College Top 25 Chat With Aaron Fitt

Q:  Tim from San Diego asks:
The West Coast Conference has 2 teams in the Top 25 and many teams getting off to great starts. Do you think that Gonzaga, St. Mary's, Loyola or Santa Clara could be Top 25 teams this year. Of those teams who is the closest to making the next jump? Last is USD still the favorite in your eyes to win the WCC Championship?

Aaron Fitt: Hi everyone, welcome to the chat. John and I talked for a while about the WCC in today's podcast—it's a very good league, and competitive from top to bottom. Right now, St. Mary's has been perhaps the most impressive team in that league (two wins against Stanford, two against Oregon and one against Nebraska). The Gaels are clearly improved this year. Santa Clara, on the other hand, has gotten off to a disappointing 3-7 start, but don't give up on the Broncos—that's a talented team that will rebound and make a strong run at regionals. I like Gonzaga also—seems to me those are the top five teams in the league. I still consider USD a slight favorite over Pepperdine, but I must admit I'm slightly worried about the Toreros right now. Sammy Solis and AJ Griffin aren't 100 percent, and Kyle Blair's command has not been great. They're relying on their arms, and right now the arms have a lot to prove.

 Q:  superfrog from fort worth asks:
Is this the year the frogs break through and win a regional? How big of a long shot are they to get to Omaha? The hitters are awesome and the pitching staff is deep from what I can see.

Aaron Fitt: I wouldn't use the word "longshot" to describe TCU's Omaha chances at all. I definitely think they're a super regional-caliber team, and I could absolutely see them breaking through to the CWS. The lineup is talented, with a number of seniors surrounded by impact newcomers like Taylor Featherston, and the pitching staff is flush with power arms like Kyle Winkler, Sean Hoelscher, Greg Holle et al. It's a very balanced team, a mature team and a well-coached team.

 Q:  George from Newport, RI asks:
Aaron, Don't you think Rhode Island could be this year's Fresno State? They're taking down the ACC one team at a time and also had double digit scoring outputs against Fairfield and Duquesne. How much more do they have to do to crack the top 25?

Aaron Fitt: I'll tell you what: there's no way Cal State Fullerton and Oklahoma State will take the Rams lightly this weekend. It's nothing short of incredible what coach Jim Foster has managed to do there with just 2.6 baseball scholarships. URI has four legit arms in Tim Boyce, Nick Greenwood, Eric Smith and Luke Demko; don't be at all surprised if the Rams steal another game or two this weekend. I don't think I'd punch their ticket to Omaha just yet, though...

 Q:  David from Spokane asks:
Hi, Could Ryan Carpenter be the next Brian Matusz to emerge from the WCC? Thanks

Aaron Fitt: Carpenter has a chance to be special—read Friday's Weekend Preview for a breakdown of his matchup against Texas Tech's AJ Ramos (a duel that lived up to its billing, by the way, as both pitchers struck out nine and Ramos put up six zeroes). Carpenter's got three good pitches, a fastball up to 94 and an ideal pitcher's frame with some projection remaining. Pretty nice package.

 Q:  Gerald Henson from Fayetteville, Arkansas asks:
With the return of 2 projected starters, Mike Bolsinger and Bryan Bingham, how do the Razorbacks look going forward after the series win against a very underrated California team?

Aaron Fitt: I still think the bats will be the strength of Arkansas' team, but I figured the pitching would be improved, and that appears to be the case. Cal can really swing it, and the Hogs kept that offense in check for two of three games.

 Q:  johnny hopkins from lexington,ky asks:
where does uk stack up in the sec and what do you think about james paxton? potential high draft pick?

Aaron Fitt: Nice weekend sweep of an Indiana State team that had been hot. I like Kentucky's mix of solid veterans and explosive young players, and I think the Wildcats have a chance to finish in the top half of the SEC, though it won't be easy in that league. Paxton is very good — a 6-foot-4 lefty with good stuff. I think he's a top-five rounds guy safely.

 Q:  john from Long Beach asks:
Boy I cant remember the last time the Big West was this strong...4 teams in the top 25 with Long Beach not being one of them...How do you see this one faring out for the year? Should be a Battle!!

Aaron Fitt: You're absolutely right: the conference is really flying high right now. I love Fullerton's club and see the Titans as the clear favorite in the league, followed by Irvine. I like UCSB as the third team, then Poly and Riverside battling it out for No. 4—I'd put my money on Poly. As I said in today's podcast, I would bet the farm that the Big West gets at least four regional bids this year, and I have to think five is a distinct possibility because Pacific and Northridge are better at the bottom of the league, which will help everyone in the RPI.

 Q:  Nick B. from Omaha, NE asks:
Whose the top of the big 12? Has missouri fallen off? Has nebraska earned respect?

Aaron Fitt: Missouri got off to a rough start, but don't write off the Tigers. Kyle Gibson is one of the nation's best pitchers, and Nick Tepesch struck out 12 without walking anyone this weekend—looks like he's close to taking off. I do like their lineup, too. Wouldn't surprise me if Mizzou goes into Austin and wins that series this weekend. I really like Texas too, but Texas A&M is still my pick in the Big 12. Nebraska, as usual, is playing well despite youth and a lower talent level than in past years; that team is just so well-coached, you know the Huskers will be factors. But like last year, I don't think they've got enough horses to make a deep run.

 Q:  Blackie from Cincinnati, Oh asks:
Hi Aaron. Now that we've got some baseball under our belts, who are some of the most unexpected top performing players you've seen? Example: were Joe Gardner and Deck McGuire expected to be this dominant, and how indicative are their numbers of future ability? Anyone underperforming, a la Von Tersch, who still has a bright future in your opinion?

Aaron Fitt: I'm not the slightest bit surprised by Deck McGuire's dominance: we ranked him as the top prospect in the Coastal Plain League last summer, and the No. 21 prospect in the sophomore class in our college preview this year. He's a true ace, and a potential first-round pick next year. I'm not really surprised by Gardner, either. He was a key member of that strong UCSB recruiting class, a projectable righty who reaches 93.

Aaron Fitt: For me, the biggest stunner of all is Tulane's Josh Zeid. He was a big deal recruit for Vanderbilt's top-ranked class a few years ago, even overshadowing Pedro Alvarez as an incoming freshman, but he was a huge disappointment at Vandy and last year after transferring to Tulane. I had written the guy off, frankly, but lo and behold: he's 3-0, 0.93 for the Waves and starting on weekends. Keep an eye on him.

 Q:  Maddog from Ashburn, VA asks:
Clemson series this past weekend against UNC: errors, walks, lack of fundamentally sound baseball. Coaching? Players' performance? Time to worry? Should us Tiger fans stock up on Prilosec this season? Thoughts?

Aaron Fitt: Read today's Three Strikes on the College Blog: you've got nothing to worry about. It's early yet, but the Tigers have shown plenty of flashes of their significant talent. They just haven't put it all together yet. They will.

 Q:  Dan from Texas asks:
What's the deal with UCLA?! They were ranked as high as #8 recently, but they have clearly dropped out after losing 10 straight. What has happened to them and how do you look for them to turn it around?

Aaron Fitt: The Bruins are in a tailspin right now, and I think it's largely a mental thing. John Savage said his guys just struggled in pressure situations last weekend, and the same seemed to be true this weekend at Oklahoma. UCLA has played one of the nation's toughest schedules, but that's no excuse for a 2-10 start. The last two years, UCLA struggled early and then made late-season runs into regionals, and it looks like they'll have to do the same this year. As talented as they are, it's hard not to worry about the Bruins' mental toughness until they prove themselves when the chips are down.

 Q:  Rich Hill from Alcala Park asks:
Should I be worried about my Toreros after this week's performance? I'm not used to losing that many games in a week at USD. What do I need to do?

Aaron Fitt: By now, you should be used to losing to San Diego State. This is two years in a row the Aztecs have taken three out of four from the Toreros in that series. Maybe SDSU just has their number...

 Q:  Maddog from Ashburn, VA asks:
Did Clemson highlight chinks in the armor of the UNC pitching staff this past weekend? Keep the game close and try to get to the Heels bullpen? Thoughts?

Aaron Fitt: I like Colin Bates, but I'm not positive he's a shut-down closer at the back of the bullpen. If you can hang around until White, Harvey and Warren are out of the game, that is your best chance to beat UNC. I expect to see more of Nate Striz as the season progresses—he was throwing smoke yesterday, though he was a little too fired up.

 Q:  Garrett Greer from Brunswick, GA asks:
No love for BC in this weeks top 25? How far away are they from reaching the best in the nation? A sweep of Stetson and winning 2 of 3 at Florida State to start the season isn't enough to get any love? Please let me know where you stand with their level of play and their standing on the national curcuit....Also, from the looks of it, Tony Sanchez is a STUD!

Aaron Fitt: BC is one of those teams that has moved from the 75-100 range into the 25-40 range. I'm very impressed with the Eagles, but I'm still not completely sold. I have a feeling they're in for a tough weekend at Georgia Tech. If they win that series, they'll likely force their way into the rankings, though. And yes, Tony Sanchez is the real deal.

 Q:  Joe from Long Beach, CA asks:
Are we seeing how the loss of pitching coach/recruiting coordinator, Troy Buckley, has truly affected the Dirtbag program?

Aaron Fitt: No, I think you're just seeing the effects of losing all those older players to the draft last year. Long Beach is young, but its young players have promise. It's just a rebuilding year, that's all. The foundation is in place for the Dirtbags to be very good again next year.

 Q:  Alex from Concord asks:
Well, ECU's week was ok. Some issues were exposed with the pitching. But everything is workable, hopefully fixable, and more importantly improvable over the next couple of weeks. With that said, would are you expecting out the UCLA at ECU series this weekend? UCLA is 2-10, but against some very solid clubs with quite a few 1 run losses. I am expecting ECU to 2-1 against UCLA and have a 4-1 week overall.

Aaron Fitt: The Bruins have their backs against the wall. Usually, in these situations, they have responded to save their season, and I wouldn't bet against them doing that this weekend, as much as I like ECU.

 Q:  Garrett from L-ville asks:
Have there been any draft sleepers who have been making noise in the first 3 weeks to break into the midseason top 100 prospects?

Aaron Fitt: Check back Wednesday for our first Draft Tracker of the year. It will have a new format this year.

 Q:  Ryan from Charlottesville, VA asks:
Does UVA destroying Wake impress you much? I know the schedule thus far is pretty weak, but they're 12-0 and have been tearing the cover off the ball.

Aaron Fitt: As discussed in the podcast, I am impressed. Wake had been playing well, and that's a road series sweep in the ACC. I really like Virginia's young talent, and I think the Cavs keep it going this weekend against Florida State.

 Q:  Mike from Boston asks:
Are you concerned about LSU's pitching? Can the offense overcome poor SP performances to carry them through the SEC and eventually Geux-maha?

Aaron Fitt: No more concerned than I was heading into the year; if anything, I feel a little better now, because at least you know Anthony Ranaudo is a bona fide Friday night starter. The offense is going to carry this team anyway—that was always the plan. The starting pitching after Ranaudo should be good enough most weekends, but it won't be great.

 Q:  Mike from Boston asks:
Coastal is whooping up on teams including SEC and ACC foe. Why only 17?

Aaron Fitt: The teams ahead of the Chanticleers have been good, too.

 Q:  Heath from Paintsville, KY asks:
How close is Kentucky to the top 25?

Aaron Fitt: Around the 28-35 range. A series win at LSU would put the Wildcats into the rankings for sure.

 Q:  Heath from Paintsville, KY asks:
Is Louisville ovverrated or just a little beat up thus far?

Aaron Fitt: I always thought they were overrated as a top 10 team, as some other polls pegged them heading into the season. But they're a legit 20-25 type team.

 Q:  Mike from New York asks:
How do you see CUSA stacking up against some of the bigger named conferences this year?

Aaron Fitt: Southern Miss getting swept at home by Fullerton was a bad start, but at least Tulane held on to win that home series against Southern California. Let's see how that ECU-UCLA series plays out this weekend.

 Q:  Damian from Arlington, VA asks:
Why isn't South Carolina ranked? Are pollsters unable to overcome their preseason conceptions once the games start?

Aaron Fitt: If South Carolina had finished the job and swept Long Beach, the Gamecocks would have gotten our one open spot in the rankings this week, but they dropped that Sunday finale. South Carolina is close to the rankings—they have moved up to the cusp of the top 25. A series win down in Starkville ought to put them back in.

 Q:  jonathan griggs from SEC country! asks:
SOUTH CAROLINA???????????????

Aaron Fitt: Definitely chat question of the day...

 Q:  Dwayne from Norman, OK asks:
The past two weeks has been a real treat, with lots of good intersectional battles between the West Coast and Texas/Oklahoma schools. This should really help those teams out come playoff time. The only good eastern school that has gotten in on the action is Georgia, who was impressive against Arizona and not-coincidentally, the east cost team with the most recent first hand experience in learning about not being able to compete with the West Coast schools in Omaha. So, when do you think the ACC and SEC schools will wise up and schedule more intersectional regular season competition with western schools, or will they voluntarily continue to doom themselves to Omaha futility?

Aaron Fitt: Rice plays West Coast teams every year, but it hasn't helped them much in Omaha the last three years... And when's the last time a Big 12 team other than Texas won a national title? 1994. I'd like to see more East Coast teams playing intersectional series early on, but I don't know that you can prove there is a correlation between early-season scheduling and Omaha success. Also, I should point out that South Carolina played Long Beach this weekend, Tennessee opened with Oregon State, Vandy went to Stanford, Arkansas played Cal this weekend and Washington State the opening weekend, and Mississippi State went to Hawaii.

 Q:  Greg from Houston asks:
As an owl fan, I hope I'm wrong, but Rice doesn't look like a CWS team to me this year. Berry is lights out right now, but he can't be THIS good all season, right? The pen is shakey and the offense seems good, but not elite, and is not executing with runners on base. Thoughts on the Owls so far?

Aaron Fitt: I think the offense is elite (or will be by the end of the season), and the defense is also. Berry and Ojala is a very good one-two punch, and Rogers has been a revelation in the bullpen (despite taking a loss this weekend), but I do worry about the pitching after that. In fact, that's the reason we had Rice ranked 7th and not higher in the preseason. Still, 7th puts you in Omaha, and I do think this is an Omaha-caliber team.

 Q:  Matt from Louisiana asks:
So my Tigers got handily beaten this weekend, but Illinois' pitching looked mighty solid, will they have a good shot at a regional? Also, is Anthony Ranaudo a first round pick in 2010?

Aaron Fitt: Great weekend for Illinois, but I don't think that's a regional team; I'll stick with Michigan in the Big Ten, with Indiana, Ohio State and Minnesota in the mix as well. And yes, Ranaudo is a first-rounder next year, I suspect.

 Q:  Brad from Texas asks:
What do you think about Baylor so far this year. Very young squad with a bunch of talent. The team hasn't really blown many others out so far, but have shown the knack to get the big hits when their needed. A mid-week game against No.1 Texas and a three game set against No. 3 A&M. Should they go 2-2 or better how do you see them next week. Should they go 4-0, would that be enough to get them to No. 1? Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: I don't think it's a young squad—there are a couple key young players (Hainsfurther and Verrett), but on the whole it's a very experienced club that is finally living up to expectations. This will be a very tough week; I like Texas on Tuesday behind Taylor Jungmann, and I like A&M's chances this weekend, though could go either way. And a 4-0 week would be extremely impressive, but remember that the rankings don't occur in a vacuum: a team's ranking will always be influenced by how the teams around it do. So unless Texas, UNC, LSU and A&M all struggle, Baylor could go 4-0 and still not be No. 1.

 Q:  Brian Daniels from Kennesaw asks:
Aaron, Hey, so Kent State is in the top 25, how do you see the match up this weekend of two mid major pitching prospects Kennesaw State's Kyle Heckathorn, and Kent State's Ace Brad Stillings?

Aaron Fitt: Heckathorn has been rather disappointing so far. Advantage: Stillings and the much more potent Kent State offense.

 Q:  Paul from Northern California asks:
Aaron, What are your thoughts on UC Riverside, started the season 10-3 against a legit schedule, lost to Oregon State Saturday, but shutout Ok. State and swept Texas Tech.....time for them to crack the top 25?

Aaron Fitt: I've been extremely impressed with the Highlanders—one of the nation's biggest surprises so far. We had a long debate in today's top 25 meeting about Riverside vs. Santa Barbara, and we wound up going with the Gauchos because we believe in their talent a little more and had them as a borderline top 25 team entering the year. Riverside had to come from farther back, moving from the 75-100 range up to the 25-30 range.

 Q:  Travis M. from Statesboro, GA asks:
When will we see Georgia Southern get some consideration for the top 25. They have beat nationally ranked East Carolina and beat a pretty good Winthrop team, and their only loss on the year was to nationally ranked GA Tech, who they spilt the two game series with.

Aaron Fitt: Beating ECU on Sunday puts the Eagles into the discussion. Still got some work to do to break into the rankings, though.

 Q:  Taylor from Houston asks:
Alex Wilson has to be shooting up draft charts. Is he a first rounder? Surely scouts are excited about him, right? He could end up the ace of that staff before too long.

Aaron Fitt: Wilson entered the year as a potential back-of-the-first-rounder, and I think that's still where he is. I can't see him climbing into the first half of the round, but his recovery from Tommy John surgery has been very successful, obviously. I saw him 91-94 with an excellent slider, just as he was his freshman year at Winthrop when he was so dominating.

 Q:  Sudzy from Nashville asks:
Western Kentucky is 8-2 and swept Louisana-Monroe this weekend outscoring them 35 -7. If they beat Tennessee, Auburn in the mid week game and take care of South Alabama the this weekend could they break the top 25? thanks Sudzy

Aaron Fitt: We tabbed the Hilltoppers as the preseason favorite in the Sun Belt, and I still feel that way. The offense has been dynamic so far, and the pitching has been better than anticipated, especially the weekend rotation. WKU is still a ways from breaking into the top 25, though.

 Q:  Bob from Chicago asks:
Aaron what is your opinion on Coastal? I know you, and many others, were expecting a drop off this year after everyone they lost. Are they where you expected? Better? Worse? Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: I don't think anyone was expecting a huge dropoff — we had them as a fringe top 25 team entering the year and a regional No. 2 seed. But I'm a bit surprised that they look to be a No. 1 seed and potential host yet again. Very good, balanced club, as usual. That program is cooking right along.

 Q:  Jeramey from Statesboro asks:
I have read a few places early season power rankings by conference SEC ACC SO CON, at 1,2,&3 respecitvely. Honestly, I think this is to high for the So Con, maybe at best 5 but I think the Big 12 would be up there and even maybe even a pac 10 or confernce out west? What are your thoughts and how do you think the So Con measures up against the traditional power house conferences? Thanks for your time

Aaron Fitt: I'm not sure what you're referring to, but for me the Big 12 is the no-brainer No. 1 conference this year.

 Q:  Trey from Chandler-Gilbert asks:
Mike Leake was dazzling yet again... 1st rounder in June?

Aaron Fitt: No doubt, for me. I love the Tim Hudson comp for him.

 Q:  Scott from New Orleans asks:
What's the draft potential of LSU's spark plug 2B Ryan Schimpf? He plays similiar to Giovatella from UNO last year

Aaron Fitt: Top three rounds, maybe top two like Johnny G. Schimpf is a very sound all-around player, with speed, strength, good defense at second base. I like him quite a bit—he sometimes flies under the radar on that team, but he shouldn't.

 Q:  Dave from Los Angeles asks:
Hi Arron, Help me understand or at least educate me regarding the logic Baseball America is using in determining the latest College Baseball Poll. LSU who was ranked in ALL the polls # 1 last week, was BEAT at home in front of over 10,000 fans each game by big ten foe Illinois. Illinois is now 7-2. HOW in the world is Illinois not even in the top 25 and how on earch is LSU ranked 4th? Even though I live in Southern California where baseball is played year round, I am not an idiot in understanding that the Northern College Baseball Teams are at an incredible disadvantage in recruiting and practice due to weather. Then a program like Illinois goes down to LSU and BEATS the # 1 ranked team and gets no respect and ranking? You got to be kidding me. Please explain!!!!

Aaron Fitt: I think we'll wrap it up on this note. The rankings should not be overly reactionary. Our rankings attempt to meld potential with performance; early in the season, talent and potential weigh heavily as we attempt to predict which teams will have staying power later. As the season progresses, the scales tilt heavily toward performance, which also reflects realized potential. LSU has the nation's best offense—bar none—and two home losses to Illinois in the third week of the season aren't going to change my mind on that. Would you have us rank the Illini over the Tigers based on one weekend? Are you now convinced that Illinois is a better team and will go farther in the postseason than LSU? Because if you are, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.

Aaron Fitt: LSU takes a hit in the rankings—it goes from No. 1 to No. 4. To react more than that would be to overreact. And Illinois has put itself on the radar, but the Illini have a lot to prove yet before I'm convinced they're for real. One weekend in March is just that: one weekend in March. Congratulations to Illinois for pulling off a huge upset, but let's try to keep some perspective.

Aaron Fitt: That's all for today, folks. See you next week.