Teddy Cahill: Welcome to the Preseason Top 25 chat. It is always exciting to roll out the first rankings of the season and to see how things stack up going into the year. We’re working on our College Preview issue, which subscribers should be receiving in the next couple weeks. And all that info, including our Preseason All-Americans and all 31 conference previews, will roll out online leading up to Opening Day. But today we start with the Top 25 and your questions about it.
Tim (Omaha, NE): Any other Big 10 teams (or cold weather schools in general) besides Indiana have a shot at Omaha this year?
Teddy Cahill: As a Midwestern native, got to start with the cold weather schools. IU is the Big Ten favorite and looks like the team with the best chance to make a tournament run. I really like what the Hoosiers have back, especially with Luke Miller, Logan Sowers and Matt Lloyd all back in the heart of the order. As for other northern teams that can make a run – we ranked St. John’s No. 25 and I think they will be a tough out in the postseason. Connecticut was heavily in the discussion for the Top 25 and it has the pitching necessary for postseason success. In the Big Ten, I like Nebraska a lot, the Huskers are an older group. Maryland looks solid again and Michigan has a lot of talent, though the Wolverines are a younger group this year. And I don’t want to count out Minnesota. I feel like the Gophers are a sleeper in the B1G this spring.
VandyGuy (VandyLand): Vandy is going to have to rely on a whole lot of unproven pitching, a whole lot more than usual, aren’t they?
Teddy Cahill: Vanderbilt is going to have to rely on a lot of unproven players this season, not just in the pitching staff. But that happens when you produce two first-rounders, in addition to guys like Will Toffey and Jason Delay. Still, the talent is obviously there. I think there are a lot of intriguing options for Tim Corbin and Scott Brown to go with behind Patrick Raby. Drake Fellows, Jackson Gillis and Zach King were all solid as freshmen and have the potential to take a step forward this season. And there are plenty of more options on that staff.
College Fan (USA): Any word on how Lodolo is progressing? Had an uneven FR year with lots of hype. What are the odds he turns a corner this year?
Teddy Cahill: I wouldn’t really say Lodolo had an uneven year. It wasn’t Matt Purke’s freshman year and he had some poor performances in there, but I think it was a good freshman season. And the reports on him so far have been great. With Jared Janczak back, TCU may not need Lodolo on Friday nights, but I could also see him asserting himself as the Frogs’ ace this spring. TCU’s rotation is going to be one of the better ones in the country.
Greg (FL): When will Deacon Liput be able to return to game action?
Teddy Cahill: Florida second baseman Deacon Liput will be out to start the season. It remains unknown how much more time beyond that he’ll miss. Obviously it’s not an ideal situation for Florida, but they have some depth there. Blake Reese is probably in line to fill that spot right now.
Ethan Herrema (Dallas): Hi Teddy, What was the reasoning behind DBU being left out of the 25? From what I’ve seen, most other publications have them somewhere near the late teens. Where do you see them by season’s end?
Teddy Cahill: Dallas Baptist was in the discussion at the back of the Top 25. I don’t feel like there’s a lot of separation between the teams in the 20-35 range this year. You can go a lot of different ways and there’s a lot to like about the Patriots. I think they can pitch better than they did a year ago, but they’re going to need some of their younger pitchers to take a step forward. I think DBU is the favorite in the MVC and I think the Patriots can make noise in a regional. There are so many good teams in Texas again this year. We ranked four teams from the state and DBU, Baylor, Houston, Rice and Sam Houston all figure to be in the NCAA Tournament mix.
Jordan (Hattiesburg): What do you like about Southern Miss? How do you think the first series against State will turn out?
Teddy Cahill: I think there’s a lot to like. The Golden Eagles lost some big pieces from last year’s team, but they also return an awful lot from a team that won 50 games last year. Matt Wallner is a superstar and hopefully will be able to stay healthy and contribute more on the mound this season. The lineup remains old and experienced and I think guys like Colt Smith and JC Keys are ready to step up in the rotation. And obviously having Nick Sandlin at the back end of the bullpen is huge. On that first weekend, I’ll give Southern Miss the edge. The Golden Eagles are at home and will be plenty motivated. But it should be a really fun series.
Jim (Ft. Lauderdale, FL): How far outside of the Top 25 was Miami and what were the biggest question marks that kept them out of the rankings?
Teddy Cahill: We ranked five ACC teams and talked seriously about three more. Miami was not in that group. I don’t know where exactly that puts the Canes, but I wouldn’t say they just missed the cut. I think Miami will be solid, I think it gets back to regionals, but there’s some work to be done there. Miami is going to be counting on some of its newcomers and it really needs Mike Amditis to get back up to speed in a hurry. I won’t be surprised if we see the Canes in the rankings some time this spring, but they’re going to have to prove themselves a bit first.
Austin (Starkville): Do you expect Mississippi state to have a average year with them being ranked only 23 to start season? Seems like zero confidence in this team.
Teddy Cahill: I don’t know, I guess that’s kind of an average year? Mississippi State has some really exciting pieces. It also has some gaping holes. I have found it hard to go all in on the Bulldogs at this point. They lost the best offensive player in the country and have several key pitchers coming off significant injuries. But they also have some pieces you can really build around in Jake Mangum and Konnor Pilkington. I think Mississippi State has the talent it needs to put it together, but it will take some time. The Mississippi State prediction that I feel the most confident about this year is that Jake Mangum will continue to be one of the most fun players in the country to watch. Really looking forward to seeing what he can do with a healthy spring.
Allen (LA): How many players from this year’s TCU squad do you think will eventually reach the major leagues? As usual, seems like a stacked team.
Teddy Cahill: I guess I’d set the over/under at six. But that’s essentially an impossible question. Regardless of how many make it to the show, this TCU team is again exceptionally talented. The Frogs will have a different look this year, but I think they’ve just reloaded. I think they can make it five straight trips to Omaha.
Wakefan (North Carolina): Was Wake Forest considered for the Top 25? Do you see any of the freshman getting a starting role and helping fill the void of Gavin Sheets and Stuart Fairchild?
Teddy Cahill: Wake Forest did get some consideration. It will be a different looking team this year after losing most of the core group of players from the last couple years. But Tom Walter has done a really good job of building the program and recruiting well. The Deacs are going to hit and Johnny Aiello has a chance to be a pretty good draft pick. They’ve got to get some things sorted out on the mound, but I think they’ll be able to make it back to regionals.
jb (SC): Why do you have Clemson so high with all the questions they have on the mound and SC unranked? Both of these clubs are very similar with good depth in the lineup but tons of questions on the mound, even though SC does have a legit starter in Hill. Thanks!!
Teddy Cahill: I don’t really see the two teams as being all that similar. Yes, both have a lot of pitching to replace, but South Carolina was built around that pitching. Clemson is built around its offense. And that offense is still very strong with Seth Beer, Logan Davidson and Chris Williams back, and newcomers such as Kier Meredith ready to contribute. Clemson is also entering Year 3 under Monte Lee, while South Carolina is in Year 1 of the Mark Kingston era. I think there’s a lot of talent in Columbia (South Carolina brought in a top 5 recruiting class this year) and that the Gamecocks can bounce back quickly, but there’s more uncertainty there. Will be interesting to see how the two teams match up in Week 3.
Dean (Greenville, NC): Teddy, how do you see East Carolina being this year? I know prior to last season they were poised to do big things, but severely underperformed all season and had numerous injuries. How do you see them rebounding this year and what kind of playoff potential do you think they have?
Teddy Cahill: I’d look for East Carolina to bounce back this year. I think the Pirates will be in the mix for regionals, but the American looks like it’ll be a dogfight again. We obviously like UCF a lot and I’ve already mentioned that UConn and Houston should be strong. South Florida has great talent, Memphis has some tough pitchers, Tulane should be solid again and Wichita State is going to hit a lot. If ECU is going to return to regionals, it’s really going to have to earn it.
Mike (Seattle): Due to weather, the Beavs play the majority of their early games away from home while most SEC and ACC teams play their early games at home and against inferior talent. How do you factor in these early schedules regarding rankings?
Teddy Cahill: Not at all in the preseason. We definitely take into account strength of schedule throughout the season, but at this point, I’m not really interested in giving extra credit for intended strength of schedule. I will say I really like Oregon State’s schedule this year. There are a lot of teams playing really tough schedules, which is really fun as an observer. So kudos for scheduling tough to Oregon State, Stanford, Texas, Kentucky and Arkansas to name a few schools off the top of my head.
Bob (Portland): What concerns you most about the Beavers this year?
Teddy Cahill: Honestly, I’m not sure. Oregon State looks to be a very complete team again this year. If I’m forced to pick an area, I’d say power after the loss of K.J. Harrison. But Trevor Larnach and Adley Rutschman have juice and could make up for it. And Oregon State is never going to be a team that needs to hit home runs to win. It won 56 games last year and only hit 31 homers. That’s just their style. But, personally, I’d feel a little better with a proven slugger in the middle of the order.
Gary (Columbia): Don’t want you to give away any future material, but who are your top 3 in the running for the Golden Spikes?
Teddy Cahill: I’m cheating and picking five Player of the Year candidates: Brady Singer, Nick Madrigal, Seth Beer, Luken Baker and Tyler Holton.
joe pera (orange county): which freshman do you think will impact their team the most?
Teddy Cahill: Let’s name some Freshman of the Year candidates while I’m at it: Florida SS Brady McConnell, Auburn RHP/OF Tanner Burns, UCLA OF Garrett Mitchell, LSU OF/LHP Daniel Cabrera and USC RHP Kyle Hurt, pick a Vanderbilt freshman. I think it is an exciting freshman class around the country. Some big-time players made it to college this year.
Jack (Fayetteville): The Hogs are getting a lot of hype for being solid everywhere and they seem to have quality depth across the board, but is there any specific part of this team that you think will be “elite”? Any major weaknesses?
Teddy Cahill: I think the pitching staff can be elite. Blaine Knight and Isaiah Campbell can be as good as pretty much any 1-2 combination in the country and Arkansas has several strong options for the third spot in the rotation. The depth of the staff is incredible all around. I really like Arkansas as a whole this year, but I think I might rank the Hogs’ pitching staff third in the country, behind Florida and Oregon State.
Jordan (Hattiesburg): You going to make it to Hattiesburg for that first series?
Teddy Cahill: I do not think so. Still setting my travel plans for the first part of the season, but I think I am spending my third straight Opening Weekend in Myrtle Beach, where Coastal has put together a really good tournament field to open the year.
Teddy Cahill: That’ll do it for today. Thank you for all of your questions. If I didn’t get to yours, feel free to leave it in the comments and I’ll try to come back and answer it there. Remember, we’ll have plenty more preseason content to come at BaseballAmerica.com and in the magazine, which I have to get back to working on now.