Moderator: Aaron Fitt will discuss the College Top 25 and college baseball in general in a chat beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Aaron Fitt: Hi everybody, let’s get right to it.
Patrick (Louisiana): Aaron, with the Sun Belt being so strong this year, do you see any possible scenario where Louisiana-Lafayette and South Alabama both host a regional? Or if say UL sweeps USA and ULM, along with winning the conference tournament which is in Lafayette this year... does UL get a chance to host? Thanks for your input! Go Sun Belt!
Aaron Fitt: Patrick, I could see one of those teams hosting, but I really don’t think both of them will host. The flaw in both of their resumes is a lack of wins against the top 50 — South Alabama is 4-4, and UL-L is 2-5. I think whichever team wons the Sun Belt has a decent chance to host, especially if it couples the regular-season title with the tournament title, as you suggest. Certainly, the Cajuns are in the mix — we’ll break that down in more detail in tomorrow’s Stock Report, and I plan to focus on that series in Weekend Preview later this week.
Jeff (D.C.): In my opinion, Vanderbilt and North Carolina have been the most consistent with their quality of play this season, but LSU, while less consistent, has the higher ceiling of the 3 teams. Do you agree and what do you pick in the postseason – consistency or high ceiling?
Aaron Fitt: I think all three teams are elite, but I don’t see the argument for LSU having the higher ceiling. All three of these teams are loaded with pro talent and excellent supporting casts stuffed with winning college players, and they all have national championship ceilings. If you’re going just on pure talent, I think Vanderbilt actually has the most talented roster from top to bottom of any of these teams. But I’m splitting hairs, and I’m throwing that out there as my gut feeling, without actually breaking it down player by player.
Glen (Baton Rouge): Aaron- Do you think Aaron Nola would have been able to throw 4 straight complete games against programs like Florida, South Carolina, Arkansas and Alabama if his name were not Aaron?
Aaron Fitt: That is definitely a winning name! And this is a banner year for Aarons, between Nola, Blair, Judge, Brown and other quality guys like Slegers, Garza, Griffin, Greenwood. (OK, enough nonsense…)
John (Fayetteville): Let's say your top 8 each earn the National Seeds. If you're one of those 8, which 5 teams would you least like to meet in a Super Regional? And Why?
Aaron Fitt: First of all, I don’t think our current top eight are all on track for national seeds — UCLA, for instance, strikes me as an unlikely national seed (I think Oregon is much likelier because of RPI and standings). But using the perameters of your question, I’ll go with Oregon, Arkansas, Louisville, Indiana and South Carolina. I just think those are the five best teams outside our current top eight, with apologies to Florida State. The sleeper is New Mexico, probably the best offensive team in college baseball. If those guys are hot, they can bash their way past anybody. And Oklahoma is very dangerous if Overton is healthy to go with Jonathan Gray — I would not want to face that one-two punch. So I cheated a little bit — what can I say? There are more than 13 teams out there that I think are really good, CWS-caliber clubs.
Dee (Winona, MS): Mississippi State is 4-4 in SEC series and they have not won a conference series against a team with a winning conference record. They've played .500 ball against the RPI top 50. Is that hosting material?
Aaron Fitt: Funny, a number of MSU fans have been all over us today for having the Bulldogs too low — but you point out the flaws in the Bulldogs’ case. However, there’s no shame in .500 ball against the top 50 when you’ve played 27 such games (and gone 14-13, per warrennolan.com). That’s a lot more impressive than, say, South Alabama being .500 against the top 50 (4-4). MSU has played a very difficult schedule—the Bulldogs don’t get the benefit of playing Georgia, Tennessee or Missouri. And to be 36-13 overall, 13-11 in the SEC at this point in the season, yes, I think that’s certainly hosting material. Assuming the Bulldogs hold their own in the next two weeks — at Ole Miss, vs. South Carolina. It’s far from a cake walk, and if they lose both of those series, I don’t think they deserve to host.
Matt (Lafayette): Any chance the Cajuns avoid Baton Rouge in the postseason? With the current state of the state of Texas, I am guessing the answer is, unfortunately, no.
Aaron Fitt: Cajuns to Baton Rouge as a No. 2 seed feels like a pretty strong bet, but there are other likely No. 2s in that same geographic footprint (Rice, South Alabama), so maybe the committee winds up shipping UL-L elsewhere. I think UL-L to Baton Rouge feels likeliest, though.
Blake (LA): North Carolina played 4 straight series against teams who haven't been to Omaha and then took a weekend off to recover. Championship material?
Aaron Fitt: You know it! Hey, feel free to keep ripping UNC all you want. Those guys are 42-4, and have built that record in utterly dominant fashion. I refer you again to the scoring margin — UNC has outscored its opponents by 6.1 runs per game, most in the nation. The next best scoring margin? Vanderbilt, 4.3 runs per game. Rip on the schedule all you want — but UNC is 20-4 against the top 50. They’re not doing it against creampuffs. We just aren’t going to move an absurdly dominant 42-4 team out of the No. 1 spot when it did not lose a game during the week (although we did at least discuss it, because Vanderbilt has been so impressive).
Jeff (Bossier City, LA): The Sooners' bad week definitely cost them any chance of a national seed. How are they looking for hosting? Does the absence of Overton factor into the committee's decision?
Aaron Fitt: I think the Sooners are in trouble for hosting, too. Oklahoma needed a strong finish to boost its RPI, and that assumed a series win at West Virginia. Going 1-3 last week was a real setback. Every team deals with injuries; I doubt Overton will be a factor in the committee’s discussions.
Andy (Baton Rouge): I know you love getting questions from SEC fans every week. With the conference season almost over who would be your picks for SEC Player, Pitcher, Freshman and Coach of the Year?
Aaron Fitt: Hey, the SEC is the best college baseball league in the country, and has been for a while now — I’m happy to talk SEC every week. To answer your question, I’ll go with Aaron Nola, Hunter Renfroe, Alex Bregman and Tim Corbin. Plenty of good candidates for three of those—Bregman is the only choice for Freshman, and I strongly considered him for Player of the Year as well, along with Mason Katz and Tony Kemp. Bobby Wahl, Tyler Beede and Ryne Stanek are strong contenders for Pitcher, but Nola’s four straight complete games, his strikeout-walk mark, and the fact that he’s doing it on Fridays — he’s the guy for me. Mitch Gaspard also deserves consideration for Coach, but I’ll go with Corbin — what his team is doing is unprecedented.
Derek Overbey (San Francisco, CA): Do you think of Cal State Fullerton's can hang with the likes of UNC, LSU and Vanderbilt? Do they have to win the Big West outright to get a national seed?
Aaron Fitt: The Titans are really good, and they can beat anybody in the country in a given weekend — but I do feel like there is a separation between those top three teams and everybody else, when it comes to talent, depth and experience. Fullerton’s resume is very impressive though — its body of work is in the same discussion with those top three teams (that 21-3 mark on the road really stands out, especially compared to those SEC and ACC teams). The Big West isn’t a great league—it’s not bad, but it’s far from elite—and I think the Titans do need to win it to get a national seed.
John (Fayetteville): Where is Tim Corbin on your Coach of the Year radar? Behind Vanderhook and O'Connor right now? How is what Vandy's got going right now not make Corbin your #1?
Aaron Fitt: Check out today’s Google+ Hangout — we break down the leading candidates for Coach of the Year. Those three names all factor heavily into our discussion.
strong>Andre (Fullerton): There is a debate happening over on /r/collegebaseball about who has the best weekend rotation. Can you ballpark the top 3 weekend staffs and how you measure that?
Aaron Fitt: It’s tough. I think Fullerton, UNC, Vanderbilt, UCLA, Florida State, Oregon and Oregon State all have to be in the discussion, and I’d have a hard time narrowing it down to three. I love what Fullerton’s top three have done, but ideally I’d still rather have upperclassmen than freshmen in my top two spots, given the long history of freshmen wearing down in the postseason. A few that come to mind — Chris Hernandez, Ryan Berry (EDIT—not Joe Savery, as previously written), Alex White, Matt Harvey, Danny Hultzen, on and on and on. And those guys were all freshman All-Americans and, in some cases, national freshmen of the year. I’d like to have three reliable, consistent starters, which is why I leave Oklahoma and LSU out of this discussion (I wouldn’t put Cody Glenn in the same category as most of these other Sunday starters, though he’s pretty comparable to Grant Watson at UCLA). I’d like to have a true No. 1 who can dominate — I don’t think of Tommy Thorpe in that category, and Luke Weaver is still establishing himself as that type of guy, but clearly he’s got frontline stuff. Tough to narrow it to three.
Eric (La Palma, CA): Considering Fullerton swept away Long Beach State's bleak hopes of making a regional the Big West is wide open. You have Cal Poly, Irvine, Northridge and even an outside shot of UCSB pulling in line to make a regional. How many teams do you see coming out of the Big West this year, 2 maybe 3?
Aaron Fitt: I’ll say 2 — Fullerton and Cal Poly. Northridge doesn’t have the RPI, and it has a tough finishing stretch (UCSB, @ Poly, Fullerton) that could drag it back toward the middle of the pack in the standings. Irvine’s chances took a huge blow last week, going 1-3 at UCLA and UCSB. The Gauchos seem to be peaking at the right time, but I don’t see the RPI working out for them.
David (Laguna Niguel): Unless they totally tank, Cal Poly should get a #3 seed in the tourney in my opinion....do you see them going to Corvallis? Is Irvine in your projection too? I saw Fulmer throw for Vandy on the tube this weekend. Quite an arm! Do scouts see him as a future 1st rounder?
Aaron Fitt: Yeah, Poly feels like a No. 3 seed, and I could see the Mustangs heading to Corvallis, sure. Irvine will be out in tomorrow’s Stock Report. And yes, Fulmer looks like a very strong bet to be a first-rounder in 2015.
Not as Angry Pirate (GVille): Aaron,
ECU playing up to their potential lately, won 9 out of last 11 and was 3 outs away from sweeping CUSA leader S Miss. Is an at-large even possible if they win 7 or 8 out of their last 9?
Aaron Fitt: Pirates are currently No. 73 in the RPI, with three bad RPI games left against Marshall — and I don’t foresee a huge RPI boost in the C-USA tournament because there just aren’t any great RPI teams to play in C-USA. I think ECU is a serious long shot for an at-large spot. But the Pirates are finally playing closer to their potential, and they could be good enough to win that automatic bid and have a chance to redeem John Manuel for picking them as his preseason Omaha sleeper…
Bill (Bozeman): Hi Aaron, thanks as always for the chat. I haven't seen this in the last six days, so I'm hoping you'll comment on ESPN's plans for college baseball coverage going forward? Anything at all not to love?
Aaron Fitt: Hey Bill, I did write about this last week — indeed, this is a hugely exciting development for college baseball. ESPN is very good at making money, and ESPN wouldn’t go all-in on college baseball postseason coverage if it didn’t think it was a smart investment. That’s a wonderful sign for the long-term direction of the sport.
Bill (Memphis): How is it that Tony Kemp (.392 ave, 49 runs scored, leads SEC in stolen bases and makes what seems like one ESPN top ten play per game in the field) who strikes fear in every opposing coach is not being strongly considered for player of the year?
Aaron Fitt: He seems like a near-lock for first-team All-America honors at second base, and I threw him into the discussion for SEC player of the year a few questions ago. Who says he’s not being strongly considered?
Jonathan (Troy, AL): So, is Troy just on the outskirts on the rankings? Looking at their schedule and results compared to South Florida, it would seem Troy has the edge especially with the Sun Belt being the stronger conference this year. So what's the deal with the Trojans?
Aaron Fitt: Yeah, Troy is not far out of our Top 25. I do like USF’s resume a bit more — sweep against Pitt and road series win at Notre Dame are two very strong weekends, while Troy’s best series win as a road set at FAU (which is now looking less and less like a regional team). The Trojans lost three of the Sun Belt’s other four top teams (South Alabama, UL-L, WKU). Troy has been very hot lately, but USF has been hotter for longer, winning 17 of its last 19. Troy and UL-L are right there outside the top 25, but neither team has quite separated itself yet for us.
BawlmerBeav (On my knees, giving thanks the semester is nearly over): Is there a scenario in which both the Beavers and the (evil) Ducks get national seeds? How likely is it? And any chance UCLA makes a Pac-12 trio?
Aaron Fitt: Sure, I think it’s a pretty likely scenario. Those teams have the two best resumes in the Pac-12, and they are the two teams at the top of the standings and with the highest RPIs. I don’t expect three Pac-12 teams to get national seeds.
thomas (toronto): What are the torreros chances of making the regionals?
Aaron Fitt: Not feeling great about their at-large chances — they basically need to win out to get into the top 45 in the RPI, which is a good target for an at-large bid. It does look now like USD will probably at least make the four-team WCC tournament, which helps. The automatic bid is probably San Diego’s best chance to get in — although its at-large chances are still alive, at least.
Ned (Compton): Dark Horse team out of the SEC?
Aaron Fitt: Excluding those five SEC teams in our rankings currently — I still think Ole Miss or Kentucky could make a deep postseason run if one of those teams gets hot at the right time. Still like their personnel, but they have been inconsistent. The SEC meat-grinder has that effect on teams…
John (Jackson, MS): Aaron: MSU Bulldogs. They had a tough time in a bad environment against arguably the best team in the nation and were swept last weekend at Vandy. This week they rebounded to sweep Alabama (a surprisingly gritty team, as evidenced by their SEC record). You have the dogs at 21st, one spot below South Alabama. They beat USA on USA's home field, and USA is 0-2 vs. top 25 teams. Both teams are 36-13, except MSU plays an SEC schedule. What in the world are you guys thinking on this? Not to mention 36-13 against one of the top schedules in the nation has the dogs at 21st? They don't even get to play the 3 worst teams in the SEC and yet they are still a half game behind the cocks (who play all three of those worst SEC teams) and 2.5 behind Arkansas. They are 9th in RPI. What's going on? This team should be no lower than 16th.
Aaron Fitt: You lay out a strong case, John, and I appreciate your well-reasoned argument. I will say that No. 21 does feel low to me for Mississippi State, a team that I have maintained all year strikes me as a CWS team. And yes, if you compare Mississippi State’s resume to South Alabama’s, I think it’s a no-brainer — MSU has the stronger body of work. But South Alabama has been more consistent (against its admittedly weaker schedule) than MSU, which has now lost five weekend series. We place a lot of emphasis on winning series, so MSU has taken some hits because it has lost so many of them. Mississippi State hasn’t proven it can win series against really good teams — its best series wins are against Florida and Alabama, which I think are the eighth and ninth-best teams in the SEC. Of course, South Alabama has even fewer quality wins, but the Jaguars are in first place in the No. 5 RPI league, and they have had a very solid season. At some point, they deserve to be rewarded for that. Mississippi State gets a huge boost just by playing in the SEC, because it has the opportunity to play a lot of games against very good teams (an opportunity South Alabama does not have). But just playing those games isn’t enough — I want to see the Bulldogs beat more good teams. And I think they will, because I believe in them. But I’m not in love with the resume they have built to this point. We ranked MSU No. 5 in the preseason; frankly, that team’s body of work through 12 weeks has not lived up to my expectations.
Chris (Charlotte NC): congrats to Vandy this weekend. As a Gamecock fan I was very impressed with the quality of that team. Also, I thing 3/4ths through the season it's pretty evident that SC is a solid 15. Not a bad team, but not elite. A lot of programs would love to have down years of being #15. On to my question, Assuming the season ended last weekend, what national seed would you think VU gets? Polls aside. I think they would probably go in as the #1 national seed at this point with their resume. it would be them or NC for sure.
Aaron Fitt: Yeah, I think South Carolina is in about the right spot. Surprisingly, you are the only South Carolina fan who has written in to applaud us for ranking the Gamecocks appropriately this week! As for the No. 1 overall seed, I think it’s a coin toss. UNC is No. 1 in the RPI, Vandy is No. 2. UNC has more top 50 wins, Vandy has more high-end marquee wins. UNC has been so dominant in the ACC, but Vandy’s SEC run is unprecedented. You could go with either team, and I wouldn’t argue with you. Tough to say which was the committee would lean.
Mike P. (Seattle, WA): West Virginia just took series from Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas - why no ranking??
Aaron Fitt: Well, the first half of the season counts too, and the Mountaineers weren’t very good in the first half. They have won their series against Kansas and Oklahoma, but lost series against the other two teams in the top half of the Big 12 (Kansas State and Baylor). WVU’s resume is improving every week, but it’s still not a top 25 resume for me. Very, very impressed with what WVU has done, but succeeding in the Big 12 doesn’t mean as much on a national level this year as usual, because that’s probably going to be about a three-bid league, and maybe two.
Ben (Boston): Is Michael Lorenzen's draft stock slipping with his recent struggles at the plate? Or do most scouts see his future on the mound as a pro?
Aaron Fitt: Scouts are very split on him — some prefer him as a power-armed reliever who could move quickly, others as a multi-talented outfielder who will take more time. Maybe you run him out as a center fielder, and if he doesn’t hit, you stick him on the mound. That’s a nice fallback option.
daniel (florida): If Florida ends the regular season with a winning record, do they make the tournament this year?
Aaron Fitt: Yes. One of the nation’s most difficult schedules, strong RPI, holding their own in the SEC.
Johann (Palo Alto): Hi Aaron, Mark Appel has been the only consistent element of the Stanford rotation this year. How concerned should we be about the Stanford pitching staff as the Cardinal close out the season?
Aaron Fitt: That has been the case all year long, and it continues to be my greatest concern about Stanford. With that pitching, I just don’t know if the Cardinal can get hot enough down the stretch against a very difficult schedule to win enough games to boost its RPI into at-large range.
Ben (Portland): Hey Aaron- Thanks for taking the time. Just wondering what your opinion on why the Oregon schools are having so much success of late. When you look at the top 10 it's all 'traditional' baseball schools. My opinion is coaching is the main reason, among others. Do you think the success is sustainable? Thanks again!
Aaron Fitt: Yes, the biggest reason is they have two of the best coaches in college baseball leading their programs. And yes, the success is sustainable — Oregon State has already proven that. This run of excellence for Oregon State started in 2005, after all. Both teams have some of the top facilities on the West Coast, they draw better than just about everybody on the West Coast, and did I mention they have great coaching?
WISM (NYC): Aaron:
One of the guys you identified in the preseason as having to step up for Vandy was Mike Yastrzemski. Well, he got off to his standard very good, but not quite great pace during the non-conference slate. He's picked it up in SEC play and has been, arguably, the best player in conference during league play.
Mike's overall numbers aren't shabby (.341, 36 R, 3 HR, 32 RBI, 16 SB, .924 OPS, 9.20 RC/27), but his SEC numbers are downright great (.410, 23 R, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 1.083 OPS, 13.74 RC/27). He ranks 1st in the conference (SEC-Only) in BA and OBP, 6th in SLG and SB, 2nd in doubles, 3rd in Runs and Hits, and 4th in walks.
Beyond just being happy that he’s finally taken that leap from being a steady, very good player to an elite performer like his Grandfather and Father before him, I was wondering if you think YAZ’s conference only performance will give him a chance to enter the conversation with Alex Bregman, Mason Katz, Hunter Renfroe and Tony Kemp for SEC Player of the Year?
Aaron Fitt: I very nearly included him in that conference player of the year discussion earlier — he was the next name on my list. His stellar senior year has been a big key to Vandy’s success, no doubt about it. But I think his lack of power and the fact that he doesn’t play a premium defensive position keeps him behind those other guys for me.
Aaron Fitt: OK folks, that’s all for today. Thanks for stopping by, as always!