College Top 25 Chat: March 15

Aaron Fitt: Hi everybody. Another fine weekend of college baseball is in the books — let's get to the chat!

    Tyler (Gainesville): How much does it hurt Florida if Tommy Toledo is out for significant time?

Aaron Fitt: Toledo was hospitalized yesterday after taking a line drive off his face, and there is no update yet on his condition. Obviously that's a scary ordeal and we wish Tommy a speedy recovery. Florida is deep enough to withstand losses to just about anybody on its pitching staff, but he's certainly a key piece.

    ScottAZ (Phx, AZ): LSU's success with Mitchell and Jones last year seems to have brought out a few more football guys this year (Taiwan Easterling, Isreal Troupe). Is this a trend that is on the upswing? What other 2 sport guys are out there this year?

Aaron Fitt: Most years there are a handful of two-sport guys, so I'm not sure it's a trend on the upswing really. How about Sunday's matchup between two ACC starting quarterbacks with the bases loaded in the Clemson-NC State game? The Wolfpack called Russell Wilson out of the bullpen to face Kyle Parker, who drew a game-winning RBI walk.

    jonathan (fayetteville, AR): #13 vs #7 this weekend - wow what a conf opener - how do you see the series going - can Arkansas take 2 of 3 from LSU?

Aaron Fitt: I think that series could go either way, and much will depend on whether Ranaudo is back and how effective he can be after his layoff. Certainly Arkansas is capable of taking two of three in Baton Rouge, but I think you have to still give a slight edge to the home team, this weekend's loss to Kansas notwithstanding. I'll have plenty more on that series on Thursday in Weekend Preview.

    ScottAZ (Phx, AZ): No real word on Spence other than "arm soreness". He is supposedly throwing now. Is his injury in his forearm, or something wrong with his shoulder/elbow?

Aaron Fitt: I spoke with Tim Esmay last week, and he emphasized that there is nothing structurally wrong with Spence's arm. He has soreness/fatigue in the muscles where his forearm and elbow connect. Sounds like ASU expects him back in the next couple of weeks. It's nice for the Sun Devils that they can afford to ease him back, because the rest of that staff has been outstanding in his absence.

    Jason (Hammond): Hey, no love for Southeastern Louisiana University! What are your thoughts on the lions

Aaron Fitt: The Lions are off to a terrific start — that was an impressive series sweep of UTSA this weekend. I'd still tab Texas State as the Southland Conference favorite, but SELA is really starting to look like a regional team. I'll have more on Southeastern Louisiana later this week.

    Arkham (Danville, PA): Which Pac-10 team is better right now, and whose season-long prospects are better: Arizona State or UCLA?

Aaron Fitt: UCLA's better on the mound, and Arizona State's lineup is better. Given ASU's abundance of Omaha experience, you probably have to give the Sun Devils a slight edge, but it's going to be awfully tough for anyone to win a series against UCLA with that pitching. Cole and Bauer are unreal, and Rasmussen turned in his best start of the season against Oklahoma this weekend. And the Bruins keep on hitting, too! That's going to be a great race in the Pac-10, I think.

    Taylor (Houston): I know nobody moved in the back end of the rankings, but Texas A&M has to be pushing their way in, dont they? Pretty good week with a series win vs. a pretty good Wash St team.

Aaron Fitt: Yes, Texas A&M is right on the cusp for the second straight week, along with New Mexico, and Kansas has moved into that group also. Others in the 26-34 range: Alabama, Southern Miss, Western Kentucky, Cal State Fullerton, Ohio State, Southeastern Louisiana.

    Steph (Harahan): What are your thoughts on this years tulane green wave? I know they are extremely young and are having some growing pains, but how do you see the season playing out for them.. Postseason...

Aaron Fitt: I thought Tulane would be a regional team coming into the year, and I continue to believe that. The pitching staff is very good and deep, and it will keep that team afloat while the young guys get their feet under them. And I continue to hear great things about the freshmen, especially Garrett Canizaro, Brennan Middleton, Blake Crohan and Brandon Boudreaux. That's a very strong core of talented young players to build around, and all four of those guys have performed early in their careers, which is very encouraging for 2010.

    John T. (San Luis Obispo, CA): Cal Poly SLO seems to be under achieving this year. What are your thoughts on the future of their season? What do you think about their young outfield prospect and leading hitter, Mitch Haniger? Sr. Ross Brayton seems to be having another great season. Any possibility of getting drafted?

Aaron Fitt: I am very surprised and disappointed by Poly's 6-9 start; I would have expected the Mustangs to win series against USC, San Francisco and Houston (all quality opponents, but not as talented on paper as Cal Poly), and instead they lost all three of those series. Houston is playing very well right now, but it's hard to believe the Cougars swept that series on the road this weekend. Fortunately, Poly still has an opportunity to help its at-large resume with series against Cal and UCLA the next two weeks, but there's no way the Mustangs win those series if they keep playing like they have recently. They simply must pitch better, especially the veterans like Matt Leonard and D.J. Mauldin.

    Kenny (Georgia): Aaron, couple of things about the Gamecocks of South Carolina. First, is it just me or has their starting pitching become very inconsistant, dont get me wrong they have battled and kept the games within reach, but just seems like good some days and off some days (on both sides of the ball really)? Secondly, the power numbers from some of their promising guys at the start of the season have drastically gone down over the last couple of series, even against some sub-par competition. Any reason for Gamecock fans to be concerned this early in the season, especially with SEC play right around the corner? Do you still see them as an Omaha contender?

Aaron Fitt: Your assessment of the pitching staff is fair: they've had some good days and some off days, but mostly they've battled and kept games within reach, which is all a pitching staff needs to do at South Carolina. The offense (and the always-overlooked defense) will take care of the rest. You're right that they haven't put up big numbers lately, but I think it's only a matter of time before those bats break out in a big way. I'm not worried about the Gamecocks; I do still see them as Omaha contenders. I would feel even better about that if Sam Dyson would start to dominate, though. He hasn't been great the last two weeks.

    Jeramey (Atlanta): Virginia wins the weekend series in Tallahassee, I guess they can't be overlooked anymore and maybe people will start giving them the credit they deserve. With this being said, are they the team to beat in the ACC right now, or is a team like Ga Tech? I know they just lost the weekend series at home but can you count out Florida State just yet? 3 teams in the top 5 who do you think wins the ACC?

Aaron Fitt: Yeah, the voices clamoring that Virginia shouldn't be No. 1 have really quieted down this week, haven't they? I think Virginia showed this weekend that it is unquestionably the team to beat in the ACC — but I would never count out Florida State. The Seminoles will probably win their division (though Clemson will give them a run for their money), and Virginia will certainly have its hands full in its division with a very good Georgia Tech team, plus Miami and North Carolina. I think Virginia will wind up winning the ACC, though. The Cavs have already passed their biggest test of the regular season by winning that series in Tallahassee. Clearly, they can handle anything.

    Mike (Brookline, MA): Almost a month into the season, what have you/BA been most surprised with in the SEC?

Aaron Fitt: I've been slightly surprised by how well Kentucky has started even despite the Paxton distraction, but that team is very talented and nobody should be surprised to see it in a regional. And I've certainly been surprised by Georgia's swoon, although injuries definitely played their part in that. I still think Georgia will right the ship, though.

    Dale (Tampe, AZ): Is MacPhee a legit 2011 prospect? Chris Bisson type maybe?

Aaron Fitt: You know, Bisson's not a bad comp, although Bisson's got a few inches on MacPhee. I do think Zack MacPhee is a legit prospect — he's got extremely quick hands and has learned how to switch-hit in the last year or so, which certainly gives him extra value. He's an exciting, explosive player.

    Ian (Pearl River, NY): What are your thoughts on the UK Wildcats? They're rolling without Paxton and Bisson. They'd be even better if John Wall could play SS and DeMarcus Cousins could pitch.

Aaron Fitt: To be fair, the Wildcats rolled over a 1-12 IPFW team this weekend. Don't get me wrong, I think Kentucky's good, but remember that the sledding gets a lot tougher with SEC play beginning this weekend against Ole Miss, followed by trips to Vanderbilt and Arkansas and a home series against Alabama. That is a very tough stretch, and we'll have a much better idea of just how good Kentucky is four weeks from now.

    V (Chicago): Arizona State is now a perfect 15-0 after sweeping Auburn. How can they not be in the top 5 teams by now?

Aaron Fitt: As I said last week, Arizona State has had a top-five caliber start to the season, but the teams ahead of them keep winning. Arizona State hasn't shown any reason why it should be jumped ahead of Louisville (which just won a tough road series at Ole Miss) or Coastal Carolina (which is 15-2 and has two wins over UC Irvine), and we weren't going to slide LSU from No. 2 to No. 10 after losing one series. Teams can only move up in the rankings when there is room to do so; remember that when one team goes up, another team must come down. And Coastal and Louisville do not deserve to come down so the Sun Devils can move up.

    Jason (Connecticut): How far out of the top 25 or top 30 teams in the country do you see UConn?

Aaron Fitt: The Huskies are a ways out of the top 25 discussion — beating Ohio State is not enough to offset losing games to Tennessee and Marshall this weekend — but I feel good about my preseason prediction that they'll be in regionals. Right now, UConn looks like the No. 2 team in the Big East. George Springer might be a top 10 overall pick in 2011 — he's generating all kinds of buzz.

    Mack (Los Gatos): Where do you see the duo from Pepperdine going in the draft? Bywater beat Fullerton and Cook just threw a complete game victory over East Carolina and both of them threw very well in losses against LSU.

Aaron Fitt: Cook is the better draft prospect and could be drafted in the top 50 picks somewhere. Bywater is an excellent college pitcher with good run and sink on his 88-89 fastball, a good slow curve and a changeup with good sink. He's not a big-time draft guy, but I bet he'll go in the top 10 rounds somewhere. It'll be interesting to see if Pepperdine can build off this East Carolina series and build some momentum heading into WCC play. The Waves have played a tough schedule, but that 6-9 start is disappointing.

    Grant (Atlanta): Is Deck McGuire starting to separate himself as the top college pitcher available for the upcoming draft with Ranaudo sitting out another week?

Aaron Fitt: I think he's starting to separate himself as the top college righthander available. Drew Pomeranz and maybe Chris Sale are still firmly in the discussion for top college pitcher overall — but I like McGuire the best of the bunch.

    Jeramey (Atlanta): With the SEC having 7 teams and the ACC having 6 teams in the top 25 right now, which is the stronger conference? Both have heavy hitters with the likes of Florida and LSU in the SEC and Virginia, FSU, and GT in the ACC, which Conference is tougher and who gets more teams into the tournament at the end of the season?

Aaron Fitt: I do actually like the ACC a bit more at the top, but the SEC is deeper, and the SEC will get more teams into regionals, as always.

    Steve (Bryan, TX): What is going on with A&M shortstop Adam Smith? He has all the tools but seems to really be under-performing.

Aaron Fitt: Rob Childress did not sound terribly concerned about Smith when I spoke with him last week. He's gotten off to a rough start, but Childress said Smith still has a chance to hit double-digit homers this year.

    Brad (Baton Rouge): Fitt, I am wondering what teams you have seen throw a baseball or swing a bat this year? Texas? LSU? Arizona State? Georgia Tech? Florida? Florida State? Thanks

Aaron Fitt: Not quite sure what you're driving at here, but in person I have seen ranked teams Virginia, Texas, TCU, Louisville, Rice and East Carolina so far this year, as well as Texas Tech, Houston, Missouri, Ohio State, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, St. John's, South Florida, UConn, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Indiana, Villanova, Cincinnati, Penn State and Northwestern. That enough for you through four weeks?

    Jeff (Washington DC): How would you compare Texas' home series loss to New Mexico and LSU's home series loss to Kansas? You projected Kansas to be a 2 seed in the tournament and you didn't pick NM to win their conference. That leads me to believe all NM has going for it is right now is that it beat Texas and Kansas is the far superior opponent. On top of that, LSU was without its 2 most talented starting pitchers and Landry was forced to DH with a hamstring injury. As far as I know, Texas was full strength versus NM. LSU drops 5 spots after a 12-0 start. Texas only drops 2. I think LSU has proven itself against some pretty good teams early in the season (W&M gave UNC and UVA all they wanted, Pepperdine has singles over Fullerton, Irvine and a series over ECU, ULM beat Drew Pomeranz, Brown played a good series at South Carolina). I remember back when Texas lost you justified the minor drop by pointing out LSU lost to Illinois last year, but rebound to win the title. Now we are talking about the same LSU program losing an early series, but you drop them over twice as far. What is the reason?

Aaron Fitt: I do like Kansas better than New Mexico, but let's also not forget that Kansas was without Tony Thompson — who is by far its best player, the 2009 Big 12 triple crown winner — plus No. 2 starter Lee Ridenhour and its cleanup hitter, Jimmy Waters, for the last two games. But this is apples and oranges — if LSU had lost this series the first weekend, it probably only would have dropped a couple of spots also, and likewise if Texas had lost its series this weekend instead of the first weekend, it would have dropped further. We know more about these teams now than we did the first weekend. This was LSU's first legitimate test of the season — its first series against a legit regional contender — and it failed, losing a series at home to an unranked opponent. Texas (sweeping Stanford, beating Rice), TCU (winning a road series at Fullerton), Florida State (crushing Georgia and Florida) and Florida (winning a road series against Miami) have all racked up better wins than LSU has this year. That said, LSU did not need to put together a particularly rigorous nonconference schedule because it will be tested plenty in SEC play. The Tigers will have a chance to rebound this weekend against Arkansas, and if they do, they'll have something on their resume to hang their hats on.

    Bob (Chicago): Was this Coastal Carolina's one "pardon" for the season with the bad loss to Illinois Friday night?

Aaron Fitt: C'mon now, the Chanticleers went 5-1 on the week. You don't need a pardon for a 5-1 week — I don't care who the loss was against (and in this case, Illinois is not a bad team anyway; probably the No. 4 team in the Big Ten when it's all said and done). Playing six games in one week is very difficult, and Coastal handled it with aplomb.

    David (MD): After following the UVA-FSU weekend series, and the Cavs other games... I've got to ask — Is Virginia's pitching just not as good as it's been in years past? The Friday and Saturday starts seem set, but it seems to get thin fast after that. Plus, Hultzen hasn't gone very deep in his outings, taxing the bullpen early in the series.

Aaron Fitt: Virginia's pitching staff is not as deep as it has been — that is true. The Cavs are still looking for more from Cody Winiarski on Sundays, though I wouldn't be shocked to see freshman Branden Kline wind up in that role before season's end — he's got a special arm. We also saw Virginia's lack of bullpen depth exposed a little bit on Sunday. Not many teams have two guns in the bullpen as reliable as Tyler Wilson and Kevin Arico, but the Cavs had to go back to Wilson on Sunday, and he served up the game-winner to Tyler Holt. Virginia must be at least a bit concerned about wearing him out.

    Greg (Knoxville): I'm hesitant to believe Clemson is for real this year after what have been an overall disappointing last 2 seasons, despite a Super Regional appearance last year. We've yet to face great pitching and I'm still a little skeptical though very hopeful. Are you skeptical regarding Clemson and what will it take to convince you we are back on the national scene and potentially an Omaha contender? Thanks

Aaron Fitt: Clemson is for real. I would argue that the Tigers were clearly Omaha contenders last year, considering they hosted and won a regional and were just two wins away from Omaha. Their core of athletic hitters has matured nicely, and they've got depth all over the place. They also showed toughness this weekend, fighting from behind to win the last two games of the NC State series. The last couple of years, it seems like Clemson hasn't quite had that killer instinct, and has missed some good opportunities to win big series. This year, I get the feeling they're finding ways to win.

    carl (fairfax, va): so far it's been a very interesting, competitive college season. do you see any clear cut favorites after the first month. Lot's of surprises so far.

Aaron Fitt: I don't think there is a clear-cut favorite for the national title. I think any of the top dozen or so teams could realistically make a run for the title, and several teams outside the top 12 (Arkansas, Rice, Irvine, Cal State Fullerton) will be major factors by the time June rolls around. I think Virginia has earned the No. 1 spot in the rankings, but we don't conclusively know anything in mid-March. Stay tuned — a lot can change between now and Omaha.

Aaron Fitt: OK folks, that's it for today. See you next week!