College Top 25 Chat: March 22

Aaron Fitt: Hey everyone — I'll get started in a minute or two — bear with me.

    Tyler (Wiggins(MS)): Does Ole Miss have a decent Sunday starter on their roster? If not, who would you start on Sundays?

Aaron Fitt: Sorry for the delay — let's get to it. Trent Rothlin has had his ups and downs, but his three shutout innings in relief Sunday were encouraging, and I think he's the best bet to secure the No. 3 starter role. He has a very good arm, it's just a matter of improving his consistency. It's a long season — I think the Rebels should give him a chance to find his stride.

    Russell (Fullerton, CA): With this weekend's sweep of Washington, do you believe that the Tirans have turned the corner and will perform as we all expected them to from the beginning?

Aaron Fitt: I do think they've turned the corner, and talking with Dave Serrano yesterday, he thinks so, too. He said that last year some of his team's flaws were swept under the rug because they were having so much success in nonconference games against teams from other parts of the country that weren't used to their style of play. This team is starting to find its confidence, and it's still certainly talented enough to make an Omaha run. In fact, I still believe the Titans will be in Omaha.

    Carlos (San Diego, CA): I got to watch Rice at USD this weekend and the star of the show was Anthony Rendon. His hitting power was as advertised, but I was most surprised by his poise and arm strength at third base. How does he compare with Pedro Alvarez during his Vandy days?

Aaron Fitt: I was a big Alvarez fan, but Rendon is better. He's more athletic, a better defender, and a more polished hitter, with similar power potential — though you might give Alvarez a slight edge in raw power.

    Ramon (coconut Grove): Big Miami fan but full disclosure a parent of one of the players. swept a scrappy Duke team this weekend, woulld like to ask two questions. Do you guys think this Miami team is a world series team. Seems to have the pitching and bats are timely. Second question, nothing to do with Miami, but a player on Duke. Our friday night game was a great pitching duel, Hernandez looked great , the lefty Manno who closed out the last 4 or 5 innings had our guys looking bad. Fast ball with crazy movement.Spoke with the boys after and all said Manno is real tuff , what do you guys have on him

Aaron Fitt: I was impressed with the look I got at Miami on Saturday — athletic, fundamentally sound team with a pretty good bullpen and lots of speed. I don't think it's an Omaha team, partly because I really believe in Florida and Florida State and I think the Canes will have trouble getting past those two in the postseason. But it's a good team with a real chance to win a regional. Manno has been working his way back from injury and has been relegated to the bullpen so far, but he will probably wind up back atop Duke's rotation soon. His fastball—in the high 80s currently—really does play up because of its exceptional life, and he's a great competitor.

    Mark (Gainesville): What caused Florida's big jump?

Aaron Fitt: A 5-0 week including a win against a very good Florida State team. There was not a clear choice for No. 2 this week, and Florida was kind of a compromise solution, honestly. The meeting today was very difficult, but we did the best we could.

    Carlos (San Diego, CA): Arizona State's hitting was impressive during a 2 game set at Fullerton and it seems like everyone in the starting line-up is a sophmore. Is there a better group of sophmore hitters in the country and if so who?

Aaron Fitt: We ranked Arizona State's recruiting class No. 1 in the nation last year, and that ranking would have been validated last year based solely on what Carlos Ramirez and Josh Spence and Kole Calhoun did to help ASU get to Omaha. But that class was so deep, and we were also excited about Zach Wilson and Zach MacPhee and Riccio Torrez, etc. Now it's very clear that ASU's class last year was very special. I think Arkansas, Virginia and Clemson have groups of sophomore hitters that are in the discussion, too.

    Dan (Dallas): The horned frogs have been top five in the past two weeks. Is this their year to go to the CWS? Taylor Featherston and Jerome Pena have to be considered one of the best middle infield pairs in the country. What are your thoughts on them and the Frogs?

Aaron Fitt: The Frogs do have the look of an Omaha team to me. Featherston and Pena are a very nice keystone combination, but I wouldn't put them in the class of the best DP tandems in the nation, like Alabama's Josh Rutledge and Ross Wilson (which would probably get my vote for No. 1). Featherston's defense is still a work in progress, though it looks like he's improved since last year.

    Steve (Owltown): Rice at 25. We're having a tough time figuring out our Owls. What's your take?

Aaron Fitt: Rice's pitching is just average, which is what we thought it would be coming into the season. But we also thought the Owls would have an elite offensive and defensive unit that would carry it to wins in most ballgames, and so far the lineup has been disappointing. But I don't think we mis-evaluated those players, I just think they've gotten off to a slow start. Five weeks into the season, it's OK to wonder whether a "slow start" is turning into a "bad season", but it's also too early to write off a team as talented and well coached as Rice. I still believe the lineup will come around, though I don't feel as strongly about that conviction as I did a few weeks ago.

    Dan (CA): Thanks for helping us through another Monday. Now that we have a reasonably significant number of games played, who are the three or four individuals that have most improved their draft stock, and who is sliding the most?

Aaron Fitt: Conor Glassey is working on a new Draft Tracker for Wednesday. I will withhold comment on this one and urge you to come back Wednesday for Draft Tracker!

    Blackie (Cincinnati, OH): Hi Aaron, I was wondering if you'd heard anything on the likelihood of Texas A&M's Mike Wacha starting games with any frequency, or if they're content to let him stay in the 'pen this year? And I'll ask you the same question I'm asking everyone else: Is Kyle Parker playing himself into first round consideration for the draft and how do scouts think he compares to the other college bats (Brentz, Colon, Choice, Cunningham, Wates, etc.)?

Aaron Fitt: Rob Childress told me a week or two ago that he envisions Wacha's freshman year playing out much like Ross Hales' did a year ago — starting out in the bullpen, then making some Tuesday starts and perhaps working his way into the weekend rotation by the second half. As for Parker, yes, I do think he's playing himself into first-round consideration. He offers premium power potential in a draft short on bats, and he's obviously a great athlete. But he's also showed a much better approach offensively this year. I have not asked any scouts to compare him to those other hitters specifically, but I can tell you that I like him better than Wates, and it wouldn't shock me if he winds up climbing past all of those other guys you mentioned, too.

    CD (Cols, Ohio): How high in the draft do you see Ohio St's Wimmers going? If the bucks can find more pitching they will be a tough team to deal with later in the year due to their great offense.

Aaron Fitt: Top half of the first round to the middle of the round, I think. Your assessment of Ohio State is on the money, but I think between Wolosiansky, Rucinski and McKinney, they've got the makings of a solid supporting cast.

    Jeff (Phoenix, AZ): After back to back to back PAC 10 titles, it appears a team has finally emerged in the last 4 years—UCLA—to challenge Arizona State. What is your take on UCLA and based on current line-ups who do you think will win the series at the end of next month?

Aaron Fitt: Yeah, the Bruins are a legitimate challenger, all right. It's too early to offer any real predictions — momentum can shift between now and then — but it's usually not a good idea to bet against Arizona State at home. Then again, it's also not a good idea to bet against Cole, Bauer and Rasmussen in a three-game series. That one's going to be a gem.

    ScottAZ (Phx, AZ): If you were a gambling man, what would be the over under for Spence not returning at all this year? Not until regionals? In a limited role?

Aaron Fitt: I say he returns by Tax Day — April 15 — and is a key part of the rotation down the stretch.

    Steve L. (Albany, OR): What is your take on Oregon State's Matt Boyd? Is he the next Sam Gaviglio?

Aaron Fitt: Completely different kind of guy, but he sure does look like an impact two-way player. My colleague Conor Glassey was all over Boyd coming out of high school, and his faith is being rewarded. Here's what Conor wrote in last year's draft coverage: "Lefthander Matt Boyd is distantly related to both Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller and former first lady Dolly Madison. He had a good season on the mound and at the plate, but profiles best as a pitcher. He pitched at 86-89 mph this spring and has touched 92. He also has a plus changeup, above-average command and is a good competitor with a feel for pitching. He is a good athlete who played 11 years of ice hockey before focusing on baseball." Sounds like just the kind of hard-nosed, physical player the Beavers love.

    Jim (Bryan, TX): Last week it was stated that A&M Coach Childress wasn't worried about SS Adam Smith...this week he was moved to the outfield and bench. What's the true story?

Aaron Fitt: I'd say the lineup card tells the story better than anything Childress said two weeks ago. Maybe he wasn't worried about Smith then, but it sure seems like his opinion has changed.

    MJ (NY): When are you going to come to the realization that Rice is not top 25 worthy. All the other polls have but BA is still clinging to the notion Rice deserves to be ranked. I have 5 off the top of my head who are much more derserving, one in particular is SE Louisiana (18-2). After a month of the season in the books and Rice sporting an inconsistant 12-9 record, there is no way you can justify this ranking. As I said after my week week 1 question, Rice is not that good in 2010.

Aaron Fitt: You might be right — but they did have a 2-2 week that included a win against the No. 2 team in the nation in Texas, and we did drop them 11 spots from last week. I think that's reasonable. And if they don't get this season turned around in a hurry, they'll be out of the rankings next week, for what that's worth.

    Dean (Tallahassee): What is going in North Carolina? UNC dropping back to back weekend series? A East Carolina has been awful. Besides getting swept by the Canes, is Duke the best team in the state?

Aaron Fitt: No, I'll go with the Pirates. ECU has not been impressive over the last two weeks, but it has played a tough schedule overall. I don't think there are any Omaha teams in the state of North Carolina this year, but I do think the Pirates are the best of the lot, with UNC right there. Both those teams will be better in the second half than they are now and both have a chance to get hot and win a regional — but both have some fundamental flaws, too.

    Palmer (Nashville, TN): Vandy sophomore Sonny Gray has had a decent start to the season. What kind of stuff does he have, and where does he project in the 2011 draft?

Aaron Fitt: He's got some of the best stuff in the nation, with a mid-90s fastball and a devastating hard breaking ball, but I don't think he's cut out to be a starter at the next level. I talked to a scout this week who has seen him this year and said that he does not maintain his premium stuff deep into outings. He's not very big, and he's more suited for a relief role in pro ball, which hurts his draft stock a bit. But he's still a first-round pick, and probably a top-half-of-the-first-rounder.

    Jeff (Washington DC): Fitty, I don't know where to begin with your latest effort. Arkansas returned just as much talent as UVA from a team that beat UVA in Omaha last season. How do you justify UVA at #1 and Arkansas all the way down at #16? UVA has a nice series win at FSU, but that isn't anything Wilkins, Cox, Bolsinger, Smiley, Eibner, Bigham, Richards & Co. didn't do last postseason. Insider info...Arkansas is better this year than they were last year. Also, you had LSU and Florida at 6/7 last week. Florida takes a midweeker from (overrated) FSU and sweeps lowly Miss St. LSU wins a midweek and takes 2 of 3 from a CWS opponent with a peace meal pitching staff. That results in UF moving from 6 to 2 and LSU holding at 7? I'm not seeing your logic there. I suppose all is right in the baseball world. An ACC school atop BA, an Arizona school atop CB and LSU plugging away as defending national champion. Ranaudo comes back this weekend with Omaha in his crosshairs. Watch out!

Aaron Fitt: Well sir, last year is last year, and this year is this year. I happen to agree with you that Arkansas is better than it was last year, but the fact is the Hogs' best series win this year is against a Cal team that probably won't be in regionals, and they just lost a weekend series — you want us to move them from No. 13 to No. 1 now? Virginia won big road series at Florida State and East Carolina, and the Cavaliers have not lost a series — their resume is pretty unimpeachable, and you can cry ACC bias as much as you want. LSU did have a better weekend than Florida, but again, LSU lost a series last weekend against a Kansas team that has since lost four straight games, and Florida has not lost a series this year. After a 5-0 week including a win against a very good Florida State team (which, might I remind you, obliterated a talented if disappointing SEC team in Georgia a few weeks ago), I think it's fair to reward Florida, which also has a nice series win at Miami.

    jb (SC): I know you like Virginia alot, and deservedly so, but how do you see the series with Clemson this weekend in the end?

Aaron Fitt: It really could go either way — Clemson is darn good. Both teams have deep, athletic, powerful lineups, but I do give UVa. a slight edge for a couple of reasons: it's at home, and it has the more proven bullpen with Arico and Wilson.

    Blackie (Cincinnati, OH): I don't know if you have anything to do with the BA Draft Prospect Tracker for the college guys, Aaron, but what the heck is up with Hultzen snub? The guy is now Top 10 in ERA, strikeouts and BAA after dominating Boston College.

Aaron Fitt: I don't have anything to do with those — they are compiled by I think the emphasis is on draft-eligible guys, though certainly there are some underclassmen on there. Anyway, we've given Hultzen plenty of love elsewhere, don't worry!

    Jeramey (Atlanta): Thier are 4 ACC teams in the top 12: Virginia, GT, FSU and Clemson, we know that all 4 of these teams cant host a Super regional. I know it is March, but how many Super bids does the ACC get, who hosts them, and where does Coastal Carolina go for there Super? Thanks

Aaron Fitt: I think the ACC probably winds up getting two national seeds — I would bet on Virginia and Florida State. It's impossible to predict how Coastal's road will end up looking.

    Bill (Atlanta, Ga): Aaron, thanks for the chat and weekly public accountability to the rankings. Kudos. Could you please reconcile this statement from last weeks chat with this week's rankings? "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." In the past you've said that it is all about winning weekend series. This weekend GT, FSU, TCU, and LSU all did that and yet dropped or had a team jump them. FSU beat UF and a ranked UGA team and only moved up 1 spot in your March 8th rankings. Florida jumps 4 spots after beating FSU and an 11-6 unranked Miss State team. Sounds like B.A. brought this tough week on themselves by not focusing on strength of schedule the previous 3 or 4 weeks.

Aaron Fitt: This week was ugly — that's why our top 25 meeting took something like 80 minutes. We all wanted to reward Arizona State (and UCLA, for that matter) without punishing all the teams that did, in fact, win their series. But I don't think it's fair for you to say we brought this on ourselves by not focusing on strength of schedule previously; the fact is, Arizona State started its season with seven wins against Northern Illinois and Towson, which are a combined 7-30 this year. ASU's schedule has not been as rigorous as most of the other teams in the top 10 — ASU didn't even leave the state of Arizona until those two midweek games against Fullerton, and its one win against Oregon State and the two against Fullerton are the only wins against teams that are really likely to be in regionals this year. The Devils and the Bruins have both played decent but not great schedules. Still, we wanted to move ASU up for its 20-0 start, especially after those two impressive wins against Fullerton, so some other teams had to move down a bit when ordinarily they would stay put. I'm not sure if that's a satisfying explanation, but then, I'm not sure anyone in our top 25 meeting walked away satisfied. It was a week of compromises.

    john (beaumont): Much has been written about rice's rick hague and anthony rendon, but how good of a prospect is michael fuda? He's having a great year and has blazing speed.

Aaron Fitt: He's a good prospect, and he's got draft helium, I think. He's always been able to fly, but he's really become a much better hitter, too. One of the few bright spots in that disappointing lineup.

    Justin (California): How is Southeastern Louisiana not in your top 25? They are now 18-2, and both of their losses have come in extra innings. What else do they need to do to prove they are one of the top 25 teams in the country? There are several teams on your top 25 who do not have the resume the Lions have.

Aaron Fitt: I like Southeastern Louisiana — I wrote a big piece about the Lions in last week's mailbag, which led our website. But they haven't played any games against teams that will be in regionals this year, and their two losses are not against exactly elite competition. It's a nice start — the sweeps of Mississippi State and UTSA put them on the radar, but there aren't quite enough real quality wins to break into the top 25.

    Ben (Leland Grove): If the draft were held today, which round do you see Matt Harvey going off the board at and why?

Aaron Fitt: Hmm... top half of the second round. His stuff is real good, but his command is still a work in progress, and scouts do take issue with some things in his delivery. But I'll tell you what, he dominated a very good Florida State offense on Friday. If he were just a bit more efficient, he could have gone nine innings and UNC might have won that game. Instead, he ran up too many high pitch-count at-bats, and threw 127 pitches over seven innings, so the Tar Heels had to go to the bullpen.

    David (Manhattan): With a freshman heavy lineup, at this point in the season is Tulane ahead or behind where you thought they would be; also do you think last weeks loss to UNO will come back to hurt the Greenwave come selection time?

Aaron Fitt: This is about where I thought Tulane would be — on track to make a regional, with some early growing pains in the rear-view mirror. Don't worry about a single midweek loss.

    Pete Hughes (not really) (Blacksburg, VA): I don't usually complain about your rankings, and I'm not going to start now (necessarily). I would, however, like you to explain the rationale behind two choices this week: Clemson moves down a spot to #12 after a 4-1 week and south carolina is at #14. Perhaps the Tigers' loss at Charlotte exposed (in your estimation) a lack of bullpen depth. I believe this is partially true, but would point to a questionable decision to start Justin Sarratt, who has been beaten around badly thus far, over Kevin Brady (who almost rescued the game) on Tuesday as more of the reason for the loss. Otherwise, Clemson demolished a respectable Georgia Southern team and swept another ACC series from a middle-tier regional contender. Sweeping conference opponents that are sweep-able and holding your ground against the better teams is the recipe for how to get a top seed in the conference tournament (take FSU as an example of this as Mike Martin's squad rarely fails to convert sweeps against the middle/bottom of the conference and they are usually at or near the top of the ACC standings as a result). Meanwhile the gamecocks have only two quality wins, and those came within series losses to East Carolina and Clemson (who left no doubt in that series by blasting the home standing squad 19-6 in the rubber game). In their current 10-game winning streak, 7 of those wins have come against Valparaiso (2), Brown (3), Furman and Davidson (hardly impressive). I give them credit for sweeping Tennessee as that should give them some mileage in the SEC long term (see above). The Tigers will have a chance to validate a top 10 ranking this week after traveling to top-ranked Virginia should they perform well (my guess is you'll fall in the love with them if they win the series or bash them if they don't; neither of which would be entirely fair). Anyway, your rankings have Clemson the most under-ranked and sc the most over-ranked of any of the major services. Care to weigh in on why that is?

Aaron Fitt: Moving Clemson down a spot isn't a reflection on Clemson at all. After a 4-1 week that includes a series sweep of a pretty talented Virginia Tech team, we would almost never move a team down, and usually we would move that team up. But we just wanted to reward UCLA for its 16-0 start, so Coastal, Louisville and Clemson all took hits. Honestly, I think there is a clear top 12 teams in the nation right now, and there's not a whole lot of difference between them. After 12, I think there is a bit of a drop-off.

Aaron Fitt: OK, that's it for today. Until next week...