College Top 25 Chat: Feb. 25

Aaron Fitt: Hi everybody, interesting week in college baseball, in that 23 of the Top 25 teams had winning weekends, which is pretty unusual. Let’s chat.

    Russell (Austin, TX): Hey Aaron, Texas had a pretty good weekend against the cornhuskers, what do they need to do to
    get ranked in baseball america? Explain?

Aaron Fitt: It was a good weekend, and Texas has been right on the cusp of our rankings since the preseason, along with Miami and Arizona State. The thing is, other teams have had louder weekends on
the road against better opponents, and we chose to reward those other teams, especially since the talent level at Notre Dame and FGCU is comparable to that of Texas and ASU, believe it or not. If Texas wins its series against Stanford this weekend, it will be ranked for sure—we’ll find a way to get the Longhorns in next week if that happens.

    Bill (Atlanta, GA): Is RPI meaningful at all this time of the season? I think I know that it isn't, but want your thoughts. One RPI lists my Yellow Jackets at #200 despite a 6-1 record.

    Also, your thoughts on whether we might see a trend in returning seniors
    if Buck Farmer and Brandon Thomas get rewarded for coming back after James Ramsey and any others you might know of. This might give juniors more bargaining power.

Aaron Fitt: Hi Bill: as for the RPI, I certainly don’t look at those rankings this time of year, but certainly we can be cognizant of wins that will pay long-term dividends in the RPI, like those road sweeps for FGCU, Notre Dame and Fullerton. Remember that road
wins count more in the RPI this year, and Florida, Tulane and TCU play in quality conferences and should be in regionals, which will make those
wins look very nice late. But Georgia Tech and its like have nothing to
worry about, because conference play will boost the RPI rankings for those power conference teams like it always does. As for the seniors, I suspect we will see more quality prospects coming back for their senior years because of the way the draft is structured now. Teams can really only spend substantial money on a handful of guys now, rather than opening their wallets to anyone they choose. Thomas and Farmer should do
well in the draft this year, and I agree that they and Ramsey and Appel
will create a bit of a roadmap for other juniors who may be on the fence about signing.

    MJ (NY): Really guys, really? Miami is not ranked despite being undefeated at 7-0 on the season and supposedly started "just" outside the top 25 to start the season. And the Canes have freshman David Thompson playing lights out and are without their top 2 SP's, Eric Whaley and Bryan Radziewski, yet are still 7-0. You have teams ranked who have played lesser opponents than Miami, and at 7-0, Miami should get the benefit of the doubt over teams like So. Miss.
    Give me a break.

Aaron Fitt: Southern Miss is a solid 5-2, and it swept Missouri—a better opponent than Miami has played yet (except for the midweek against FAU), even though Mizzou won’t be a regional team. I like that Miami team, and we will rank the ‘Canes after they win a quality series (a road set at Florida would do it). But so far, other teams have had more impressive starts against better competition on the road (FGCU, Notre Dame, Va Tech, and Irvine’s two strong weekends at home), so we ranked them instead.

    Justin (monticello, Missississip): I think we all know Ole Miss has an elite pitching staff, but after watching them swing the bats over the last two what do u think about their lineup up to now?

Aaron Fitt: I think the offense should be just fine—nice to see Will Allen have a good week, and Turner and Bousfield are hitting some, living up to their preseason buzz. Tanner Mathis hasn’t really gotten going yet, but he will. That’s a nice veteran core,
and the supporting guys should be good enough to win a lot of games, given the quality of that staff.

    Windy (Chicago): What happened in New Orleans? Tulane scored only 5 runs all weekend, left a cornucopia of runners on
    base, and had more mental errors than a drunk on Bourbon. Should I just stop watching and wait til next year like I have to do with the Cubs? Send a truck of whole KFC chickens to wake up the bats? Please give me something positive to take away from the weekend if you can.

Aaron Fitt: Well, Notre Dame is a good club with some very poised veteran arms who were able to make big pitches in big spots.
The mental miscues are discouraging, certainly, but there’s no reason to get too down about this Tulane club, because I still think it’s a quality team. At least the Green Wave continued to pitch well this weekend, generally.

    Jordan (Petal, MS): With two losses over the week for Southern Miss. I would have thought they would be out of the top 25. You must have a good feeling about this team. Whats your thoughts on this years Southern Miss team?

Aaron Fitt: Well, they did win their weekend, so we’re not going to overreact to a 2-2 week — we do like that team. I think it’s a balanced team with good weekend arms and a lineup that will be just fine once it gets going.

    Chris (Tupelo, MS): Without one of our biggest sticks in the line-up (Wes Rea) so far and our biggest power arm (Brandon Woodruff) being brought along slowly where do you see the Mississippi State Diamond Dogs fitting into the top 3 once we take all 5
    games this week/weekend?

Aaron Fitt: I’ve been very impressed with MSU so far —
the depth of that roster has been on full display. That’s an elite team, just like we thought heading into the season. But to move higher in the rankings, the Bulldogs will need some teams ahead of them to lose.

    Jon (Reno): Have you gotten any feedback on UNR
    Friday guy Braden Shipley? I stopped by the game on Friday and there were a TON of scouts there. One said he threw as hard as 98. Could he be a first round pick?

Aaron Fitt: Shipley has a great arm and a great frame, and I have heard that his stuff have been very electric, as expected. We
see him as a top-two-rounds guy, and sure, he could climb into the first round with a big spring. Lot of upside with him.

    Dougner (New Mexico): Hello Aaron,
    This weekends matchup of Oregon at Cal State Fullerton looks to be a good one and I imagine you'll be there. Any hints as to what you expect?

Aaron Fitt: I hate to miss it, but I’m making my usual trip to Houston this week (can’t miss a chance to see six teams over three days in a dome, where the games are guaranteed not to be rained out). That’s going to be a great series. This will be the biggest test yet for those young Fullerton arms, because Oregon is not an easy team to play against with all the pressure those guys put on defenses — even
if you have great stuff, the Ducks will find ways to scratch out a few runs. But the Titans are playing at such a high level right now, and they are the more explosive offensive team, and they are at home. I’d probably give them a slight edge, but certainly that series could go either way.

    WhenItStrikesMe (NYC): Hey Aaron, my Commodores
    have been hit with some injuries early this year (Swanson, foot; Cooper, appendix; Pecoraro, knee; McKeithan and Kolinsky, hamstrings). Only Swanson's has been relatively severe and the Dores have enough depth to handle losing a guy or two. I was wondering if you could go over some of the big pre- and early season injuries that are most impacting the Top 25 landscape this year.

Aaron Fitt: Florida thought it would be just fine without Karsten Whitson, and maybe it will be as the season progresses, but right now I think it’s clear the Gators really miss him and Tyler Thompson. A healthy Whitson would have given Florida two legit aces and taken a lot of pressure off the rest of the staff; now the Gators are starting two freshmen in the rotation, and those guys were exploited by FGCU. Interesting that Gulf Coast was able to overcome its two huge preseason injuries (see Three Strikes for details), which Dave Tollett described as “crippling” at the time. And you’re right about Vandy — I don’t know if any team has a deeper roster than those guys, which certainly allows them to withstand a few injuries.

    jb (SC): How do you see the Clemson-SC series going this weekend? Looks like both have struggled at times offensively but have played great defense to compliment great pitching.

Aaron Fitt: I think you’ve got to give South Carolina the edge, but I do like the way Clemson has pitched so far — Scott Firth looks like he’s putting it all together in a starting role, and Daniel Gossett has been a good Friday guy. Clemson’s arms should certainly make the Tigers very competitive in this series.

    Eddie (Asheboro, NC): After two weeks, no extra
    base hits, and a sub 300 average is it time to start worrying about what's wrong with Colin Moran? He is not living up to the preseason hype
    or his first two seasons, even against the weak Yankee pitching UNC has
    faced from Seton Hall and Stony Brook.

Aaron Fitt: C’mon, it’s been two weeks, and this is baseball — even the best hitters go through ups and downs. And Colin Moran is one of college baseball’s best hitters. He will get going soon,
trust me.

    Jeff (D.C.): Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Ole Miss and LSU are all ranked in the top 10. 1 of those programs has to finish 6th place in the conference which has averaged a final conference record of 15-15. 5th place has averaged a final conference record of 16-14. The hosting cutoff has been 18-12. Do you see any scenario that enables all of these programs to host a regional?

Aaron Fitt: We projected six SEC hosts in the preseason
— remember, this is a 14-team league now, which changes the dynamic. I
think if you’re one of the top six teams in a very, very deep 14-team league, you don’t need to get to 18 conference wins to host. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, but that is my expectation.

    Brad (Atlanta): Hey Aaron you do a great job covering college baseball! Rough start for UGA and I realize a very young pitching staff is part of this start. Any reason to think this team can make a regional run and also is Perno on the hot seat? Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: I do like the young talent on that team, but they are relying on an awful lot of inexperienced arms, and I think they’re going to have a hard time in the SEC. I’m not optimistic about their chances to make a regional. People are forever speculating about Perno’s job security, but I try to avoid that kind of talk. Expectations
are always high in the SEC, and there is typically little tolerance for
losing. But they’ve had some great teams there, and they’ve had some very bad fortune in recent years. I’ll let all that sort itself out in June.

    Steve L. (Albany, OR): What is the most impressive thing with Oregon State so far this season? Bullpen? Offense? Freshman pitcher Andrew Moore?

Aaron Fitt: I’ve been very impressed with how the pitching staff has withstood the absence of some key arms, and Moore is a
big part of that, as is the bullpen. Clearly, that staff has real quality depth, and that is very encouraging. I think that’s a very, very
good team all the way around.

    Eric S. (Orlando, FL): Do you see Florida having the talent to put together a late surge as the young guys gain experience, similar to Vanderbilt last year, or is this just not a very good Gator team? They're not doing anything well right now and the upcoming schedule certainly does them no favors.

Aaron Fitt: This feels like a good place to pass along a
nugget from one of my colleagues, who spoke with a scout who was there this weekend. Here’s what the scout said: “The home fans were not very happy to say the least, you know? They’re gonna get going. They’re just feeling out roles and who’s going to do what. Florida Gulf Coast ran into some balls. They had some big-run innings and crooked numbers that helped them out. It was interesting. Florida will be fine.” I tend to agree; they’ll be a regional team, but not a host.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Aaron, thank you for the chat. Thoughts on UVA thus far? Some very interesting individual performances as they get off to a 7-0 start, but against a somewhat soft

Aaron Fitt: It was a nice road series win at East Carolina, but you’re right Joe, not the strongest competition this week.
You have to love what Brandon Waddell has done — he looks like the real deal. I think their lineup is exciting, with all those talented sophomores running around. And they’re just so well coached — Virginia is one of those programs that gets the most out of its talent and achieves at a high level every year, seemingly regardless of roster turnover. Florida State and Miami have been doing that for a very long time, and Fullerton out here on the West Coast. UVa. is an elite program, and I’m sure the Cavs will force their way into the Top 25 soon.

    Tim Watley (New York): Bottom of the 9th, what three batters do you want going up? (Using any player in the college ranks)

Aaron Fitt: Fun question. I’ll go with Trea Turner (he can get on base so many ways, and once he’s on he’s such a disruption to
the pitcher that he gives the other hitters a better chance), Colin Moran and D.J. Peterson. Those two guys are power threats who can really
hit, too — they’re not easy outs. Of course, it’s baseball, and even the best hitters won’t always come through. Moran was retired in the ninth by Stony Brook yesterday, and his teammates picked him up. And Peterson left the bases loaded in a key spot against Oklahoma. Hey, that’s baseball. I’ll still go to war with those guys.

    Carlos (San Diego, CA): Re: Oregon State and SDSU this weekend. Does the sweep say more about how good Oregon St is or how SDSU came back to earth?

Aaron Fitt: A little of both, I think. The Aztecs played well during the opening weekend, and they are definitely a lot better than they were last year, but that doesn’t make them a regional team — not with New Mexico and Fresno lurking in the Mountain West (cold starts be damned for those two teams — they’ll be just fine). San
Diego State was facing an elite team this weekend, and it was overmatched, simple as that. I think SDSU is good enough to win series against good teams this year, but USD is just that — a good team, not an elite one like Oregon State.

    Sam (Fresno, CA): You obviously were pretty high on Aaron Judge before the season started. Where do you project Judge to be drafted, especially after his efforts to start the season? Is he a first round pick?

Aaron Fitt: He certainly has first-round tools and a first-round frame, and yes, I think that’s where he’ll be drafted. Not many players are as physically gifted as Aaron Judge. Nice to see him go
5-for-5 against Stanford on Sunday, even though the Bulldogs got swept.

    Jeff (VA): After 2 weeks who is your favorite to win the big south?

Aaron Fitt: Certainly I think it is foolhardy to bet against Coastal Carolina until further notice — that program is the class of the Big South, and the Chanticleers should have a good enough club to win the conference again this year. But I think Liberty looks like a contender again this year, and Radford, Campbell, High Point and Gardner-Webb are off to nice starts; this could be a decent race. Think out of that group I’m most impressed with Radford, winning road series at Jacksonville and Kennesaw State in the first two weeks.

    Mike (Tennessee): After the first couple of weekends, how strong do you think CUSA looks?

Aaron Fitt: Pretty solid. Rice and Southern Miss are as
advertised, I think, and East Carolina got back on track this weekend. Tulane will be fine, and UCF is playing pretty well despite losing a bunch of key pieces from last year’s team. Memphis had a nice weekend against Missouri, and Houston had a nice 3-1 week, with quality wins at Texas State and Sam Houston. The Tigers and Cougars could be frisky. One
thing about this league: every team in C-USA, with the exception maybe of UAB, has at least one really good front-line arm (whether it’s Blair,
Lively, Moll, Hoffman or whoever), so we could be seeing a lot of 2-1 series this year, and perhaps more parity than usual.

    Brett (Knoxville, Tennessee): What's your take on Oklahoma State so far under Josh Holliday? Obviously, New Mexico was
    the only good team the Cowboys have played so far, but Jason Hursh has looked very good and the bats seem more lively that the past couple of years.

Aaron Fitt: The Cowboys certainly look improved, don’t they? I think Holliday assembled one of the best coaching staffs out there, so I’m not surprised that OSU is off to a strong start — I expected them to be well prepared. Tanner Krietemeyer has been a really nice addition to that lineup, a switch-hitter who can rake from both sides, and I expect you’ll see some power out of him this year too.

    Will (Eugene): What are your thoughts on Oregon's revamped rotation? Moving Thorpe to the Saturday spot, the freshman on Sunday, etc?

Aaron Fitt: It’s worked great so far. I was concerned they’d really miss Thorpe in the bullpen, because he was such a key bridge to Sherfy last year, but Christian Jones seems to be filling that
role very well, and it helps that the starters have been going deep into games. I really liked Irvin out of high school last year — he has an innate feel for pitching that I thought would make him very successful in college, and so far that has been the case. He’s the real deal; I think he’ll stick in that rotation all year.

    Phil (Long Beach): The Big West appears to be Fullerton & UCI then everyone else. Fullerton getting it done w/two freshman is impressive and the Thurman/Whiteside duo is impressive too. What's going on with LBSU/UCSB? Both expected to compete this year are off to really slow starts.

Aaron Fitt: Well, the Dirtbags did sweep Valpo this week and split a midweek pair with Arizona, and they played Vandy tough last week in Nashville, so I think you’re selling those guys short. Long
Beach is a good club, I think; I could see the Dirtbags or Cal Poly making the Big West a three-bid league when it’s all said and done. And UCSB should have its ups and downs, but its young talent gives it a chance to compete every weekend — remember, the Gauchos did win a nice series at Fresno last week. The Big West is dramatically improved from a
year ago, I think.

    Chuck (Starkville, MS): Can Miss State keep it up?

Aaron Fitt: Yep. I mean, I have a feeling they won’t go undefeated this year, but I’m expecting big things.

    Cody (Eugene): Over/under for runs scored in the Oregon/CSF series this weekend at 20. What you got?

Aaron Fitt: Hmm… that’s a good number, but I’ll take the over, actually.

    Matt (Corvallis, OR): What are your early thoughts on the Pac-12 and who you think is the early favorite to win it? Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, Oregon???

Aaron Fitt: I think those are the top four teams, and you could put them in any order and I wouldn’t argue. Arizona and Arizona State will be major factors as well, of course. But if I’ve got to pick one, I’m going with Oregon State, the team we picked to win the league in the preseason.

    Angry Pirate (G'Ville): What you do think of ECU after 2 weeks? What's your take on Hoffman?

Aaron Fitt: Don’t be angry, be a happy pirate! Your ECU
boys pitched much better this weekend — in particular, they did a much
better job throwing strikes the first two days, and they got away with eight walks Sunday against a very patient New Mexico State team. I think
East Carolina will be a regional team, though I wouldn’t go so far as to dub the Pirates my Omaha sleeper like John Manuel did in the preseason. As for Hoffman, I got a very positive report on him this weekend — was still up to 95 in the sixth inning, and showed good command once he settled in. I think he’s going to be special.

    Steve (St. Louis): How about the St. Louis University Billikens? What do you see with them?

Aaron Fitt: I remain bullish on the Billikens, as I was
in the preseason. Saint Louis should feel OK about sitting at 4-2 right
now, with that great road series win at Oral Roberts to open the year. SLU is a dangerous veteran team.

    Eric (Fort Worth): How panicked should TCU fans be about the lack of offensive production at this point?

Aaron Fitt: I never advise panic after two weeks — it’s a long season, and that excellent coaching staff will figure it out. Tip your cap to the two very good pitching staffs you’ve faced, get
back to fundamental offense, and it will be OK. I’m not in love with that TCU offense, of course, but there’s still plenty of talent there. Cron, Odell and Suiter are the key guys; they have the ability to be very good offensive players, and they’re just stuck in the mud right now. I think it starts to turn around this week.

    Sy (MS): With the way Stuart Turner is gunning down runners, will anyone be able to steal on the Rebels with any real success?

Aaron Fitt: That guy can catch and throw with anybody, and he’s showing something with the bat, too. He’s got a chance to be a nice pick this year. And I expect he’ll shut down running games all season. Great weapon to have back there.

    Steve (Austin): Are you as excited as I am to see Austin Kubitza take on UNC this Friday? Should be a fun game/ tourney down in Houston.

Aaron Fitt: Yeah! That game is certainly the highlight of the weekend, Kubitza against Emanuel. It will be a treat.

    Barrett Negus (Hattiesburg, Mississippi): Southern Miss suffered a loss to a very underrated Missouri State Bear team this weekend and their All-American Nick Petree. What do you think about Missouri State and their stud arm in Nick Petree?

Aaron Fitt: I like Missouri State — we pegged those guys as the MVC favorites heading into the year, and they’re in that group of teams that got Top 25 consideration this week. Petree is simply
one of the best pitchers in college baseball, and he’s surrounded with a
bunch of quality strike-throwers on that strong staff. The offense won’t scare anybody, but I think it will be good enough — and Tate Matheny has been a nice addition so far, providing a real spark.

    DMihokovich (Tampa): What will it take for 7-0 FSU to move up in the rankings? Why are three 2 loss teams ranked higher?

Aaron Fitt: Level of competition. For instance, if you start in the top 10 and lose two out of three at Rice, there’s no shame in that. We moved Stanford down six spots after that weekend, but we’re not going to drop them from No. 9 to outside the top 20 because they lost a tough road series against a good team. UCLA lost to a top-two-rounds pick on opening night and then won two out of three on the road against the defending Big 12 champ — why should they be behind
Florida State, just because they aren’t unbeaten? Going on the road and
playing good teams means a lot, and if you win your weekend, you’re not
going to drop — even if you lose one out of three games.

    Michael (Charlotte, NC): high are you on Skye Bolt? I get the feeling that he might be the next in line in terms of an elite Tar Heel hitter.


    The kid is a five-tool prospect, and a switch hitter at that. Early returns make him a real candidate for national freshman of the year.

Aaron Fitt: I’m with you, Michael — I think he’s the real deal. In fact, one of the reasons we ranked UNC No. 1 in the preseason was because we were expecting big things from Bolt and Lassiter. Lassiter has struggled early, but Bolt has quickly become a presence in the middle of that lineup, and he’s come up with some very big hits. He’s a great talent, and I do expect he’ll wind up factoring strongly into that Freshman of the Year race. Ackley and Moran, if you recall, also won our Freshman of the Year award…

    Todd (Nashville): Any thoughts on a freshman laden Tennessee team, that outscored ASU this weekend, despite losing 2 of 3? Tying run was brought to the plate in both loses. There's lots of fight in the young group.

Aaron Fitt: I think you sum it up well — a lot of fight in that club, and some very exciting young talent. I think Tennessee will struggle in this very loaded SEC, but it will compete hard all year long, and it should be a fun team to watch.

    Rungo (California): Where do you rank UC Irvine's defense? Is there middle infield as good as it's been in the past?

Aaron Fitt: Actually I think that might be a bit of a concern area for Irvine — Chris Rabago has done a nice job so far at short, but he’s not a rock-solid defender like Ben Orloff or D.J. Crumlich, and even Mike Gillespie said last week that he expects Rabago to have his ups and downs defensively. And second base has been something of a revolving door so far; I’d like to see that position get settled. At least the Anteaters have a standout catcher in Ronnie Shaeffer and a solid center fielder in Dominique Taylor.

    Forrest (Fayetteville): What do you think of Spoonsanity, and what chances do you give the Hogs of winning the SEC?

Aaron Fitt: Spoonsanity, I like it. It’s no wonder Arkansas fans are going nuts over Tyler Spoon — the guy has been a monster, and he’s been awfully clutch. The Hogs have a strong chance to win the SEC, but that race is wide open, I think.

    Jed (Baldwin, WI): Carlos Rodon receives most of the buzz around NC State.. and rightfully so, but dont you think Trea
    Turner should start getting some love? He is fast, a great baserunner, hits for average, and might eventually fill out and hit for more power. Could he potentially be a top 10 pick in 2014?

Aaron Fitt: I mean, Turner is a first-team preseason All-American, and we ranked him as the nation’s No. 4 prospect in the sophomore class heading into this season, and we put him on the cover of
our College Preview magazine, along with Rodon and two Tar Heels. I’d say that’s some love!

    Brian (Oxford): If you had to pick the best 3 closers in college this year who would they be?

Aaron Fitt: Corey Knebel, Jimmie Sherfy, Dan Slania, but there are plenty of other very good closers around the country.

Aaron Fitt: OK friends, that’s all for today — thanks for all the great questions, as usual. I’ll talk to you next week from Houston. Have a great Week Three!