College Baseball Top 25 Chat (March 5, 2018)

Teddy Cahill: Welcome to this week’s college baseball chat, coming to you this week from Houston. There was a lot of good college baseball last weekend and you have questions, so let’s get to them.

Mike (Boston): Kentucky’s ceiling is Omaha. How impressed have you been with their rebuilt offense?

Teddy Cahill: Let’s start with Kentucky, which was by far the most impressive team here in Houston this weekend at the Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic. The Wildcats looked great in all facets of the game – but it was probably the offense that stood out the most. After all, as Mike notes, it looks a lot different from last year’s super regional team. And UK was essentially without Tristan Pompey this weekend, as his ankle injury limited him to pinch hitting duties. Luke Heyer was unstoppable all weekend and T.J. Collett was only slightly less impressive. The Wildcats have some speed, they’ve got some power and when you put Pompey back in there, they have a superstar. As I wrote today in Off the Bat, that team looks every bit the part of CWS contender.

Nick B (NYC): South Alabama had a tough week obviously but all losses were to quality/ranked teams. Prior to that, some quality wins. Was it tough to bounce them from the top 25?

Teddy Cahill: It wasn’t easy at all for me. There’s definitely a case for South Al staying in the Top 25 this week. The Jaguars have played seven Top 25 games, the most in the country, and they’ve won every game they’ve played against non-Top 25 competition. But, ultimately, we decided to move them out. I expect South Al will be back in the rankings soon. It was a bad week, especially the start of the weekend in Lubbock, but I still think that team is very talented. Very interested in seeing how it bounces back at Louisiana-Lafayette this weekend.

Bobby (Ohio): Do you think Texas Tech is still a CWS co tender with injury to Gingery? Who do you see replacing him?

Teddy Cahill: Emphatically, yes. Texas Tech has very impressive depth on that pitching staff. Losing your All-American lefthander is never ideal, but I think the Red Raiders are one of the few teams equipped to overcome that blow. John McMillon has been very impressive as a starter so far and they’ve got options behind him and Davis Martin in Ryan Shetter, Erikson Lanning and Dylan Dusek. As I noted in Off the Bat today (there’s a whole piece about the Red Raiders, if you want more detail), Texas Tech has already used 14 pitchers. They’ve really built up that pitching staff over the past few years and it is paying off right now.

Red Raider (DFW): How come you are the only ranking that has Tech at #5? Not saying you’re wrong, but its interesting that you don’t align with the other rankings on them but do with the top 2.

Teddy Cahill: Continuing on Texas Tech – I can’t speak for what others are doing with their rankings. But I can tell you that Nos. 3-8 in ours are all very close. I see it as a clear 1-2 and then there’s very little separation of that next group. I really like Florida State. I like the experience that team has back, the depth of the pitching staff and the length of the lineup. Stanford worked their way into the top five thanks to the way they’ve started against really tough competition and an elite rotation. I really like Texas Tech, too. Very much looking forward to seeing how they play this weekend at Kentucky.

Max (CA): What can you tell us about Michael Toglia for UCLA? He has been on fire.

Teddy Cahill: He’s a big-time hitter and a player to know for the 2019 draft. Toglia was a well-regarded recruit coming out of Washington and was a big part of UCLA’s 2016 recruiting class. He’s got power, he’s got feel for hitting and he’s putting it together right now. For UCLA to make the jump we figured it would this season it needed some of its underclassmen to step up and Toglia is certainly doing that, as he’s hitting .439/.547/.878 with four homers in 11 games.

Jeramey (Locust Grove Ga): Michigan goes to Stanford and loses a tough series on the farm. How much stock should would put in a series loss against Stanford and what do you see Michigan doing in the Big 10? Thanks as always

Teddy Cahill: I wouldn’t be worried about that. Michigan is 3-8 overall, but has played some really good competition. Even going 2-1 against Army looks a lot better now than it did at the time because of the way the Black Knights have started the year. This Michigan team is really young, which is what happens when 11 players get drafted and sign. It was always going to take the Wolverines some time to get it figured out this season. I’m going to be very interested to see how Michigan progresses over the next month now that it is back East.

Lionel (Nashville): The SEC is terrifying. I know it’s early, but what kind of record do you think an SEC team will need in conference to make the tournament? And do 10+ teams get in?

Teddy Cahill: As always, SEC teams that go at least .500 in the league should be in the tournament. 14 wins might get it done, but you’re playing with some fire there, as Ole Miss found out last year. As I wrote in the preseason, it’s possible that the league gets 10 teams in regionals or even breaks the record and gets 11. In a weird way, there’s too much depth for that. The two previous times a conference has gotten 10 teams in regionals, the three worst teams in the conference all had winning percentages under .400, allowing teams to pad their win total without hurting their RPI. I’m not sure I see three teams being that noncompeitive in SEC play this year.

Maddog (Ashburn): Teddy: UVA at 14? After losing to offensive juggernauts from VMI and Eastern Kentucky and rallying to win two of three from that Ivy League powerhouse Yale, UVA still hovers at 14? Convince me that there are not any stronger teams like Louisville, Auburn or even UNC that deserve greater consideration. Tks.

Teddy Cahill: Well, UNC is ranked ahead of Virginia already. Louisville has played a very weak schedule to this point, and while there’s definitely something to be said for winning all those games, which UVA hasn’t been able to do, it’s also really hard to know what we’ve got with the Cardinals yet. Auburn probably has the best case, but it has yet to leave the state of Alabama or play a team on the weekend from a conference that last year finished in the top 10 in RPI. We try not to be overly reactive in the early part of the season. We think we know what these wins and losses mean at this point, but there’s still so much we don’t know about all of these teams. I’m going to be very interested in seeing how Virginia (and the rest of these teams) fare once conference play begins.

Russell (Austin, TX): Hey Teddy, What did you think about Texas this weekend? The offense exploded this weekend for 38 runs. The hitting seems to be getting better, but how do you think they will do against Stanford this weekend?

Teddy Cahill: I thought it was a good response after losing Friday night. But I’m not sure we really learned much. Northwestern looks better this year, but I think the Wildcats are a step down from ULL and LSU. So this weekend will be much more telling. And I figure that series will be very low scoring. Stanford has one of the best rotations in the country. The Longhorns – and all of the Cardinal’s opponents – are going to have their work cut out for them.

Tom (Simi Valley): With their hot start, where do you see UNLV finishing in the Mountain West this season?

Teddy Cahill: I’ve been impressed with UNLV so far. The Rebs are 11-1 and they’ve been doing it against solid competition. I think the Mountain West has a chance to be a lot better this year. San Diego State moved into the Top 25 this week, Nevada has started well, UNLV is playing really well and Fresno figures to be pretty good. Hard right now to see anyone unseating SDSU, but I think UNLV can move from the cellar to the top end of the conference this season.

NorCalBaseeballFan (Cary, NC): Nice to see UNC bats waking up, how do you think the lineup will fare during Acc PLAY?

Teddy Cahill: That’s one of the things I’m most looking forward to seeing this weekend. North Carolina has a tough opening weekend of conference play with a trip to Louisville. That lineup is really going to have to step up this weekend because Louisville has a lot more on the mound than Liberty. At the same time, I’m looking forward to how Louisville’s new-look rotation fares against the Tar Heels. Such an intriguing series because both teams have a lot of questions right now.

Pete (Arkansas): I know it’s ealry, but what do you think of Arkansas so far?

Teddy Cahill: Arkansas has been solid. The Razorbacks are clearly still figuring some things out, especially on Sundays, but I still like that team a lot. Dave Van Horn has so many options for so many roles that I’m not surprised they’re still trying to hit on some things. The offense probably stands out the most to this point, but I know the pitching staff will round into form over the next few weeks or so.

Matt (Va): Which freshmen are impressing you the most thus far?

Teddy Cahill: It was hard not to be impressed this weekend by Vanderbilt center fielder Pat DeMarco. He’s stepped right into the heart of that lineup to great success. Texas Tech infielder Gabe Holt is hitting like .435 and has provided the Red Raiders a spark at the top of the order. Tanner Burns has been really good in the rotation at Auburn. Florida righthanders Jack Leftwich and Tommy Mace look like the next two in a very long line of elite pitchers in Gainesville. Tim Tawa at Stanford has been a big part of that lineup, which I think has surprised some people. A lot of guys getting off to good starts to their college careers around the country.

brian (FL): After taking 2 of 3 from UCONN this weekend, do you think there’s a chance North Florida can run through the ASUN and make a regional?

Teddy Cahill: I know FGCU was probably in line to get an at-large bid last year if it had needed it, but the A-Sun is essentially a one-bid league. So, sure, North Florida could get to the NCAA Tournament, but it’s going to have to play well in the conference tournament. That was a really nice series win for the Ospreys, but I don’t see them running through the conference. Stetson, Jacksonville and FGCU are off to strong starts as well. It’s a pretty good-looking league this year. Some really strong pitching.

Jordan (Hattiesburg): Clearly Southern Miss’ problem is the bullpen. Do you think Southern Miss will be fine once they get Colt Smith and Trent Driver back from injury? Or do you think it will be a season long problem for them?

Teddy Cahill: That would certainly help. There are some options there, but it’s not an exceptionally deep staff, so any time they’re missing a couple arms, it’s going to be noticeable. Middle relief is tricky, but I think Southern Miss will be able to get that hole filled, whether that means guys get healthy or someone new emerges. The good news is they’ve got enough offense to cover for a lot of shortcomings while they figure out the pitching staff.

Teddy Cahill: That’ll do it for today from deep in the heart of Texas. I’ve got to get on a plane soon, so if I didn’t get to your questions, leave it in the comments and I’ll try to get to it there.

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