College Top 25 Chat With Aaron Fitt

 Q:  Andrew from Irvington, NY asks:
Aaron Crow this weekend — merely human or aberration?

Aaron Fitt:
Hello everyone. Quite a weekend in college baseball — I can’t remember
so many notable individual performances at one time. Not only did you
have Strasburg striking out 23 and Jacob Priday hitting four homers,
but New Mexico’s Brian Cavazos-Galvez hit four on Saturday. Check back
later this week for more on the Lobos.

Aaron Fitt: As for
Crow, first of all, he is human, and his incredible streak was not
going to last forever. But those conditions could not have been any
worse, with a 30 mph wind gusting out to center field (see Three
Strikes for details), and he at least recovered after those first two
innings to last five and pick up the win. One thing to keep an eye on,
though, is that Texas had a great plan against Crow, taking a
two-strike approach on every pitch and shortening up early in the
count. We’ll see if more teams start doing that against him.

 Q:  Jay from Charlottesville asks:
swept Maryland on the road this weekend and doesn’t move back into the
top 25. Last year, the Cavs were #5 in the country when they stood at
29-7. This year, at 29-9, they aren’t even in the Top 25. What else
does UVa need to do?

Aaron Fitt:
Last year at this time, Virginia had won series against North Carolina
(on the road) and Miami. This year, the Cavs have won series against
Lehigh, Boston College, Virginia Tech and Maryland. They’ve lost road
series to NC State, Duke and Florida State. I want to see UVa. beat
somebody resembling a regional contender.

 Q:  Andrew from Athens, GA asks:
Simple question: Why does anyone still pitch to Gordon Beckham?

Aaron Fitt:
You know, it’s just harder to pitch around him with Rich Poythress
raking in the cleanup spot and Bryce Massanari hitting well behind
Poythress. If first base is open and there’s nobody else on, in most
cases, it’s a no-brainer: pitch around Beckham. But otherwise, why give
up a base when the next guy could make you pay just as easily?

 Q:  Lance from Tempe, AZ asks:
How in trouble is ASU’s bullpen?

Aaron Fitt:
It’s a darn good thing for ASU that Ike Davis is back there, because
he’s been outstanding, but the rest of those guys are starting to
struggle. Rafferty and Dorado were both very bad on Sunday after
pitching the previous day, and Seth Blair simply needs to be better.

 Q:  alex kovaler from moscow, russia asks:
aaron, who do you see winning the Big West this year?

Aaron Fitt:
Right now I think Fullerton is in the best shape, thanks to last
weekend. I thought Long Beach could still make a run until this
weekend, but the Dirtbags really needed to win that series against UC
Irvine at home. The Anteaters are very good, but they’re a little
behind the eight ball after losing a home series to Fullerton last
weekend. UC Davis is the dark horse, of course, and the Aggies are
sitting atop the standings right now, but I’ll reserve judgment on
those guys until they start playing the traditional Big West
heavyweights. I do think Davis is in good shape to make a regional,

 Q:  David from Orlando asks:
think everyone at every level of baseball would like to catch a case of
the Strasburg flu. If he were going in this year’s draft, where would
San Diego State’s finest slot? In an early scout’s view, one of the
scouts you quoted, invoked Mark Prior. Is that a valid comparison?

Aaron Fitt:
I think he’d go in the top five for sure, and maybe as high as No. 1.
He’s got a better fastball than either Brian Matusz or Aaron Crow, and
his slider isn’t far behind. He’s got a big, durable frame and an easy
delivery, so there’s no reason to think he’ll break down. Matusz and
Crow have deeper arsenals, though Strasburg has a decent changeup now
and then against lefthanded hitters. Matusz is lefthanded, which gives
him a little edge. It’s really a tough decision, but I don’t think any
pitcher in college baseball has a higher ceiling than Strasburg. And
considering he already works around 97-99 regularly, he’s not too far
away from that ceiling. Maybe it’s the 23-strikeout game talking, but
at this moment, I think I’d take Strasburg before any other pitcher in
the draft, and maybe even before Pedro Alvarez. All of that is moot, of
course, because he’s not eligible until 2009, but he’s unquestionably
the No. 1 prospect in the ’09 draft, for me at least. Kyle Gibson has a
ton of upside too, but you’ve got to project on Gibson’s velocity.
There’s no projection necessary with Strasburg.

 Q:  Playin’ Pepper from The D asks:
Eric Thames has been going off lately, how much has his draft stock improved? Could he sneak into the first round this year?

Aaron Fitt:
I don’t think he’s a first-rounder, but he’s definitely cemented
himself as a top-five-rounds guy, and potentially top two or three.
He’s a gifted athlete, and he’s answered the major question scouts had
about him by translating his raw power into game power. He’s got 10
homers already after hitting none last year. Definitely a fast-riser
for the draft.

 Q:  Jonathan from Charlotte, NC asks:
Carolina’s pitching staff seems a little thin once you get past the
weekend starters, do you think they have the depth to compete for the
C-USA title and possibly finally hosting a regional at Clark-LeClair?

Aaron Fitt:
It is a little thin, but Sthil Sowers has been awfully good at times,
giving them a quality fourth starter, and I like their bullpen,
anchored by Josh Ruhlman. They expected much more out of Matt Cox and
they planned in the fall for Ryan Wood to pitch as well, and he has
not. That leaves them a little short, but I still think it’s a strong
enough staff for the Pirates to finish second in CUSA and potentially
host a regional. That series this weekend against Rice will be tough,
but the Pirates are experienced enough (especially in the lineup) to
compete at Reckling Park. After that, the schedule opens up, with three
home series and a winnable trip to Memphis.

 Q:  Brian from Seattle asks:
A&M and Missouri. Handicap the Big XII race down the stretch (I
don’t think Texas, OSU or Baylor can catch them).
To me, A&M has by far the hardest schedule. Nebraska, Missouri,
Baylor and Texas, equivalent of two of those series on the road.
Nebraska could put Mizzou in a really tough position if they sweep KU
this week, but they’ve got two pretty tough road series after this
(Missouri and Baylor).
Missouri has the easiest schedule but 5 losses. And they still have to
play in College Station.
To me, Nebraska has to be the tentative favorite at this point…
They’ve got the best OVERALL pitching of the bunch, although Missouri
obviously has Crow. They also have an easier schedule than A&M and
a home series against them.
What’s your call?

Aaron Fitt:
I agree with you that Nebraska is probably the tentative favorite
because of its 11-3 conference mark and a slightly less grueling
schedule than Texas A&M down the stretch, but I think I’ll go with
Missouri. First of all, I’d dispute your contention that Nebraska has a
better overall staff than Missouri — Kyle Gibson and Ian Berger are a
fine No. 2 and No. 3, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg in
Missouri’s loaded staff. The Tigers have three series they should win
against Oklahoma, Kansas and Kansas State, and they get Nebraska at
home. The key might be that series at Texas A&M, but even if
Missouri loses that series, I think they might be able to catch the
Aggies and Cornhuskers, both of whom have considerably tougher home
stretches. Oklahoma State’s schedule opens up after this weekend, but I
think the Cowboys are probably in too deep of a hole to dig out of at
this point.

 Q:  Steve from LA asks:
though Michigan only has 8 lossses, how do they continue to remain
ranked given their strength of schedule, or lack thereof?

Aaron Fitt:
Michigan is 45 in the RPI (according to Boyd’s World), ahead of
Kentucky, Baylor, Tennessee, UCLA, San Diego, Oklahoma, Texas Tech,
Alabama and Tulane, to name a few big-name schools. The RPI is far from
perfect, but it is a very general reflection of strength of schedule.
The Wolverines did just sweep a four-game series against the No. 2 team
in the Big Ten — you want to drop them out of the rankings after that?
Michigan is a very talented team (that’s why it was ranked No. 8 in the
preseason), and it is now playing up to its talent.

 Q:  Greg from Los Angeles asks:
UCLA Bruins had one of their best weekends of the season. Do you think
the bats have finally woken up and they are back on track with their
early season projections?

Aaron Fitt:
It’s only one series, and the jury’s still out on the Bruins, but it
was an encouraging series. Remember, UCLA caught fire in the second
half last year after a brutal start, and maybe this is the beginning of
another run — the performance of Gavin Brooks on Sunday was huge, as
it seems like Jermaine Curtis and Brandon Crawford are getting going as
well, not to mention red-hot Casey Haerther. UCLA needs to keep that
momentum going this week against Cal State Northridge, and then it gets
Stanford at home next weekend — a pretty good time and place for that
series. As for preseason projections, well, UCLA will have to reach
Omaha to live up to our expectations and their own expectations, so one
sweep against UC Riverside does little to erase that slow start.

 Q:  Marty from Wilmington, DE asks:
At the midway point of the regular season, I’m curious what your
thoughts are on the compressed schedule. Having more midweek games
makes things more exciting for us fans, but I’m curious about the
impacts, if any, on pitching, injuries and increased freshman playing
time? Thanks

Aaron Fitt:
There are coaches out there who are glad the compacted schedule has
forced them to develop more young players, particularly on the mound.
But the majority of coaches I speak with are very concerned about all
the missed class time, the risk of injuries to pitchers and the
decreased quality of games because of pitching attrition. The low
rumbling about decreasing games to 52 or 50 is starting to get louder…

 Q:  Alex from Fullerton asks:
am liking the consistancy shown by CSUS the last few weeks, but when I
look at the Big West standings there is UC Davis at the top. Beat a
good UCSB team this week. How good are these guys and are they getting
a sniff of the top 25?

Aaron Fitt:
Davis is a good club — we wrote about them in “Under the Radar” in
Weekend Preview a few weeks back, so go back and take a look at that
for more on the Aggies. Very solid pitching, with quality arms in Eddie
Gamboa, Brad McAtee and closer Justin Fitzgerald. It’s also a very
well-coached team that has some bats that can hurt you, led by Jake
Jefferies, Ty Kelly and Ryan Royster. We did discuss UC Davis in the
top 25 meeting today, but the resume isn’t quite top 25-worthy. Let’s
see how the Aggies do the next two weeks against Cal Poly and Fullerton.

 Q:  John from Texas asks:
did A&M all of the sudden deserve a ranking? It doesn’t seem like
they have really improved the quality of their wins with the sweep over

Aaron Fitt:
It’s hard to win 13 games in a row against anybody, and give the Aggies
credit for taking care of business and sweeping the three conference
opponents they should beat: Kansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma. Texas,
for instance, hasn’t swept anyone since VCU the first weekend.

 Q:  Doug from Memphis asks:
– a couple of weeks ago you guys were asked about Bittle at OM – and
you guys said he didn’t have much upside for the pros. Bittle leads the
country in Ks/9inn, throws in the low 90s..and has a cutter in the mid
80s that is unhittable. What do the scouts not like about him? Go Rebs!

Aaron Fitt:
As I understand it, low 90s is an exaggeration, although his cutter is
absolutely outstanding. He’s pitched extremely well, he’s racking up
the strikeouts, and he’s definitely improving his stock quite a bit. I
look forward to getting a closer look at him next weekend in South

 Q:  james m from bradenton, fl asks:
Aaron, play GM for a moment: Ike Davis or Brett Wallace? Buster Posey or Kyle Skipworth?

Aaron Fitt:
Before the season, I would have said Wallace, but Davis does have more
upside, I think, and he has turned the corner and become one of the
premier power hitters in the nation this year. So I’ll go with Davis,
and Posey.

 Q:  Joe from Easton, MD asks:
Alvarez has looked great since his return from a broken hamate; given
his success and the way Vanderbilt played in his absence is this club a
legitimate threat to get to Omaha?

Aaron Fitt:
They’re absolutely a threat, but they’re going to need more consistent
pitching. Caleb Cotham and Nick Christiani were both very good this
weekend, so maybe they can solidify that weekend rotation. If that
happens, Vandy will be very dangerous, because that lineup is so
experienced and very talented.

 Q:  SekShocker from Kansas asks:
Wichita State have any shot at being a national seed? I guess I need to
know who to root against? Does it make this Tuesday’s game v Nebraska
even bigger for the winner?

Aaron Fitt:
I just think that MVC schedule is going to kill their RPI, and thus
their shot at a national seed, because the committee heavily weights
that particular tool. They’ve still got series remaining against
Southern Illinois (194 RPI), Indiana State (135), Northern Iowa (146),
Evansville (274) and Bradley (195).

 Q:  Matt from Buffalo, NY asks:
Canisius College (26-4, 8-1) makes it to the regionals – do you think
they could make some noise and maybe pull an upset or two. Or is their
record based on a soft schedule. Thanks

Aaron Fitt:
First Canisius question in chat history! I had to take this one. The
Golden Griffins got a big series sweep over the Marist Red Foxes this
weekend and are in the catbird seat in the MAAC. Canisius has already
surprised Appalachian State (taking three of four), defending NEC
champion Mount St. Mary’s (four-game sweep), and defending MAAC champ
Le Moyne (two out of three on the road). Those are all great series
wins for Canisius, but then, none of those teams will be regional teams
in 2008. I think the Griffs are a longshot to win any regional games —
but it’s a great story nonetheless.

Aaron Fitt: That seems like a good spot to stop for today. Thanks for all the questions — I enjoyed today’s chat. See you next week.