College Top Chat: March 24

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Moderator: Aaron Fitt will answer your questions about
the new Baseball America Top 25 as well as any other college questions
at 2:30 p.m. ET.

 Q:  Andrew from Athens, GA asks:
Gordon Beckham, player of the year?

Aaron Fitt:
Hello everyone, welcome to another top 25 chat, sponsored by our good
friends at DeMarini. Today’s Three Strikes deals with this very
question, so be sure to check that out. So far, Beckham has been the
position player of the year in my mind, though the Wallace & Davis
duo at Arizona State is also in the discussion. For pitcher of the
year, it’s tough to argue with Aaron Crow of Missouri, but Brian Matusz
isn’t far behind him. Should be a great race, with no clear-cut
front-runner, like we had last year with David Price.

 Q:  Joe from Omaha, NE asks:
Nebraska is playing great as a team but my question is do they have any individuals who will be drafted in the top 10 rounds?

Aaron Fitt:
The guy with the most helium is junior righthander Aaron Pribanic, who
is off to a 2-0, 1.44 start. He’s got a good 6-foot-4 frame and a
quality arm, capable of producing low-90s fastballs. Looks like a good
bet for the top 10 rounds. Most of their seniors don’t look likely to
go that high, though.

 Q:  David from Orlando asks:
talk a bit about Ole Miss frosh Drew Pomeranz, please. He got cuffed a
bit on Sunday, but before that, he was obscene vs. opposing batters.
Could he move into the rotation and dominate? What’s his draft

Aaron Fitt:
He came in with a lot of expectations and has backed them up this
spring, throwing 93-95 mph almost every pitch according to the Ole Miss
coaching staff. He’s also got a curveball that looks like it will be a
true above-average offering. He’s capable of starting for sure, though
he might be more valuable in the bullpen in the short term. It’s early,
but right now he looks like a very likely first-rounder in 2010, and an
early candidate for the top 10 overall picks.

 Q:  David from Orlando asks:
Eric Thames is off to a good start. Is he moving up the draft boards?
Where could he end up going, and is he justifying the Eric Davis comp I
read about earlier this year?

Aaron Fitt:
He is moving up. He needed to follow up his strong 2007 summer in the
Northwoods League with a good spring to show that he’s more than just a
tools guy, and he’s doing that so far, batting .390 with four homers.
He’s a sublime athlete, though I think he’s more of a poor man’s Eric
Davis — Davis’ tools don’t come around too often.

 Q:  Mike Miller from Orange asks:
dirtbags are hot… It seems their bats are coming ro life a bit more
lately. Do you see them having the bats to get back to Omaha for the
first time in 10 years. Also where do you see Liebel going in the draft
this year?

Aaron Fitt:
I do see them as an Omaha team, yes. The big thing is, those guys
always seem to get timely hitting from up and down the lineup, and they
pitch and defend so well. It’s a recipe that reminds me of Oregon State
the last couple of years, and Long Beach has that same kind of mental
toughness, too. Liebel has really helped his draft stock more than
almost any other player this year. He’s added velocity to his fastball
(he’s 90-93 now) and could find himself going as early as the
supplemental or second round, especially as a cost-saving senior. One
scout even said Liebel is a dead ringer for Ian Kennedy.

 Q:  David from Orlando asks:
How big a surprise has Cameron Rupp been for Texas? How’s his defense looking? Could he be a first-rounder in ’09?

Aaron Fitt:
He’s gotten a lot more playing time than expected, thanks to Preston
Clark’s shoulder injury, and he’s capitalized to the extreme. We always
knew this guy had power—he won the home run derby at the Aflac game in
high school—but I didn’t think he’d come in and hit .424 as a
freshman. Defense isn’t his forte, but he’s made progress since he was
in high school, when his receiving was downright poor.

 Q:  David from Los Angeles asks:
SC’s back-to-back shutouts of Arizona have me wondering whether the Trojans can make a run in the Pac-10. What do you think?

Aaron Fitt:
Sure they can. Heading into the year, I thought there were seven teams
capable of making a serious run — everybody except the two Washington
schools. Washington State is better than we expected, but still looks
short on pitching. USC, though, has plenty of pitching, and it looks
like Tommy Milone and Ryan Cook are finally figuring it out. If Brad
Boxberger can return to form, they’ll have five guys who can give them
quality starts, along with Kevin Couture and Anthony Vasquez. That
pitching depth will loom large down the stretch.

 Q:  David from Orlando asks:
who will be the better pro player — Hunter Morris or Victor Sanchez?
Sanchez’s power looks quite a bit better, but Morris is so disciplined
at the plate for a freshman.

Aaron Fitt:
I’ll go with Sanchez, because he’s got more long-term upside, but
you’re right, Morris’ approach is special. I think it’s a terrific
freshman class, and that race for freshman of the year should be fun,
with Matt Harvey, Kyle Blair, Kentrail Davis and maybe Tommy Toledo and
Nick Hernandez.

 Q:  Marty from Wilmington, DE asks:
Besides a lone win over Coastal Carolina, what has Michigan done to
hold a spot in the poll? I realize their schedule is relatively tough,
but losses to Ga. Southern (2 losses each to Columbia and Boston
College)and Portland?

Aaron Fitt:
Michigan and UCLA are the last two teams that are clinging desperately
to spots in the top 25 based almost entirely on their rankings in the
preseason. We put Michigan on notice two weeks ago, and since then they
have done enough to stay in — they only played one game last week and
they won it. There isn’t much more they could have done. There are
other teams (Oklahoma State, UNC Wilmington) that have better on-field
resumes, but we’re sticking with the Wolverines until they have another
bumpy week.

 Q:  Marty from Wilmington, DE asks:
Over or under on 5 losses for Arizona State this season? Thanks


Aaron Fitt: I’ll take the over.

 Q:  Marty from Wimington asks:

At 17-4, 9-0 in the CAA, is UNC-Wilmington close to a top 25 berth?


Aaron Fitt:
Yes, we discussed the Seahawks at length in today’s top 25 meeting.
There just aren’t enough quality wins on the ledger yet — most of
those wins have come against Fordham, Towson, Hofstra and William &
Mary. The Tribe had been playing well, but it’s nowhere near a top 25
team. Really, Coastal Carolina is the only quality win on UNCW’s
resume, and that’s not enough for me. Another win against Coastal and a
series win at VCU this week would speak louder for me.

 Q:  Marty from Wilmington asks:
Is Duke on your top 25 radar? At 19-5, 4-5 ACC, they have single wins
over UNC, Georgia Tech and co-A-10 leader Richmond, as well as a series
win over Virginia. Thanks

Aaron Fitt:
On the radar, but the Blue Devils have lost two of their three
conference series, even though they’ve been competitive. Bottom line
is, you need to win more quality series than you lose to be a top 25

 Q:  Marty from Wilmington asks:
Of the current top 25, in your opinion, based on remaining schedule,
who is most likely to fade down the stretch? Conversely, which team
outside the top 25 do you see making a run at some point to join the
poll? Thanks

Aaron Fitt:
Florida’s schedule down the stretch is brutal: at Kentucky, Georgia, at
South Carolina, at Alabama, Vanderbilt. If the Gators survive that,
they will be a regional team for sure, but it’s going to be tough. As
for other teams, I expect Tulane to make a run to get back into the

 Q:  Snapper Bean from Greater Kensington asks:
seems like an awful lot of draft eligible college position players are
off to very big starts – Gordon Beckham, Reese Havens, Yonder Alonso,
David Cooper, Ike Davis, Brett Wallace, Buster Posey, etc. Is this
class as good as it looks or is the new compressed schedule favoring
hitters and inflating the numbers?

Aaron Fitt:
It’s a great class, I think. The compacted schedule may be helping a
little bit, but there are still plenty of pitchers having exceptional
years as well (Crow, Matusz, Hunt, to name three at the top of my
board). As the season wears on, you’re going to see more and more
hitters padding their numbers in midweek games with football scores,
but that doesn’t mean this class isn’t impressive regardless.

 Q:  Brandon from Omaha asks:
Nebraska and Missouri both going another weekend in the Big 12 without
a loss (though there was an unusual tie), they sit atop the conference.
Will the title be determined by the end of the year series between the
2 schools and, if so, who wins?

Aaron Fitt:
I think Missouri will have the league title wrapped up before that.
Nebraska’s a solid club, but I don’t think it’s the best or even the
second-best team in that league.

 Q:  Tarheel from Nroth carolina asks:
Hi Aaron,

If the playoffs were to start today, who would be your 8 national seeds.


Aaron Fitt:
Taking into consideration only records and strength of schedule, I’d go
with Arizona State, Long Beach State, Missouri, Florida State, Miami,
North Carolina, Arizona, Vanderbilt. In that order.

 Q:  Todd from Ft. Sill asks:
Hensley of Elon is having a great season and averaging better the 9 Ks
a game. What are scouts saying his likely draft position will be? Are
there any other prospects on the Phoenix as well for this year or next?

Aaron Fitt:
I think Hensley could be a second rounder, thanks to a quality
four-pitch mix that includes a good low-90s fastball. Also keep an eye
on Chris Dove, a speed merchant who plays a very good center field and
has hit this year as well. His stock is definitely rising.

 Q:  doug from memphis asks:
an Ole Miss fan and I can’t believe you still have us ranked…what do
you see being the cause of this early season collapse?

Aaron Fitt:
Early season collapse? Calm down, there. It’s a long season, and losing
four out of six isn’t good, but it’s also just six games. The rotation
after Lance Lynn has been pretty shaky, but I’ve gotten good reports on
Satterwhite’s stuff and feel confident he’ll come around. Moving
Pomeranz into the Sunday spot might make a lot of sense, because
Baker’s been very hittable. The Rebels also need to get better
production out of their outfield. Jordan Henry seems to be in a little
sophomore funk, and the Michaels (Hubbard and Guerrero) have cooled
down after their hot start. I think those guys will snap out of it, but
if they don’t, well, Ole Miss won’t be as good in 2008 as I expected.

 Q:  Luke from Des Moines asks:
Missouri is amazing, even Tepesch is getting in on the action. If the
Tigers faced off against Arizona State or Miami’s hitting, who would

Aaron Fitt:
Nick Tepesch has really stabilized that bullpen of late—that’s a major
development for the Tigers. He’s got an incredible arm—he really
opened some eyes in San Diego at the USD tournament—and could wind up
as a top five pick in 2010, but the fact that he’s filling a critical
role as a freshman is huge. Good pitching still beats good hitting
(just ask Arizona State after last year’s CWS), and nobody has better
pitching than Missouri—not Arizona, not San Diego, nobody. So I’d go
with the Tigers.

 Q:  Richard from Atlanta asks:
Hello Aaron, Kentucky travels to South Carolina this weekend. Who ya got and why?

Aaron Fitt:
Should be a competitive, high-scoring series between two very good
offensive clubs. But I like South Carolina to take two out of three at
home. The Gamecocks have to be pleased with their starting pitching of
late, and really, all season. Cisco, Atwood and Cooper have come out
with something to prove, and they’re proving it.

 Q:  Addison from texas asks:
if Shaun Kort was 6’2, would he be the best hitting prospect on the west coast for 2009?

Aaron Fitt:
He’s a great hitter, but I wouldn’t go that far. Nevada plays in a very
offensive park that skews numbers a little bit, making it tougher to
get a feel for how good a hitter is.

 Q:  Fred from Long Beach asks:
How would you have UNC ramked ahead of Long Beach?
I know it’s early but I am always trying to figure out how you rank teams.
UNC 4-1 this week losing to 11-11 maryland Long Beach 4-0 sweeping then #11 UCLA.
UNC has played one ranked team this season and lost (CCar)
Long Beach (rice, wsu, UCLA)all series wins
Better yet UNC in the top ten at all?

Aaron Fitt:
Long Beach has the much, much more impressive resume — for me, it’s
not even close. And we talked long and hard about jumping LBSU over UNC
and Miami, but in the end, poll mechanics won out. We don’t generally
punish higher ranked teams that won their conference series. There’s a
reason we had UNC and Miami ranked higher in the preseason, and they’ve
done nothing to make us doubt them.

 Q:  Luke from Des Moines asks:
the top pitcher in the nation—Gorgen, Guilmet, Crow, or other? Also,
who’s the best closer—Stoffel, Griffin, Fields, other? Thanks.

Aaron Fitt:
We had a similar question in today’s podcast. I went with Crow by a
hair over Gorgen and Matusz, although if I had to win one big game I
would take Gorgen. For closer, those are all terrific choices, really,
but what about Bryan Shaw of Long Beach State? I might take him, with
all of those other guys nipping at his heels.

 Q:  Luke from Des Moines asks:
Matt Harvey or Kyle Blair?

Aaron Fitt:
Harvey, but it’s very close. Both are performing extremely well as
freshmen, but Harvey has a little bit more long-term professional
upside whereas Blair is pretty physically mature already. Both guys
will continue to get better, but I think there’s more room for Harvey
to get better, so I’ll give him a miniscule edge.

 Q:  Aaron from Phoenix asks:
This Bittle kid from Ole Miss. Real deal or just a great start?

Aaron Fitt:
Very good college lefthander, not much professional upside. He’s been
best option in a Mississippi bullpen that includes plenty of guys with
bigger arms.

 Q:  Mike from Brookline, MA asks:
did you learn about the SEC after this weekend? Auburn beats UK –
previously undefeated – Alabama takes it to Vandy, and Flordia sits
atop the east.

Aaron Fitt:
It’s all very confusing, isn’t it? My gut says Alabama still finishes
last in that conference; South Carolina overtakes Florida in the East;
Ole Miss rights the ship and holds on to win the West. The East is
clearly the better division and could send five or six teams to
regionals. I think Auburn and LSU make runs at regionals out of the

 Q:  Luke from Des Moines asks:
Should Dominic de la Osa and Kyle Russell have signed? Where will they be drafted this year? Thanks.

Aaron Fitt:
Lot of good questions from Luke today. To answer your question: yes and
yes. Russell, especially, maximized his value last year and would have
been better off taking the money while he could get it. The fact is,
scouts were very divided on him last year, and now we’re seeing why.
That’s not to say he can’t still turn this year around, but he’s not
going to increase his value from where it was last year, and he’ll be
very lucky to get back to that point. I think de la Osa is likely to go
higher than Russell in this year’s draft, let’s say third or fourth
round if he can get his bat going. Remember, he started slow last year
too, but not this slow.

 Q:  Raymond Linares from Miami asks:
What do you think are Miami’s cahnces to making it to the world series? Arw they the best team in the ACC?

Aaron Fitt:
I think the Hurricanes have a very good shot to get back to Omaha. For
me, they are easily the best team in the ACC. UNC has more pitching
depth, but Miami’s frontline pitching has been more consistent, Miami’s
better defensively, and its lineup is much more dangerous. Florida
State’s pitching is suspect, in my mind.

 Q:  Paul from Eugene Oregon asks:
beavers took 2 out of 3 from pepperdine this weekend with garret Nash
kevin rhoderick and greg peavey having huge weekends. What are chances
of them being top round draft picks in a few years?? Along with josh
osich and tanner robles ??

Aaron Fitt:
I think all five of those guys have a shot at going in the top two
rounds in 2010. Oregon State should be loaded next year as those guys
get more experience under their belts. But in the short term, that was
a huge series win for the Beavers against a quality Pepperdine team.
We’ll see if the Beavs can keep it going in conference play…
something tells me they’ll be a factor.

Aaron Fitt: That’s all for today, folks. Thanks for the great questions.