2020 College Baseball Preseason Chat (1/27/20)
Teddy Cahill: Welcome to the 2020 college baseball preseason chat. We've published our Preseason Top 25 and All-America teams and will have a lot more preview content coming at y'all over the next couple weeks leading up to Opening Day. So let's get right to your questions
John (North Carolina):
- What are your thoughts on Wake Forest? What’s their ceiling? Seems like the lineup could be very very tough this year.
Teddy Cahill: Let's start with Wake Forest! I think the Deacs will be improved this year. I think they were a solid team last year, about .500 in the league, close to the NCA Tournament cut line, they were just too light on the mound. Well, this year, a lot of the offense is back, starting with Bobby Seymour and Chris Lanzilli, and the pitching should be better. Jared Shuster was better over the summer than he was during the spring and if that carries over into 2020, he gives them a real solid Friday starter. Wake also had a late change in pitching coaches last year when Matt Hobbs went to Arkansas and John Hendricks was hired in December. Everyone should be a lot more familiar with each other this spring, which should help. I like what Wake has overall. I don't think hosting a regional is out of the question and from there, you just kind of see what the draw is. But that lineup will definitely be tough to face all year long.
- Last year the Missouri Valley was rated the highest non-power 5 conference. How do you see the conference as a whole this year?
Teddy Cahill: Down from last year's high. I really like Dallas Baptist this year. I think the Patriots can have a big season when you are building around stars like Burl Carraway and Jimmy Glowenke and have as much talent overall as DBU does. Missouri State should be better - at least, you wouldn't think they'd have another 20-36 season in them. But are they a regional team? I don't know. And then Indiana and Illinois State were great last year - it probably doesn't come together for them quite like that again. I expect them both to be solid, I think there are a lot of talented pieces at both places, but to think they both win 35+ again? That's a stretch for me. So, I'd have DBU as the clear favorite and I'd expect the conference to produce another team or two of regional quality, but the RPI won't be as hot in 2020 as it was in 2019, and that may mean only one bid for the conference.
- Who do you see as the front-runner in the Patriot League this year? Can Army baseball make it three in a row? Thank you
Teddy Cahill: I'll take Army. I think its proven under Jim Foster that it is going to consistently be in the upper echelon of the league. Navy has a big hole to fill with Noah Song graduating. But I don't want to count the Middies out. I think it'll be Army-Navy for first place again. I like what Lehigh is building. I think the pitching there should be high end this year. But it has a long way to go to truly get in the mix with the service academies at the top of the conference.
Gregory Aracena (Puerto Rico):
- Kumar Rocker is the best SP in the country? It is a possible first pick?
Teddy Cahill: I'd take Kumar Rocker as the best pitcher in the country. In our crystal ball picks, I did select him as Pitcher of the Year. And I think he can be the No. 1 overall pick in 2021 when he's eligible. He's definitely the early favorite for the top selection next year.
- Ginn over Kumar for First Team? Wasn't Kumar over Ginn in Freshman of the Year? What's changed in the off-season?
Teddy Cahill: While we're on the subject of Mr. Rocker, what changed is that we don't select our Preseason All-America team. For 40 years, we have invited major league scouting directors to vote for it. And they graciously do so.
Brad (Greenville, NC):
- Who do you see being the best team in the state of North Carolina this year? I know my Pirates lost a lot of offensive production from last season, I know UNC lost a significant amount of run production as well as pitching too...thanks for your insight
Teddy Cahill: Duke is the highest ranked team in the state - which I can safely say has never happened in the 40-year history of the BA preseason rankings. But the four ACC teams and ECU are all bunched up in the back half of the Top 25. It's a cop out, but it could go any way. I can guarantee you good baseball in North Carolina, but which team is going to truly pop? It could go any direction.
- How will Florida compete in the SEC this year?? Was last year just a down year?
Teddy Cahill: That's clearly my belief since we ranked them No. 4. I think Tommy Mace and Jack Leftwich give the Gators a legit 1-2 punch and there is plenty of depth behind them on staff. There's a lot of offensive talent returning and I think center fielder Jud Fabian is ready to make a jump. Remember, this time last year, he'd been in Gainesville for only about a month after enrolling early. I like the freshmen coming in, I like the sophomore class, I like what they've got. I think the Gators should be right back to being a national contender in 2020 with this team.
- Vandy lost 6 of 9 of their big bats and most of their 100 home runs. Yet you still believe they are number 1 preseason?
Teddy Cahill: Yes
Ben Skinner (San Francisco, CA):
- What are your expectations and predictions for the California Golden Bears ?
Teddy Cahill: I like Cal, but within reason. I mean, Andrew Vaughn was an all-time player. But there's solid talent there. I like what Darren Baker can do, Sean Sullivan took a step forward on the Cape and the Golden Bears have some other good young talent. I don't think it needs to be a significant step back and they can definitely get back to a regional. But not having Vaughn in the heart of the lineup is going to be different and Cal will need a group effort to replace his production.
Greg (Orange, CA):
- What is the bigger weakness/cause for concern for UCLA- the pitching staff or the bats?
Teddy Cahill: I'll say the offense. John Savage has never not had enough pitching at UCLA. Ryan Garcia is a big loss and Jack Ralston stepped up in a big way. But I like the potential of a rotation of Zach Pettway, Nick Nastrini and Jesse Bergin and Holden Powell at the back end of the bullpen. There's depth around those guys and I feel good about it. Offensively, the Bruins have to replace guys like Toglia and Kreidler and Strumpf. They have pieces to do it, but they lost the heart of their lineup. They need Matt McLain to step up, they need Garrett Mitchell to live up to his lofty preseason expectations and they're going to need some younger players to show they can be everyday, productive players. I like their chances, but that to me is the the bigger question mark going into the year.
- Do you think Michigan can sustain their success and make themselves a year in year out CWS team? Also how much of their success relies on them keeping fetter long term?
Teddy Cahill: Last June, I picked Michigan to go back to Omaha in 2020. I'll stand by that prediction today. I really like this Wolverines team. And I like them going forward too. They're recruiting at a high level and that staff has shown the ability to develop players once they get to Ann Arbor. I'm a big believer in the whole group. So, yes, keeping Fetter is important, but I don't think he's the make-or-break piece here. Erik Bakich has always done a really good job at hiring assistant coaches. Nick Schnabel was our Assistant Coach of the Year for a reason. He's a premium recruiter and does a great job with the hitters. Sean Kenny, who preceded Fetter, is a really good pitching coach himself. So if Fetter moved on, I believe in Bakich's ability to hire a strong replacement. I don't mean to downplay what Fetter has done in Ann Arbor - he's clearly excellent, I just think the operations is much bigger than him.
Gerard Kwilecki (Mobile, AL):
- What is your prediction on South Alabama? Possible tournament participant? Thanks!
Teddy Cahill: Yeah, I think South Al has that in it this year. Ethan Wilson had a tremendous freshman year and should be at the heart of everything again this spring. The pitching should be better, there's some really good talent there. Health was an issue at times last year and you'd figure they'd have better luck in that area in 2020. So I think the Jaguars can bounce back from last year's dip and get into contention in the Sun Belt and for a regionals bid.
Teddy Cahill: Hold that Tiger?
- Jesse Franklin hasn’t gotten as much love this offseason as some other Wolverines (Nwogu, Criswell), but is on BA’s 2nd team. What do you see in him as a prospect to buck the trend and place him so high?
Teddy Cahill: I think this is another instance where the unique way we create our Preseason All-America team comes into play. Jesse Franklin right now is viewed as a better prospect than Jordan Nwogu because of his ability to play center field and his projectable tools. Nwogu is coming off a better season but a season in which he was almost strictly a DH (and then didn't play summer ball). Criswell is trying to fight through a deep starting pitching group. Personally, I love Jesse Franklin as a prospect. I think he's going to be really good, both this year and as a pro. But I get the love for Nwogu and Criswell - they're really good too.
- We all know Michigan looks to be the favorite In the Big 10 , what other teams do you think will challenge Them for the top spot, and what schools off the radar Today could be sleepers that contend for the title Thank you
Teddy Cahill: Well, we have Ohio State ranked No. 24, so the Buckeyes are clearly among the challengers. I think Minnesota is the other clear cut challenger this season. Really like what those two teams have on the mound. As for national title sleepers, I found this to be difficult when I was working on our crystal ball picks for the college preview issue. I think Coastal could be a team that's a little off the radar now but surprises if it can get find the right formula for its pitching staff and lineup. There's a lot of talent in Conway again. Is A&M off the radar? Probably not, but the Aggies definitely have the pitching. Texas has the talent to really make noise and surprise. But none of these are really off the radar. I think you're looking at a lot of traditional powers making the most noise this year.
Bill (North carolina):
- What are your thoughts on S Carolina after a down year last year
Teddy Cahill: The Gamecocks brought in a strong recruiting class - we ranked it No. 11 - that was heavy on junior college transfers. They need those guys to make an impact quickly. South Carolina gets a big boost from Carmen Mlodzinski being healthy this season after missing him most of last year with a broken foot. That gives them a true ace on Fridays. But they're going to need some of those newcomers to break through, both on the mound and in the lineup, if they're going to make a big move this season. The talent is there, they just have to get it aligned right. The other difficulty is that if Florida, Georgia and Vanderbilt are as good as we think they are, the East is going to be tough this year. I'm definitely interested in seeing how South Carolina progresses over the course of the season.
- How are Cabell and de Sedas looking for FSU? Both appear to be draft eligible as sophomores. Can they sneak into the top 100?
Teddy Cahill: They both have the upside for it, but there's a lot of risk with them both. De Sedas is currently ranked in our top 100 draft prospects, but he's going to have to show a bit more than he did a year ago to stay there. Cabell has premium power but needs to cut down on strikeouts. Florida State needs those guys to produce and they need it to improve their draft status. Definitely something to keep an eye on in the first few weeks of the season.
- Better chance of a breakout this year, Eddie McCabe for Georgetown, Emmet Sheehan for BC, or Nick Lorusso for Villanova?
Teddy Cahill: I mean, McCabe already broke out, right? I don't know what last year was if not that. Sheehan has some premium talent but whether he's ready to put it all together yet or not, I'm not sure. Lorusso made a significant impact for Villanova as a freshman. There's probably more in there, so I guess him. But I think Sheehan may have the best upside of that seemingly random trio.
- Bigger impact freshman: Stephen Reid for Georgia Tech or Luke Boynton for Nebraska?
Teddy Cahill: That's one DEEP fantasy league and I want to know more. I guess I'd say Reid, but not confidently. He went under the radar last year due to injury and could be in line for a bounceback 2020.
- What are your thoughtson the three Vandy freshman pitchers, Leiter, Hliboki and McElvain and how much help can they be this season?
Teddy Cahill: They're really good. They're a big part of why Vanderbilt's recruiting class ranked No. 1 this fall. Leiter was the highest ranked player not to sign in last year's draft and will pitch in a significant role this spring. The Commodores' frontline arms are the best in the country 1-6 or so, and opportunity will be somewhat limited as a result. But those guys could definitely break through and throw impact innings.
- What are your expectations for UConn this year?
Teddy Cahill: I like UConn. I think it's a solid all around group. Some good returning talent in the lineup and I like the talent on the mound. It's a team that should be in the mix for regionals again. If it can get into a regional again this year, it would be UConn's third-straight NCAA Tournament appearance, something that hasn't happened since 1957-61. You just have to be impressed with what the Huskies have built with Jim Penders.
Teddy Cahill: That's going to do it for today. Thanks for all your questions. Love that we're getting deep into 2020 preseason talk. The season is coming fast. Conference previews start tomorrow and continue for the next two weeks, so make sure to check those out. And we have a lot more to come leading up to Opening Day!