College Top 25 Chat With Aaron Fitt

    Pete (Downey, CA): Please tell me what you think about those Oregon Ducks from Eugene lead by George Horton. This team looks like it may be a serious contender for making a regional.... please indulge us on your opinion on that bold statement I just made

Aaron Fitt: Hello everybody, let's get right to it. Oregon was one of the biggest stories of opening weekend — I don't think anybody saw that 2-1 weekend coming. You knew Horton would get that program going sooner rather than later, but that's pretty remarkable progress for a team that ranked last in the nation in scoring a year ago. I still don't think you'll see the Ducks in a regional — I've still got plenty of questions about the bats — but they will be considerably better than they were last year. I could see a regional run by 2011.

    Mark (San Diego): How do you feel about University San Diego making it to a Super Regional? They seem to have strong pitching with Blair, Solis, and Griffith and many more arms. They also seem to be mature in the field with Meador, Walters, Muno, Engel. Is it realistic to think of them as an Omaho contender? Do you consider them one of the Top 5 programs in the West.

Aaron Fitt: Those are absolutely reasonable, attainable goals for San Diego this year. So much depends on the health of the Toreros' stars, but we got excellent reports about Sammy Solis this weekend, and having Victor Sanchez and Kevin Muno back will help a ton. USD is unquestionably talented enough to make an Omaha run. There won't be many rotations better than Griffin-Blair-Solis.

    Jeff (Washington DC): Virginia #1. ACC bias?

Aaron Fitt: Clearly.

    Ron (Winterville): What are your thoughts on the Pirates after losing the series this weekend? Showed good character in a comeback effort Sunday afternoon. Middle relief seemed to be the problem yesterday. Weren't able to stop the bleeding. Over all seems like East Carolina just ran into a really good team.

Aaron Fitt: I agree with your bottom line — UVa. was ranked so high for a reason. I was actually very encouraged by ECU's pitching, on the whole. Mike Wright looked great on Saturday — 90-92, touching 93, from a lower slot with some funk in the delivery. Showed a good slider and changeup also — he looks like a valuable setup man, maybe ECU's Tyler Wilson. Tyler Joyner had an ugly line, but I thought his stuff looked decent also — he will be much better moving forward. Overall, you have a lot to be encouraged about as a Pirate fan.

    Mike (Evanston, IL): How can you not have Northwestern ranked?? They lost all 4 games last weekend but it was on the road and if not for the 58 runs they gave up, NU could have easily won all 4!

Aaron Fitt: Thank you very much! Mike will be here all week, folks.

    ScottAZ (Phx, AZ): Why no Josh Spence for ASU this opening weekend? Also, your take on how we looked please

Aaron Fitt: "Arm soreness" is the only explanation available. We'll see what that means — Sun Devils have been surprisingly close-mouthed about this, which makes me think the news might not be good. But ASU dominated this weekend as expected. Nice to see strong performances from Seth Blair and Zack MacPhee, who I think is primed for a big breakout year. He has a chance to be a very exciting player.

    Taylor (Houston): Aaron, thanks for the chat. Can you give me your thoughts on what happened in Austin this past weekend? Pitching didnt look too bad, no clutch hitting. I know New Mexico is a solid team. The Horns will be just fine...

Aaron Fitt: I agree with you on all counts. We gave Texas a bit of a mulligan in the rankings this week, dropping it just two spots, because we obviously still believe in that team. There is really nothing to worry about in Austin. Remember, Illinois took two out of three at LSU early last year.

    Brendon (Sunnyvale, CA): Brett Mooneyham...9 BB in 5+ IP saturday evening. What is the potential for this kid if he ever figures out how to consistently find the strikezone?...Also, with Stanford's sweep of Rice this weekend, was this just Stanford finding a good weekend or is this a sign of things to come that Stanford is back on the national scene? Thanks..

Aaron Fitt: Two mitigating factors: Mooneyham was sick last week and might not have been 100 percent Saturday, and from what I hear, the strike zone was particularly small in that third game. Clearly, Mooneyham needs to improve his control, but let's see what he does next week. The ceiling with him is huge. As for the Cardinal, I suspect they'll have their ups and downs this year, as they are relying on a lot of young players. Those players are extremely talented (remember, that recruiting class was ranked No. 2 in the nation last fall) and they came up big this weekend, but there will be some bumps along the road. If Stanford makes an Omaha run this year, it will be a year ahead of schedule — like what Virginia did last year.

    MJ (New York): Rice starts 0-3 and yet they are still ranked #9...OH REALLY!?!?! You don't think there are better teams (Miami, Clemson, Stanford who swept them!?!?) that could be ranked higher than Rice based on what happened this weekend. Rice is clearly not that good. There is nothing you can say that justifes this ranking...NOTHING!!!

Aaron Fitt: Is that what you were saying about LSU after the Tigers lost a series at home to Illinois last year? Should we have dropped LSU behind Illinois in the rankings that Monday? Believe what you want, but Rice is going to be very good. A bad weekend in February is just that: a bad weekend in February.

    Taylor (Houston): How far is Texas A&M outside the Top 25? I know there wasn't much movement within the Top 25, but it looks like they had a couple convincing wins. Thanks.

Aaron Fitt: In that group of teams in the 26-30 range. Obviously there were no openings in the Top 25 — I didn't even like bumping Georgia after a respectable 2-2 week, but we had to get Stanford in. I'm very high on Brodie Greene, so it was good to see him get off to an 8-for-11 start. And our reports say John Stilson was throwing some serious gas in that brilliant relief outing. I could see him as 2010's surprise All-American by season's end, ala Casey Weathers.

    Taylor (Houston): The Wildcats of Kentucky had a big weekend, especially with the upset of Coastal. What are your thoughts on this team,and what is it going to take to move up into the rankings? Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: John and I discussed Kentucky on the podcast today — we both like their team. Even without James Paxton, they've got some big-time arms on that staff, and I love the athleticism in the lineup, particularly in the infield. Kentucky moved up into the 26-30 range this week; with another good week, and assuming teams in front of them lose to open some spots, Kentucky could be ranked by this time next week.

    Kevin (New Orleans): You guys at BA have done very little talk on pod casts and chats about LSU. How about some explanations about why the defending champions aren't #1 right now, and their strengths that have them at #2; what could get them back on top this year and what could hold them back?

Aaron Fitt: Well, we've only had two podcasts this year, and I thought we talked about the Tigers in the preseason edition. But we didn't mention them much today because they did as they were supposed to do — swept a home series against an inferior (if plucky) opponent. Biggest development of the weekend for the Tigers: Joey Bourgeois delivering a stellar debut Sunday. That spot was the biggest question mark about LSU heading into the year, and it looks like Paul Mainieri has found his answer. Supposedly his stuff was outstanding, too.

    Jon K (Tigard ore): I was out in hawaii Friday and Saturday to catch the beavers take on the bows and left feeling our squad looks much improved from last years regional team! do you think we have what it takes to get back to Omaha? Also our highly touted pitching staff was pretty dominating at times and the two guys who looked the best was Friday starter waldron and closer rhoderick where do you see these two being drafted this year?

Aaron Fitt: So much depends on whether Robles and Peavey can get more out of their considerable talent — both were solid this weekend, which was a good sign. Waldron and Rhoderick both look like third- to fourth-round picks, maybe a tick higher for Rhoderick.

    Doug (Fountain Valley, CA): Hi Aaron, Long Beach beats Pepperdine, Pepperdine beats Fullerton, Fullerton beats Long Beach. At the end of the season, how much weight does the tournament selection committee put into the fact that west coast teams just beat each other up all season?

Aaron Fitt: That is the perennial problem out West. Of course, if East Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina had played a round robin — or Miami and Florida and Florida State, or Rice and Texas and TCU, or Ohio State and Louisville and Kentucky — the result might have been the same. It's true that there are fewer soft opponents against whom to pad your win totals in the West, but there are a few. The bottom line is cream rises to the top; the elite West Coast teams will show their true colors in the end, just like the elite teams everywhere else. Maybe there will be fewer middling West Coast teams in regionals than there should be — that's usually the case, after all — but the middling teams in other regions are just as good as the middling teams in the West. There just are more teams to accommodate. That's the problem with the "West vs. everybody else" view — it's more reasonable to compare California with Texas with the Carolinas with Florida, for instance.

    CD (Columbus): Where is Ohio St. in the Top 25 rankings?? Wimmers was dominant as usual.

Aaron Fitt: No room for them — nobody at the back lost. Ohio State remains where it started the season — in the 26-30 group, knocking on the door to the rankings.

    jb (SC): How do you see the South Carolina-East Carolina series this weekend in Greenville falling? Two VERY offensive minded programs!

Aaron Fitt: Could go either way, but with no Ebert and no Bradley, I'll take the Pirates at home.

    Matt (Florida): Ok, so let me get this straight. New Mexico takes 2 of 3 from your preseason #1 team and is unranked in this poll. Way to give NM credit for a great series win! And Rice gets swept by an unranked Stanford team who never even made a regional last year and they only fall 4 spots and are still in the top 10. Was a 2 year old formulating these rankings b/c these things are a joke!

Aaron Fitt: Leaping to grand conclusions after one weekend in February is a silly, reactionary move. It's baseball — it's a long season. If the Royals sweep the Yankees in April, does that mean the Royals are instantly better than the Yankees, and more likely to win the World Series? Come on. If we had ranked Illinois over LSU when the Illini took two out of three in Baton Rouge early on last year, we would have looked ridiculous. That's just not how the rankings work.

    Steve (Wappingers Falls, NY): A little love for Army? Top 35? They pounded a good Dayton team and beat Wake. 6'5" Kevin McKague had 3 HRs and picked up a save on the mound. I know they play in the extremely week Patriot League but I am going to be pestering you all year to consider them a top 30 team.

Aaron Fitt: Yeah, that was a great weekend for Army — Dayton is the A-10 favorite, and obviously for Army to beat an ACC team in February is pretty darn impressive. McKague is one of the best players in the Northeast. I'm still not buying Army as a top 30 team, but they're safely inside the top 50, and maybe moving up.

    James Frye (Knoxville): What is your take on Tennessee's series sweep of Xavier this weekend? I thought the Vols looked pretty good myself. They sure can hit and the bullpen looked great. Does Raleigh have this team turned around?

Aaron Fitt: I stand by what I said in the preseason: Tennessee will make a real run at regionals. It's hard to move up with so many good teams in the SEC, but the Vols are good enough to make some noise, assuming Cody Hawn's injury is not serious.

    Doug (Oxford,MS): Aaron, if Aaron Barrett and Trent Rothlin pitch as well as they did this weekend for the rest of the year, how good can the rebels be?

Aaron Fitt: Those were two extremely encouraging developments. Both those guys have great arms — we ranked each in summer league top prospects lists over the last two years — but neither had had much Division I success until this weekend. The Rebels are really counting on them. If they can replicate this weekend's results, Ole Miss will be in business.

    Tyler (SC): What did you think about Christian Walker's debut? That kid raked and hit two bombs. Looks like he will need to work on his defense more but could be another consistant Tanner Masher.

Aaron Fitt: He is a classic South Carolina player, in that Phil Disher tradition — you hit it on the head. He can really mash, but defense is a work in progress. Great debut for him — I wasn't surprised to see him hitting in the middle of the lineup right away. He's gonna be a good one.

    Steve (OWltown): Will Rice have enough pitching?

Aaron Fitt: Yes. It won't be an overpowering staff like the Owls have had in the past, but if they can throw strikes, the defense will make plays behind them, and the bats will take care of the rest.

    Chandler White (Albuquerque, NM): Ray Birmingham needs to be considered coach of the year, he has brought UNM from non-existent to opening up this year taking two of three at Texas. Do you believe UNM has a chance to overtake TCU this year? And do you believe they have a shot at Omaha?

Aaron Fitt: Birmingham has done a great job building that program in a short amount of time. He's a good recruiter, he brings a lot of energy, and his teams play very hard. But the Lobos will not overtake TCU this year, and they will not make an Omaha run. A regional, though, could be in reach, and that would be a major development for a program that has only been to one regional ever — 48 years ago.

    Chris (Conway, SC): I was at all 3 Coastal games this weekend and it seemed like a rough start to the season. Quite a few defensive errors most notably in the 9th against Kentucky leading to the loss. How are the they still #12 after what I would consider a rather weak showing this weekend. Any concerns about Scott Woodward going 1-12, a game changing pick off in the 6th against Kentucky, then an error to cost them the game?

Aaron Fitt: Admittedly, I didn't see it with my own eyes, but on paper Coastal's week was OK. Going 2-1 — with a good win against a talented Virginia Tech team and a close loss to a good Kentucky team — isn't bad at all. Give Woodward a mulligan — he'll bounce back. He's a very good player. OK everybody, that's it for today. Three Strikes is now posted on the College Blog — check it out for a piece on UC Irvine lefty Daniel Bibona. Next weekend I'll be posting updates on the blog and Twitter from the Big East/Big Ten Challenge. Enjoy Week Two.