College Top 25 Chat: March 15

Aaron Fitt: Hi everybody. Another fine weekend of college baseball is in the books — let’s get to the chat!

    Tyler (Gainesville): How much does it hurt Florida if Tommy Toledo is out for significant time?

Aaron Fitt: Toledo was hospitalized yesterday after
taking a line drive off his face, and there is no update yet on his
condition. Obviously that’s a scary ordeal and we wish Tommy a speedy
recovery. Florida is deep enough to withstand losses to just about
anybody on its pitching staff, but he’s certainly a key piece.

    ScottAZ (Phx, AZ): LSU's success with Mitchell
    and Jones last year seems to have brought out a few more football guys
    this year (Taiwan Easterling, Isreal Troupe). Is this a trend that is
    on the upswing? What other 2 sport guys are out there this year?

Aaron Fitt: Most years there are a handful of
two-sport guys, so I’m not sure it’s a trend on the upswing really. How
about Sunday’s matchup between two ACC starting quarterbacks with the
bases loaded in the Clemson-NC State game? The Wolfpack called Russell
Wilson out of the bullpen to face Kyle Parker, who drew a game-winning
RBI walk.

    jonathan (fayetteville, AR): #13 vs #7 this weekend - wow what a conf opener - how do you see the series going - can Arkansas take 2 of 3 from LSU?

Aaron Fitt: I think that series could go either way,
and much will depend on whether Ranaudo is back and how effective he
can be after his layoff. Certainly Arkansas is capable of taking two of
three in Baton Rouge, but I think you have to still give a slight edge
to the home team, this weekend’s loss to Kansas notwithstanding. I’ll
have plenty more on that series on Thursday in Weekend Preview.

    ScottAZ (Phx, AZ): No real word on Spence
    other than "arm soreness". He is supposedly throwing now. Is his injury
    in his forearm, or something wrong with his shoulder/elbow?

Aaron Fitt: I spoke with Tim Esmay last week, and he
emphasized that there is nothing structurally wrong with Spence’s arm.
He has soreness/fatigue in the muscles where his forearm and elbow
connect. Sounds like ASU expects him back in the next couple of weeks.
It’s nice for the Sun Devils that they can afford to ease him back,
because the rest of that staff has been outstanding in his absence.

    Jason (Hammond): Hey, no love for Southeastern Louisiana University! What are your thoughts on the lions

Aaron Fitt: The Lions are off to a terrific start —
that was an impressive series sweep of UTSA this weekend. I’d still tab
Texas State as the Southland Conference favorite, but SELA is really
starting to look like a regional team. I’ll have more on Southeastern
Louisiana later this week.

    Arkham (Danville, PA): Which Pac-10 team is better right now, and whose season-long prospects are better: Arizona State or UCLA?

Aaron Fitt: UCLA’s better on the mound, and Arizona
State’s lineup is better. Given ASU’s abundance of Omaha experience,
you probably have to give the Sun Devils a slight edge, but it’s going
to be awfully tough for anyone to win a series against UCLA with that
pitching. Cole and Bauer are unreal, and Rasmussen turned in his best
start of the season against Oklahoma this weekend. And the Bruins keep
on hitting, too! That’s going to be a great race in the Pac-10, I think.

    Taylor (Houston): I know nobody moved in the
    back end of the rankings, but Texas A&M has to be pushing their way
    in, dont they? Pretty good week with a series win vs. a pretty good
    Wash St team.

Aaron Fitt: Yes, Texas A&M is right on the cusp
for the second straight week, along with New Mexico, and Kansas has
moved into that group also. Others in the 26-34 range: Alabama,
Southern Miss, Western Kentucky, Cal State Fullerton, Ohio State,
Southeastern Louisiana.

    Steph (Harahan): What are your thoughts on
    this years tulane green wave? I know they are extremely young and are
    having some growing pains, but how do you see the season playing out
    for them.. Postseason...

Aaron Fitt: I thought Tulane would be a regional team
coming into the year, and I continue to believe that. The pitching
staff is very good and deep, and it will keep that team afloat while
the young guys get their feet under them. And I continue to hear great
things about the freshmen, especially Garrett Canizaro, Brennan
Middleton, Blake Crohan and Brandon Boudreaux. That’s a very strong
core of talented young players to build around, and all four of those
guys have performed early in their careers, which is very encouraging
for 2010.

    John T. (San Luis Obispo, CA): Cal Poly SLO
    seems to be under achieving this year. What are your thoughts on the
    future of their season? What do you think about their young outfield
    prospect and leading hitter, Mitch Haniger? Sr. Ross Brayton seems to
    be having another great season. Any possibility of getting drafted?

Aaron Fitt: I am very surprised and disappointed by
Poly’s 6-9 start; I would have expected the Mustangs to win series
against USC, San Francisco and Houston (all quality opponents, but not
as talented on paper as Cal Poly), and instead they lost all three of
those series. Houston is playing very well right now, but it’s hard to
believe the Cougars swept that series on the road this weekend.
Fortunately, Poly still has an opportunity to help its at-large resume
with series against Cal and UCLA the next two weeks, but there’s no way
the Mustangs win those series if they keep playing like they have
recently. They simply must pitch better, especially the veterans like
Matt Leonard and D.J. Mauldin.

    Kenny (Georgia): Aaron, couple of things about
    the Gamecocks of South Carolina. First, is it just me or has their
    starting pitching become very inconsistant, dont get me wrong they have
    battled and kept the games within reach, but just seems like good some
    days and off some days (on both sides of the ball really)? Secondly,
    the power numbers from some of their promising guys at the start of the
    season have drastically gone down over the last couple of series, even
    against some sub-par competition. Any reason for Gamecock fans to be
    concerned this early in the season, especially with SEC play right
    around the corner? Do you still see them as an Omaha contender?

Aaron Fitt: Your assessment of the pitching staff is
fair: they’ve had some good days and some off days, but mostly they’ve
battled and kept games within reach, which is all a pitching staff
needs to do at South Carolina. The offense (and the always-overlooked
defense) will take care of the rest. You’re right that they haven’t put
up big numbers lately, but I think it’s only a matter of time before
those bats break out in a big way. I’m not worried about the Gamecocks;
I do still see them as Omaha contenders. I would feel even better about
that if Sam Dyson would start to dominate, though. He hasn’t been great
the last two weeks.

    Jeramey (Atlanta): Virginia wins the weekend
    series in Tallahassee, I guess they can't be overlooked anymore and
    maybe people will start giving them the credit they deserve. With this
    being said, are they the team to beat in the ACC right now, or is a
    team like Ga Tech? I know they just lost the weekend series at home but
    can you count out Florida State just yet? 3 teams in the top 5 who do
    you think wins the ACC?

Aaron Fitt: Yeah, the voices clamoring that Virginia
shouldn’t be No. 1 have really quieted down this week, haven’t they? I
think Virginia showed this weekend that it is unquestionably the team
to beat in the ACC — but I would never count out Florida State. The
Seminoles will probably win their division (though Clemson will give
them a run for their money), and Virginia will certainly have its hands
full in its division with a very good Georgia Tech team, plus Miami and
North Carolina. I think Virginia will wind up winning the ACC, though.
The Cavs have already passed their biggest test of the regular season
by winning that series in Tallahassee. Clearly, they can handle

    Mike (Brookline, MA): Almost a month into the season, what have you/BA been most surprised with in the SEC?

Aaron Fitt: I’ve been slightly surprised by how well
Kentucky has started even despite the Paxton distraction, but that team
is very talented and nobody should be surprised to see it in a
regional. And I’ve certainly been surprised by Georgia’s swoon,
although injuries definitely played their part in that. I still think
Georgia will right the ship, though.

    Dale (Tampe, AZ): Is MacPhee a legit 2011 prospect? Chris Bisson type maybe?

Aaron Fitt: You know, Bisson’s not a bad comp,
although Bisson’s got a few inches on MacPhee. I do think Zack MacPhee
is a legit prospect — he’s got extremely quick hands and has learned
how to switch-hit in the last year or so, which certainly gives him
extra value. He’s an exciting, explosive player.

    Ian (Pearl River, NY): What are your thoughts
    on the UK Wildcats? They're rolling without Paxton and Bisson. They'd
    be even better if John Wall could play SS and DeMarcus Cousins could

Aaron Fitt: To be fair, the Wildcats rolled over a
1-12 IPFW team this weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I think Kentucky’s
good, but remember that the sledding gets a lot tougher with SEC play
beginning this weekend against Ole Miss, followed by trips to
Vanderbilt and Arkansas and a home series against Alabama. That is a
very tough stretch, and we’ll have a much better idea of just how good
Kentucky is four weeks from now.

    V (Chicago): Arizona State is now a perfect 15-0 after sweeping Auburn. How can they not be in the top 5 teams by now?

Aaron Fitt: As I said last week, Arizona State has had
a top-five caliber start to the season, but the teams ahead of them
keep winning. Arizona State hasn’t shown any reason why it should be
jumped ahead of Louisville (which just won a tough road series at Ole
Miss) or Coastal Carolina (which is 15-2 and has two wins over UC
Irvine), and we weren’t going to slide LSU from No. 2 to No. 10 after
losing one series. Teams can only move up in the rankings when there is
room to do so; remember that when one team goes up, another team must
come down. And Coastal and Louisville do not deserve to come down so
the Sun Devils can move up.

    Jason (Connecticut): How far out of the top 25 or top 30 teams in the country do you see UConn?

Aaron Fitt: The Huskies are a ways out of the top 25
discussion — beating Ohio State is not enough to offset losing games
to Tennessee and Marshall this weekend — but I feel good about my
preseason prediction that they’ll be in regionals. Right now, UConn
looks like the No. 2 team in the Big East. George Springer might be a
top 10 overall pick in 2011 — he’s generating all kinds of buzz.

    Mack (Los Gatos): Where do you see the duo
    from Pepperdine going in the draft? Bywater beat Fullerton and Cook
    just threw a complete game victory over East Carolina and both of them
    threw very well in losses against LSU.

Aaron Fitt: Cook is the better draft prospect and
could be drafted in the top 50 picks somewhere. Bywater is an excellent
college pitcher with good run and sink on his 88-89 fastball, a good
slow curve and a changeup with good sink. He’s not a big-time draft
guy, but I bet he’ll go in the top 10 rounds somewhere. It’ll be
interesting to see if Pepperdine can build off this East Carolina
series and build some momentum heading into WCC play. The Waves have
played a tough schedule, but that 6-9 start is disappointing.

    Grant (Atlanta): Is Deck McGuire starting to
    separate himself as the top college pitcher available for the upcoming
    draft with Ranaudo sitting out another week?

Aaron Fitt: I think he’s starting to separate himself
as the top college righthander available. Drew Pomeranz and maybe Chris
Sale are still firmly in the discussion for top college pitcher overall
— but I like McGuire the best of the bunch.

    Jeramey (Atlanta): With the SEC having 7 teams
    and the ACC having 6 teams in the top 25 right now, which is the
    stronger conference? Both have heavy hitters with the likes of Florida
    and LSU in the SEC and Virginia, FSU, and GT in the ACC, which
    Conference is tougher and who gets more teams into the tournament at
    the end of the season?

Aaron Fitt: I do actually like the ACC a bit more at
the top, but the SEC is deeper, and the SEC will get more teams into
regionals, as always.

    Steve (Bryan, TX): What is going on with A&M shortstop Adam Smith? He has all the tools but seems to really be under-performing.

Aaron Fitt: Rob Childress did not sound terribly
concerned about Smith when I spoke with him last week. He’s gotten off
to a rough start, but Childress said Smith still has a chance to hit
double-digit homers this year.

    Brad (Baton Rouge): Fitt,
    I am wondering what teams you have seen throw a baseball or swing a bat
    this year? Texas? LSU? Arizona State? Georgia Tech? Florida? Florida

Aaron Fitt: Not quite sure what you’re driving at
here, but in person I have seen ranked teams Virginia, Texas, TCU,
Louisville, Rice and East Carolina so far this year, as well as Texas
Tech, Houston, Missouri, Ohio State, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, St.
John’s, South Florida, UConn, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Indiana,
Villanova, Cincinnati, Penn State and Northwestern. That enough for you
through four weeks?

    Jeff (Washington DC): How would you compare
    Texas' home series loss to New Mexico and LSU's home series loss to
    Kansas? You projected Kansas to be a 2 seed in the tournament and you
    didn't pick NM to win their conference. That leads me to believe all NM
    has going for it is right now is that it beat Texas and Kansas is the
    far superior opponent. On top of that, LSU was without its 2 most
    talented starting pitchers and Landry was forced to DH with a hamstring
    injury. As far as I know, Texas was full strength versus NM. LSU drops
    5 spots after a 12-0 start. Texas only drops 2. I think LSU has proven
    itself against some pretty good teams early in the season (W&M gave
    UNC and UVA all they wanted, Pepperdine has singles over Fullerton,
    Irvine and a series over ECU, ULM beat Drew Pomeranz, Brown played a
    good series at South Carolina). I remember back when Texas lost you
    justified the minor drop by pointing out LSU lost to Illinois last
    year, but rebound to win the title. Now we are talking about the same
    LSU program losing an early series, but you drop them over twice as
    far. What is the reason?

Aaron Fitt: I do like Kansas better than New Mexico,
but let’s also not forget that Kansas was without Tony Thompson — who
is by far its best player, the 2009 Big 12 triple crown winner — plus
No. 2 starter Lee Ridenhour and its cleanup hitter, Jimmy Waters, for
the last two games. But this is apples and oranges — if LSU had lost
this series the first weekend, it probably only would have dropped a
couple of spots also, and likewise if Texas had lost its series this
weekend instead of the first weekend, it would have dropped further. We
know more about these teams now than we did the first weekend. This was
LSU’s first legitimate test of the season — its first series against a
legit regional contender — and it failed, losing a series at home to
an unranked opponent. Texas (sweeping Stanford, beating Rice), TCU
(winning a road series at Fullerton), Florida State (crushing Georgia
and Florida) and Florida (winning a road series against Miami) have all
racked up better wins than LSU has this year. That said, LSU did not
need to put together a particularly rigorous nonconference schedule
because it will be tested plenty in SEC play. The Tigers will have a
chance to rebound this weekend against Arkansas, and if they do,
they’ll have something on their resume to hang their hats on.

    Bob (Chicago): Was this Coastal Carolina's one "pardon" for the season with the bad loss to Illinois Friday night?

Aaron Fitt: C’mon now, the Chanticleers went 5-1 on
the week. You don’t need a pardon for a 5-1 week — I don’t care who
the loss was against (and in this case, Illinois is not a bad team
anyway; probably the No. 4 team in the Big Ten when it’s all said and
done). Playing six games in one week is very difficult, and Coastal
handled it with aplomb.

    David (MD): After following the UVA-FSU
    weekend series, and the Cavs other games... I've got to ask — Is
    Virginia's pitching just not as good as it's been in years past? The
    Friday and Saturday starts seem set, but it seems to get thin fast
    after that. Plus, Hultzen hasn't gone very deep in his outings, taxing
    the bullpen early in the series.

Aaron Fitt: Virginia’s pitching staff is not as deep
as it has been — that is true. The Cavs are still looking for more
from Cody Winiarski on Sundays, though I wouldn’t be shocked to see
freshman Branden Kline wind up in that role before season’s end — he’s
got a special arm. We also saw Virginia’s lack of bullpen depth exposed
a little bit on Sunday. Not many teams have two guns in the bullpen as
reliable as Tyler Wilson and Kevin Arico, but the Cavs had to go back
to Wilson on Sunday, and he served up the game-winner to Tyler Holt.
Virginia must be at least a bit concerned about wearing him out.

    Greg (Knoxville): I'm hesitant to believe
    Clemson is for real this year after what have been an overall
    disappointing last 2 seasons, despite a Super Regional appearance last
    year. We've yet to face great pitching and I'm still a little skeptical
    though very hopeful. Are you skeptical regarding Clemson and what will
    it take to convince you we are back on the national scene and
    potentially an Omaha contender? Thanks

Aaron Fitt: Clemson is for real. I would argue that
the Tigers were clearly Omaha contenders last year, considering they
hosted and won a regional and were just two wins away from Omaha. Their
core of athletic hitters has matured nicely, and they’ve got depth all
over the place. They also showed toughness this weekend, fighting from
behind to win the last two games of the NC State series. The last
couple of years, it seems like Clemson hasn’t quite had that killer
instinct, and has missed some good opportunities to win big series.
This year, I get the feeling they’re finding ways to win.

    carl (fairfax, va): so far it's been a very
    interesting, competitive college season. do you see any clear cut
    favorites after the first month. Lot's of surprises so far.

Aaron Fitt: I don’t think there is a clear-cut
favorite for the national title. I think any of the top dozen or so
teams could realistically make a run for the title, and several teams
outside the top 12 (Arkansas, Rice, Irvine, Cal State Fullerton) will
be major factors by the time June rolls around. I think Virginia has
earned the No. 1 spot in the rankings, but we don’t conclusively know
anything in mid-March. Stay tuned — a lot can change between now and

Aaron Fitt: OK folks, that’s it for today. See you next week!