College Top 25 Chat: March 18

College Top 25 Chat With Aaron Fitt

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Moderator: Aaron Fitt will answer your college baseball questions beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Aaron Fitt: Good afternoon, everybody. Hope you had a nice Week 5 — hard to believe we’re already more than a third of the way through the season. Time flies when you’re having fun, I guess. Let’s chat.

Jeff (Washington D.C.): Last week you said "No team ranked above them (LSU) has more than two losses, and they've all played stronger schedules." Today, I come with data.
LSU is 3-1 in true road games against the RPI Top 20. The only other BA top 10 team to have played a top 20 team on the road is GA Tech (2 of 3 at VT). South Carolina did take 1 game at RPI #21 Clemson. In parenthesis is the highest RPI rank of a true road opponent for the remainder of the BA top 10: UNC (102), Vanderbilt (42), Oregon State (67), Louisville (200), Ole Miss (87), Fullerton (80), Kentucky (57).
In addition to LSU's impressive road record against the top 20, LSU has 8
wins against the RPI top 50. BA's beloved Tar Heels have 4 (11 wins against 101-200). The remainder of the BA top 10: Vanderbilt has 6, the battle tested Beavers have 0, Louisville has 2, South Carolina has 5, Ole Miss has 5, Fullerton has 5, GA Tech has 6 and Kentucky has 2.

All of the 17+ other college baseball polls, including all of the RPI formulas, have LSU in the top 3. BA has LSU 7th. Could you please address the LSU fans who believe BA holds a bias against their beloved Tigers?


Aaron Fitt: Hey, fans love to feel like everybody is out to get them. The media especially — everybody knows the media is biased, right? Look, when everybody ranked ahead of you wins their series, it’s hard to move up. Who should we have dropped behind LSU this
week? Ole Miss, after taking two of three at Arkansas? South Carolina, which won a conference road series and also has a nice series win against Clemson? Louisville, which had an unbeaten week and also owns a sweep against Alabama? Oregon State, which swept three at defending national champion Arizona? Vandy, which swept a road series? UNC, which took its first loss of the season but still won a quality series against
Miami? You can argue that we were too low on LSU coming into the season, when we had them No. 9, but there were legit questions about LSU
coming into the season, and they’ve mostly been answered (I’ll need to see Cody Glenn do it against SEC competition before I’m convinced the Sunday starter question is resolved). I really like LSU, but I also really like the six teams we have ranked ahead of the Tigers. And we have been consistent for three decades with our methodology — when the teams in front of you win, you’re rarely going to jump over them.

Brad (Chicago): How come Ave Maria didn't break
into the Top 25 this week? They already have 23 wins and knocked off baseball juggernaut Florida Gulf Coast. Did the Saturday DH losses to Indiana Institute of Technology and Spring Harbor U (Mich) keep the Gyrenes out of the ranking? I can't make this stuff up. Stick to the power conferences Fitt.


Aaron Fitt: Zing! OK, I’ll stick to the power conferences — I guess it was a mistake for us to rank Stony Brook in the final weekend of the regular season last year, while we had Miami unranked. I guess it was a mistake to have UConn ranked in the 2011 preseason (and heading into that Clemson regional). And I bet you think it was a mistake to rank Louisville in the top five in the preseason this year. Indiana? Please — what were we thinking on that one? Guess what: there is a lot of parity in college baseball, and Northern and mid-major teams can be dangerous. Just ask the Florida Gators.

WISM (NYC): Aaron, going to throw you with a non-Vandy question here. Kris Bryant moved from 3rd to 1st last year, but seemed like a guy who could stick at the hot corner in MiLB ball. What are some examples this year of other stars who've switched positions because of either team need or pro-prospects in the last couple of years (e.g., Tony Kemp)? Are there any All-American level players who you think will have to switch positions on the pro level? Thanks as always for the great chats.


Aaron Fitt: I don’t think Bryant or D.J. Peterson will stick at third base in pro ball. Rich Hill sees Bryant as a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder or first baseman; I kinda like the Jayson Werth
comp for him. Peterson will probably wind up as a first baseman, and he’ll have the bat to still provide lots of value. The same is true for Notre Dame’s Eric Jagielo. I don’t know if there are any true shortstops
in the college game right now who will stick at the position in the big
leagues; guys like Brandon Trinkwon and Adam Frazier are great college shortstops, but they profile as second basemen at the next level. Maybe Trea Turner has a chance at short, but I have a feeling he could end up playing center field — I see him as a better version of Gary Brown. JaCoby Jones could also wind up in center field at the next level, I think. So there are a bunch of preseason All-Americans who will likely wind up playing elsewhere.

Marc (Ohio): Hey what's the word on Elvin soto and were Does he rank with the top catchers in the country ?? Is Pitt gonna be a team to beat in the big east??


Aaron Fitt: I really like Soto — serious catch-and-throw skills, pop in the bat, and he’s got more walks than strikeouts this year. That was a major issue with him last year, when he
struck out 50 times and drew 14 walks. His approach is much better now,
and I think he might wind up being one of the best college catchers in this draft. But I admit I haven’t taken any scouts’ temperatures on him lately. Pitt’s got a solid club — strikes me as a 3rd to 5th-place team
in the Big East, behind Louisville and Notre Dame.

Larry (Joliet): When is Jeff Thompson going to get some love in the College Draft Prospects Stat Roundup? The 6'6" 250
pound right hander with a low 90's fastball and wipeout slider is 5-0 with a 0.55 ERA. In 32 IP he's allowed 18 hits 9 walks and 33 K's. Opponents are hitting .164 against him.


Aaron Fitt: He’s very intriguing, and he’s off to a lights-out start. I’m looking forward to seeing him in person this Saturday against Rutgers.

Paul (Tallahassee): Georgia Tech at FSU should be a great match-up this weekend at Dick Howser Stadium. Who do you like in this series and why?


Aaron Fitt: Yeah, that is a very intriguing matchup. I think it’s hard to bet against the Yellow Jackets right now — that offense is other-worldly, and they also get the edge in the pitching and
defense categories against FSU. Florida State will win a lot of games this year, obviously, but I think Georgia Tech is simply a better club this year.

Bobby (Reno): Can Bradey Shipley be a Top 10 overall pick or is that too rich for him? He certainly looked the part on Friday even if it was against Air Force. Thank you.


Aaron Fitt: Braden Shipley (Nevada) is a monster. A scout told me he saw him up to 98, pitching easily at 93-95 with a plus-plus changeup and an average to plus breaking ball. And he’s just so athletic and loose. Yes, I think he has top 10 pick potential — not many arms in this draft with more upside.

Steve (California): Loyola Marymount seems to be so close but can't get over that hump. Played good series at Oregon,
Oklahoma State and Pepperdine and could have won all those series without much of a reach. Do you think they can make a move in the right
direction and what is it that they need to do to make that jump? Do you think they will make the WCC tournament at the end of the year?


Aaron Fitt: Boy, you’re right — they’ve had some heart-breakers. Bret Dahlson had a nice year as LMU’s closer last year, but coming into the season Jason Gill was still just a little bit nervous about him because his command is still a work in progress and his emotions can get the better of him at times. “It’s a heart attack,” is how Gill described Dahlson save chances back in January, and that’s how it’s been this year. Oklahoma State walked off against him twice in the ninth last week, Pepperdine did it yesterday, and UNLV did it two weeks ago. This team has competed well, but it has not been able to finish.

Bill (Hamilton, NJ): Hi, Aaron....with a third of the season already played in most areas, what Mid Major Conferences are making a push for multiple bids that BA didn't figure on in your pre-season predictions? Think Big 10 is sort of a Mid Major in Baseball...
Also, do you think Miami will qualify for the ACC tourney? I don't...


Aaron Fitt: Yeah, the Big Ten is a de facto mid-major in baseball — if you’re a league that gets one or two regional bids a league, you’re just not a power conference. And yes, I think that is looking like it could be a multiple-bid league, especially if Indiana doesn’t take the automatic bid. Maybe the Sun Belt, if teams like South Alabama and Louisiana-Lafayette keep playing well, although those teams haven’t played the strongest schedules so it’s hard to know how good they are at this point. The A-Sun’s got a chance too — FGCU and Mercer both strike me as regional-caliber teams. But there are some RPI drains at the bottom of that conference…

Drew (Mississippi): How important is it to have a guy like tanner bailey of ole miss in the bullpen? 17 IP, 11H, 0R, 3BB, 23K.


Aaron Fitt: Yeah, he’s been nails for them. I watched Sunday’s game on ESPN3, and Bailey was in complete control after that seventh inning — pitches downhill, has a nice slider and changeup, just
a really nice veteran piece in that bullpen. Ole Miss is awfully loaded
on the mound.

Tim (San Francisco): Cole Sulser has thrown the
ball extremely well in his return from Tommy John surgery for good Dartmouth team. Is he a draft prospect?


Aaron Fitt: He’s not a big-time prospect, but he does have arm strength and a very good slider — I think he could definitely get a chance in pro ball.

KC (Durham,NC): Thanks for the great work you and your fellow college baseball journalists do. Just curious about your
ranking process at BA: how many of you are involved, when do you get together, how do you get together now that you're on the west coast?


Aaron Fitt: Thanks, KC. There are about a half-dozen of
us that meet on a conference call every Monday morning (bright and early out here, around 7 a.m.) and hash it out. I’ll prepare a Top 25 worksheet every Sunday night — the Top 25 Tracker file that you guys see on our website, with some other teams at the bottom for consideration. Then we meet and talk it through — it’s more a caucus than a straight vote, which is why we use the term “rankings” rather than “poll.”

Alex (Fairfax, VA): Thanks for doing the chats,
guys. UVa's Kyle Crockett has been a dominant 14k:0bb in 12.1ip with a 0.73 era so far, although against admittedly weak competition until recently. He's being used as a reliever (presumably moment of truth). Do
you think a deployable reliever or a weekend starter (3 or even 2) is more valuable? Is O'Connor (who is brilliant) one of the few who would use 1 of his top 2 pitchers this way?


Aaron Fitt: First of all, I agree that O’Connor is a brilliant baseball guy — that coaching staff always gets the most out of its talent, and they’re very good at identifying talent too. It’s certainly not unheard of for college teams to use some of their best arms in the bullpen where they can impact multiple games over the course
of the weekend, rather than just one game as a starter does. Obviously Matt Price at South Carolina is a notable example — he wanted to start,
so the Gamecocks let him start early last year, and he would have been fine in that role, but he was just too valuable in a relief role, so ultimately South Carolina moved him back to the pen. Tyler Wilson had a similar impact at UVa. — like Price, he was capable of starting or relieving, and he provided huge value in both roles over the course of his career, but the Cavs weren’t afraid of using him in the bullpen in their first game in Omaha in 2011 because he was so valuable there. With
all that said, Crockett started in the pen this year because he was dealing with a back issue the first two weeks, so the Cavs eased him back into action in shorter stints. A week and a half ago, O’Connor told
me he wasn’t sure whether Crockett would stick in that role or would wind up in the rotation long term — he was going to see how the next two weeks went. So far, it looks like Crockett is a real difference maker in the bullpen, and I’ll bet he sticks there.

Taylor (Houston): How close is UH to cracking the Top 25? I know they haven't played the best competition this year, but the record is there, and they look to be pretty solid this year. Looking forward to a big game tomorrow...


Aaron Fitt: I think with another winning week — with four games against Texas and East Carolina on deck — the Cougars could very well find themselves in the rankings. That team had a lot to prove this year coming off an 18-35 season a year ago, but this start has been
extremely encouraging. I really liked the young talent I saw from UH at
Minute Maid a couple of weeks ago, but I still wasn’t in love with the pitching — there is just a lack of power arms that excite you. But Conference USA is looking pretty mediocre this year, so there could be an opportunity for Houston to make some noise.

Taylor (Houston): Since the state of Texas got shut out in March Madness, it got me to seems to be a
bit down this year as well. What is going on in this great state?? Thanks!


Aaron Fitt: You’re right. With Texas, Texas A&M and
TCU all outside the Top 25, this is clearly not a banner year for baseball in the Lone Star State. Rice is the state’s only team in the rankings, and this doesn’t look like a vintage powerhouse Rice team, either. Baylor dropped way off after its watershed 2012 season; Dallas Baptist and Sam Houston State and Texas State don’t look as good as they
were last year. It’s just a down year. These things are cyclical, and the state will be back quickly, but we’re just not used to seeing Texas have a down cycle.

WISM (NYC): Aaron, being on the West Coast, what time do you start your Mondays such that you can finish up Pac12 baseball Sunday evening, catch a few Zs, and then have your Top 25 conference, type up the Top 25 Tracker and record the Podcast with John?
I don't envy you your case of the Mondays.


Aaron Fitt: It’s a grind — I got about five hours of sleep last night. There’s usually a post-chat nap on the Monday afternoon agenda…

Derrick (Charlottesville): Not to be a homer, but is there a better "young" team in the country than UVA? Starting 5 new defensive players and 2 new pitchers in the weekend rotation and still being ranked in the top 15 is nothing short of remarkable.


Aaron Fitt: I agree — it is pretty remarkable. We were
worried about the pitching coming into the year, which is why we did not rank the Cavs in the preseason Top 25, but the coaches have done a great job bringing those young arms along, and the lineup is downright exciting. I love that sophomore class.

Taylor (Houston): I didn't make it out to Reckling this weekend, but looks like Rice played pretty well in all aspects. Was it just that they played Harvard, or do you think they are
figuring it all out? Maybe they just needed to beat up on some light competition to get everything clicking.


Aaron Fitt: Hard to say, I think — that’s why we didn’t move Rice much in the rankings. They were a 9-7 team coming into the weekend, so they needed to do some work to justify their top-20 ranking. But the early returns from Conference USA are awfully uninspiring, and I have a feeling Rice is going to dominate this league as it so often does. If that happens, the Owls will probably host a regional and have a decent shot to get to Omaha.

Carlos (San Diego, CA): Who are your top 5 college picks for this year's draft? Kris Bryant and Jonathan Gray make the cut right?


Aaron Fitt: If the draft were today, I’d probably go with those two along with Appel, Manaea and Colin Moran. Philip Ervin, Braden Shipley and D.J. Peterson have to be in that discussion too. Stock falling: Stanek, Jonathon Crawford, Austin Wilson.

Chris (Boston): The CAA seems to have a lot more parity than usual. Who do you think is the biggest surprise?


Aaron Fitt: You know, I feel like last year was the aberration, with Wilmington winning it by four games. So often it seems like there are 4 or 5 teams tied for first place heading into the final weekend — that league can be a real dog fight. We expected Georgia State to have a very good offense this year, and the Panthers have slugged their way to a very good start, but the pitching is still a concern. I suppose the biggest surprise is Towson, playing well with the
sword of Damocles hanging over its head. That road series win at Duke early on looks nice after the Blue Devils took two of three at Miami last week. And the Tigers scored a ton of runs in a sweep of Hofstra this weekend — that looks like another very potent offensive club. There could be plenty of fireworks in the CAA this year.

Evan (Detroit): Michigan OF Michael O'Neill seems to be tearing it up this fall, despite it being sub 30 degrees in MI. Safe to say he's one of the top OF draft prospects and potentially a
1st rounder?


Aaron Fitt: I know Jim Callis really likes him, and so do I. He’s got superb raw tools, with elite speed, good power potential and arm strength, but he had a propensity to chase too many breaking balls out of the zone in the past. So far this year, he’s hitting for average — looks like he’s taken the leap. Sure, I could see him going in the first round if he keeps this up.

Mitch (California): Thoughts on USD Catcher Dillon Haupt? I know Bryant gets the majority of the accolades on that team but Haupt seems to be the unsung hero of the Toreros.


Aaron Fitt: You nailed it — Haupt has been invaluable,
giving Bryant a little protection in that lineup. Nice to have a catcher with that kind of experience, too. He’s got a chance to be an All-American this year.

Carson (Birmingham): Are you all that worried about Mississippi State? We let that Friday game slip away against LSU. Still feel good about our chances as a title contender?


Aaron Fitt: Not concerned. MSU was in position to win that game Friday, and if it had held on, you’d be feeling pretty good after taking two of three from LSU. There’s a fine line between winning a
series and losing one. I still love Mississippi State’s talent and depth, and I still strongly believe that is an Omaha team. But LSU sure as heck looks like an Omaha team too.

Adam (Virginia): Georgia Tech is scoring a crazy 10 runs a game right now. Do you see this lineup staying this hot
or do you think they will cool down against tougher conference competition? If they keep hitting like this they could finally break through in the postseason.


Aaron Fitt: I can’t imagine they finish the season averaging 10 runs per game — too much quality pitching in the ACC. But I
do think it is the best offense in college baseball, and I expect the Jackets to continue scoring bushels of runs all season long.

Max (Maryland): Maryland took 1 and lost 2 by a
combined 2 runs vs FSU this weekend. Is Maryland a legitimate team this
year or is FSU just not as good as we thought?


Aaron Fitt: Well, we thought FSU was a 20-25 kind of team in the preseason, and I still feel more comfortable with the Seminoles as a solid top-20 team than an elite top-10 team. But Maryland
is not bad — some quality veterans on that club, and some legit talent. It won’t be easy for the Terps to get a regional bid in that league, but Maryland should give plenty of people trouble this season, and it has at least a chance to make the postseason.

Pete (Denver): Is UCLA the biggest threat to Oregon State in the pac-12?


Aaron Fitt: I still see UCLA, Oregon and Stanford being
on the same tier, all behind Oregon State. Stanford is too talented to stay outside the Top 25 for long — those guys will rebound and will be very dangerous when they get healthy. UCLA has lots of pitching, but the
offense does not excite me. The Bruins could be the No. 2 team in that league, but they could just as easily finish fourth or fifth.

John (Birmingham, AL): Very early I know but several SEC schools that could easily be hovering around or below .500 at season's end (Georgia, Auburn, Florida, Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama). You think the committee might top the conference out at 8 teams? Maybe 9? And which 2-3 of those listed do you think will turn it around most, if any?


Aaron Fitt: Out of that group, I think Auburn and Florida have the best shots to turn it around and make runs at regionals. I still think the SEC has a good shot to send nine teams to regionals now that it has expanded to 14 teams, but I’m feeling less optimistic about its chances to send 10 teams in light of Florida’s sluggish start and Texas A&M’s inconsistency. I don’t see Mizzou, Georgia, Tennessee or Alabama as regional teams.

Chris (Portland, OR): Do you see the Beavers, who were able to bounce back from an early-in-the-week-loss, sweeping a string UA team in the desert as a surprise as to just how good this team
can be? Or was that almost expected already based on their performance
this season so far?


Aaron Fitt: I wasn’t surprised. Were you? The Beavers just have a better all-around club this year, and it’s not like they’re unaccustomed to playing on the road.

Carlos (San Diego): Has Dylan Covey done anything to improve his draft stock this year ?


Aaron Fitt: No — still waiting for him to put it all together. Rich Hill says the stuff has been good, the delivery is cleaner, the breaking ball command is better, but the results just haven’t been there. He’s still not fine with his command, and he needs to learn how to work deeper into games. Hill said he thinks Covey is on the verge of a breakout, but until he does break out, we’ll have to take
a wait-and-see approach to his draft stock.

Ronnie (Alabama): The SEC West looks to be a shootout that may not be decided until the final weekend.......your thoughts?


Aaron Fitt: I agree with your assessment. It’s going to be a battle.

Mike Garbus (Smithville, Missouri): Aaron, are you as stunned as I am about how some teams are, for them, struggling so
far __ squads like TAMU, Baylor, TCU, Rice, Florida, Arizona, North Carolina State and Kent State. Or was I expecting too much to begin with?


Aaron Fitt: I think TCU’s struggles are the most stunning — I felt sure that was a Top 25 team this year, and we picked them to win the Big 12. After losing their first conference series to Kansas, TCU is 8-11 overall. I still think they could get it turned around, but man, they’re hitting .245 as a team. Cron, Odell and Suiter are the keys to the whole thing there — all three of those guys are below the Mendoza line.

Aaron Fitt: OK folks, that’s all for today. Thanks for stopping by, as always! I’ll be on the road the next two weeks — look forward to chatting with you next Monday from the Bluegrass State.