College Top 25 Chat: March 22

Aaron Fitt: Hey everyone — I’ll get started in a minute or two — bear with me.

    Tyler (Wiggins(MS)): Does Ole Miss have a decent Sunday starter on their roster? If not, who would you start on Sundays?

Aaron Fitt: Sorry for the delay — let’s get to it.
Trent Rothlin has had his ups and downs, but his three shutout innings
in relief Sunday were encouraging, and I think he’s the best bet to
secure the No. 3 starter role. He has a very good arm, it’s just a
matter of improving his consistency. It’s a long season — I think the
Rebels should give him a chance to find his stride.

    Russell (Fullerton, CA): With this weekend's
    sweep of Washington, do you believe that the Tirans have turned the
    corner and will perform as we all expected them to from the beginning?

Aaron Fitt: I do think they’ve turned the corner, and
talking with Dave Serrano yesterday, he thinks so, too. He said that
last year some of his team’s flaws were swept under the rug because
they were having so much success in nonconference games against teams
from other parts of the country that weren’t used to their style of
play. This team is starting to find its confidence, and it’s still
certainly talented enough to make an Omaha run. In fact, I still
believe the Titans will be in Omaha.

    Carlos (San Diego, CA): I got to watch Rice at
    USD this weekend and the star of the show was Anthony Rendon. His
    hitting power was as advertised, but I was most surprised by his poise
    and arm strength at third base. How does he compare with Pedro Alvarez
    during his Vandy days?

Aaron Fitt: I was a big Alvarez fan, but Rendon is
better. He’s more athletic, a better defender, and a more polished
hitter, with similar power potential — though you might give Alvarez a
slight edge in raw power.

    Ramon (coconut Grove): Big Miami fan but full
    disclosure a parent of one of the players. swept a scrappy Duke team
    this weekend, woulld like to ask two questions. Do you guys think this
    Miami team is a world series team. Seems to have the pitching and bats
    are timely. Second question, nothing to do with Miami, but a player on
    Duke. Our friday night game was a great pitching duel, Hernandez looked
    great , the lefty Manno who closed out the last 4 or 5 innings had our
    guys looking bad. Fast ball with crazy movement.Spoke with the boys
    after and all said Manno is real tuff , what do you guys have on him

Aaron Fitt: I was impressed with the look I got at
Miami on Saturday — athletic, fundamentally sound team with a pretty
good bullpen and lots of speed. I don’t think it’s an Omaha team,
partly because I really believe in Florida and Florida State and I
think the Canes will have trouble getting past those two in the
postseason. But it’s a good team with a real chance to win a regional.
Manno has been working his way back from injury and has been relegated
to the bullpen so far, but he will probably wind up back atop Duke’s
rotation soon. His fastball—in the high 80s currently—really does
play up because of its exceptional life, and he’s a great competitor.

    Mark (Gainesville): What caused Florida's big jump?

Aaron Fitt: A 5-0 week including a win against a very
good Florida State team. There was not a clear choice for No. 2 this
week, and Florida was kind of a compromise solution, honestly. The
meeting today was very difficult, but we did the best we could.

    Carlos (San Diego, CA): Arizona State's
    hitting was impressive during a 2 game set at Fullerton and it seems
    like everyone in the starting line-up is a sophmore. Is there a better
    group of sophmore hitters in the country and if so who?

Aaron Fitt: We ranked Arizona State’s recruiting class
No. 1 in the nation last year, and that ranking would have been
validated last year based solely on what Carlos Ramirez and Josh Spence
and Kole Calhoun did to help ASU get to Omaha. But that class was so
deep, and we were also excited about Zach Wilson and Zach MacPhee and
Riccio Torrez, etc. Now it’s very clear that ASU’s class last year was
very special. I think Arkansas, Virginia and Clemson have groups of
sophomore hitters that are in the discussion, too.

    Dan (Dallas): The horned frogs have been top
    five in the past two weeks. Is this their year to go to the CWS? Taylor
    Featherston and Jerome Pena have to be considered one of the best
    middle infield pairs in the country. What are your thoughts on them and
    the Frogs?

Aaron Fitt: The Frogs do have the look of an Omaha
team to me. Featherston and Pena are a very nice keystone combination,
but I wouldn’t put them in the class of the best DP tandems in the
nation, like Alabama’s Josh Rutledge and Ross Wilson (which would
probably get my vote for No. 1). Featherston’s defense is still a work
in progress, though it looks like he’s improved since last year.

    Steve (Owltown): Rice at 25. We're having a tough time figuring out our Owls. What's your take?

Aaron Fitt: Rice’s pitching is just average, which is
what we thought it would be coming into the season. But we also thought
the Owls would have an elite offensive and defensive unit that would
carry it to wins in most ballgames, and so far the lineup has been
disappointing. But I don’t think we mis-evaluated those players, I just
think they’ve gotten off to a slow start. Five weeks into the season,
it’s OK to wonder whether a “slow start” is turning into a “bad
season”, but it’s also too early to write off a team as talented and
well coached as Rice. I still believe the lineup will come around,
though I don’t feel as strongly about that conviction as I did a few
weeks ago.

    Dan (CA): Thanks for helping us through
    another Monday. Now that we have a reasonably significant number of
    games played, who are the three or four individuals that have most
    improved their draft stock, and who is sliding the most?

Aaron Fitt: Conor Glassey is working on a new Draft
Tracker for Wednesday. I will withhold comment on this one and urge you
to come back Wednesday for Draft Tracker!

    Blackie (Cincinnati, OH): Hi Aaron, I was
    wondering if you'd heard anything on the likelihood of Texas A&M's
    Mike Wacha starting games with any frequency, or if they're content to
    let him stay in the 'pen this year? And I'll ask you the same question
    I'm asking everyone else: Is Kyle Parker playing himself into first
    round consideration for the draft and how do scouts think he compares
    to the other college bats (Brentz, Colon, Choice, Cunningham, Wates,

Aaron Fitt: Rob Childress told me a week or two ago
that he envisions Wacha’s freshman year playing out much like Ross
Hales’ did a year ago — starting out in the bullpen, then making some
Tuesday starts and perhaps working his way into the weekend rotation by
the second half. As for Parker, yes, I do think he’s playing himself
into first-round consideration. He offers premium power potential in a
draft short on bats, and he’s obviously a great athlete. But he’s also
showed a much better approach offensively this year. I have not asked
any scouts to compare him to those other hitters specifically, but I
can tell you that I like him better than Wates, and it wouldn’t shock
me if he winds up climbing past all of those other guys you mentioned,

    CD (Cols, Ohio): How high in the draft do you
    see Ohio St's Wimmers going? If the bucks can find more pitching they
    will be a tough team to deal with later in the year due to their great

Aaron Fitt: Top half of the first round to the middle
of the round, I think. Your assessment of Ohio State is on the money,
but I think between Wolosiansky, Rucinski and McKinney, they’ve got the
makings of a solid supporting cast.

    Jeff (Phoenix, AZ): After back to back to back
    PAC 10 titles, it appears a team has finally emerged in the last 4
    years—UCLA—to challenge Arizona State. What is your take on UCLA and
    based on current line-ups who do you think will win the series at the
    end of next month?

Aaron Fitt: Yeah, the Bruins are a legitimate
challenger, all right. It’s too early to offer any real predictions —
momentum can shift between now and then — but it’s usually not a good
idea to bet against Arizona State at home. Then again, it’s also not a
good idea to bet against Cole, Bauer and Rasmussen in a three-game
series. That one’s going to be a gem.

    ScottAZ (Phx, AZ): If you were a gambling man,
    what would be the over under for Spence not returning at all this year?
    Not until regionals? In a limited role?

Aaron Fitt: I say he returns by Tax Day — April 15 — and is a key part of the rotation down the stretch.

    Steve L. (Albany, OR): What is your take on Oregon State's Matt Boyd? Is he the next Sam Gaviglio?

Aaron Fitt: Completely different kind of guy, but he
sure does look like an impact two-way player. My colleague Conor
Glassey was all over Boyd coming out of high school, and his faith is
being rewarded. Here’s what Conor wrote in last year’s draft coverage:
“Lefthander Matt Boyd is distantly related to both Hall of Fame pitcher
Bob Feller and former first lady Dolly Madison. He had a good season on
the mound and at the plate, but profiles best as a pitcher. He pitched
at 86-89 mph this spring and has touched 92. He also has a plus
changeup, above-average command and is a good competitor with a feel
for pitching. He is a good athlete who played 11 years of ice hockey
before focusing on baseball.” Sounds like just the kind of hard-nosed,
physical player the Beavers love.

    Jim (Bryan, TX): Last week it was stated that
    A&M Coach Childress wasn't worried about SS Adam Smith...this week
    he was moved to the outfield and bench. What's the true story?

Aaron Fitt: I’d say the lineup card tells the story
better than anything Childress said two weeks ago. Maybe he wasn’t
worried about Smith then, but it sure seems like his opinion has

    MJ (NY): When are you going to come to the
    realization that Rice is not top 25 worthy. All the other polls have
    but BA is still clinging to the notion Rice deserves to be ranked. I
    have 5 off the top of my head who are much more derserving, one in
    particular is SE Louisiana (18-2). After a month of the season in the
    books and Rice sporting an inconsistant 12-9 record, there is no way
    you can justify this ranking. As I said after my week week 1 question,
    Rice is not that good in 2010.

Aaron Fitt: You might be right — but they did have a
2-2 week that included a win against the No. 2 team in the nation in
Texas, and we did drop them 11 spots from last week. I think that’s
reasonable. And if they don’t get this season turned around in a hurry,
they’ll be out of the rankings next week, for what that’s worth.

    Dean (Tallahassee): What is going in North Carolina? UNC dropping back to back weekend series? A

    East Carolina has been awful. Besides getting swept by the Canes, is Duke the best team in the state?

Aaron Fitt: No, I’ll go with the Pirates. ECU has not
been impressive over the last two weeks, but it has played a tough
schedule overall. I don’t think there are any Omaha teams in the state
of North Carolina this year, but I do think the Pirates are the best of
the lot, with UNC right there. Both those teams will be better in the
second half than they are now and both have a chance to get hot and win
a regional — but both have some fundamental flaws, too.

    Palmer (Nashville, TN): Vandy sophomore Sonny
    Gray has had a decent start to the season. What kind of stuff does he
    have, and where does he project in the 2011 draft?

Aaron Fitt: He’s got some of the best stuff in the
nation, with a mid-90s fastball and a devastating hard breaking ball,
but I don’t think he’s cut out to be a starter at the next level. I
talked to a scout this week who has seen him this year and said that he
does not maintain his premium stuff deep into outings. He’s not very
big, and he’s more suited for a relief role in pro ball, which hurts
his draft stock a bit. But he’s still a first-round pick, and probably
a top-half-of-the-first-rounder.

    Jeff (Washington DC): Fitty, I don't know
    where to begin with your latest effort. Arkansas returned just as much
    talent as UVA from a team that beat UVA in Omaha last season. How do
    you justify UVA at #1 and Arkansas all the way down at #16? UVA has a
    nice series win at FSU, but that isn't anything Wilkins, Cox,
    Bolsinger, Smiley, Eibner, Bigham, Richards & Co. didn't do last
    postseason. Insider info...Arkansas is better this year than they were
    last year.
    Also, you had LSU and Florida at 6/7 last week. Florida takes a
    midweeker from (overrated) FSU and sweeps lowly Miss St. LSU wins a
    midweek and takes 2 of 3 from a CWS opponent with a peace meal pitching
    staff. That results in UF moving from 6 to 2 and LSU holding at 7? I'm
    not seeing your logic there.
    I suppose all is right in the baseball world. An ACC school atop BA, an
    Arizona school atop CB and LSU plugging away as defending national
    champion. Ranaudo comes back this weekend with Omaha in his crosshairs.
    Watch out!

Aaron Fitt: Well sir, last year is last year, and this
year is this year. I happen to agree with you that Arkansas is better
than it was last year, but the fact is the Hogs’ best series win this
year is against a Cal team that probably won’t be in regionals, and
they just lost a weekend series — you want us to move them from No. 13
to No. 1 now? Virginia won big road series at Florida State and East
Carolina, and the Cavaliers have not lost a series — their resume is
pretty unimpeachable, and you can cry ACC bias as much as you want. LSU
did have a better weekend than Florida, but again, LSU lost a series
last weekend against a Kansas team that has since lost four straight
games, and Florida has not lost a series this year. After a 5-0 week
including a win against a very good Florida State team (which, might I
remind you, obliterated a talented if disappointing SEC team in Georgia
a few weeks ago), I think it’s fair to reward Florida, which also has a
nice series win at Miami.

    jb (SC): I know you like Virginia alot, and deservedly so, but how do you see the series with Clemson this weekend in the end?

Aaron Fitt: It really could go either way — Clemson
is darn good. Both teams have deep, athletic, powerful lineups, but I
do give UVa. a slight edge for a couple of reasons: it’s at home, and
it has the more proven bullpen with Arico and Wilson.

    Blackie (Cincinnati, OH): I don't know if you
    have anything to do with the BA Draft Prospect Tracker for the college
    guys, Aaron, but what the heck is up with Hultzen snub? The guy is now
    Top 10 in ERA, strikeouts and BAA after dominating Boston College.

Aaron Fitt: I don’t have anything to do with those —
they are compiled by I think the emphasis is on
draft-eligible guys, though certainly there are some underclassmen on
there. Anyway, we’ve given Hultzen plenty of love elsewhere, don’t

    Jeramey (Atlanta): Thier are 4 ACC teams in
    the top 12: Virginia, GT, FSU and Clemson, we know that all 4 of these
    teams cant host a Super regional. I know it is March, but how many
    Super bids does the ACC get, who hosts them, and where does Coastal
    Carolina go for there Super? Thanks

Aaron Fitt: I think the ACC probably winds up getting
two national seeds — I would bet on Virginia and Florida State. It’s
impossible to predict how Coastal’s road will end up looking.

    Bill (Atlanta, Ga): Aaron, thanks for the chat
    and weekly public accountability to the rankings. Kudos. Could you
    please reconcile this statement from last weeks chat with this week's
    "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."
    In the past you've said that it is all about winning weekend series.
    This weekend GT, FSU, TCU, and LSU all did that and yet dropped or had
    a team jump them. FSU beat UF and a ranked UGA team and only moved up 1
    spot in your March 8th rankings. Florida jumps 4 spots after beating
    FSU and an 11-6 unranked Miss State team. Sounds like B.A. brought this
    tough week on themselves by not focusing on strength of schedule the
    previous 3 or 4 weeks.

Aaron Fitt: This week was ugly — that’s why our top
25 meeting took something like 80 minutes. We all wanted to reward
Arizona State (and UCLA, for that matter) without punishing all the
teams that did, in fact, win their series. But I don’t think it’s fair
for you to say we brought this on ourselves by not focusing on strength
of schedule previously; the fact is, Arizona State started its season
with seven wins against Northern Illinois and Towson, which are a
combined 7-30 this year. ASU’s schedule has not been as rigorous as
most of the other teams in the top 10 — ASU didn’t even leave the
state of Arizona until those two midweek games against Fullerton, and
its one win against Oregon State and the two against Fullerton are the
only wins against teams that are really likely to be in regionals this
year. The Devils and the Bruins have both played decent but not great
schedules. Still, we wanted to move ASU up for its 20-0 start,
especially after those two impressive wins against Fullerton, so some
other teams had to move down a bit when ordinarily they would stay put.
I’m not sure if that’s a satisfying explanation, but then, I’m not sure
anyone in our top 25 meeting walked away satisfied. It was a week of

    john (beaumont): Much has been written about
    rice's rick hague and anthony rendon, but how good of a prospect is
    michael fuda? He's having a great year and has blazing speed.

Aaron Fitt: He’s a good prospect, and he’s got draft
helium, I think. He’s always been able to fly, but he’s really become a
much better hitter, too. One of the few bright spots in that
disappointing lineup.

    Justin (California): How is Southeastern
    Louisiana not in your top 25? They are now 18-2, and both of their
    losses have come in extra innings. What else do they need to do to
    prove they are one of the top 25 teams in the country? There are
    several teams on your top 25 who do not have the resume the Lions have.

Aaron Fitt: I like Southeastern Louisiana — I wrote a
big piece about the Lions in last week’s mailbag, which led our
website. But they haven’t played any games against teams that will be
in regionals this year, and their two losses are not against exactly
elite competition. It’s a nice start — the sweeps of Mississippi State
and UTSA put them on the radar, but there aren’t quite enough real
quality wins to break into the top 25.

    Ben (Leland Grove): If the draft were held today, which round do you see Matt Harvey going off the board at and why?

Aaron Fitt: Hmm… top half of the second round. His
stuff is real good, but his command is still a work in progress, and
scouts do take issue with some things in his delivery. But I’ll tell
you what, he dominated a very good Florida State offense on Friday. If
he were just a bit more efficient, he could have gone nine innings and
UNC might have won that game. Instead, he ran up too many high
pitch-count at-bats, and threw 127 pitches over seven innings, so the
Tar Heels had to go to the bullpen.

    David (Manhattan): With a freshman heavy
    lineup, at this point in the season is Tulane ahead or behind where you
    thought they would be; also do you think last weeks loss to UNO will
    come back to hurt the Greenwave come selection time?

Aaron Fitt: This is about where I thought Tulane would
be — on track to make a regional, with some early growing pains in the
rear-view mirror. Don’t worry about a single midweek loss.

    Pete Hughes (not really) (Blacksburg, VA): I
    don't usually complain about your rankings, and I'm not going to start
    now (necessarily). I would, however, like you to explain the rationale
    behind two choices this week: Clemson moves down a spot to #12 after a
    4-1 week and south carolina is at #14. Perhaps the Tigers' loss at
    Charlotte exposed (in your estimation) a lack of bullpen depth. I
    believe this is partially true, but would point to a questionable
    decision to start Justin Sarratt, who has been beaten around badly thus
    far, over Kevin Brady (who almost rescued the game) on Tuesday as more
    of the reason for the loss. Otherwise, Clemson demolished a respectable
    Georgia Southern team and swept another ACC series from a middle-tier
    regional contender. Sweeping conference opponents that are sweep-able
    and holding your ground against the better teams is the recipe for how
    to get a top seed in the conference tournament (take FSU as an example
    of this as Mike Martin's squad rarely fails to convert sweeps against
    the middle/bottom of the conference and they are usually at or near the
    top of the ACC standings as a result). Meanwhile the gamecocks have
    only two quality wins, and those came within series losses to East
    Carolina and Clemson (who left no doubt in that series by blasting the
    home standing squad 19-6 in the rubber game). In their current 10-game
    winning streak, 7 of those wins have come against Valparaiso (2), Brown
    (3), Furman and Davidson (hardly impressive). I give them credit for
    sweeping Tennessee as that should give them some mileage in the SEC
    long term (see above). The Tigers will have a chance to validate a top
    10 ranking this week after traveling to top-ranked Virginia should they
    perform well (my guess is you'll fall in the love with them if they win
    the series or bash them if they don't; neither of which would be
    entirely fair). Anyway, your rankings have Clemson the most
    under-ranked and sc the most over-ranked of any of the major services.
    Care to weigh in on why that is?

Aaron Fitt: Moving Clemson down a spot isn’t a
reflection on Clemson at all. After a 4-1 week that includes a series
sweep of a pretty talented Virginia Tech team, we would almost never
move a team down, and usually we would move that team up. But we just
wanted to reward UCLA for its 16-0 start, so Coastal, Louisville and
Clemson all took hits. Honestly, I think there is a clear top 12 teams
in the nation right now, and there’s not a whole lot of difference
between them. After 12, I think there is a bit of a drop-off.

Aaron Fitt: OK, that’s it for today. Until next week…