College Top 25 Chat: March 21

Aaron Fitt: Hi everybody! Let’s get right to it.

    Jonathan (Troy, AL): Still no Troy in the Top 25?? Are they in the picture? They are 16-4 and playing some really good baseball right now.

Aaron Fitt: Hi Jonathan. Troy is very much in the picture. We had a group of teams with good records competing for the two
open Top 25 spots this week, but all had holes in their resumes. Auburn
was easy, after beating Alabama and Arkansas this week. But then Oregon
State, UC Irvine, Troy, Southern Miss, Texas State and East Carolina (with Oregon and Stetson also in the mix) all garnered support for the last spot. But all of those teams were just a couple of quality victories shy of being rock-solid top 25 teams. Troy has the edge over Southern Miss because of the head-to-head series win, but the rest of Troy’s resume is just a bit shy when it comes to really quality wins. We
wound up going with the team we thought had the best overall talent: Oregon State.

    Alex (Concord): How about that East Carolina pitching staff!?

Aaron Fitt: It’s a very good staff, certainly the strength of that team. Seth Maness, Mike Wright and Kevin Brandt are dogged competitors who throw strikes and mix speeds well, and all three threw well this weekend against Rutgers. I really like Brad Mincey in a bullpen role — he and Seth Simmons have both been money at the back of that pen. ECU’s pitching will carry it to a lot of wins this year.

    Jeff Sullivan (Belchertown MA): Still early, but how far has George Springer fallen on draft boards? Still in the top ten?

Aaron Fitt: He’s doing fine. He entered the season as the No. 2 college position player on the board after Rendon, and he still might be that guy, just because of his upside. His tools are just so loud — it’s huge raw power, big-time speed and defensive ability. We’ve said all along that there’s some risk with Springer — he’s not a finished product as a hitter, but you draft him for his upside. He’s certainly still a likely top 10 pick.

    Marc (Tallahassee): Hi Aaron,
    I know at the beginning of the season and in the preseason your rankings
    are determined primarily by evaluating a team's talent and potential. By the end of the season, I assume it shifts almost entirely to being production focused. At what point in the season are we now for your rankings system. Are you still heavily focused on potential, split evenly between potential and production, or giving more weight to production?

Aaron Fitt: You’ve got a great handle on our rankings, Marc! It’s a sliding scale, starting with 100 percent potential-based in
the preseason and gradually shifting more toward results as the season progresses. We’re somewhere in the middle of that scale right now, and we are certainly starting to lean more toward production. For instance, even now, I still believe UConn can be dangerous by the end of the season—but that’s not even close to a Top 25 resume, so the Huskies are
out. And of course, UConn’s probably going to have to win the automatic
bid just to make a regional, after scuffling through the pre-conference

    Scott (St. Louis): What a dominating pitching performance from the Gators, shutting down the LSU attack. It looks like UF's weekness, and it is a small one, is its offense. Austin Maddox
    has been MIA and Brian Johnson has also been slow to start this year. With their pitching, they may not need much. The starters get a lot of credit, but their bullpen has been phenominal. What are your thoughts?

Aaron Fitt: I don’t see the offense as a weakness, honestly. Maddox and Johnson will get going, and when they do Florida will be even more dangerous — I’m really not worried about those guys. Daniel Pigott’s emergence has really been a major development for the offense (as I write about in today’s Three Strikes). But you are correct
in ascertaining that the pitching staff is the team’s greatest strength. It’s just absurdly deep, and that depth loomed large in the Sunday game against LSU.

    Jeff Sullivan (Belchertown MA): After Gerrit Cole, who is the best college RHP in the draft?

Aaron Fitt: Plenty of candidates, but I’d probably lean
toward Sonny Gray by a nose over Taylor Jungmann and Matt Barnes, at this point. You could take any of those three guys, though, and it would
be tough to argue.

    Billy (Tallahassee, FL): Wow! 3 games, 3 extra inning affairs for the Seminoles vs. Caviliers. Will college baseball see a better regular season series the rest of the year? 3 one run ball games is crazy.

Aaron Fitt: Yeah, that’s as exciting a series as you’ll
see all weekend, I’ll wager. Two very evenly matched teams that played at a high level. I think if you played that series in Tallahassee, maybe
you’d see three extra-innings games with Florida State taking two of them — but who knows? Clearly those two teams are the class of the ACC.

    Matt (MD): Aaron, I was wondering if you could give an 20-80 type scouting report for Taylor Jungmann? His early season
    results are very impressive, but I'm wondering if the lack of Ks is an indication that his ML-upside is limited?

Aaron Fitt: Not at all — he can just be very efficient
when he needs to be, and that was the case Friday. He’s a mature guy, and he knows he can trust his defense to make plays behind him, allowing
him to conserve his pitch count. It’s probably a 60-65 fastball, a 60 curveball, a 55 slider and a 55 changeup — just a really nice package. Maybe he’s not a future No. 1 starter in the big leagues, but I know scouts who think he can be a No. 2. That’s a pretty darn good upside.

    Michael (Charlotte NC): A10 baseball- URI had some nice road wins this weekend and has played a strong schedule as well. They are coming to Charlotte this weekend for 3. Is Rhody for real
    and ready to challenge for conference title or did their opponents this
    weekend just play poor games?

Aaron Fitt: I think URI is for real. In fact, I chatted
with Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan today, and he went out of his way to say how impressed he was with Rhode Island when the Gators played a three-game series against those guys. It’s a scrappy lineup filled with tough outs, led by speedy sparkplug Jeff Cammans and the athletic Tom Coulombe, and coach Jim Foster told me last week he’s really excited about his young arms. They do a great job developing pitchers at URI, and that staff should continue to get better as the year progresses. URI
has six solid senior pitchers that can help carry the load, and a quality junior lefty in Chris Pickering, but Foster says watch out for freshmen Kevin Lee and Nick Narodowy as the season goes along. Sophomore
Anthony Pisani has also seen a velocity spike, into the 91-92 range.

    j hudgins (hattiesburg,ms): Where does BA vollmuth stack up with the other top college bats this year. He has 7hr
    already and is slugging .710. Any other pro prospects on the southern miss team?

    thanks for the chat

Aaron Fitt: He’s got easy power potential, and that’s his best tool. He still strikes out a lot, which has always been a knock
on him, but he’s also drawing plenty of walks, which is a good sign. I think he’s probably a third baseman at the next level, but I think he’ll
hit for enough power to have a bright future at the hot corner. Talented guy, and has a chance to go in the top two rounds, I think.

    Dave McLean (Eugene, OR): What do you think of Oregon State's Sam Gaviglio? He had a perfect game until the 8th inning on Friday at Long Beach State, and has pitched 38 consecutive scoreless innings. He is 4-0 this year, with a 0.00 ERA.

Aaron Fitt: He can just really, really pitch — moves the ball in and out, has good sink and run on his fastball, can go to the slider or changeup whenever he wants. See today’s Golden Spikes Spotlight (in Three Strikes) for more on Gaviglio.

    Jeff Sullivan (Belchertown MA): First college catcher taken Susac or O'Brien?

Aaron Fitt: Susac — his stock is really on the rise. He’s made huge strides at the plate this year, and he crushed a homer at
Blair Field against Andrew Gagnon on Friday. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Susac wind up in the top 10.

    Steven (New Orleans): I'm curious as to why Southern Miss is not ranked in the Top 25? Reason I ask is due to our strong RPI, the strength of C-USA, beating two of your Top 5 teams this weekend (CofC, UConn),record of 15-3 and being #25 in Collegiate Baseball's poll.

Aaron Fitt: I’ve already addressed USM’s omission — biggest reason is the series loss to Troy, and this weekend was really the first time they’ve beaten regional-caliber competition. They also have a series split against Louisiana-Lafayette. The RPI is meaningless this early in the season (do you really think East Tennessee State is the 12th-best team in the country? They’re No. 12 in the RPI), and we certainly don’t consider other Top 25 polls when putting together our own rankings.

    Steven (Atlanta, GA): Georgia Tech has been on a
    hot streak recently sweeping their first two ACC series, though not exactly baseball powerhouses. What do you expect from Tech's young team
    at Georgia on Tuesday and Miami this weekend?

Aaron Fitt: Tech’s pitching is really, really good, and
its young hitters have answered the call through the first five weeks. That’s a dangerous, talented team, and I’d have to peg it as the favorite against Georgia and Miami, even on the road.

    Butch (Arlington, TX): Is there a team or teams
    that you believe were built around power that are now struggling because of the bat changes? if so will this change the makeup of players
    recruited to improve chances of creating offense\runs rather than waiting on a 3 run bomb offense?

Aaron Fitt: North Carolina State is the perfect example
— that team scored a lot of runs last year, but its offense just has not adjusted to the new bats. There is no question teams will have to start shifting their recruiting efforts toward athletes — speed guys and sure-handed defenders — and strike-throwers.

    Joe (Greenville, NC): East Carolina misses after a 5-0 week while sporting the nation's best team ERA at 1.67. What else do they have to do?

Aaron Fitt: Beat a team with any chance to go to a regional. ECU has played one team that fits that description — Virginia, and it lost two out of three there. Give ECU credit for winning that one game on the road, but that’s not quite enough to make it a top 25 team.

    Bob (Texas): What is going on with the Big 10? Two mediocre teams from 2010 in Purdue and Penn State are leading the conference while the winner from last year in Minnesota is plummeting. Whats your take on Purdue? Are they a legit NCAA team?

Aaron Fitt: Minnesota did at least win a series at Sacramento State this weekend, and I still like the Gophers to win the Big Ten’s automatic bid — they’ll round into shape in conference play, as they did a year ago. But Purdue does look like it will be a significant factor. That’s a good offensive club (as evidenced by its .331 batting average and 14 homers, which is hard to do with these bats,
even though though the Boilermakers haven’t really faced any real good pitching staffs yet except for Vanderbilt, which shut them out in a midweek game). The jury is still out on Purdue because of the competition level it has faced so far, but it’s an older club with some firepower in the lineup and a few good arms, most notably Brad Schreiber.

    ScottAZ (Phx, AZ): Whats the latest on ASU's appeal? It would be a shame for them to miss out on the post season. They look like they could make a 3rd straight CWS

Aaron Fitt: The Arizona Republic’s fine ASU beat man, Jeff Metcalfe, reported late last week that a hearing has been set for May 16, just two weeks before selection day, to address ASU’s appeal. It
would certainly be a shame if the Sun Devils don’t get a chance to make
another Omaha run, because I agree with you — that’s an Omaha-caliber team.

    Mike (MS): As far as new teams to enter the rankings, Oregon State goes 2-1 on the weekend against a 10-9 Long Beach
    State team while USM goes 3-0 and beats 2 top 20 teams and no ranking.....confused. I realize you are going to put certain programs in first over others, but this one is cutting it a little thin. Big weekend coming up...USM v. Tulane to start conference, shapes up to be a
    good one.

Aaron Fitt: Last Southern Miss question. Both teams have two nice wins on their resumes against preseason top 25 teams that are no longer ranked: both beat UConn, and OSU beat Oregon while USM beat CofC. Other than that, their resumes are pretty similar, but Oregon
State does not have a losing weekend (USM does), and I like Oregon State’s talent just a smidge better (though it’s very close — Southern Miss is talented too).

    John (Charlotte): Can Gardner-Webb Running Bulldogs get any love?

Aaron Fitt: You know it’s not your day when even the Gardner-Webb fans are giving you a hard time! Gardner-Webb has been a nice story so far. It’s an offensive team, and the offense carried it to
a real nice series win against St. John’s last weekend. Dusty Quattlebaum and Daniel Merck give the Bulldogs a couple of real nice anchors in that lineup — both have been hitting and flashing some power, and Merck can run, too. Big South sleeper? Maybe so — let’s wait
and see.

    Nick (Tallahassee (FL)): So Florida State goes 1-3 this week, but all three of those losses are to #1 Florida and #3 UVA, and all three were extra inning affairs on the road. I can tell by
    your rankings you still have faith in Florida state, only dropping them
    one spot to #7. But as a fan, I am concerned with FSU being able to finish (we were leading late in all three games). How much confidence can a team gain from having a week like FSU had?

Aaron Fitt: I don’t think Florida State has much to worry about. When you’re playing elite teams on the road, these things will happen. FSU showed a lot of resilience in holding on to win that Sunday game, even after Virginia came back the last time. That’s a confidence builder, I think, after three heart-breaking losses earlier in the week. I really like FSU’s bullpen, which is deep and has a variety of different looks, not to mention a rock at the back with McGee
(though, clearly, he is not infallible).

    jb (SC): Can South Carolina's bats scratch out enough against Florida's pitching to make this weekend a success for the
    Gamecocks? It seems to me like the SEC is very top heavy w/ SC, Vandy, and UF at the top....then everyone else. What are your thoughts? Thanks for the great coverage as always!!

Aaron Fitt: I like South Carolina’s team a lot… but obviously, I like Florida’s team better than any other team in college baseball, and I’m not prepared to pick any team to go into Gainesville and win a series. Florida has swept five straight weekend series, because its weekend rotation is really good (considerably more steady than South Carolina’s, at this point) and its bullpen is superb. Doesn’t
mean South Carolina can’t win the series, but the Gamecocks will certainly be an underdog.

    Rob (College Station, TX): Now that Ross Stripling has stepped in and taken over the Sunday starter role for Texas A&M, do they have the second-best weekend rotation in the Big 12 (after Texas) with Stilson, Wacha and Stripling?

Aaron Fitt: I think so, and I think you can make a case
that the Aggies have just as good a rotation as Texas, given Cole Green’s inconsistency. You have to give Jungmann an advantage on Fridays, but John Stilson really is not far behind, and Wacha has been better than Green. Both teams have elite staffs.

    Bill (Memphis, TN): My 13 year old and I watched the weekend series between Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. Sonny Gray and Grayson Garvin both looked dominant and Vandy jumped out to 4-0, 6-2, and 8-4 leads in Sunday's game before multiple pitchers failed to hold the lead. Do you think this was a fluke or will the lack
    of a dominant closer stand between Vanderbilt and a trip to Omaha?

Aaron Fitt: A fluke. Vandy’s bullpen is outstanding, with Mark Lamm and Navery Moore dominating in the late innings most days. Sunday was really the first hiccup for Moore.

Aaron Fitt: OK folks, that’s it for today. Remember: we
here at Baseball America respect your favorite team’s program, even if you’re not quite in the Top 25. There are a lot more good teams in college baseball than there is room in the Top 25. See you next week.