Teddy Cahill: Welcome to this week’s Top 25 chat. It’s an exciting time of the season, with conference play getting underway, so let’s get to your questions.
Tom (Austin, Texas): Mississippi State could almost do no wrong against Oregon this past weekend. Is the Ducks vaunted pitching staff for real? Is the Bulldog staff that good or are Oregon's batters as woeful as they looked much of the weekend?
Teddy Cahill: Let’s start with what I thought was the biggest result this weekend: Mississippi State sweeping Oregon. I think that result was one of the most impressive weekends this season. I’d put it up there with Mississippi beating Louisville and Florida beating Miami, and that’s about it. Really impressed by what Mississippi State did. I think the answer to all of your questions is yes. Yes, Oregon’s starters are good. John Cohen said he came away from that series impressed by the Ducks trio of lefthanders, and said he felt a little lucky that they didn’t pitch better. Yes, Mississippi State can pitch. And, yes, Oregon’s offense is not great. The Ducks have five starters hitting under .200 a month into the season. We knew Oregon’s pitching would be its strength again this year, but it needs to find some offense in a hurry. If you want to read even more about this series, I wrote about it in Off the Bat today: https://www.baseballamerica.com/college/bat-batter-bulldogs/
Jonathon Beerbohm (Lower Live): No love for 12-3 BC coming off a series win over NC State on the road?
Teddy Cahill: One of the other big series over the weekend was Boston College take a series on the road against North Carolina State. The Eagles are off to a great start this season, and we did talk about them for this week’s Top 25. But before this weekend, their schedule had been very soft and their losses (Butler and North Dakota State) aren’t great. But Boston College is an outstanding story. For a team like that, which hasn’t yet played a home game, to come to Raleigh and shut out NC State twice is impressive. Coach Mike Gambino has that team playing really well and believing in itself right now. Look for more on BC online this week.
M. Reumann (Washington, DC): Best college shortstop?: Errol Robinson (Ole Miss) or Garrett Hampson (Long Beach)
Teddy Cahill: Errol Robinson is the best shortstop prospect in college this year, though he is off to a slow start (.250/.338/.367). Garrett Hampson, however, is off to a great start and is a huge part of the reason Long Beach State is 10-5 and ranked No. 24 this week. You can read more about Hampson and the Dirtbags here: https://www.baseballamerica.com/college/bat-batter-bulldogs/
Keith (Tallahassee): FSU appears to be the epitome of a team that plays to it's competition. They struggle against the Toledo's & Villanova's of the world, but really show up against better competition. Are these just growing pains of a young team, or do you see this as something that will happen less and less as the season goes on and these players mature?
Teddy Cahill: I think to some extent this is what happens with young teams – it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking you can take it easy against a team like Villanova, but have no trouble getting up for an ACC series against an undefeated Georgia Tech team. The other thing about the Villanova and Toledo games is that midweek games are sometimes hard to get a read on, as powerhouse teams don’t always have their best lineups in and aren’t using their top arms. So I wouldn’t read too much into them. But the youth of Florida State is something it has to work out this season.
Ben (S.Carolina): What freshman has made the biggest impact thus far and which one do you think people need to keep an eye on?
Teddy Cahill: It’s hard not to say Luken Baker at TCU, for most impactful. He’s become their Friday night starter already and is hitting in the middle of the lineup. Cal Raleigh at Florida State is catching everyday and hitting cleanup. Antoine Duplantis is hitting three-hole at LSU. Alonzo Jones is raking at Vanderbilt, as is Joe Davis at Houston and Seth Beer at Clemson. Cole Sands (Florida State), Jonathan Hughes (Georgia Tech), Joe DeMers (Washington), Braden Webb (South Carolina, Nick Lee (Louisiana-Lafayette), etc., all have weekend rotation spots for some good teams. Have I mentioned lately how much impact I think this freshmen class has?
Rick (Atlanta): Thanks in advance Teddy for taking my question. Why can the 15-2 Gamecocks not crack top 25? Understand schedule strength but teams 16-25 not all off charts with their opponents.
Teddy Cahill: We’ve talked about South Carolina every week, including the preseason rankings. If they had won the series against Clemson, they’re probably ranked right now. But against the best competition they’ve faced so far, the Gamecocks lost a series. They’re still very much on the radar and I’m very interested to see how they handle SEC play, starting this week with Arkansas. It should (hopefully) answer some questions about that team.
J. Huddleston (Oregon): What is the story with UCLA? They've played some tough teams, but sooner or later wins are wins and losses are losses. I am a skeptic of the whole "good loss" mentality. Why keep (8-7) them at 12 when there is plenty of talented teams behind them?
Teddy Cahill: UCLA remained at No. 14 again this week after another series win, this time against Texas. One thing to remember is that we’re still doing some projecting with our rankings at this point. We’re starting to lean more heavily on results, but most of these teams haven’t even played a conference game yet. We’re still early in the season. The other thing is that UCLA has played a very difficult schedule. WarrenNolan.com has it as the hardest schedule in the country to this point. The biggest problem with UCLA so far is that it is 0-3 in midweek games. The Bruins are a very good team, and we continue to believe they’ll be one of the best teams in the Pac-12.
Rob Mac (Northridge): How close is CSUN, 14-3, to cracking the Top25? I understand that the schedule hasn't been great but they have gone across the country and thrashed UCLA in a midweek.
Teddy Cahill: The Big West looks to be especially strong this year, with Long Beach, Fullerton, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine and Cal State Northridge all off to great starts. To this point, I’d put Northridge at the back of that list. The weekend competition, as you noted, has not been great. I’m interested to see how CSUN progresses this season. One great thing about the Big West is we’ll know right away when these teams start playing each other. Northridge opens conference play with Fullerton, Long Beach and UCSB on successive weekends.
Big Tom H (Southern California): Is West Coast Baseball as bad as I think it is? Or just slow starts? There is virtually no offensive teams from NorCal to SoCal.
Teddy Cahill: Draft-wise, it is not a good year for west coast hitters. So the lack of offense from those teams is not particularly surprising. But there are good teams out there. I’ve already gushed about the Big West and UCLA, and you’ve also got Cal and Oregon State playing well. But, as always, the West Coast remains largely reliant on pitching and defense.
Birdball32 (Groton, MA): Hey Teddy - Back to BC for a moment... which has been led by a much improved pitching staff this season (2.67 team ERA)... can a team from the northeast ride strong pitching like this to a regional or will other factors (climate, facilities) eventually catch up? I can't remember a 1-2 punch like King and Adams since Langone and Sullivan contested for the national ERA title in 2000.
Teddy Cahill: A northern team could, theoretically, ride strong pitching to a regional. BC, for the most part, is through the worst parts of the northern weather, though they still won’t play a home series for a couple weekends. Whether this team is good enough to survive a tough ACC slate is, for me, the bigger question. The Eagles haven’t even made the ACC Tournament in several years. So there’s a long way to go. The pitching should keep them competitive throughout the season, but there are a lot of tough games left on the calendar.
M. Reumann (Washington, DC): How likely is it, Teddy, that the Volunteers can steal a series victory from Mississippi this coming weekend in Knoxville? And what should we be watching for in that series?
Teddy Cahill: That is one of the more intriguing series of the opening weekend of SEC play. We talked about this a bit on the podcast today. Mississippi is one of the hottest teams in the country right now, so Tennessee will have its hands full. The Vols are going to have to keep hitting if they’re going to pull an upset. The top prospects in the series are Tennessee’s Nick Senzel and Mississippi’s Errol Robinson. Also on Ole Miss, you should look out for J.B. Woodman, Colby Bortles and Tate Blackman.
Gary (Medford): Not to claim bias against guys on my team, but don't sleep on the two freshmen Beavers, Madrigal and Greiner. They have stepped right in and started mashing from the start.
Teddy Cahill: Yes, those two are also freshmen to watch for sure. I could probably spend a whole chat just talking about the outstanding freshmen this year. So here are five more: Nick Dunn (Maryland), Deacon Liput (Florida), Kyle Datres (North Carolina), Chris Andristos (Oklahoma) and Tristan Beck (Stanford).
Scott (KC): This week we get our first matchup between FSU and UF. It's always bothered me that these teams spread out the series with 3 midweek games instead of a traditional weekend series. Do you think they'll ever re-work the schedule to accommodate a more conventional 3 game series?
Teddy Cahill: It seems unlikely this would happen. Florida already has a nonconference rivalry series with Miami, and there are only so many weekends you can jam a big series like that into an already tough conference schedule for both teams. But it makes for fun midweek games, which is a good thing too.
jb (SC): Huge series this weekend between two surprising teams in Clemson and Boston College. How do you see this one going?
Teddy Cahill: I would expect Clemson to win this one. But I would have expected North Carolina State to beat BC last weekend, so you never know. Should be another solid ACC series for both teams.
Teddy Cahill: Thanks to everyone for your questions today. As always, if I didn’t get to your question, feel free to leave it in the comments and I’ll try to come back and answer there.