College Top 25 Chat: March 8

Moderator: Aaron Fitt will chat about the new College Top 25 rankings and the weekend in college baseball beginning at 3 p.m. ET.

Aaron Fitt: Hello everybody — hope you enjoyed another fine weekend of college baseball. I'm all settled here in the lobby at my hotel in Houston, and ready to go. I promise, there are no Coca-Colas within knocking-over range...

    Brooks Wilson (Houston): Are the Houston Cougars on the cusp of being ranked after a strong showing in the Houston Baseball Classic?

Aaron Fitt: Not yet. Houston had to overcome a really poor start, and as good as they looked this weekend, I'm still not convinced they're a regional team. They do have some nice pieces in place, however (see today's Three Strikes for more), and we'll know more about them the next two weekends when they travel to Cal Poly and Arizona State — a daunting stretch.

    Josh (Lumberton, tx): I mean come on now we dominate Florida in a mid-week game, and then Georgia during the weekend series and we move up 1 spot, gotta give us some respect here and I feel that FSU isn't getting any.

Aaron Fitt: Florida State has been the most impressive team in the country, and if we started from scratch and ranked 25 teams without regard to last week's rankings, they'd probably be No. 1. But that's just not how we do it; all the teams above them had solid weeks, and we're not going to move them down. You can only move up as far as there is room to do so. But we did move FSU over Florida even though Florida won a road series against a good Miami club, so that's something. And we gushed about the Seminoles on today's podcast. I'm continually amazed at how strong Florida State starts every single season — that's just such a well-coached program.

    Jason (SC): Are you liking Clemson more after thier weekend series win over South Carolina? South Carolina is a good club but do you think they have the arms to make a run at Omaha? You know they will hit like always.

Aaron Fitt: I already liked Clemson an awful lot — they were my Omaha sleeper last year with a younger team, and now they have most of the core pieces intact but they're more experienced. It's a very deep, versatile club, and it's going to be very dangerous all season. As for the Gamecocks, I think their arms are solid but not overwhelming with the exception of Dyson, so they're going to have to hit more than they have so far in 2010. But I'm confident they will. All three Palmetto State teams in the rankings — Coastal being the other — have legit shots to get to Omaha.

    Steve (Owltown): You got to see Rice, Texas and TCU in depth over the weekend. How do they stack up? Can you foresee 3 texas national seeds to go along with LSU?

Aaron Fitt: Boy, it's going to be hard for three national seeds to emerge from the same geographic footprint, but it's possible — and all three of those teams are national seed-caliber clubs. At this point, TCU actually looks like the most complete team of the three (if there were questions about TCU's offense heading into the season, there shouldn't be any more — it's just another physical, deep TCU lineup, only more athletic than it has been in the past), and the Frogs will have a real chance at a national seed thanks to that series win at Fullerton. That series will like mighty fine by the end of the season, because the Titans will right the ship.

    Marc (Tennessee): Aaron, who's your top 5 impact Freshmen so far this year?

Aaron Fitt: Hmm... not counting the JC guys (like Bryce Harper), I'll stick with some of the blue-chippers who ranked high on our preseason Top 50 Freshmen list: Matt Purke and Kenny Diegroeger. I'll throw UNC's Brian Goodwin in that mix too — it sounds like he was pretty spectacular at times this weekend, and I think his bat could get going in a hurry. I'm also very high on some of those SEC lefties — Brian Johnson and Taylor Rogers, though both struggled this weekend for the first time. You could throw in any number of other Florida guys — Austin Maddox, Mike Zunino, Hudson Randall, et al — and I'd also mention Christian Walker and Richie Shaffer at South Carolina and Clemson. That's more than five, but those are some guys who have jumped out so far.

    steve (st. louis): Just curious as to why you guys are not giving more love to Louisville? Rice at 7-5 while Louisville is 11-0 with the best start since the 1950's. Thanks

Aaron Fitt: C'mon, Steve, the Cardinals are ranked No. 10 in the nation! We had them high in the preseason, and they're still high, and on top of that, I raved about them in last week's Three Strikes after seeing them dominate at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge. Clearly, we're extremely high on Louisville, but we weren't about to jump them over a Rice team that had a strong 2-1 weekend including a big win against a top-10 team on Sunday.

    Jack (Auburn, AL): What do my Tigers need to do this week to get some love from BA? They play Alabama on Tuesday in a sold-out game in Montgomery, host Appalachain State Wednesday, and travel to Tempe for a three-game set with Arizona State this weekend. Sitting at 9-2, I would think a good week for Auburn would garner them some national attention. Your thoughts......

Aaron Fitt: Well, Auburn hasn't played a particularly rigorous schedule yet, but Miami (Ohio) is decent, and the win against BC is solid. Getting off to a good start was crucial for that team so it didn't fall in a rut while Mummey and McElroy were sidelined. And yes, a series win in Tempe would really catch our attention... but I wouldn't bank on that.

    Jeff (New Jersey): Now that we are a few weeks in, who are the most impressive college pitchers and who are the likely top 5 to be selected in this years draft?

Aaron Fitt: I was chatting about this with a couple of scouts this weekend — there's really no consensus out there, and even Bryce Harper isn't a lock at No. 1 (I would posit that Jameson Taillon might be more likely to go first overall, in fact, and he's a high school righty — those guys never go No. 1). But Deck McGuire looks to have emerged as the top college pitcher with Anthony Ranaudo sidelined, and Chris Sale has not hurt his stock either — he had 11 Ks in a win against Wichita State this weekend. Those look like the top two guys, pending Ranaudo's return, with Drew Pomeranz (who might be a touch ahead of Sale, even) and Alex Wimmers rounding out the top five. I think Brandon Workman's stock is on the rise, too — he was very good in front of bushels of scouts this weekend. His breaking ball was superb, and he showed better fastball location than he generally has in the past. He's got a bigger arm than Wimmers and might pass the Ohio State righty if he can continue to show this kind of polish.

    Jamie (Bradenton): Aaron, If Michael Goodnight ever became a closer, would he have the greatest closer's name of all time?

Aaron Fitt: No question. I feel like he probably profiles as a reliever in pro ball — he doesn't have a great history of holding his velocity — so maybe our dream will come true someday...

    Nathan (Louisville, KY): What will Louisville have to do in the out of conference slate to be in a position for a possible national seed come tournament time??

Aaron Fitt: Win at least two games at Ole Miss this weekend and win most of the midweek games against Kentucky, Ohio State and Vanderbilt. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to get a national seed out of the Big East, even if the Cardinals utterly dominate their conference schedule. Their league will be an RPI drain, even though I think this is a pretty strong year for the Big East, with UConn and St. John's looking like potential regional teams. South Florida, though, has been one of the season's biggest disappointments.

    Richard (Newport, RI): Florida State is off to a good start. Do you think they have the talent to make it to OMAHA (Maybe Finals)

Aaron Fitt: I do think so, and I really think they'll be there this year. I know we had them ninth in the preseason, not in the top eight, but I did have them in Omaha on my personal preseason list. Remember that our Top 25 is a collaborative effort.

    John (Shreveport): When will teams at the top start get dropped for losing games. Virginia has 2 losses and Texas has 3 while LSU and Florida State are still undefeated but not getting much of a bump in their rankings

Aaron Fitt: If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: College baseball is about winning weekends. And in UVa.'s and Texas' cases, they haven't even lost midweek games. Put it this way: LSU has nothing on its resume to match what Virginia did opening weekend (winning a road series against East Carolina) or even what Texas has done the last two weeks(sweeping Stanford, beating Rice), though we dropped the Longhorns behind LSU after they lost that New Mexico series. Do you really think it's more impressive to sweep Centenary and William & Mary than to win two of three at East Carolina, or sweep Stanford? I'll grant you that Florida State's body of work has been very impressive, however — there was just no room for the 'Noles to move up further.

    Trace (Fairfax, VA): Matty Ott was huge as a freshman and it looks like the Tigers have another super frosh. Assuming Ranaudo comes back full strength, how much does does the emergence of Bourgeois improve LSU's chances of repeating in your estimation?

Aaron Fitt: Bourgeois is actually a sophomore — he transferred in from LSU-Eunice. His emergence was absolutely critical; the Tigers were really counting on him to answer some questions in the rotation, where they had to replace Louis Coleman. If Ranaudo comes back strong, LSU will have a viable one-two punch not far removed from what it had last year.

    Justin (Ruston): Where would you rank LaTech? A record of 8-3 with a win on the road at Baylor has to get some recognition right?

Aaron Fitt: They've got one decent win this season — that Baylor midweek game — and a pair of series wins against Alcorn State and McNeese State, plus an ugly 23-7 loss to Texas-Pan American. Let's hold off on getting too excited about the Bulldogs for now. If they fare well in the next two weeks against New Mexico and Southern Miss, then we'll have something to talk about.

    Sal (Glendora, CA): What do you think about Cal State Fullerton's struggles so far? Do you think they will turn it around since next season they will be much younger and inexperienced with Colon and Brown most likely leaving.

Aaron Fitt: I'm very confident the Titans will get it turned around this season, and I'm still not ready to knock them out of my eight for Omaha — but I'm starting to feel a little less confident. Daniel Renken's poor start is a significant concern, and the offense has taken a huge step back since last year even with Gary Brown playing out of his mind. They really need some of those young guys to step up.

    Mike (Boston, MA): What are the top storylines thus far after 3 weeks of college baseball?

Aaron Fitt: I'd say Florida State's dominance, the return to power of the Pac-10 (see today's Three Strikes for more on that), the disappointing start for the Big West (especially Fullerton, of course), and the shocking opening weekends for New Mexico and Stanford.

    Brandon (Greenville): What do you think the chances are of this East Caroline team making a run to omaha this year?

Aaron Fitt: The Pirates look strong. They're not terribly different than they were last year — a little better on the mound, not quite as dangerous offensively — and that team won a regional, so I could easily see this team doing the same. And if you win a regional, you're just two wins away from Omaha — so yes, I could see the Pirates making an Omaha run.

    Jeff (Washington DC): Aaron, Stand by your girl, no matter how ugly she may be. Losing on Friday night to Wright State doesn't equate to a dominating performance. If UVA beats LSU in the CWS final, I'll chug 10 gallons of your ACC kool-aid. Did you know?...Coach Mainieri is 93-20 since the April 20, 2008 tie to UGA. Considering SEC competition and 2 runs to the CWS in that period, that is a remarkable record. No credit for the LSU baseball program, but how about some credit for Coach Mainieri?

Aaron Fitt: No credit for LSU? Really? They're ranked No. 2 out of 300 Division I baseball teams — and that's no credit. Gonna have to disagree with you there, Jeff. And again, show me one thing that LSU has done this year that's as impressive as winning a series on the road against East Carolina. So Virginia was upset on Friday; the Cavs still went 3-1 on the weekend. You don't get knocked out of the No. 1 spot in our rankings after going 3-1. If you don't like the way we do things, you are welcome to ignore our rankings and enjoy the bajillion other polls out there.

    Jeramey (Barnesville Ga): With the opening weekend of the ACC coming up and a huge matchup of top 5 teams, Virginia @ FSU. Which team has more to prove here and who do you see winning the series?

Aaron Fitt: Virginia has more to prove — just look at all the detractors every week on this chat. People somehow don't think the Cavaliers are for real, even after their incredibly impressive run to Omaha last year (beating Strasburg, Irvine twice, Ole Miss in Oxford...) and the fact that they have nearly all the key pieces back from that team. Florida State is Florida State — that program is as rock-solid and established as it could possibly be. As good as I think Virginia is, you probably have to give FSU the edge at home this weekend — that's a really good team on any field, but at Dick Howser the Seminoles are incredibly difficult to beat. But I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the Cavs go down there and hit a bunch of home runs to that short porch in right field and win that series. Virginia has lots of power, even though their home run numbers are depressed by their home field.

    Michael (Seattle): Aaron I see that Washington State and Texas A&M are both unranked going into their series this weekend. Are either one of these teams in on the conversation of being ranked?

Aaron Fitt: Texas A&M is right there in the 26-30 range (probably about No. 27 for me right now, with New Mexico as team No. 26). Washington State is a little further back but definitely in the discussion. I think the Cougars have a real shot to make it to regionals again this year. People I've spoken with who have seen them have been impressed.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Hey, Aaron. Rick Hague: reason to be concerned at this point?

Aaron Fitt: He's gotten off to a brutal start, but from the sounds of it, he's just pressing really hard. Draftitis can linger sometimes, though, so there is certainly some reason for concern. But I bet he snaps out of this funk; Wayne Graham is a master of figuring out which buttons to push to get kids going.

    John (Baton Rouge): Who is the top prospect in the SEC?

Aaron Fitt: I still say Anthony Ranaudo, with an asterisk. We need to see how serious his injury is.

    Shane (Paxton): When you compare the Texas 5 (Workman, Green, Ruffin, Jungman, Dicharry) how do they compare to UCLA's staff (Cole, Bauer, Rasmussen, Klein, Goeddel, Grace, Beacom)?

Aaron Fitt: As good as UCLA's bullpen has been, I like Ruffin better than any of UCLA's relievers and Dicharry better than any UCLA pitcher outside the top three, so I give a slight edge to Texas. The weekend rotations are basically a push.

    jay (USA): Who would you say are your top 15 players for the golden spikes award? Alex Wimmers, Justin Grimms, Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman are a few I come up with. I see these guys in top 10. Favorite is Alex Wimmers - competitive and tough on hitters from both sides of the plate.

Aaron Fitt: I wouldn't put Grimm on there after the way he got knocked around by Florida State, and Ranaudo hasn't pitched yet, so obviously he doesn't belong on that list right now. Wimmers is certainly one of the front-runners, and I think there is a real chance that a sophomore could win this year (Taylor Jungmann, Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon might be the three best players in the nation in any class).

    Chuck (Wichita): Any love for the Shockers?

Aaron Fitt: Two good weekends in a row for the Shockers, which have certainly put themselves in the rankings discussion after taking two of three from a good Florida Gulf Coast club. I really like Wichita's pitching staff.

    dc (scottsdale): After seeing Florida International battle at the rain-drenched tourney in Peoira, AZ this weekend, I was impressed. Are they a regional bet?

Aaron Fitt: I do think FIU is a regional team, yes. See my writeup on them in "Streakin" in last week's Weekend Preview for more.

    SFL Gator Fan (Ft Lauderdale): how do you see the Florida Gators progress so far after rebounding from a midweek loss to FSU and taking 2 of 3 from Miami ? what can you me about their centerfielder Matt den Dekker comming back for his senior year and is currently riding a 18 game hitting streak dating back to last season

Aaron Fitt: Winning that Miami series on the road was huge for that team. Kevin O'Sullivan said last week that his young team needed to prove it could win on the road, and that series will be very nice for Florida's confidence, as well as its resume. Den Dekker has played very well — he's an elite defensive center fielder who really struggled with the bat for most of last year, but he entered his junior year as a potential top-two-rounds guy, and I could see him climbing back close to that range this year if he proves that he's really turned the corner offensively. So far, so good.

    cavsfan (virginia): aaron.....what can you tell us about alex kaminsky the RHP from wright state university who pretty much dominated the #1 cavaliers friday night, matching danny hultzen pitch for pitch, scattering 7 hits, and striking out 7 cavs, including 3 k's against jarrett parker. he really pitched a masterpiece against arguably one of the top offenses in the nation. i did see he also held down the clemson tigers the previous friday night as well. kudos to this kid kaminsky.

Aaron Fitt: Kaminsky's just a good, solid college pitcher — he had a fine junior season, and he's off to a strong start in 2010. His best asset is his command, and he has an excellent changeup. He doesn't have a huge fastball, but he spots it well.


Aaron Fitt: One spot! We had a nice debate about New Mexico vs. Vandy and Oklahoma today... the Lobos are close.

    Brett (Auburn, Al): Brian Fletcher is off to an absolutely torrid start for the Auburn Tigers hitting .467/.528./.956 with 24 RBI's in 11 games! Obviously these early numbers are an aberration and SEC play will bring his numbers back down, but he had a pretty good summer in the Cape and has improved every year at Auburn. He's wiry strong, has really good raw bat speed, and is a pretty good athlete. He's got some holes in his swing (especially on the inner half), but he's got serious power to both fields. My question to you is do you think he can sneak into the first 5 rounds of the draft with a big year?

Aaron Fitt: Your scouting report is dead-on. This guy is a legit talent, with good major league bloodlines, and it looks like he's turned a corner with his approach this year. I certainly could see him sneaking into the top five rounds with a strong junior year, because he has legit tools.

    james (memphis): everyone knows about Ole Miss LHP drew pomeranz, but tell us about RHP aaron barrett. He has outpitched pomeranz so far. does he have a chance to be the 1st ole miss player selected in the draft this year?

Aaron Fitt: Well certainly not — Drew Pomeranz looks like a top-10 overall pick, and Barrett won't be close to that. But he does have a power arm; we ranked him as the No. 6 prospect in the talent-rich Northwoods League the summer before he transferred to Ole Miss, thanks to a 90-93 mph fastball and a promising downer curve. He was brutal last year, but it's good to see him living up to his potential this year. He's a guy with some draft helium, to be sure.

    Matt (Hattiesburg, MS): How concerned should Southern Miss fans be about the start the Golden Eagles have had this year? Before the season started the early season schedule looked to be full of teams that could be used to find a Sunday starter and get all the new guys acclimated to the lineup. Now with losing a game to NW St. and the series to Lemoyne (both at home), the schedule only gets harder for the Eagles.

Aaron Fitt: It's certainly a disappointing start, but the way I look at it, Southern Miss is still in solid shape to make a regional, probably as a No. 2 seed somewhere, which is what I figured they'd be in the preseason anyway. It doesn't matter if you're in the top 25 or not; what matters is making the postseason. And I believe Southern Miss will.

    Scott (New Castle, DE): Hi Aaron - Thanks for the weekly chat. I'm going to ask this again since you didn't get to my question last week: what do you think of Virginia Tech? Austin Wates is hitting .474, Jesse Hahn is pitching as well as he was expected to so far (0.86 ERA, 18 k's and 2 bb's in 21 IP), though admittedly they have struggled in the couple of games they've played against top competition (Coastal Carolina and Kentucky). Do you think they have a shot at making the NCAA regionals? Also wanted to know, since you were down in TX this weekend, what is your take on Rice? Are they a top-10 team that is just struggling somewhat, or are they destined to be a mediocre team in 2010?

Aaron Fitt: I picked the Hokies to make a regional in the preseason, and I stand by that — they have a few potential superstars in Hahn, Wates and Price, with a solid group of good college players like Justin Wright and Steve Domecus around them. As for Rice, I think people are forgetting that the Owls went 2-1 this weekend, including a win against a very good TCU team on Sunday. Their bats haven't really gotten going yet, but they will. Remember, Rice's offense started a little slowly last year too, but it was very dangerous by the end of the season. It should be even better this year, with more depth and experience as a whole.

    Taylor (Houston): Can you please answer this question from friend of mine so I can tell him how crazy he is - "how could anyone who tuned into this weekends tourny still vote Ut ahead of Tcu?" Thanks, and that was some darn good ball this weekend...

Aaron Fitt: Both teams went 2-1, and Texas was already ahead in the rankings, so status quo was maintained. No team in the nation will be better at run prevention than Texas in 2010, and the offense will hit enough to win a ton of games. You can make a case for either team being better than the other, but it's hard to make a case that TCU should jump over Texas when the Longhorns were already four spots ahead in the rankings.

    Chuck (Logan, UT): ASU is beating everyone senseless and they don't even have Spence going yet. All the other polls have the Devils ranked high. Is the hesitancy Esmay?

Aaron Fitt: Nah, just didn't have room — everyone ahead of the Devils held their ground. I wouldn't hesitate to move Arizona State up into the top five if a bunch of other teams in front of it lost. Arizona State has an Omaha-caliber team, but I believe so does Louisville, Rice, Coastal Carolina, TCU, etc etc, as well as teams behind ASU in the rankings like Clemson. Most of the top 15 or so teams in the nation haven't really separated themselves from each other in the first three weeks.

    Jonathan (Austin): Is Georgia that bad or Florida State just that good? The 'Noles lineup, combined with Gilmartin/Gast, makes them the best team in the nation at this moment, in my opinion.

Aaron Fitt: I think it's mostly the latter. That's a very talented Georgia pitching staff that FSU bludgeoned this weekend. That said, Georgia will have its ups and downs this year with that young lineup.

    Taylor (Houston): Aaron, I was discussing this over the weekend while down at MMP in Houston, can you answer these questions for me...first off, why are all these "tournaments" simply round robin instead of a true tournament style double elimination bracket crowning a champion? Second, and this seems to be a fairly new thing, but how is that conference teams are playing each other out of conference, a la ut/mizzou and a&m/baylor a couple weeks ago? I seem to only see this in the Big 12. Thanks.

Aaron Fitt: The double-elimination style tournament takes too much of a toll on pitching staffs. Early in the season, there is no reason to put arms at risk. Those nonconference games against conference opponents are pretty common (Oregon and Arizona State played one this weekend, for instance, as did Georgia and Alabama last week).

    Joseph (Nashville): Can you talk a little about this weekends matchup in Oxford? Series of the year so far? What do the Rebels have to do to get the win?

Aaron Fitt: Very compelling series between two quality teams. I like Louisville's lineup better, and its pitching depth, and Thomas Royse has pitched like a front-line ace so far, giving the Cardinals a legit chance against Pomeranz. Of course, Louisville is dealing with a couple of significant injuries right now, and the Rebels are tough at home, so maybe they've got the edge this weekend; but I like Louisville's team better on the whole.

Aaron Fitt: OK gang, that's all I've got time for today. Thanks for stopping by — enjoy Week Four!