College Top 25 Chat With Aaron Fitt

    ScottAz (Phx, AZ): without the murphy turmoil, where would the devils be just based off returning/incoming talent? i like this squad a lot better on paper going into this season than last years cws team

Aaron Fitt: Hello everyone, and welcome to the first college chat of 2009. Let's get to it. I think ASU might be in the top 10 if it still had Murphy, but I do think there are some questions about that club aside from just the coaching turmoil. Replacing the Pac-10's Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year won't be easy — it's impossible to overstate the impact Kipnis and Leake had for ASU over the last couple of years. Sure, this team is talented enough to get back to Omaha, but a lot depends on how guys like Seth Blair and Jimmy Patterson fare on the mound.

    Allen (Charlotte, NC): UVa looks like a strong CWS contender this year. What contribution do you expect from high ceiling freshmen Reed Gragnani, Branden Kline and RS Freshman Scott Sliverstein this season? They look like a really deep club.

Aaron Fitt: Sorry for the delay there — had to field a phone call. The remarkable thing about the Cavaliers is that they are so deep they really don't need to depend on those talented freshmen, who could have been major factors for many other top teams this year. Gragnani looks buried on the depth chart behind guys like Gosselin, Werman and Cannon. Kline and Silverstein are real X-factors, because Virginia isn't as deep on the mound as elsewhere on the diamond, so I could see those guys getting a chance to contribute. But they don't seem likely to be real key players until 2011.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Aaron, awesome work and thanks for the chat! Interested in your thoughts on Anthony Rendon as a pro prospect?

Aaron Fitt: Thanks, Joe. Rendon is, quite simply, the best pro prospect in college baseball, for my money. I'm not including Bryce Harper in that discussion — I will reserve judgment on Harper for a while. But Rendon's combination of power, offensive maturity, excellent defense, and athleticism is very rare. He's special.

    Dave (Manhattan): Aaron, just wanted to say again thank you for all the great work you do for college baseball. Also I was wondering would you rank Tulane in your top 30? And what do the Greenwave have to do at the begining of the season to crack the top 25?

Aaron Fitt: It looks like a strong year for CUSA, which I see as a potential four-bid league with Rice, ECU, Southern Miss and Tulane. I do think Tulane would be in the mix for a spot in the top 30 if we extended our rankings, because that looks like a very solid pitching staff, and the offense should be improved with Rob Segedin back at full strength. The key for Tulane will be how Garrett Canizaro and Brennan Middleton do in the middle infield. I really like that duo, but they'll have a lot of pressure on them as freshmen.

    Milan Dinga (West Point, NY): How about some love for Army? How far out of the top 25 are they and were they ever even in consideration. They had some nice success last season in the regional and almost knocked off a tired Texas team who is now #1. Most of the Army players are back from that team. Please tell me they were considered and can make a run at a regional this year.

Aaron Fitt: Milan: It looks like we've got Army pegged as the favorite in the Patriot League, but we did not consider them for the top 25. I'm not sure there's ever been a Patriot League team in the top 25 — but that team is dangerous, particularly with some of the big, physical pitchers they've got back. As you said, that was a dangerous bunch last year, handling itself very well in the Austin Regional, and they could sneak up on somebody in regionals this year, too.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Does Matt Harvey bounce back this year?

Aaron Fitt: I think he does, yes. His stuff is just too good, and UNC pitching coach Scott Forbes has done a great job getting his talented arms to perform their best as juniors (think Andrew Miller, Daniel Bard and Alex White).

    Chuck (Wichita): What are your thoughts on Wichita St? How close were they to the top 25? Thanks.

Aaron Fitt: I've got the Shockers as the team to beat in the Missouri Valley Conference this year, and I wouldn't be shocked to see them in the top 25 at some point during the season. That weekend rotation looks very good, and they've got a nice mix of veterans and talented youngsters in the lineup. The guy I'll be interested in following is Ryan Jones — he's got all kinds of tools, and the Shockers need him to put together a strong senior year.

    Chuck (Wichita): Texas is the only Big 12 team in the top 25? Which other teams were close?

Aaron Fitt: Yes, after placing five teams in the top 25 last year, the Big 12 had just one this year. I just think that league is wide open after Texas — there are a bunch of teams that have a lot of questions to answer. Texas A&M was probably the closest to the top 25, but I could see Kansas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State being in the mix also.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Aaron, rank them as prospects: Pomeranz, Ranaudo, Cole, Purke.

Aaron Fitt: Hmm... Cole, Ranaudo, Purke, Pomeranz.

    CD (Columbus): No Ohio State? They have their whole lineup back and one of the best pitchers in College Baseball.

Aaron Fitt: Ohio State was just barely outside the top 25, along with Minnesota. I think the Big Ten will be a three-bid league again this year with OSU, Minnesota and Michigan. But honestly, I'm not convinced that Ohio State is better than Minnesota. Although the Buckeyes certainly do have one of the nation's best pitchers in Alex Wimmers, as you point out. I like that team and could certainly see them in the top 25. They just didn't quite crack ours.

    Andy (Baton Rouge, LA): Outside of the 6 teams you have in the top 25, what other SEC teams do you see as making regionals?

Aaron Fitt: Vanderbilt and Alabama. I see Kentucky and Tennessee battling for a ninth spot out of that league — but with Paxton's status in limbo, I'd probably lean toward the Volunteers. That's one of my sleeper teams for this year — they're going to be better than people think.

    Rick (California): Whats the news on Colon's leg? Is he 100% back or will he ever be all the way back? Sounded like a freak injury

Aaron Fitt: It doesn't sound like much of a concern — my understanding is they expect him to be 100 percent by Opening Day.

    JB (Dallas): Surprised to see Vanderbilt missing from the Top 25 with Gray and Armstrong heading the rotation and returning 7 of 9 hitters in the lineup. How close were they? Is this a case of wanting to see the pitching staff turn potential into production or do you not see them as a top 25 team period?

Aaron Fitt: Unofficially, I probably had Vandy at No. 26 and Ohio State at 27. I really like Vandy's talent, but I do want to see them turn potential into production, as you put it. In particular, they've got to answer some questions in the outfield. And as talented as Jack Armstrong is, let's see him do it in the SEC.

    Pete (LBC): What do you think of the Dirtbags this year? Also how do you think Jones, and Terdoslavich will do draft wise this year?

Aaron Fitt: Regional team — I'm thinking the third team in the Big West. Terdoslavich and Jake Thompson are the two main guys to watch for the draft — could see both going as high as the top three or maybe even top two rounds.

    Peter (Galveston): Does Jungmann get argued as the best sophmore pitcher in the nation, or is Cole a no-brainer?

Aaron Fitt: I really do not think it's a no-brainer. Cole's stuff is just ridiculous, but reports out of Austin this fall said Jungmann ran his fastball up to 96-97 at times, and we know Jungmann's command and poise and feel for pitching are very special. He's also got the better changeup. Personally, I think those guys are 1A and 1B.

    Ryan (Chicago, IL): Does Jarrett Parker have 20-20 potential this season? Maybe 20-30?

Aaron Fitt: Yes, he's got that kind of potential, but it would be a truly monstrous feat. I don't see him hitting 20 homers in that ballpark, even as powerful as he is. I'd say 15-25 is a safer bet.

    Zeebs (Palo Alto, CA.): Thanks for the chat! With Stanfords great recruiting class how close were they to the top 25? And what kind of season do you think they are going to have?

Aaron Fitt: Stanford probably came in somewhere in that 30-40 mix. Tons of young talent, great athleticism, but I think they'll have some growing pains along the way. Lot of potential, though. I see them as the No. 4 team in the Pac-10, and a regional team.

    Carlos (San Diego): How is Victor Sanchez doing after missing time in 2009? How important is he to their offense?

Aaron Fitt: He's coming along. I expect you'll see him DHing this year, but I think he could be ready by opening day. Obviously, he's a key for them — gives the Toreros some legit punch in the middle of the lineup.

    Carlos (San Diego): What early season tournament are you most looking foward to and why?

Aaron Fitt: The Houston College Classic, because it has three of the top 11 teams in the nation (Texas, Rice and TCU), plus marquee arms in Chad Bettis (Texas Tech) and Nick Tepesch (Missouri). I'm also hoping to head down to Coastal Carolina the second weekend to see the Chanticleers, UC Irvine, NC State and a good James Madison team.

    jr (valencia,ca): I saw that Troy Buckley was returning as pitching coach for the dirtbags, any word on what happened with Jon Strauss? Also, does CS-Northridge have enough coming back to finish in the top half of the conference?

Aaron Fitt: Strauss took over for Sean Kenney at Pepperdine after Kenney left for Maryland. And Northridge does keep on improving, but it's just hard to finish in the top half of that league when you've got to pass Fullerton, Irvine, Cal Poly, Long Beach, Riverside and Santa Barbara. Could happen... but won't be easy.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Who is your Freshman of the Year favorite to start the season?

Aaron Fitt: This one's a no-brainer, I think: Matt Purke.

    Danny (San Diego, CA): Not only based on the Preseason Top 25 but with other teams within the conference with potential to crack the Top 25 ... Which conference in your opinion is the most complete?

Aaron Fitt: The SEC - but the ACC isn't far behind. I see 10 regional-caliber teams in the ACC, maybe 11 in the SEC. Not saying those two leagues will send 21 teams to regionals, of course, but if you put, say, Duke or Virginia Tech or Auburn in most other leagues, I think they'd be safely into regionals, instead of batting for an outside shot.

    Bill (Hamilton, NJ): Top 5 strongest conferences?

Aaron Fitt: After the SEC and ACC, I actually think I've got Conference USA over the Big 12 and Pac-10, believe it or not. Heck, I think I like the Big West more than the Pac-10, and maybe more than the Big 12.

    Tim Weiser (Big 12 Conference Headquarters; Irving, TX): 1 Team in the entire Top 25??? Does this mean I should not expect to get 8 teams in the tournament this year?

Aaron Fitt: Who's gonna stop you?

    allen (balto): virginia pitching to me looks a little shaky. how do you see the rotation and relief pitching with only one lefty?

Aaron Fitt: I don't think it's shaky at all. You've got a top-shelf ace in Danny Hultzen, a very strong No. 2 in Robert Morey (who, let's not forget, is the only pitcher to beat Stephen Strasburg last year), and a potentially strong No. 3 in Tyler Wilson, who seems well suited for a starting role. The bullpen, I think, isn't quite as stout, but it's a nice luxury to have a proven, veteran closer like Kevin Arico. They probably hope Scott Silverstein steps up to give them a second LHP option in the pen besides Neal Davis. So they've got a couple of things to address, but "shaky" is not a word I would use for their pitching.

    formerlyanon (Tyler, TX): So, explain why Georgia was ranked. I was told they lost their best players from last year via the draft. Thoughts?

Aaron Fitt: Come on, it's an even year — that means the Dawgs are going to Omaha! Seriously, they're ranked largely on the strength of their sophomore class, which is extremely talented. I am expecting huge breakout years from the likes of Zach Cone, Chase Davidson, Michael Palazzone and Peter Verdin.

    Beau (Georgia): With the other polls having South Carolina so far down in the rankings, what is it that you guys see about this club that makes you rank them in the top 10? And could this be their year to get back to the CWS? I think this could be a big year for this club with all the returning position players as well as starting pitching and pitching depth. Thanks for the chat I look forward to reading them each week!!

Aaron Fitt: South Carolina just looks like a deep, balanced, experienced team. They're going to score a bunch of runs like they always do, they have excellent athletes and good defenders up the middle like the electrifying Jackie Bradley Jr and shortstop Bobby Haney, they have a potentially dominant Friday starter in Sam Dyson and a couple of quality guys behind him in Blake Cooper and Nolan Belcher. I just see a lot to like about that club.

    Garrett Greer (South Burlington, Vermont): Whats your take on Scotty Weissman at Clemson? Do you think Jack Leggett is going to give him a chance in the weekend rotation or not have an established roll for him like last year? His numbers were solid all of last year and it would only seem fitting if he was in the weekend rotation after his performance in the Regionals last year.

Aaron Fitt: I do expect to see Weismann in the weekend rotation, and I think he'll thrive in that role. He's got very good stuff, and he's a bulldog. And competition for starting jobs is wide open after Casey Harman.

    mrbig (New Orleans): Your Rice capsule didn't mention Anthony Fazio at all. Any thoughts on him? He's a redshirt freshman who through 9 IP with 12 K, 4 H, and 0 BB in fallball (against Rice's lineups!).

Aaron Fitt: Fazio is yet another promising option for the Owls — I could see him having some success as a midweek starter for them. They might not have many proven arms, but they've got plenty of talented ones.

    Brandon (Los Garbos): What is your take on Cole Cook and leading the Pepperdine Waves?

Aaron Fitt: I think Cook will have a big junior year — you'll find when we release our College Top 100 prospects for the 2010 draft next week that we were pretty aggressive with Cook. This fall he showed a 90-93 mph fastball with explosive life, as well as a very good changeup. If his breaking ball comes, look out.

    Dan (CA): Better Soph: Rendon or Cole?

Aaron Fitt: Rendon. But it's pretty close.

    Jeff (Pa): A little surprised to see Coastal ranked as high as you have them. What were some of the factors that produced a top 15 ranking?

Aaron Fitt: Great one-two punch atop the rotation with Cody Wheeler and Anthony Meo; incredible overall team athleticism and speed, and they should swing the bats, too. They're going to be very good.

    Rix (Connecticut): Who is your top player and school from the frozen Northeast ? Do you ever see a Northern school make it to the CWS ?

Aaron Fitt: Top player is probably Mickey Wiswall, first baseman at BC. Top team is either BC or UConn, who I think is an interesting sleeper this year. The Big East could be a three-bid league this year with Louisville, South Florida and UConn, with Notre Dame maybe being a factor as well. And yes, a school from the Northeast will make it to Omaha again someday — but not this year.

    Ryan (LA, CA): Which West Coast teams do you see hosting a regional this year? Is it a standard three with Fullerton, Irvine and Arizona St. or do we see a fourth team sneak up and grab a host spot?

Aaron Fitt: Those are the three that I see.

    Mike (Oledo, Texas): What do you think about the season the Horned Frogs this year and their pitching staff with Maxwell,Purke,Winkler and Holle.... We all know what Purke is capable of but what do you think about Maxwell and Holle were said to have had standout falls in the eyes of Coach Schlossnagle. Holle has gotten a lot bigger since I saw him as a freshman and was outstanding in High School as was Maxwell and have shown flashes of brilliance... What type of year you think those two could have?

Aaron Fitt: Pitching depth is the biggest reason TCU ranks 11th on our list. Maxwell looks primed for a big breakout year, and he might actually be the Friday starter. Holle is more of an X-factor, but certainly he has a lot of potential. But competition is very thick on that staff.

    Aaron (Corvallis): Wondering your thoughts on Oregon State this spring. I know our lineup has some holes in it, but doesn't it always. We have a wealth of pitching talent and really won't need to score many runs this year - we play 34 home games, I believe. I see a regional host in our future this year.

Aaron Fitt: The Beavers have a chance to be very good, but they'll go as far as that pitching staff carries them. That means guys like Peavey and Robles need to step up and pitch up to their abilities. We'll have more on those guys next week, plus features on Coastal Carolina's Scott Woodward, Ohio State's Alex Wimmers, Rice coach Wayne Graham and preseason No. 1 Texas. You can also expect our College Early Draft Preview content, including our College Top 100 Prospects and our Top 50 Prospects by Class lists. All of that — and more! — comes next week here at Meanwhile, stop by this Friday for our Small College preview. Thanks for all the great questions today, as usual. Until next time...