
know they are a longshot, but with how deep the Big West is this year
(and every year) can they still make a run to defend the conference?


Aaron Fitt:
I think the Highlanders are well-coached enough and have enough young
talent to be competitive every weekend and make a little run, but I
really don’t think they’ve got enough experience and enough arms to win
the Big West again.

 Q:  BL from Bozeman asks:

you for finally dropping a highly-undeserving (based on achievement)
Virginia team from the Top 25. If/when they beat a good team this year,
I’ll welcome them back.
No question, just that.


Aaron Fitt:
They have yet to win a series against a quality opponent, and they were
not worthy of a top 25 spot, like you said. It’s a strange year in
college baseball, so Virginia was able to hang around in the top 25
despite not really accomplishing anything because so many other teams
kept losing. But after losing its third straight road series, and
getting swept, it was just really hard to make a case for the Cavs.

 Q:  Doug from Phoenix asks:

had a big weekend I was just wondering if you could tell me why they
have played only 24 games this season? It seems like a bad idea to have
more mid week games during conference play especially on the pitchers.


Aaron Fitt:
That’s a great point, Doug — those extra midweek games late could be a
major factor, especially since Stanford has struggled in midweek action
as it is. The Cardinal are one of the only teams that has not played a
series every weekend, because they took one off for exams. That really
could have a major bearing on the Pac-10 race down the stretch.

 Q:  from asks:

Missouri’s offensive struggles, Will this hurt them down the stretch or do you see another hot streak in them?


Aaron Fitt:
Offense was never supposed to be Missouri’s forte — it’s really a West
Coast style team, built around pitching and defense and just enough
hitting. They rely on getting timely hits, rather than on bludgeoning
opponents, and like Long Beach State, those kinds of teams can go into
slumps when they’re not getting those timely hits. But I think both of
those teams will be just fine in the second half thanks to their
enviable pitching depth, which will be an increasingly significant
factor down the stretch as other teams get tired out. And Missouri’s
offense will be OK — that’s a pretty talented bunch in its own right,
with two quality middle-of-the-order guys in Senne and Priday. They
really need Lollis and Coleman to play up to their potential.

 Q:  Shane from Arapahoe NE asks:

With the way that Missouri and Texas are playing what do think Nebraska’s chances are in winning the Big Tweleve?


Aaron Fitt:
Right now, the Huskers are just cruising along, and they’ve certainly
put themselves in the catbird seat in the Big 12. But that conference
is so deep that things can change in a hurry. Nebraska still has to
play on the road against talented Oklahoma State, Baylor and Missouri
teams, plus Texas A&M at home. But that 10-1 start gives Nebraska a
nice cushion.

 Q:  josh mcdanielle from enid, oklahoma asks:

big 12 looks very competitive this year, with that can you see oklahoma
state making a run for omaha? With a big series win over #4missouri and
a sweep in a midweek game vs #6 arizona (at the time) there rpi is
amongst the top five but still hold an impressive record. what is the
word draft wise on OSU’s Mercer, Hague, Ridling, and Flores?


Aaron Fitt:
Because of that quartet you mentioned, Oklahoma State’s offense is very
dangerous, but the thing that has impressed me has been the Cowboys’
pitching. Andrew Oliver is a legit ace on Fridays, and Tyler Lyons has
been lights out on Saturdays. Mercer and Hague will be drafted first
among that group, and both could go in the top three rounds.

 Q:  Shane from Miami asks:

as always thanks for the chat. What are your thoughts on Yasmani
Grandal? He’s been impressive so far, especially considering he’s a
freshman. What are you expecting from him leading up to the 2010 draft?
Is he a guy to be putting on the radar?


Aaron Fitt:
Grandal ranked No. 43 on our top 200 prospects for the 2007 draft, so
suffice it to say he’s already on the radar, and he should remain
there. He’s got a chance to be a special defensive catcher, and his bat
is starting to develop nicely as well, as evidenced by that big weekend
against Clemson. It’s nice that Miami can use Jason Hagerty to take
some pressure off Grandal and let him develop at his own pace. He’s
going to be a special one.

 Q:  ron from temecula, ca asks:

your chats, thanks for the hard work! your thoughts on that USD club
that was so highly regarded out of the gates. can they still make a run
at omaha? if so what do they have to do, and if not, what will hold
them back?


Aaron Fitt:
Of course they can. The Toreros will go as far as their stellar
pitching takes them, and that’s not a bad thing, because that pitching
remains outstanding even without Matt Couch. It was good to see Victor
Sanchez back in the lineup this weekend, but more encouraging was the
fact that USD got lots of big hits from guys other than Sanchez.
Veterans like James Meador and Logan Gelbrich are stepping up for them,
which is very encouraging.

 Q:  Thomas from Pittsburgh, PA asks:

the season in full swing what are the mid majors that have been
impressive and look to make a strong regional push and what mid major
programs are the biggest disappointments?


Aaron Fitt:
Coastal Carolina has cemented itself as perhaps the nation’s premier
mid-major program, and its strong first half is no surprise. UNC
Wilmington, which beat Coastal twice in midweek action over the last
few weeks, has been a surprise, although the Seahawks are a very solid
program in their own right, a consistent power in the CAA. Sticking in
that same region, Charlotte has been dominant in the first half once
again and is really capable of winning a regional — the 49ers nearly
did so last year at South Carolina. It doesn’t quite feel right to call
St. John’s a mid-major, but that’s a cold-weather school in a
warm-weather sport, so I suppose it counts. The Johnnies have been as
good as expected and were just outside the top 25 this week. As for
disappointments, it’s hard to believe Evansville is 4-24. Sure, it’s a
rebuilding year there and the Aces have been beset by injuries, but
that program’s been too good lately to go 4-24.

 Q:  Aaron from San Jose, CA asks:

Thanks for taking my question. Any opinion on how Sean Ratliff stands up against guys like Steele, Danks, Bianucci…etc.?


Aaron Fitt:
All of those guys you mention are athletic, high-upside outfielders,
and Ratliff has hit for the most power of any of them this year. He’s
got loud tools, with a power bat and a strong arm, and he’s starting to
address questions about his hit tool. It’s tough to get a read on those
four players, because they elicit a wide range of opinions, but I
wouldn’t be shocked if Ratliff is drafted first among them. Or fourth.
My gut says Danks goes the highest out of that group.

 Q:  Draft Freak from The D asks:

Saw that San Diego State’s Stephen Strasburg missed his Friday start. Is he hurt?


Aaron Fitt: Not hurt, just ill, according to our friend Kirk Kenney of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

 Q:  Doug from Phoenix asks:

would have been a better steal sign last summer from Kentucky Collin
Cowgill or Sean Green? I know Green has the big upside but I can’t
imagine Cowgill was asking for as much as he will get after his
impressive season this year.


Aaron Fitt:
Right now it certainly looks like Cowgill, and although Green does
unquestionably have the higher upside, it would have been a huge risk
for a club to give him a seven-figure deal last summer. He’s never
really proven himself, and he has yet to match expectations with his
stuff, either. Cowgill’s a very solid player, and though he probably
won’t be a major league star, he could be a contributor — I don’t care
that he’s undersized.

 Q:  Mike from Baton Rouge, LA asks:

LSU Tigers have been having a much better season in 08 than in 07. Do
you see them possibly moving into the top 25 this year? As of right now
they are in the top 8 in the SEC, which would give them a birth in the
SEC tournament.Could you possibly see them playing in a regional this


Aaron Fitt:
The Tigers are nowhere near the top 25, but they’re not in bad shape to
make the SEC tournament, and consequently, a regional. I expect that
team to be better in the second half than it was in the first half,
because its young talent is beginning to come together.

 Q:  Mike from Cincinnati, OH asks:

Aaron Happy Monday! Are their any Big East teams on the verge of being
ranked?? Probably the only two that would have a chance would be St.
Johns or West Virginia I would think. What does a team in the Big East
need to do to be ranked and stay there??


Aaron Fitt:
St. John’s is close, and going on the road and winning a series at
Louisville is impressive, even though the Cardinals aren’t as strong as
they were a year ago. But the rest of that schedule is just lacking in
real quality wins. Another strong week or two could get the Johnnies
into the top 25. West Virginia is farther behind after losing that
series to Rutgers last weekend.

 Q:  Ghost Eagle 33 from Jackson, MS asks:

Barry Bowden having a possible serious shoulder injury, what does this
mean for Southern Miss, and where does he rate among your top pitchers?
And do you see Southern Miss winning CUSA?


Aaron Fitt:
It sounds like it’s probably just a strained shoulder that won’t keep
him out next week, but he’ll go to the doctor on Tuesday and we’ll know
more. If he’s out, of course, that really torpedoes USM’s chances,
because he’s one of the more reliable Friday starters in the nation.
Rice is still the CUSA favorite, even after losing that series to
Southern Miss last weekend. The Golden Eagles did not help their cause
by losing two of three at home to East Carolina this weekend.

 Q:  Brace from St. Cloud, MN asks:

know Miami’s offense is good, but do you think their pitching can help
carry the load to Omaha? Do you see any other weaknesses on Miami’s
team come post-season time?


Aaron Fitt:
The Hurricanes will be fine on the mound as long as they get Eric
Erickson back soon. That bullpen, with Gutierrez and Bellamy, is good
enough to mask some deficiencies in the rotation.

 Q:  Andrew from Irvington, NY asks:

What about the Aggies? Where’s Texas A&M is in the logjam that must exist just outside the top 25?


Aaron Fitt:
Yep, A&M and St. John’s were the two teams that just missed the cut
this week. The Aggies’ problem is they don’t have a series win against
a regional-caliber team yet. They only one they’ve faced, Oklahoma
State, beat them. Texas Tech, Kansas and Kansas State are decent, but I
don’t think any of them makes a regional. Texas A&M’s schedule is
dangerously back-loaded, with series down the stretch against Baylor,
Missouri, Nebraska and Texas.

 Q:  Mickey from Tempe, AZ asks:

has not played a single team in the top-25 and Arizona State is 6-0
against teams in the top-25. For weeks, Arizona lost games, but was not
removed from the #1 spot, but as soon as ASU loses, they are kicked out
for a team that has played NOBODY. Please explain. =D


Aaron Fitt:
Let’s try to get our facts right, shall we? Arizona was No. 1 when it
had a 12-game winning streak. The Wildcats moved down to No. 2 on March
17 — after they won a series against Cal State Fullerton but lost the
finale. Now, Arizona State has lost a weekend series — not just one
game — so we dropped ASU down a spot. The Sun Devils played their
first 28 games in their home state, then the first time they go on the
road, they get hammered in two games by Stanford and need 10 innings to
win the other game. Miami might not have played a team in the top 25
yet, but at least they’ve shown they can win on the road — they did so
at NC State and Duke. And they won an early series against Florida,
which is now ranked, and a series this weekend against Clemson, which
was ranked early. So Arizona State has played a tougher schedule, but
it’s hardly accurate to say Miami has played nobody. It is, however,
accurate to say Miami has yet to lose a weekend series. The same cannot
be said for Arizona State.

 Q:  Mark from Scottsdale, AZ asks:

are you feeling about the strength of the Pac 10 after UCLA and u of a
have had their freefall right out of the top 25? Are things balanced
out by how Cal and Stanford have outperformed preseason expectations?


Aaron Fitt:
There’s no question the Pac-10 is the strongest question in the nation.
None. Cal and Stanford have been pleasant surprises, beating not only
Pac-10 teams but also contenders from other leagues — Nebraska, Cal
State Fullerton, Texas, Long Beach State, et al. USC, Washington and
Washington State are all solid and capable of winning a series against
anybody. And mark my words: it would be a mistake to write off UCLA and
Arizona right now. Both of those teams have a lot of work to do, but
they will be factors down the stretch.

 Q:  Joseph from Fairhope, AL asks:

are your thoughts about Ole Miss after this weekends sweep of Vandy? Do
you think that this could be the confidence boost that the Rebs needed?
Also, can you comment on Drew Pomeranz?


Aaron Fitt:
I think this weekend was exactly what Ole Miss needed. That team was
too talented to stay down, and a series win at home against a good club
could jumpstart a serious run. Pomeranz is going to be very special —
he can already run his fastball up to 95 and has a very good curveball,
and he’s thriving as a weekend guy in the SEC right now as a freshman.
Pretty impressive.

 Q:  Noah from Boone, NC asks:

Who do you see winning a offensively crazy SoCon this year?
Elon has one good pitcher and some good bats.
GaSouthern can outhit anyone.
Charleston is probably the most talented team in the conference.
Western Carolina has some athletes and bats but their junkballing pitchers aren’t getting the job done.
AppState is all bats, no pitch.
UNCG might have the best pitching and has some solid bats


Aaron Fitt:
That’s another league that is just completely wide open. After Elon
swept high-scoring Georgia Southern this weekend, I have to think the
Phoenix are the SoCon front-runners right now, but there are a ton of
good offensive clubs in that league who could bludgeon their way
through the conference tournament like Wofford did a year ago. UNCG,
Western Carolina and CofC are all very offensive teams.

Aaron Fitt:
I hate to cut this thing short after my late start today, but I’ve got
to hit the phones. We’ll have plenty of midseason coverage for you on
the web this week, plus more player features and blog posts. Thanks for
stopping by today.