College Top 25 Chat: March 3

 Q:  Harry from Jackson, MS asks:

What will Ole Miss have to do to take over the #1 position?


John Manuel:
Good to be here everybody. It should be fun pinch-hitting for Aaron
Fitt, it will be like a trip back in time to 2004 . . . Time flies.
Just a reminder, if you haven’t already, surf to our College Blog to
read Aaron’s takes on the weekend action in San Diego. It sounds like a
cornucopia of college baseball delight was had all weekend. And our
weekly college podcast will be recorded and posted tomorrow, when Aaron
gets back from the West Coast, he had a flight to catch.

John Manuel:
This one’s simple—keep winning and hope Arizona loses. The Wildcats
have a very, very tough schedule. Peep their upcoming opponents: UNLV,
S. Alabama, TAMU-Corpus Christi, Notre Dame, then a grueling stretch
with CS Fullerton, AZ State, Southern Cal, and Okla. State. Very few
breathers in there. The Rebels have a similarly tough stretch, but as
long as Arizona keeps winning, they will probably remain No. 1.

 Q:  Mike from California asks:

Pepperdine not in the top 25? After a 3-1 weekend. What do the waves have to do to crack the rankings?


John Manuel:
You can change that ? to a . Pepperdine’s off to a very solid start, no
doubt, but so are about 20-30 other teams that are top-25 worthy. This
one’s more about other teams doing right than Pepperdine doing wrong.
Bryce Mendonca has been as advertised if not better so far for the
Waves, and Chase d’Arnaud and Brett Hunter are doing what upperclassmen
have to do for teams like Pepperdine—lead by example. Both those guys
have been real good so far. Pepperdine’s in the discussion, we just
chose other teams. Beating USC this week would help mid-week because
it’s hard to give a West Coast team much of a push after playing an Ivy
League team (Pepp plays Columbia next weekend.)

 Q:  Geoff from Irvine asks:

innings without giving up a run!!! Lets go Eaters Zot Zot. Obviously
UCI will not ride another 47 games of shutout baseball, but what are
your first impressions on the team? Can you say Omaha


John Manuel:
Certainly, Geoff, I am so happy that Mike Gillespie is back in college
baseball and has the ‘Eaters off to a great start. No, can’t expect
three straight shutouts every weekend, but Gorgen & Stowell can be
a very good 1-2 punch, and this team is doing what it did last year in
terms of executing offensively, pitching and fielding. I thought they
lost too much offense in guys like Cipriano and Holliday to make
another run but I would look forward to them proving me wrong.

 Q:  Jonathan from Troy asks:

know they haven’t faced the stiffest competition so far, but you have
to be impressed with what Troy has done to start the year 8-1. The ERA
is around the 2.00 mark and the hitters are doing just enough. You see
good things out of this team?


John Manuel:
Actually, it’s decent competition—Wake Forest is the loss, Penn State
should be solid this year and is a really veteran team, and Kennesaw
State has some talent. Troy got to Kennesaw’s Kyle Heckathorn, who came
on in relief in the finale of that weekend and could be a first-round
pick in ’09. The Trojans have been stingy on the mound, and they
usually don’t beat themselves because they are well-coached. Good
program and so far it looks like a good team.

 Q:  Darroll from California asks:

Fresno State has started slow at 3-5, mainly because of its offense
struggling, do you still see them as a top 25 caliber team and how far
can they go?


John Manuel:
I guess so Darroll, because we ranked ’em 19th coming into the year.
Fresno lost some offense from last year’s team, such as Appy League MVP
Ozzie Lewis, but we thought they’d have the offense coming back to
overcome that, plus they had that pitching. So far, the hitting has let
them down, but it’s the first weekend of March. Let’s see how it plays

 Q:  Kevin from Cal Poly SLO asks:

the 6 shutout innings by Derrick Saito and a FB up to 95 is he climbing
up teams boards despite his size. He K’d 9 and showed 4 different
pitches. He was a lot of fun to watch.


John Manuel:
Saito won Best Breaking Ball in our Big West best tools (available only
online to subscribers), and he’s got big time velo to go with it. Our
Matt Blood has an article on Saito that he’s working on that we’ll have
online in the next week or so, delving into how unusual of a prospect
he is and also into how Cal Poly keeps developing power arms. Now all
the Mustangs have to do is break through and win a bit more
consistently. Not easy to do out West, especially this year.

 Q:  Mike from Tampa asks:

What were the reports on Sean Ratliff on the mound on Sunday?


John Manuel:
I haven’t talked to anyone who was there yet but Ratliff has a huge
arm, I’ve heard he’s been in the 90s in the past (90-91). I wouldn’t be
shocked if he threw harder than that with some adrenaline, and he’s
lefthanded, so that’s good velocity. All that said, he’s an athlete who
can play CF and he has power potential. He wants to hit, or else he’d
have pitched a lot more. I think he’s going to have to fail as a hitter
before giving pitching a chance. I told you this chat would be like
2004—Stanford’s good.

 Q:  Torero baseball alum from california asks:

thoughts on that USD team? They struggled against SDSU but came back to
beat Beach and some quality teams this weekend. Are they back on track,
can their bats pick up the slack, and can they get very far on just
their pitching alone?


John Manuel:
Aaron was there first-hand so I’d take his word for it. That said, I
talked to a scouting director who was there this weekend this morning
about USD (among other things), and he was enthused about their team
and thinks they’ll hit enough to go with that pitching. My joke to
Aaron was maybe USD is throwing everyone off their trail early this
year and will finish strong, instead of the other way around like last

 Q:  Bob from Chicago,IL asks:

I was curious where you see Coastal Carolina this season? I know it’s
early, but they are off to an 8-1 start which should have been 9-0 if
they did not allow 8 runs in the last 3 inning to C of C. Do you see
them breaking into the Top 25 with another solid week?


John Manuel:
They were my Omaha sleeper in our College Preview issue. They are a top
25 program, really, and that means they pretty much could be ranked at
any time. It’s just a program that recruits well, develops talent and
plays hard and well. Very impressive program. They haven’t even really
gotten going offensively yet this spring, so there’s more to come. Nick
McCully’s off to a great start on the mound, he’s got a power arm and
gives them a nice 1-2 start with Bobby Gagg atop the rotation, with
Dave Anderson giving the staff versatility. Dangerous team.

 Q:  Some body from columbia,sc asks:

after Mike Cisco and Blake Cooper’s dominating pitching performances against
Clemson this weekend, can people stop doubting if we have enough
pitching to win it all?


John Manuel:
Not yet, not quite yet. Do it in the SEC, do it for more than a weekend.
It’s very encouraging, though, to see Reese Havens carrying over his
strong summer into the spring, what a year that guy is having so far,
.500-4-15 in 24 at-bats, pretty nice.

 Q:  Doug from Memphis, TN asks:

the compacted college baseball schedule (5 games a week), depth of
pitching staff seems to be a bigger priority. How do you guys think Ole
Miss’s staff stacks up nationally from a depth perspective?


John Manuel:
Doug, maybe you read our college preview, which was kind of all about
that, or noticed our preseason rankings, which also reflected that and
is the reason we have more of a wait-and-see attitude about teams such
as Arizona State, Miami and South Carolina. Waiting to see how they
handle the compacted schedule, and it’s a reason we ranked Mississippi
high in the preseason—because it has depth and has one of its best
offensive clubs, if not its best lineup of the Mike Bianco regime.
Missouri, Arizona and San Diego still strike me as the deepest staffs,
but Mississippi is probably in the next group.

 Q:  Jeff from Louisiana asks:

How close is LSU to making the top 25. I know they need to play some real competition first, but are they on the radar?


John Manuel:
LSU’s definitely on the radar, was in the preseason actually, but the
team’s combination of talent and experience is a bit shy for it to be
ranked at this point with that schedule. Paul Mainieri doesn’t give a
whit about being ranked now; he wants his team ready for SEC play and
he wants to get his team to 15-18 SEC wins; that probably would be
enough for a regional bid, and would be a great step in returning the
program to where LSU fans and administration and boosters want it to

 Q:  Carlton Dargusch from Columbus, Ohio asks:

you think Ohio St. can compete with UM for the Big Ten title? Ohio St.
has a very good Frosh class that is getting a lot of early PT.


John Manuel:
So far Ohio State has impressed a bit, and while we had Michigan ranked
high early in the season, of course Ohio State and Minnesota (and maybe
even Iowa or Purdue) can compete for the league title. Michigan State
also has looked good early. The consensus of the scouts I’ve talked to
so far is the pushed-back start date has helped the Northern schools be
a bit more competitive, a bit closer to their Southern counterparts, to
this point. Now we’re close to seeing how that plays out in league
play, can’t believe we’re almost there already.

 Q:  Eric from Huntington Beach asks:

know there have been a lot of talk about all the great pitching staffs
but Long Beach boasts one of the best. They have held their own against
WSU and Rice. Liebel, Worley, and Thompson are really good. Plus their
bullpen 1 ER in 18 innings. It will be interesting to see over the next
few weeks how they do with their excellent schedule.
(USC,UCLA,CAL,UCR,UCI) Have you been to a Long beach game and been able
to evaluate?


John Manuel:
LBSU definitely gets into that discussion, good point Eric, LBSU has a
big time closer, three very good starters and serious depth. As for
evaluating, I haven’t been but then I’ve never been to Blair Field and
I think I can still evaluate by being a good reporter. Everyone we’ve
talked to so far has been impressed with LBSU, and I know we think they
are the class of the Big West by a decent amount. Nothing against the
rest of the league but it sounds like the Dirtbags have the best team
and their best chance to get to Omaha for the first time since 1998.

 Q:  David from Orlando asks:

Has Cal’s David Cooper moved up the draft ranks with his scorching start?


John Manuel:
Sounds like he is. This guy was legit as a freshman at Fullerton, and
he’s putting himself into position to go high. Would you rather pay
almost eight figures for Justin Smoak or maybe Yonder Alonso or get
nearly the same player and production for less money in Allen Dykstra
or David Cooper? I am a fan and the scouts I’ve talked to like his bat

 Q:  josh mitchell from lumberton tx asks:

did fsu impress you with their 4 game sweep of auburn?


John Manuel:
More importantly they impressed Mike Martin. So far, they’ve pitched
better than expected, though perhaps we should give them credit—they
ALWAYS pitch better than expected. Buster Posey closing is really
pretty cool, I’m glad to see him doing it as we got great reports on
him as a pitcher out of high school. He’s 9-up, 9-down so far in three
outings, and Dennis Guinn is helping pick up some of Posey’s offensive
load with his huge start. Four homers so far after hitting 17 homers in
his first three seasons, that’s a huge help. FSU is always well coached
and might have more talent than we figured.

 Q:  Steve from SC asks:

so i dont understand this one… South Carolina is now 4-1 against top
25 teams, go 3-0 this week and even swept in-state rival then #13
Clemson, and move up 1 spot? Whats up with that?


John Manuel:
There are eight teams that we think are better than South Carolina. Not
hard to figure really. You don’t get extra points for sweeping your
rival, but that’s a great weekend for a team that had some question
marks on the mound coming in. Congrats to coach Tanner for getting to
900 wins, Benson, N.C., represent!

 Q:  Webb Corban from Starkville, MS asks:

losing the series to North Florida and losing a game to Air Force, what
is wrong with Mississippi State? Is this going to be a long year for
the bulldogs?


John Manuel:
Coach Polk’s teams usually are playing better late than early, but this
has been a surprising start, considering the new start date really was
nothing new to Miss. State. I thought the Bulldogs would get off to a
faster start. But then this team did lose its two best offensively
players in Jeff Rea and Ed Easley, plus Mitch Moreland. Those are three
of the four guys who really made their offense go last year, so maybe
an adjustment period is natural. That said . . . it’s not good to lose
to Air Force. Air Force has won 33 games combined the last four years.
So that’s a discouraging sign.

 Q:  Mike from Florence, SC asks:

is Vandy still ranked above USC? The Cocks took 2 of 3 from previously
ranked ECU, swept Clemson, and demolished an undermanned UNC-Asheville
team during a midweek game. Meanwhile, Vandy has gotten smoked by ASU
and lost to Iowa??? I guess we will find out soon enough who is better.


John Manuel:
Lot of questions in this milieu, and I’ve answered two, but Mike had
the best answer—we will find out soon enough. We thought about
dropping Vanderbilt because of the Pedro Alvarez injury, but we ranked
Vanderbilt No. 3 in the preseason because of more than one player. They
are better on the mound than S. Carolina with or without Alvarez, but
we will find out soon enough—March 14-16 to be exact. Great point,

 Q:  David from Orlando asks:

2008 draft-eligible guys have really pleasantly surprised you with
their performances to date? Any really unpleasant surprises?


John Manuel:
Dykstra turned around Brett Hunter and that caught some attention in
the seasons’ first weekend. Aaron Crow is off to a very good start and
for me has edged in front of Brian Matusz, who hasn’t had his best
fastball so far, for the race for No. 1 pitcher. But Tanner Scheppers
has just blown me away for his big stuff and great start. Read Aaron’s
blog and you’ll see why. As for unpleasant surprise, Brandon Crawford
is fighting it at UCLA and hopefully he can just relax and let his
talent flow, instead of trying a bit too hard.

 Q:  Mick from Chicago asks:

noticed the hype on Tony Delmonico has taken a nose dive since his
freshman year at Tennessee. Now that he is back to switch hitting and
playing SS, do you see him as a first round pick if he has a good
junior year at Florida State? Can he play SS as a pro with at least
average tools, besides power, across the board?


John Manuel: Let me take a second to say it’s fun to chat college baseball with some Guided By Voices leading the way. GBV was underrated.

John Manuel:
I don’t think we were so hyped on Delmonico so much as reporting that
it was unusual when he skipped his high school senior season,
essentially trying to help save his dad’s job at Tennessee. That didn’t
work out and now they are together at Fla. State, and Tony’s off to a
nice start. But first-round pick, no, no one’s saying that, and most
are not saying pro shortstop. Most scouts have him turned in as a 2B
and he could be a good one.

 Q:  ScottAZ from Phx, AZ asks:

a big Arizona St fan I have to ask- Who is Marcel Champlaigne? This kid
is a stud and I never read about him in BA and I notice he’s never been
drafted before. How is this? Leading us in hitting, 2nd in RBI… he is
our best player so far


John Manuel:
He’s a Canadian who is a JC transfer, and we wrote this about him out
of high school in 2005: SS Marcel Champagnie (11th rated player in
Canada that year) was a lightly regarded prospect at the time he
attended a Perfect Game USA showcase in Iowa in late April, but he
dazzled scouts. He showed lightning-quick actions and an excellent arm
at shortstop, along with 6.4-second speed in the 60-yard dash and
surprising hitting ability. Canadian scouts remain skeptical.

John Manuel:
He did hit .420 or so in JC ball and he is off to an amazing start,
it’s impressive and a story we’re looking to develop more. He really
has been a big lift for Arizona State. One reason we weren’t as high on
ASU as we were on Arizona and UCLA was a perception that ASU wasn’t as
strong up the middle as it was last year with Andrew Romine and Eric
Sogard, and wasn’t as strong up the middle as UCLA & U of A. This
guy kind of changes that equation.

 Q:  Bill from Atlanta, GA asks:

you let me know how close GT is to breaking the top 25 in your poll?
Our pitching has 4 shutouts in 8 games and we’re 7-1, the only loss to
a Rutgers team that looks pretty decent to me. Meanwhile, teams that
got swept over the weekend are still top 25.
Just curious.


John Manuel:
In the discussion, Bill, but everything we hear is that Ga. Tech’s
offense is short. The pitching staff is very good and will put them in
the ACC mix but offensively the Ramblin’ Wreck lags behind the league’s
top teams, which is unusual to say the least. I think Wichita State’s
the only team that got swept that we left in, and taking them out of
the rankings for having the guts to go to Long Beach in February seemed
misguided. We’ll give the Shockers’ talented roster another week to
find itself.

 Q:  Jonathan from Memphis asks:

Do you think any team has better 3-4-5 hitters than South Carolina right now?


John Manuel: Not right now, not with Dennis Raben hurt for Miami, but Miami might be as good or better with Alonso, Raben and Sobolewski.

 Q:  Brad from Grand Prairie, Texas asks:

is your thoughts now on Baylor. I see they have moved just outside of
the Top 10. How about this very, very young pitching staff that has a
total team ERA under 3.00. Is this team shaping up to contend for the
Big 12 title, and a possible run in Omaha? Thanks.


John Manuel:
I’m excited about Baylor because of that young pitching staff and also
because that young pitching staff has a real good infield behind it,
guys like Beamer Weems and Shaver Hansen behind them, and should be
better when Raynor Campbell gets healthy. (He’s out with a thumb
injury.) Good team, young team and they have an ace in Kendall Volz who
can compete with anybody on Friday nights. Mizzou is our favorite for
the Big 12 title but we bucked the consensus of the coaches, who picked
Texas to win the league. Baylor might make both sides wrong.

 Q:  Jamie R from tampa, fl asks:

I know it’s early, but do the first couple weeks give any indication of
how the ACC looks thus far? How do you see the conference shaking down?


John Manuel:
Miami sounds good; scout I talked to today really likes their pitching
as being improved from last year, and they can be better offensively
when they get going and Raben gets healthy. Alonso is a special hitter.
Ga. Tech looks a bit better than advertised, and North Carolina had an
impressive weekend. FSU is better, Virginia has yet to be tested but
has talent, and Wake Forest has played some tough clubs and has looked
solid doing it. NC State got a nice start from former closer Eryk
McConnell this weekend and Eric Surkamp should be better. In other
words . . . the league looks very deep, and conference play starts this
coming weekend, so everyone better be ready.

 Q:  Dave from Milwaukee asks:

Wither Dennis Raben?


John Manuel:
Back injuries are tough to monitor but he had to leave a game this
weekend when it stiffened up on him. Miami should have enough offense
without him but that’s a potential first-round bat out of the lineup.
Hope he’s OK.

 Q:  Peter from Chicago asks:

Was Nebraska’s 4 game sweep of the Co-Big West Champs this weekend a blip on the college baseball radar?


John Manuel:
Not for me, they also played Stanford tough last weekend. Nebraska has
a lot of seniors and a lot of newcomers. Sometimes that mix works out
and so far so good. Right now, Johnny Dorn is leading they way for the
whole staff, and he’s a great senior leader to have for a pitching
staff because he knows how to pitch and he’s seen it all, good and bad.
Encouraging start for sure.

 Q:  Jimmy from Richmond, KY asks:

is destroying their competition so far this season. Are they a serious
contender or is it just a product of the schedule? Scott Green was
perfect into the 7th this weekend, how high could he get drafted?


John Manuel:
Green’s a potential first-rounder coming off what he did last summer in
the Cape, plus he has first-round size and stuff. He has to do it over
13 weeks and just show consistency. Kentucky is a contender, they have
some real veterans who can hit like Cowgill and Carroll, and they have
arms. John Cohen has proved he can win there (2006 regular-season SEC
champs) and they are contenders again, and the SEC champ is always a
threat to get to Omaha.

 Q:  Jon from Hattiesburg, MS asks:

a solid 6-2 start, Southern Miss probably has to go 3-1 this week (one
@ Ole Miss and three @ Fullerton) to get in the top 25, right? Can
redshirt freshman Todd McInnis (who nearly no-hit Alabama last year and
has a career ERA under two in 40+ innings) hand the Rebels their first
loss of the season?


John Manuel:
Southern Miss always is on the cusp, it seems. They aren’t even hitting
right now and are off to a nice start. Kyle Maxie was a big Fla. State
recruit, he’s transferred in and is off to a nice start with the bat,
and little lefty Tyler Conn is just dominating out of the bullpen.
Anything can happen in one game—more important is what USM does over
the course of the C-USA season. After Rice at the top, that league
looks wide open, with Southern Miss, Tulane and East Carolina among the
teams jostling for regional bids.

 Q:  Jared from Arizona asks:

Ziegler has shown a lot of power last season and early this season.
Does he have any history with a wood bat or do people think his power
will translate at the ML level?


John Manuel:
He set a Coastal Plain League record for homers two summers ago, so he
has done it with wood. I’ve asked a lot about him, I think he also set
the Arizona state prep HR record. Scouts I’ve talked to think he’s a DH
with slider bat speed; that’s usually the long and short of it. But
he’s a heck of a college slugger and a reason Arizona is our No. 1 team.

 Q:  Joe from Easton, MD asks:

what can you tell me about Tim Murphy? Last year I don’t recall seeing
anything special from him, but this year he has looked very strong
especially this weekend. Number 2 or 3 starter type potential?


John Manuel:
Was in the Northwoods League top 10 as an outfielder two years ago,
just really shifted more to the mound last year and is still somewhat
raw in that role. That said, I watched him Saturday against
Bethune-Cookman, and he was spinning that breaking ball and showing
average velo. Throw in his athletic ability and we have him rated
pretty highly as a prospect. I’ve not asked any scout how high his
ceiling is yet but he’s got the makings of two plus pitches, as his
fastball has topped out at 93 at times, including last year when he
struck out 14 against Arizona State.

 Q:  Dave from Atlanta asks:

is off to a 7-0 start with a nice win over Missouri. This is all
without the best hitter in CUSA (Kiko Vasquez). What does UCF have to
do to break into the top 25? Will a 2-game sweep of Jacksonville and a
3-game sweep of Monmouth throughout this week be enough?


John Manuel:
Monmouth actually is decent, winning a game at East Carolina this
weekend, so yeah, keep winning. Jaager Good is living up to his name
right now with two outstanding starts, and Chris Duffy is providing the
power the way an unsigned ninth-round pick should. I need to find out
more on Dwayne Bailey, who has been quite the catalyst so far for the
Golden Knights. It’s an impressive start, and the Missouri win is a
good one to hang your hat on, because we think Mizzou is pretty good.

 Q:  Jeff from Tucson asks:

going on with Arizona’s Ryan Perry? How can a guy throwing 94-96 get
hammered so hard and not have any success? Do you see this hurting his
draft stock?


John Manuel:
One scout told me last night that he’s just a better prospect than he
is a pitcher right now. Eric Berger came in for him the other day, and
Berger’s a guy who was a single-digit draft pick after not pitching for
a year—and he’s like fourth in line at Arizona. That’s how much
pitching depth they have—the guy throwing 94-96 might wind up a middle
reliever on this team, or a midweek starter.

 Q:  Jerry from Philly asks:

Any worries about Michigan after this weekend? Or is ASU just that good?


John Manuel: Both! Michigan has to show they are more than a one-man pitching staff while Zach Putnam works his way back to ace-dom.

 Q:  John from San Diego, CA asks:

USD beats LBSU, Missouri, Fresno St. (all ranked in your top 25), Cal
Poly, and only loses to Cal… how do they not move up even 1 spot??


John Manuel:
They also lost to San Diego State last weekend, one of those games was
in this week’s record, it’s a 4-2 week and a 5-4 start. I think No. 17
is pretty good for a 5-4 start for a warm-weather team that has made
one bus trip so far this year (to LBSU). I’m fine with where they are

Moderator: Hope you all enjoyed the trip down memory lane as
much as I did. Check back in tomorrow when Aaron & I podcast the
morning away talking college baseball. Thankyougoodnight!