College Recruiting Chat With Aaron Fitt

Moderator: Aaron Fitt will answer questions about college recruiting beginning at 3 p.m. ET.

    David (San Diego): How do you feel about USD recruiting class? I know that they lost a few to the draft but how do you think they did overall? They have a strong group coming back and with the recruiting class do you you think they will have a strong year out West?

Aaron Fitt: Hello everyone, and welcome to the first college baseball chat of the 2009-2010 season. I've spent the last few weeks immersing myself in recruiting classes, and I'll try to get to as many of your questions as I can. Let's start with the Toreros — their class is very solid and just missed the Top 25 (in fact it was probably No. 26). They did get hit pretty hard by the draft — losing Evan DeLuca in particular was stunning — but Sam Wolff and Mike Dedrick have premium arms, and Andrew Walter looks like he'll be an impact arm as well. That's a solid core, and Matt Moynihan is one of the most athletic newcomers in the entire nation, but he must do a lot of work with his swing. That's why USD didn't quite make the top 25 — there isn't quite enough offensive punch in this class. Jake Williams, for instance, sounds like a truly elite defender at first base, but his bat is a major question mark. But to answer your second question, USD is most certainly the early favorite in the WCC in 2010. I'd be shocked if the Toreros don't make an appearance in the preseason rankings, potentially in the top half of the rankings.

    Richard (Ft. Lauderdale): Why is Miami's class rated so low?

Aaron Fitt: I guess it all depends on your perspective; there are 300 or so recruiting classes out there, and Miami's rates as the 17th-best out of all of them. I think that's a pretty high ranking. The Hurricanes certainly could have been a few spots higher — it helps that they've got a blue-chip shortstop in Stephen Perez, who will be a star in the ACC — but there wasn't a whole lot of separation between most of the teams in the 10-25 range. They all have good classes, and I just tried to stack them up the best I could.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Aaron, awesome work as always; great to see some college talk in the fall! Obviously it's difficult to gauge what a freshman may or may not do right away, but what are your expectations of Purke in his first year? Especially curious since he is probably 2 and done.

Aaron Fitt: Thanks, Joe. I know this is setting the bar high, but I expect Purke will step right into the weekend rotation from Day One, and I really wouldn't be shocked to see him as the Friday starter sooner rather than later — and that's saying something because TCU will have one of the deepest pitching staffs in the nation. He's very, very good, and he's not raw.

    Mike (Atlanta, Ga.): What do you think about the Georgia State recruiting class that includes 10 Junior College transfers? Will it be enough to return to the NCAA Regionals in June 2010?

Aaron Fitt: I think it was a very good class, probably the best class in the CAA this year. Obviously they got a big-time power arm in David Buchanan, an unsigned sixth-round pick, although I think he's got a long way to go with his command. Landing Mark Micowski from Vermont was a huge — he'll make a big impact for them immediately, and I suspect guys like Rob Lind and Charley Olson will as well. UNC Wilmington has to be the favorite in the CAA next year, I should think, but Georgia State and James Madison will be right in the mix. That league is usually very competitive, and I suspect it will be so again.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): A little OT, since this is a recruitment chat, but who do you see as the top collegiate player in the land as we head into next spring?

Aaron Fitt: I will answer any college baseball questions today! I'm going with Christian Colon on this one — the guy can do everything, and he's a true winner.

    mike (kansas city,ks): How was the recruiting class at Oklahoma State?

Aaron Fitt: Solid class, certainly, though the Cowboys did get hurt in the draft by losing three players taken in the top two rounds. Here's what I wrote about OSU's class in my recruiting notebook, which is free content on the website right now: Oklahoma State lost three players who were drafted in the top two rounds, but the 17-member class it brought in is filled with tough, gritty ballplayers who should fit nicely in Frank Anderson's system. No player fits that mold better than outfielder/first baseman Devin Shines, the son of Mets third base coach Razor Shines. The biggest star in OSU's group could be lefthander Andrew Heaney, who can run his fastball up to 92 and has advanced feel for pitching.

    Elliott (Gainesville): How does this Florida class stack up with the #1 classes of the past few years? It seems like a truly special group.

Aaron Fitt: Interesting question. Last year's top class, ASU, relied heavily on juco stars like Josh Spence and Carlos Ramirez, who helped lead the very young Sun Devils to Omaha right away. This class is built more around high school players, many of whom will be immediate impact players, but Florida has enough talent returning that it can afford to ease some of these players in, so you might not see the full impact of this class until 2011. But of the recent classes that ranked No. 1, I think this has a chance to be the best since Vandy's 2005 class, which contained Pedro Alvarez and Ryan Flaherty, among others. Baylor's '06 class was a massive disappointment, and the jury is still out on San Diego's '07 class, which has been hampered by injuries to guys like Sammy Solis and Victor Sanchez.

    Ryan (Ocala): Who is a sleeper player in Florida's class that you think could emerge into an All-American?

Aaron Fitt: Sticking with the Gators, I will give you two: Hudson Randall and Nolan Fontana. Scouts in Georgia couldn't believe Georgia and Georgia Tech let Randall get out of the state — he can really pitch, he's a fierce competitor, he's got a great sinker/slider mix and very good feel for a changeup. And Fontana sounds to me like a lefthanded-hitting Christian Colon type of player.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Aaron, give me a player who wasn't a Top 200 HS Prospect that you really think has a chance to be a star down the road.

Aaron Fitt: I'll add the clarification, first of all, that the Top 200 rankings we reference are not just Top 200 high school players — they are our overall Top 200 rankings from the Draft Preview, and they included college players, so being in the Top 200 is a pretty significant accomplishment. I'll give you a handful of players on this one: Kenny Diekroeger at Stanford, Josh Elander at TCU, Sam Selman at Vandy (one scout predicted to me this month that Selman will be a top-five overall pick by the time he leaves Vandy), Ronnie Richardson at UCF, Cody Stubbs at Tennessee, Taylor Rogers at Kentucky, Chad Kettler at Oklahoma, Richie Shaffer at Clemson. Those are all players that I evaluated as being on par with Top 200 players.

    JAYPERS (IL): What kept Jacob Stewart from signing with Philadelphia, and do you think this was the best move for him?

Aaron Fitt: It was clear from the beginning that Stewart was going to be a tough sign — it was going to take a lot of money to keep him from going to Stanford. Everyone knew that, which is why he slipped to the 14th round, when he was a second- or third-round talent. I'm not privy to all the details of that negotiation, but I have a feeling that Stewart could blossom at Stanford and leave there as a high first-round pick. When it comes to raw talent, no player in the country aside from Matt Purke can beat Stewart, but he is very raw and needs some time to develop. If it clicks for him at school, he could really cash in as a junior. Of course, he could also take a Michael Taylor track and put it all together after a year or two of pro ball.

    Jake (oakland): Slightly off-topic, but are BA's draft report cards coming soon? Thanks.

Aaron Fitt: They'll be rolled out one division per day starting Thursday. They'll also appear in our latest issue, which went to press last week.

    Mick (Chicago): Can you give us a paragraph on the state of the game? My friends and I complain about kids not playing pick up games in the park anymore, especially baseball. Is there enough talent to go around? If you look at the number one skill position shortstop, colleges have very lean pickings.

Aaron Fitt: Your point is legitimate, and the thin-looking 2010 college draft crop seems to back up your claims. But I will say that there are some very, very good young shortstops in this freshman class (ASU's Deven Marrero, Miami's Stephen Perez, Michigan's Derek Dennis, Stanford's Kenny Diekroeger and Oklahoma's Chad Kettler all look like bona fide stars), which gives college baseball a much-needed talent infusion at that premium position. Compare that with the 2009 draft, which produced just one college shortstop in the first two rounds of the draft, and I'd say this class represents progress. But this stuff is cyclical — the talent level in college baseball tends to depend a lot on the current trends in major league baseball when it comes to approaching the draft. When big league teams are more aggressive about spending money to sign the top high school talent, that leaves less talent for the college game, but when big league teams are more conservative with their draft spending, that's obviously a good thing for college baseball. To answer your broader question, I don't think there's any shortage of talent at the youth levels — no reason for serious concern, anyway.

    Bryan (Tampa): FSU had a bad recruiting class and Miami's wasn't at their normal level. How long until UF baseball runs the state?

Aaron Fitt: I don't think it's accurate to say Florida State had a bad class, it just wasn't quite a Top 25 class. But FSU still landed two very good recruits in Jayce Boyd (another guy that I viewed as a de facto Top 200 player) and Devon Travis. However... I think you'll see Florida ascend to the top program in the Sunshine State this year, and given all the young talent on that team and the recruiting acumen of that coaching staff, there's no reason to think the Gators will let up anytime soon. Miami and Florida State have been the superpowers in that state for a long time, and they will of course continue to be very good, but I do believe that having Kevin O'Sullivan/Craig Bell at Florida and Terry Rooney/Cliff Godwin at Central Florida will ratchet up the intensity of recruiting battles in that state.

    Christian (Maryland): What recruiting class tops the northeast region?

Aaron Fitt: I'd refer you to the region-by-region breakdown in my recruiting notebook: I'll take St. John's in the Northeast. Kyle Hansen gives that class a marquee player to hang its hat on, and I also like Matt Carasiti and Jeremy Baltz.

    Josh G (Sacto, CA): Which SS will the Rays regret not signing more: Diekroger or Dennis?

Aaron Fitt: Wow, tough one. I'm very high on both of those guys, but I think I'll actually go with Diekroeger. One West Coast coach (not from Stanford) told me that he thought Diekroeger was the best player in the West this year, including players who signed. That's high praise. He's an insane athlete who is a natural at shortstop, and he's going to hit too.

    Josh G (Sacto, CA): The Pac10 seemed to get a lot of recruits; is it the best baseball conference?

Aaron Fitt: It has had the most CWS success over the years, so you could certainly make a strong case that it's the best baseball conference. And yes, this was a good year for Pac-10 recruiting — aside from the five schools that made our Top 25 rankings, Cal and Washington also brought in solid classes. But of course, there was no shortage of talent in the Pac last year, and just three teams made regionals out of that league. There were some very talented teams in that league that underachieved sorely.

    Ryan (Greenville, NC): C'mon Aaron. NC State has a better recruiting class than ECU. I don't see how you can convince me of that. And not just have them listed in the top 15, while ECU not even in the top 25. Please explain.

Aaron Fitt: Well, I don't know that any Pirates fan will ever be convinced that NC State has a better anything than ECU — that's the nature of rivalries, I suppose. I do think ECU has a good class — I particularly like Tyler Joyner, John Wooten and Chris Gosik. I think that's probably a top 30 class, which is nothing to scoff at. But NC State's class really has a chance to be special. Felix Roque, Rey Cotilla and Dane Williams (though he had Tommy John surgery) have huge arms; Danny Canela is a great player, Tarran Senay has huge raw power, and the class has solid depth. The Wolfpack did very well this year.

    Jesse (NC): What are the player comparisons you are hearing for Ronnie Richardson?

Aaron Fitt: He's really a pretty unique players. It's natural to want to compare him to Kentrail Davis because he's short and strong and a premium athlete, but I think he's an even better runner than Davis with a stronger arm, but he does not have that kind of power potential. And he's a switch-hitter.

    Paul (VT): Who are the best recruits coming out of New England this year?

Aaron Fitt: The best is Kyle McKenzie, a little righty from Massachusetts with huge arm strength who went to Tulane. After that it's probably Michael Yastrzemski and Regan Flaherty, both of whom are at Vanderbilt. A few others who are at top schools: I mentioned Matt Carasiti (St. John's); Dominic Leone (Clemson) is a smallish righty with a smooth arm action and a good two-pitch mix; Evan Marzilli (South Carolina) is an athletic outfielder who needs some polish, but he could be a nice contributor down the road.

    Jim (Birmingham): What did you think of Coach Pawlowski's first class at Auburn?

Aaron Fitt: It's a solid class that could look very good if you include Drew Madrigal, who is scheduled to enroll at Auburn in January. It's a shame the Tigers lost Nick Franklin, Luke Bailey and Cody Martin, but Garrett Bush sounds like a stud (he has touched 95 in the past and has very good feel for his breaking stuff), and I'm intrigued by 6-foot-7 lefty Cole Nelson, whose velocity jumped from the mid-80s into the 91-93 range at times toward the end of the spring.

    Charlie (Jacksonville): How far can you see Florida going this season? Do they have a chance at winning it all?

Aaron Fitt: The Gators have the look of an Omaha team at this early juncture. And if you're in Omaha, then yes, you have a chance to win it all.

    Heath (Kansas): What do you think of Wichita State's class, do you see any impact bats? The offense was a big issue last year, I have seen a few scrimmages so far and there seems to be a little more punch.

Aaron Fitt: Well, we did not give Wichita credit for Johnny Coy in our rankings since he was a four-year transfer (from Arizona State), but I do think he'll be a valuable addition — he's extremely athletic and has plus raw power potential. Nathan Goro should hit — he's got a quick bat and some pop, and he's also a smooth infielder. Preston Springer brings some more power potential (he led the Jayhawk League in homers in 2008), Micah Green adds some athleticism though his bat is raw, and Travis Bennett had a very good freshman year at Northern Iowa last year. So yes, there is some help for the offense, but of course the jewel of this class is a pitcher in Tobin Mateychik, who is extremely loose and projectable and already pitches at 88-92 and touches 94.

    Joseph Roy (Seattle, WA): Regarding Oregon State's recent class, other than Susac, who stands out to you?

Aaron Fitt: Danny Hayes is going to hit — he's got a smooth inside-out swing and the ability to make consistent contact. He's a classic Oregon State corner guy, I think, a guy who is going to hit a lot of doubles there. Tyler Smith has had a big fall and could be the next in that Darwin Barney/Joey Wong tradition of slick-fielding middle infielders who play with energy. Matt Boyd is a funky lefty who should contribute pretty early on, and Tony Bryant has plenty of projection, though his velocity was down in the spring.

    Ben (Atlanta): Virginia's class looks really strong. They are also returning just about the whole squad minus Carraway and Packer. How do you veiw the chance of a return to the CWS?

Aaron Fitt: Very, very good. UVa. is on the short list of top contenders for No. 1 in the preseason Top 25 rankings. Anything less than an Omaha trip will be a major disappointment for Virginia, frankly. That is a national champion-caliber team. We'll see how the Cavs handle those kind of expectations — that's uncharted territory for that program.

    Richard (Lexington, KY): How is Cohen's first and second recruiting classes looking at MSU?

Aaron Fitt: This first class looks simply outstanding. The coaching staff has been extremely excited about this group for a long time, and their excitement has actually grown after seeing the players get on the field this fall. It's a very deep class filled with arms that are going to make an impact in the SEC. Mississippi State needed a major talent overhaul, and this class fits the bill.

    marty kohl (omaha,NE.): Hi Aaron,Greetings From The Home Of The College World Series.Can I Expect Rice To Punch Their Ticket In 2010 As They Seem Real Good.Is Anthony Rendon The Top Returning Position Player Of Any Class.THANKS,Marty.

Aaron Fitt: I do think you'll see the Owls back in Omaha as usual in 2010 after a one-year absence. For my money, Rice has the best offense in the nation heading into next season, and while there are pitching questions, I think this recruiting class will provide plenty of answers. It's not a real flashy class, but it's filled with pretty polished arms who should contribute immediately. As for Rendon, I think he might very well be the top returning player in the nation, regardless of class. I was not considering underclassmen earlier when I said Christian Colon is the best returning player in the nation, but I would put Rendon right there with Colon, and maybe a tick ahead because of his power and higher ceiling. He's a very special player.

    Jay (Newport RI): Arizona State's pitching should be fine with Leake being the only loss and Spencer, Blair, Lambson and Swaggerty coming back, Along with Barrett, Patterson, and Kelly coming in, but does their freshmen class bring in enough bats for them to return to the CWS?

Aaron Fitt: I think so. I left ASU out of the post-CWS "8 for Omaha in 2010" exercise partly because I was assuming Spence would sign as a third-round pick. Having him back makes a gigantic difference. Xorge Carillo will step right in and replace Carlos Ramirez, I suspect — he won't bring as much offense as Ramirez, but he'll be very solid defensively and with the bat. The biggest additions to the offense, though, will be Marrero and Andrew Aplin. Marrero is ready to play immediately and could be a marquee college shortstop; Aplin was one of the best pure hitters in the West this spring and plays with tons of energy. He is, in fact, one of my favorite "sleeper" recruits in the nation this year — I think he'll be an All-American before he leaves ASU.

    Jesse (NC): How does the Tar Heels' pitching staff stack up this year?

Aaron Fitt: Much will depend on Matt Harvey, of course. He's got huge talent, and he looked very good in UNC's fall world series last week, sitting at 90-93 and touching 94-95 and showing his usual sharp curveball in the 77-80 range and a good sinking changeup in the low 80s. But it's not really a question of stuff — he's always had stuff. If he commands his stuff, he will be an elite Friday starter and a first-round pick. He needs to be more efficient, throw fewer pitches, and keep his fastball down in the zone. At this point, the jury is still out on Harvey. Behind him, I think Patrick Johnson is poised for a huge year as the Saturday starter, and it helps that they've still got Colin Bates for the back of the bullpen. They'll need some freshmen like Cody Stiles and Chris Munnelly and Mike Morin to step forward early, but it does have the chance to be a strong staff once again. The Tar Heels will certainly be relying on their arms to carry them, because the offense will take a step backward without Ackley, Seager and Fleury.

    Dexter (Easley, SC): Any chance Richie Shaffer pitches some at Clemson?

Aaron Fitt: I do think there's a chance of that — he's got a huge arm, with a 90-93 mph fastball. He could actually be a premium two-way player for the Tigers.

    Harris (New York): Hey Aaron, two part question — Which freshman position player do you see making the biggest impact as a freshman in 2010 and which do you see being the highest draft pick in 2012? Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: Interesting... I'll go with Stephen Perez from Miami for biggest impact as a freshman. In three years, I think the highest pick (among position players) will be the same guy who was the highest pick among position players out of high school this year: Kenny Diekroeger, followed by Brian Goodwin from UNC. Of course, Jake Stewart's got a higher upside than any of them, but I'm not convinced he'll develop as completely as Diekroeger in three years.

    Justin (Austin, Tx): Where in the world are those Baylor Bears?!

Aaron Fitt: Solid class, but it doesn't have those real blue-chip big names. Of course, Baylor didn't have much luck with the big-name guys in 2006, when its class ranked No. 1, so maybe the Bears were better off going for gamer-types like Josh Turley, Max Muncy and Logan Vick. All three of those guys should be very good players for Baylor. Turley is a lefty with a ton of feel for pitching — he's got a chance to carve up the Big 12 for the next three years.

    Duke (Duke): Duke's class? Any chance they see the tournament?

Aaron Fitt: Marcus Stroman is explosive — I saw him during an intrasquad about two weeks ago, and he was very impressive. He's got an electric arm (I saw him up to 93 with a tight slider), and I think he's going to be a very good shortstop as well. That was a great get for the Blue Devils. The rest of their class is solid but unspectacular. Losing Coffey and Baron to the draft really hurt.

    Sam (Columbia, SC): How do you think the teams from the Carolinas will stack up compared to each other next year?

Aaron Fitt: South Carolina and Clemson should be the two best teams in the region — both look very good, and the Gamecocks appear poised to get back to Omaha. Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, UNC Wilmington and North Carolina should all be solid, and NC State should rebound.

    Andrew (Spring Arbor, MI): How do you like Michigan's recruiting class and are there any immediate contributors that can help Michigan recapture the Big 10?

Aaron Fitt: It's a phenomenal class, especially by Big Ten standards. Derek Dennis is a legitimate marquee recruit, and I think Patrick Biondi will be a very exciting player for the Woliverines in the outfield. Both of those guys should make major impacts right away.

    Donald (Austin): With 8 newcomers for the Longhorns- Which freshmen do you see as being on the opening day roster?

Aaron Fitt: I've got time for a couple more. Texas is so strong on the mound that guys like Hoby Milner, Josh Urban and Keifer Nuncio will not be counted on to fill key roles early. Cohl Walla is still rather raw but has huge tools — I could see him starting in the outfield from Day One. I also think Jonathan Walsh is ready to step in and hit, though he's far from ready behind the plate. You should see him in the mix at first base/DH/corner outfield, because his bat is a good one.

    Bill (Athens): What is the deal with UGA and Ga Tech classes, both are normally top 15 and neither is ranked this year, what's the deal?

Aaron Fitt: Georgia Tech has a very experienced roster returning and had very few holes to plug — the Jackets only brought in five new players. Luke Bard (Daniel's little brother) is a very nice recruit, however. Georgia did not target the kind of blue-chippers it brought in last year but still brought in a decent class, though it took a hit when Alex Wood had Tommy John surgery.

    Johnny (Valdosta): If you had to predict the eight teams in Omaha right now, who do you go with?

Aaron Fitt: In no particular order, Texas, Virginia, Rice, Florida, Florida State, Cal State Fullerton, LSU, Arizona State. Others that I am really, really high on: TCU, Arkansas, Georgia Tech, UC Irvine.  And a few more that are in the mix: South Carolina, Georgia, Oregon State, Miami, San Diego, UCLA.

    jeff (boston): Who had a productive recruiting class in the Southern Conference? Is elon a lock to win the league again?

Aaron Fitt: Last one. Georgia Southern gets my vote for best class in the SoCon (read my write-up on the Eagles in the recruiting notebook). I also liked College of Charleston's class, particularly two-way talent Christian Powell and outfielder Daniel Aldrich, who has nice lefthanded power potential. Elon is looking at a rebuilding year after losing a boatload of seniors off last year's team. I think CofC, The Citadel, Western Carolina and Ga. Southern will duke it out for the SoCon title in 2010. OK everyone, that's all I've got time for — thanks very much for stopping by. I enjoyed all the terrific questions — it's nice to have some college baseball talk during the fall. Just 17 more weeks until the season starts!