Teddy Cahill: Welcome to this week’s college baseball chat. It was a fun weekend, especially with the big rivalry series in the SEC. So, there’s a lot to talk about. Let’s get to the questions.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- So in the weekend’s Louisville v. Virginia series: Friday – Binelas homers hitting the top of the scoreboard for a well over 400′ feet drive. Saturday – his homer clears the right field roof with a 479′ distance. Sunday – he again homers, this time over the center field fence for a blast of about 415′ feet. Can this guy not be the best pure power bat in the upcoming draft?
Teddy Cahill: There’s a reason I made Binelas my player of the year pick in the preseason. That hasn’t quite worked out the way I predicted, but the tools are definitely there for him – including power. Elijah Cabell might be my pick for the most pure power nationally, but I think Binelas belongs in that conversation.
Ben (Jefferson City, MO):
- Is this year’s Arkansas team better than the that went to the CWS 2 years ago?
Teddy Cahill: I’ll assume you’re talking about the 2018 runner-up and not the 2019 team. A lot of overlap between the, but I’d take the ’18 team between the two. As for the 2021 vs. 2018 Hogs, it’s tough. They’re built differently. Blaine Knight was a premier starter at the front of the rotation and Kacey Murphy and Isaiah Campbell gave Arkansas two more really good starters. Matt Cronin was lockdown at the back of the bullpen and guys like Loseke and Reindl were reliable in the bullpen as well. Offensively, Kjerstad, Martin, Fletcher, Cole, Shaddy and Bonfield made for a deep, powerful lineup. They were good but not exceptional defensively (regardless of what happened in Game 2). So, how does that stack up to this team? The 2021 team doesn’t have a Knight or even a Murphy. Those two guys combined for 213 innings. Arkansas this year won’t have a 100+ inning pitcher. The staff is just built differently. Offensively, it’s another deep, powerful, athletic lineup. Defensively, Arkansas is better this year. I think a matchup between the two teams would be compelling and a really interesting contrast of styles on the mound. Part of me wants to give the edge to a team with Blaine Knight, another part of me thinks that Kevin Kopps a a huge difference maker. Ultimately, I think I’d go with 2021 due to the defense. That seems to be the one clear advantage either team has. Love that question.
- Which series win was more impressive Vandy over Tennessee or Mississippi State over Ole Miss? Early thoughts on Vandy v. MSU this weekend?
Teddy Cahill: I’ll say Vanderbilt’s series win was more impressive because the Commodores really needed a response after taking their first series loss of the season the weekend before. If Vanderbilt hadn’t won in Knoxville, all of a sudden there’s a much different feel there going into this weekend against Mississippi State. And for the Commodores to go on the road and win the rubber game – and really control that game Sunday – I thought was an important step for them as a team. As for this weekend, it should be a really fun series. There’s going to be a lot of focus on the starting pitching for both teams, but I’m just as interested in how the bullpens match up. That’s potentially a big advantage for the Bulldogs, but they can’t put it all on their relievers – the rotation is going to have to be better to match up with Rocker and Leiter.
- Do my Eagles have any shot at the NCAA Tournament? Talk about a disappointing season after how it started and our expectations…
Teddy Cahill: I feel bad about how ramped up the hype train got for BC. In retrospect, seeing what Duke and Auburn have become, those early season wins weren’t as notable as they were thought to be at the time. If those series had happened even a month later, the results would have been viewed differently. Now, does BC have a shot at the tournament? Every ACC team has a path still. If the Eagles won their last four series (Notre Dame, Pitt, Miami and UVA), that’s at least 13 ACC wins and some really good series wins, not to mention a road series win against an SEC opponent. That team would at least be on the bubble going to the ACC Tournament. So, the path is there, but there’s no real margin for error and it will be a very difficult path.
Tommy Top Step (Florida):
- How hot is FSU Catcher Mat Nelson? And where does he rank amongst D1’s top backstops? He’s clearly performed the best in the ACC even amongst guys like Henry Davis and Adrian DelCastillo! Where might he be in this year’s draft talks?
Teddy Cahill: Definitely another strong weekend for Nelson as he’s pulled even with Wes Clarke and Jace Jung for the nation’s home run lead (15). I’ll disagree that he’s been the best performer of the incredible ACC catching group. I’ll take Henry Davis (.403/.529/.664, 8 HR, 10 SB, 28 BB, 12 K) slightly ahead of Nelson (.324/.433/.802, 15 HR, 17 BB, 32 K), but there’s some degree of personal preference there. Nelson’s definitely moving up draft boards this spring. He’s clearly taken a step forward with the bat after returning to school last year.
- Do you feel like Pitt is a legitimate contender to host this year? With the NCAA potentially looking to have sites in different areas, it seems the Panthers could be a logical Northeast/Midwest host.
Teddy Cahill: Pitt is a legit host contender regardless of how the selection committee plays it. I’m not sure how much they’ll care about geography – recent history says they don’t care and with Louisville and Notre Dame comfortably in the hosting mix in the same general area of the country there’s no reason to force a Midwestern host – but Pitt is putting together a solid hosting resume. I’m very interested to see how the committee handles the ACC’s poor overall RPI. If they can look past that metric, Pitt right now would be behind Louisville, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech in the pecking order (with a series at Louisville on tap this weekend). But if RPI is a bigger deal, Notre Dame is the lone ACC school that ranks ahead of Pitt. A big couple weeks coming for the Panthers and the rest of the host contenders.
Thomas (North Carolina):
- Connor Norby, your impressions and is he AA at this point in the season and what more does he have to do to be considered for 1st team AA at the end of the season as compared to some of the power 5 team players?
Teddy Cahill: I don’t know how much you can say about a player hitting .442/.482/.713 with nine home runs and eight stolen bases except, “Wow.” He’s obviously a huge part of making ECU’s offense go. Now, how does that stack up for All-Americans? Well, we’ll have to see. I haven’t tried to put together even a first-team yet. But Jace Jung is leading the nation in home runs and hitting near .400. He’s Norby’s main competition to this point and Minnesota’s Zack Raabe is somewhere in the mix, if that’s a race you want to track.
- Is Max Anderson in consideration for the top 10 freshman in the country? .344/.413/.552 in the middle of a solid Nebraska lineup.
Teddy Cahill: Helpfully, we have a weekly Freshman of the Year watch, tracking the top 10 freshmen in the country. Max Anderson has not made the list yet, but he’s absolutely having a solid year. The freshmen class is just stacked. https://www.baseballamerica.com/rankings/college-baseball-freshman-of-the-year-watch/
Trey (Charleston, SC):
- Big series coming up for the Gamecocks against Arkansas – who do you think will win in Columbia?
Teddy Cahill: I’ve not been shy about saying that Arkansas is the best team in the country. South Carolina is good, but I can’t pick against the Razorbacks until they give me a reason to. They’re 10-2 away from Baum-Walker Stadium and all 12 of those wins are against teams currently ranked in the top 20. So, a trip to Columbia is just more of the same for Arkansas. South Carolina is a really good team with strong pitching and some dangerous hitters, but so is Ole Miss and Mississippi State. The Hogs handled those series well and I’d look for them to do so again.
- Does Georgia get in the top 25 with series wins over Missouri and Auburn? Or would they need to be able to prove it in their brutal finishing stretch of Arkansas, Florida, and Ole Miss?
Teddy Cahill: Maybe? The thing about the Top 25 is that these things don’t happen in a vacuum. Georgia is a team we’ve had around the discussion the last two weeks, but it’s not just about the Dawgs. What does Nebraska do in that stretch? What about Gonzaga or Miami or UCLA? Not to mention the teams in the Top 25. If Georgia keeps winning series, they’ll get more and more into the mix. It has one of the best series wins in the country and that is carrying a lot of weight.
Teddy Cahill: That’ll do it for today. Thanks to everyone for the questions. Come on back next week and we’ll do this again.