College Top 25 Chat

Aaron Fitt: Hey all, let's get to it.

    Thomas (Gainesville): Where does Florida need to improve to move back up in the rankings?

Aaron Fitt: I think Florida's doing just fine. Most of the time, even the top teams aren't going to win road series against ranked SEC teams, but it's just crucial not to get swept, and Florida did not get swept. That said, I'd certainly like to see more consistency out of the Florida weekend rotation.

    Bob Cat (Meigs County): Draft prospects of Eldemire, Klafczynski, and Vitek from the MAC

Aaron Fitt: I could see Eldemire and Vitek going in the top two rounds — both are excellent athletes with very good tools across the board. I do like Klafczynski also, but he's not in that category—more of a 10-20 rounds guy, I think.

    Jeramey (Atlanta): Ga. Tech continues to impress this year, after going up and sweeping a struggling UNC team. How good is this team and do you think they have an Omaha run in them?

Aaron Fitt: I was very impressed with Georgia Tech's toughness on Friday and again in the series finale, coming from behind with a furious rally. This was their first real test of the season, and they passed it with flying colors, despite continuing to struggle in the rotation behind McGuire. That is a significant concern, I think, but the lineup is so powerful and the bullpen is deep enough to carry the Jackets until Cumpton, Bradley and/or Pope can become more consistent. Tech certainly has Omaha caliber talent, without question.

    John (Ashburn, VA): Okay Aaron, we're standing by for your obligatory snarky comment about those Clemson fans who dissed you about your UVA rankings.

Aaron Fitt: Snark? From me? I'm appalled, sir!

    Kenny (Durham): Which team that has been a disappointment so far do you think is most likely to reverse course and make a strong run for the College World Series? Conversely, which team that has started great is most likely to cool off?

Aaron Fitt: As I said on today's podcast, I think Fullerton still has the best chance to regroup and make an Omaha run, out of that group of disappointments that also includes Rice, Georgia and North Carolina. Maybe this is cheating, but I think Arizona is likely to cool off at some point — that's an extremely young team that has yet to play a single game away from Tucson, and the Pac-10 looks very strong this year. I do think Arizona is a very exciting young team, for sure, but the Wildcats are also going to have some rough patches at some point.

    Jeramey (Statesboro): The Citadel is 9-0 in conference play so far in the So Con. Is there anyone that can shake them from the top spot and do you see the league getting 2 bids into the tournament like last year?

Aaron Fitt: It does seem like the SoCon picture is finally crystallizing a bit, doesn't it? The Citadel certainly looks like the favorite to me, thanks to the league's best pitching staff, led by ace Asher Wojciechowski, who has some serious draft helium. I could see him being this year's Eric Arnett — big, physical strike-thrower whose velocity has spiked and who could climb into the first round. But I digress. I think the SoCon's best chance to get two bids is for someone other than The Citadel to win the conference tournament, and the Bulldogs to finish strong and earn an at-large bid. Maybe College of Charleston will have a good enough RPI to contend for an at-large, too.

    James (Norfolk): Robert Morey is doing a good job as Virginia's #2 starter. What round do you see him going in the draft?

Aaron Fitt: I'll say fifth round range. Very good slider, average or so fastball, not overly physical and lacks a real third pitch. I could see him climbing somewhat, though, especially if his velocity goes up.

    Arkham (Danville, PA): Aaron, You think UCLA's staff is showing chinks in the armor, or do you give Cal Poly credit for pushing the Bruins? What are your thoughts on UCLA's upcoming Stanford series?

Aaron Fitt: No chinks in the armor, really — Cole and Rasmussen just didn't have their sharpest control, but both still battled and won. Those two guys are susceptible to occasional lapses in control, but on the whole they've been much improved in that area this year.

    MJ (New York): 2 questions: 1) Will Miami, FSU and Florida all host regionals? All 3 currently have top 20 RPI's and all 3 will have a top 20 SOS by years end. I know 3 host regional sites in one state are alot but if all are deserving why should it matter about the location of the schools. One of the 3 should not be penalized by the location argument and go on the road for a regional if they have a great year. 2) FINALLY! Kudos for not including Rice in your rankings this week. It took long enough! Will you now admit w/ me that they are not a good baseball team this year? I know I have been all over them this year but now that they are barely .500 w/ half the year complete, will they even make a regional? 13-12 sure does not sound regional worthy to me.

Aaron Fitt: I have come to the conclusion that Rice will not be an Omaha team this year, as I previously thought — the pitching just is not very good, and although I still believe the lineup will be better, it does not look like it will be a premier offense or defense, as expected. But the Owls will be in a regional; they have played one of the nation's toughest schedules, with two West Coast trips in the first six weeks. Ideally, you'd love to be better than 13-12 at this point, but the going actually gets easier for Rice in conference play, although that Memphis series was pretty shocking. Still, I think Rice will find a way to win the league, or finish no worse than second behind East Carolina. As for part 1 of your question, I think FSU and Florida will host regionals, but I see Miami winding up as a No. 2 seed and hitting the road. The Hurricanes just aren't as talented as those other two Sunshine State powers.

    taylor (Boston Mass): Guys long long time BC fan. Braved the cold and to be honest my hats off to anyone who plays in low 30s weather. Anyway, Duke-BC series, not very exciting , two teams that do not hit very well, but I have to tell you. three pitchers that I would like to ask about are Pat Dean, who was brilliant in sundays game , and for Duke Dennis O 'Grady , who pitched sunday and only gave up 2 runs. and finally Manno the lefty who pitched a no hitter the first 6 innings of Game 1. Any chat on these three guys. Wow I must say great performance from all

Aaron Fitt: It was great to see Manno and Dean make triumphant returns to their respective starting rotations — Manno has worked his way back to 100 percent slowly in the bullpen, but he gives the Devils a nice Friday ace thanks to his competitiveness and exceptional fasball life. Dean missed his start last week after sleeping funny on his arm, and he bounced back with a complete game Sunday against Duke, allowing just one run. He's garnering top-three-rounds draft buzz, with a fastball that has touched 93, a good three-pitch mix, excellent feel for pitching and poise. O'Grady, a 5-foot-10 righty, does not profile for the draft like those other two do, but he's been very good for Duke this year. He works down in the zone and doesn't give in to hitters.

    Leonard (Fort Worth): Aaron, what a week TCU had! How big is that Air Force loss going to be when it comes to seeding at tourney time? Also, with few marquee games left on the schedule, what are the hopes for a regional host and/or national seed? The pitching staff has to regroup for this team to have any chance come June.

Aaron Fitt: I would caution folks not to overreact to that series in Colorado Springs — sounds like the pitching conditions there were absolutely dreadful. Still, that will be a bad loss that will sting TCU's RPI, but I'm not worried about the Horned Frogs' pitching at all.

    Joe (NY): Can you talk a little bit about the Pitt Panthers? Any chance they get a regional bid?

Aaron Fitt: Wow, first Pitt question in a few years here in the college chat! The Panthers had a huge weekend, sweeping St. John's and holding a good-hitting Red Storm team to just five runs in three games. Pitt is 18-4, but really these were their first real quality wins of the season, so I'm not ready to pencil them into a regional. In reality, the Big East is looking like a one-bid league unless someone other than Louisville wins the conference tournament, and I still think UConn is the second best team in the league. How about Matt Barnes shutting down that explosive Cardinals offense in the finale of that UConn-Louisville series? Barnes is going to be something special, folks.

    Steve (Greenville, Sc): Who do you think is the best team in the state of South Carolina. Last weeks some clemson fans seemed amazed you had South Carolina ranked so close to clemson.

Aaron Fitt: Honestly, I have no idea. Coming into the season, I thought you could throw South Carolina, Clemson and Coastal into a hat, shake it around and any order that fell out would make perfect sense. All three of those teams are very good — I think all three are legit Omaha contenders — and not one of the three has separated itself from the other two yet.

    Tony (Olathe, KS): Why no love for Kansas St.? 19-3, coming off a sweep of a talented Oklahoma St. team. Was the non-con schedule that bad?

Aaron Fitt: Yeah, the nonconference was awfully soft. But Kansas State has vaulted itself from non-regional team to just outside the top 25 (we debated K-State, Southeastern Louisiana, East Carolina and even San Diego for No. 25 this week, before deciding that none of them really had a better resume than Alabama, even despite its current five-game losing streak). I'm still not convinced Kansas State is for real, but the Wildcats have certainly caught my attention. Much like Western Kentucky, I really expected Kansas State to take a step back this year after suffering major losses from last year's regional team, but like WKU, the Wildcats have gotten off to a very strong start. Kudos to the coaching staffs at both of those programs.

    Chad (Dallas): Hey Aaron, a lot of people had issues with Bryce Harper leaving high school two years early, but looking at his numbers at College of Southern Nevada so far (.431,.931,.528, 12, 35 - avg, slg%, ob%, hr, rbi) the move looks easily justifiable. What are your thoughts on his season to date?

Aaron Fitt: Sensational. We are doing some research today to find out what the record for home runs in that wood-bat league he plays is — he's got to be on pace to break it, and he's two years younger than everybody else in that league! I think I'm finally sold in Bryce Harper; I'm just a year or two behind the rest of America, I guess.

    Bill (Atlanta, GA): Was is the status of the Mississippi State program? Are they just young but getting better? Is John Cohen doing as well at State as he did at Kentucky? He apparently left Kentucky better than he found it. Is he making similar strides at Miss. State? I was pleased State was able to win a series at home against Georgia but Georgia really has not impressed this year either.

Aaron Fitt: It's downright embarrassing how noncompetitive Georgia has been over the last month with a very talented roster, but nonetheless, that's a good series win for Mississippi State. Make no mistake, the Bulldogs are making progress in Cohen's second year, though they still won't compete for a regional spot this year. I really like the recruiting class they brought in last fall, a deep, competitive group with some lots of projectable arms and players to build around. Cohen and his strong coaching staff will have that program humming right along in no time.

    Zack (Reno): Is UC Irvine bad, or did Nevada have a good week ? Irvine's pitching staff looked overrated as a whole. Who do you like to win the WAC ?

Aaron Fitt: I will say this: the Anteaters will go as far as Bibona, Bergman and Pettis take them. Bibona and Pettis have actually both been very good this year, but Bergman has really struggled, and that's a significant concern. But Irvine's bullpen is actually deeper and better than it was a year ago. There are a lot of good veterans on that Irvine team, and I have to imagine that team will be very dangerous down the stretch. But this Nevada series was a real surprise, and the fact remains that Irvine is just 6-5 against teams with winning records right now. Hence the 11-spot drop in the rankings this week.

    Dale (Hartford): UConn's Matt Barnes has been showing much improved control this season while leading the Huskies with 4 wins. Is he moving into 1st round consideration for 2011?

Aaron Fitt: For sure. He has legitimately been up to 97 this year, and he showed a tight slider and a downer curveball when I saw him in the Big Ten/Big East Clasic. He also sat in the 93-95 range that day.

    Dave (California): How do you see the Texas-Oklahoma match-up this weekend?

Aaron Fitt: Interesting matchup. Oklahoma is the better offensive team, and the Sooners' pitching staff is very underrated — Zach Neal and Bobby Shore and that bullpen have been outstanding. But if Texas pitches to its capabilities, it will win pretty much every series it plays, and I think the Longhorns take two of three this weekend.

    James (Rome,WI): Aaron- The school district I teach in is on spring break and it's suppose to be in the 70's and sun this week in Southeastern Wisconsin!! My question is about Omaha and the CWS. What will you miss most(or something you will miss) about Rosenblatt and the CWS? I've been going there for the past 10 years, and I'll be honest I know it will be emotional when I leave for that flight back to Milwaukee. I have to believe other people will have the same feelings.

Aaron Fitt: May I call you Jim Rome? Well Jim, here's my take: It will be very emotional for an awful lot of people. I'll miss just about everything about Rosenblatt: the feeling of excitement I get driving down 10th Street when the blue facade of the 'Blatt and the Desert Dome at the zoo come into view for the first time each year; the red, blue and yellow seats; the endless and inane back-and-forth between the fans in the left field and right field bleachers; walking to Zesto's for shakes before and sometimes between games; on and on. One thing I won't miss: the world's slowest elevator to the press box, or climbing 500 steps in 100 degree heat to avoid waiting for the world's slowest elevator. But I suppose even that annoyance has its charm... Next.

    Johnny (New Orleans, LA): What will it take for Southeastern Louisiana to crack your top 25 and get the respect they deserve?

Aaron Fitt: As I said last week, I think we gave the Lions plenty of respect with a long mailbag piece about them a couple of weeks ago, when they led our website. I'm impressed with Southeastern Louisiana, and I like their team and I think their staff has done a great job building that program, but the fact is the strength of schedule is not great, so if they want to be in the top 25 they need to complete sweeps of teams like McNeese State and Central Arkansas. If they had swept either one of those series the last two weeks, instead of winning two of three, they'd probably be in the top 25 right now. There will be more opportunities for the Lions to make statements over the next few weeks, with midweek games against Tulane and Alabama, plus series against Lamar, UTA and Texas State.

    Kyle (Memphis, TN): Is Pomeranz on the short list for the #1 overall pick this year?

Aaron Fitt: I think that's fair to say, yes.

    Deuce (Tempe): I heard Jordan Swagerty from ASU was throwing in the mid-90's as their closer and then caught the game on Sunday... is he a prospect as a catcher or as a pitcher now ?

Aaron Fitt: Tim Esmay has confirmed rumors of that kind of velocity to me. Swagerty must be considered more of a prospect on the mound right now — that's a pretty special arm.

    Jeff (Phoenix): Aaron - I realize BA is based in NC, but c'mon ASU at #2 and UCLA at #6 when both are 23-0 and 20-0 respectively? In addition, according to Boyd's World today both ASU and UCLA have a tougher SOS than UVA and they have a higher ISR and RPI. Sure, UVA is very, very good. But they are 20-4 and their SOS is not as good as either ASU or UCLA. How many games will ASU and UCLA have to win in a row before you rank them 1 and 2? I know you will say we ranked them this way at the beginning of the season and UVA shouldn't be penalized just because ASU and UCLA did something great. Well, that great is going undefeated this week vs. UVA losing a game, having no losses to UVA's 4, having a higher ISR, RPI and SOS. It's time Aaron.

Aaron Fitt: And that, Jeff, exposes the flaws in SOS numbers: anyone who thinks UCLA and Arizona State have played tougher schedules than Virginia (or Florida State, for that matter) is either completely insane or — wait for it — incredibly biased. If you want to make the argument that ASU going 23-0 against its schedule or UCLA going 20-0 against its schedule is more impressive than Virginia going 20-4 and winning three series against ranked teams (two of them on the road), then you can make that argument. I will disagree with you, but at least it's a reasonable discussion. But don't try and sell me on ASU's or UCLA's schedule being stronger than Virginia's — it's not even close.

    Jeff (Fayetteville, AR): Give me your thoughts on Arkansas from an offensive and pitching stand point. I am pretty comfortable with fielding after turnining six double plays over the weekend against Bama Thanks, enjoy the chats.

Aaron Fitt: I think Arkansas looks like a very good, balanced, complete team. One reason we did not rank the Hogs higher in the preseason was a question about their ability to make consistent contact at the plate, but I have really been impressed with how the Hogs have improved their overall strikeout-to-walk rate. And the pitching staff is deeper than it was a year ago. I would say you should feel pretty comfortable about the Hogs on the whole following a very impressive sweep of a talented Alabama team.

    Brett (Auburn, Al): Do you have any reports on Sam Dyson so far this year? I saw him pitch Saturday against Auburn and he looked mighty good. I don't know if his velocity (although he had good stuff) is all the way back, but he made very few mistakes and showed the ability to throw 3 pitches for strikes. The breaking ball was a little inconsistent but misses were always off the plate. He did give up 10 hits, but most were early in the game and he didn't walk a batter. Showed a very easy delivery and maintained his stuff. Cole Nelson also had a great outing for Auburn. Without some defensive miscues that game would have been 0-0 through 9. What do you know about Nelson? He has a had a very strong start to the year.

Aaron Fitt: I have not gotten any reports on Dyson's outing this past week, but I have gotten reports that as of a week or two ago, his velocity was not where it was at its peak last year, when he sat in the mid-90s and touched 98-99. The 10 hits he gave up are peculiar — a guy with his stuff shouldn't be that hittable — but at least he worked around those hits and he threw strikes. South Carolina should be encouraged. As for Nelson, he's a 6-foot-7 lefthander that transferred in as a junior this year, and he has the most electric stuff on that staff. His fastball has movement and velocity, working in the 89-92 range and touching a bit better at times, and his breaking ball can be a real out pitch. He's a guy who could climb some draft charts in a hurry this spring.

Aaron Fitt: OK everybody, that's all for today. Thanks for the questions — see you next week.