2017 College Preseason Top 25 Chat

Teddy Cahill: Welcome to the Preseason Top 25 chat. The college baseball season is nearly upon us, which is an exciting time of year. So let’s get to your questions.

Greg (Tallahassee): I keep thinking Florida is higher than it should be in all these rankings. I get that the rotation and the lineup should be solid, but there are essentially zero returners in the bullpen who have thrown any significant innings. What am I missing?
Teddy Cahill: I really, really like this Florida team. If the rotation and lineup are as good as they should be, that lessens the pressure on the bullpen. This rotation has a chance to be better than last year’s, as hard as that may be to believe given that Logan Shore and A.J. Puk have moved on to pro ball. Alex Faedo and Brady Singer could be the No. 1 overall pick in each of the next two years, and Jackson Kowar could be the best Sunday starter in the country. Offensively, losing Peter Alonso and Buddy Reed does have to be accounted for. But otherwise the lineup was pretty young last year. If guys like Jonathan India, Deacon Liput and Mike Rivera can take a step forward and J.J. Schwarz bounces back, you’re looking at a formidable offense. And the Gators will defend, as usual with Rivera and Dalton Guthrie and Deacon Liput up the middle. The relievers are talented, if unproven. But when that’s a team’s biggest question, I think that team sets up pretty well.

Chris (Texas): I can't believe my ECU Pirates are #6! What makes you guys love them so much? Is this the year I can finally go to Omaha and see them play?
Teddy Cahill: This is the best preseason ranking in East Carolina history, so it’s fair to say we have pretty high expectations. I tabbed them as an Omaha team at the end of the season in Eight for Omaha (https://www.baseballamerica.com/college/eight-omaha-2017/#ICx2alreyFSbZCAD.97) and I’d stand by that if I redid that exercise today. It’s just an older, experienced team that was 90 feet away from advancing to the College World Series a year ago. No one from that team was drafted, which means it isn’t prospect laden, but also means that there are a lot of seniors on the roster this year. And Cliff Godwin has started bringing in higher-end talent in the last few years, including a Top-25 recruiting class this fall. It’s an exciting mix of veteran players and talented underclassmen. This looks like the year the Pirates break through to Omaha.

Johnathon (Atlanta, GA): With the addition of Coastal Carolina, the Sunbelt seems to be top heavy with two jugernots at the top of the conference (LA Lafeyette being the other one). Are there any other teams that have a chance to top these in the sunbelt? Maybe GA Southern or South AL? Thanks!
Teddy Cahill: Coastal’s addition to the Sun Belt brings more attention to the conference, but it was already a really solid conference. South Alabama is the next team to look out for in the Sun Belt. The Jaguars have made some strides in the last few years and should be solid again. Troy looks good. Texas State, Georgia Southern and Arkansas-Little Rock are all solid programs. Will any of those teams be able to challenge ULL or Coastal? We’ll have to see, but there is some pretty good depth in the Sun Belt. There’s been some real investment in baseball by several of those schools in recent years and they’re seeing it pay off.

Pete (California): Does Stanford have the depth on the mound to make a run in the PAC 12
Teddy Cahill: Absolutely. Stanford should really pitch this year. Tristan Beck is the best pitcher in the conference and Colton Hock gives the Cardinal an elite closer (assuming they don’t move him to the rotation). Erik Miller is an exciting freshman who has the ability to pitch on the weekend, and Chris Castellanos and Brett Hanewich both bring solid experience. For me, the bigger question with Stanford is how we’ll it will hit. I think the Cardinal are improved offensively and have the pieces to make some noise in Mark Marquess’ final year as head coach.

Mike (San Jose, Calif.): How close was Rice to making your pre-season Top 25 this year ... and what kept them out, in your opinion?
Teddy Cahill: We looked at Rice when we were putting together the rankings. Ford Proctor is a great player to build the lineup around, and I think Rice should be pretty good offensively. I think the biggest question is how the Owls will replace Jon Duplantier and Blake Fox. Those guys were so good for them at the front of the rotation last year. Ricardo Salinas and Glenn Otto are two really nice pieces for the staff, but some guys are going to have to step up. They’ve got some talented arms, and I’m very interested to see how it all comes together.

Bill (Florida): Where do you think Southern Miss will do this year? I am hearing that they will be much more athletic this year and still have the big bats. Also, the pitching looks deeper.
Teddy Cahill: Conference USA should be pretty interesting again with Rice, Southern Miss and Florida Atlantic all battling it out. Southern Miss is always solid and they bring back some nice pieces like Kirk McCarty and Nick Sandlin. They’re going to be younger up the middle, but I think the Eagles can compete for the conference title and be a regional team again this year.

Dave (Florida): How do you think CUSA will shake out this year?
Teddy Cahill: All the CUSA questions. I think Rice is the favorite. FAU and Southern Miss should be regional teams again. Old Dominion should be solid, and I think FIU will take a step forward in Mervyl Melendez’s first year. I expect another strong year for CUSA overall.

Jerry (Clarks Summit Pa): Is there chance Arizona State breaks into the top 25 this year?
Teddy Cahill: The Sun Devils could find a way into the Top 25, sure. There are a lot of new pieces at Arizona State, but there’s plenty of talent. They brought in a top-10 recruiting class this fall and some of those guys are going to have to step up for ASU. But if they hit the ground running in college, the Sun Devils could be pretty good and right back in the mix in the Pac-12.

Nelson (Atlanta): Are Xzavion Curry and Garrett Gooden ready to be impact players at GT this season ? what are their upsides? thanks.
Teddy Cahill: I’m a big Xzavion Curry fan. He and Gooden should both be ready to help Georgia Tech on the mound this season. And the Yellow Jackets will need some of their younger pitchers to step up. I really like the potential of that staff, but they’re going to have to do it this spring for Georgia Tech to reach its ceiling.

Greg (North Carolina): How do you see UNCW stacking up this year? Do you think they have a shot to take the next step and Win a regional?
Teddy Cahill: UNC Wilmington should be strong offensively again with Nick Feight and Brian Mims (among others) back in the lineup. I think they’ve improved their pitching depth and if they can get some of those guys to take a step forward on the mound behind Alex Royalty, the Seahawks could certainly win a regional. Definitely a team to watch this spring.

Mick (Chicago): Please name a few shortstops that have the defensive chops to stay at that position as a pro.
Teddy Cahill: Clay Fisher (UC Santa Barbara), Dalton Guthrie (Florida) and Connor Kaiser (Vanderbilt) really stand out for their defense. Kevin Smith (Maryland) had a great summer in the Cape Cod League and did a lot to convince scouts he can play shortstop.

Patrick (IL): Who do you think is the best pure hitter in college baseball?
Teddy Cahill: I am not a fan of the “pure hitter” tag, but I’ll say Virginia first baseman Pavin Smith. He has a smooth swing and really understands the strike zone. With Matt Thaiss moving on to pro ball, Smith will have to carry more of the load offensively for Virginia.

eight26 (Seattle): I don't see much on Brett Conine in Fullerton previews. He looked good in the Cape this Summer; WHIP and K/9. How much will he contribute to the Titans this Spring?
Teddy Cahill: The Fullerton breakdown goes up at BaseballAmerica.com tomorrow, but I did not list him as the Titans’ projected closer. That said, he could be a big factor in their bullpen. Four Fullerton relievers were drafted last year, so some new ones will have to step up. I expected Conine and fellow sophomore Gavin Velasquez will be asked to take on larger roles this spring.

DR (SEC): Is Ole Miss's Dillard the favorite to be this yesr's freshman power hitting sensation?


Dan (MD): What's a reasonable expectation for Drew Mendoza? Middle of the order piece for a regional host?


Matt (Va): Who are the top freshman to watch this season?
Teddy Cahill: The two players mentioned in the two questions above – Ole Miss C/OF Thomas Dillard and Florida State 1b/3b Drew Mendoza are two to watch. Cal RHP Jared Horn, Arizona State OF Hunter Bishop, Ole Miss C Cooper Johnson, Arizona 3b Nick Quintana, Florida OF Austin Langworthy, South Carolina OF/INF Carlos Cortes, Auburn RHP Davis Daniel, Clemson SS Logan Davidson, TCU LHP Nick Lodolo, pick a UNC freshman arm (or two), LSU 3b Josh Smith, Stanford LHP Erik Miller — there are a few out there. And you can read about way more in the recruiting rankings: https://www.baseballamerica.com/college/2016-recruiting-rankings-top-25/#eA8lbhpUX8G2xmJd.97

Tom (Arizona): The Carolinas have 6 teams in the Top 25. Is the recruiting ground there that fertile or how are they making that happen? (the adjacent states aren't slackers either with Virginia, Maryland, GTech and Georgia all vying for talent)
Teddy Cahill: This is an intriguing question that may merit more than a chat answer. The recruiting ground is pretty fertile in the Southeast. Teams in the Carolinas can pull from the Carolinas (which are rich in baseball prospects) and pretty easily go into Georgia and Florida. They can also head north into Virginia, PA and the Northeast. And the Midwest isn’t that far away if a player wants to come South. So they’re in an advantageous spot. And the schools in the Carolinas care. Like, really care. Clemson-South Carolina is an intense rivalry in baseball. UNC, Coastal and South Carolina have all built new stadiums relatively recently. Clemson went through a significant renovation. Virginia is about to go through one of its own. So there’s something to sell recruits. And the coaches are really good. But this is also cyclical. In 2015 there were no regional hosts in Virginia, the Carolinas or Georgia (although UVA did win the national title). So it ebbs and flows. This year looks to be a strong year in that area of the country.

Arf Weed (Plainfield, IL): You had Nebraska as a regional team in your 8 for Omaha last summer, but they don't even make the top 25 at this point...what has changed?
Teddy Cahill: To clarify, Nebraska was a super regional team in that Eight for Omaha exercise. Some of the discrepancy there is how I attack the Eight for Omaha field vs. the Top 25, some is that I am not the only voice in the Top 25 rankings and some of it is that I put together that Eight for Omaha while I was in Omaha last year. With a bit more time away from the season, you see things somewhat differently. I still really like Nebraska. I think the Huskers are a regional team again. But with some added perspective I think Maryland is the Big Ten favorite. Nebraska isn’t far behind them.

Jacob (Wilmington, NC): Fill in the blank. The non-Preseason Top 25 team that I wouldn't be surprised to see in Omaha is _______.
Teddy Cahill: I actually have to essentially make this call in the next couple days for the Crystal Ball in our College Preview issue (to qualify to be our “Omaha Sleeper” pick, a team has to be outside the Top 25). I am not 100 percent settled on it at this time. I picked Indiana last year (oops) and I may go back to the Big Ten well again this year. Texas A&M is also a solid option (albeit a bit of a cheat, as the Aggies were the last team cut from the Top 25). To see my final pick, check back here on BaseballAmerica.com in a couple weeks or pick up a copy of the College Preview issue.

Teddy Cahill: That’ll do it for today. Thanks for all your questions. If I didn’t get to yours, leave it in the comments and I’ll come back and answer there. Can’t wait for the season to start so we can talk about some action on the field.

Comments are closed.

Download our app

Read the newest magazine issue right on your phone