College Top 25 Chat

Aaron Fitt: Hey folks, sorry for the slightly late start — let's get to it.

    Dan (California): Who do you have winning the auto bids from the WAC, Big West, WCC, and Mtn. West ?

Aaron Fitt: Hm... Fresno State, Cal State Fullerton, San Diego and TCU. I do think New Mexico State is a threat to win the WAC — the Aggies can score a lot no matter where they play — and Irvine will, of course, be a major factor in the Big West. But I'm sticking with the Titans for now.

    Blackie (Cincinnati, OH): Hi Aaron. Sonny Gray and Jack Armstrong (solid start from him this weekend) are routinely touted as 1st round talents for next year's draft, but how is Jason Esposito's stock looking in that regard? And looking forward another year, what are the impressions of Selman so far? He got touched up pretty badly in an outing a couple of weeks ago and they seem to be pitching him sparingly right now. I assume Vandy is just protecting an arm they expect to be extremely valuable his soph and junior years?

Aaron Fitt: I don't think Esposito's a lock first-rounder like Gray, but I do think he could find his way into the first round some where. The guy was offered seven figures out of high school, after all, and he's hit very well as a sophomore so far this year. He's got real power, and he's a good defender at third base, too. Tim Corbin sort of compares Selman to where Jack Armstrong was a year ago — he's got a huge arm, but he's got some maturing to do physically and mentally, and like Armstrong, he gets better every time he touches the ball, as Corbin put it. That staff is deep enough that they don't need to count on Selman making a huge impact as a freshman, but as you point out, he has a chance to be very, very valuable down the road.

    Travis (Largo, FL): Aaron, what can you tell me about Steven McQuail at he a top 5 round prospect?

Aaron Fitt: I think he's more of a 10-20 round guy, but he does have some pop in his bat and he's a good athlete at second base. He has swung and missed more than you'd like to see this year, though.

    Arkham (Danville, PA): Aaron, Your staff's opinion of UCLA was clearly enhanced by the Bruins' series win over Stanford, as evidenced by the three-spot leap to No. 3. But with Cole's recurring control issues and the bullpen's sudden vulnerability (except Klein), does UCLA look/feel like an Omaha team to you?

Aaron Fitt: UCLA's jump was also a cumulative effect of their first seven weeks of the season, and the fact that there was an opening for the Bruins to move up because Virginia and Florida State both lost. I don't think UCLA is particularly vulnerable anywhere on the mound; Cole has been able to pitch around the walks, and I suspect these two weeks were more of a midseason aberration, much like Taylor Jungmann's two rough weeks before his strong start at Oklahoma. Is UCLA an Omaha team? Well, the Bruins certainly have an Omaha-caliber pitching staff, and the lineup has been very good, but I'll be curious to see if those young UCLA hitters keep up their strong play down the stretch. But it does seem like this program has a different vibe than it has the last couple of years; the previous UCLA teams started slow and never lived up to their potential. This team started fast and seems to be very confident, in a way those other teams never were.

    Blackie (Cincinnati, OH): Logan Vick of Baylor appears to be having one of the better freshman seasons around. What can you tell us about his pedigree and upside?

Aaron Fitt: He has been a real sparkplug for Baylor atop the lineup. He's not tall — just 5-11 — but he is strong and pretty physical, and he can really run, and he has a strong outfield arm. He's just a very good athlete with an exciting all-around tools package, and he has a hard-nosed, blue-collar approach. Unsurprisingly, he was a very good high school football player, and his aggressive mentality translates well to baseball. I like his upside quite a bit, and he's only going to get better now that he's concentrating on baseball full-time.

    Kevin B (Myrtle Beach, SC): Does Rico Noel have a change to garner some National Player of the Year talk? He is hitting .360 with 5 homers and 33 RBI to go along with his 22 steals and 0 errors in Centerfield. Not to mention his game winning Homerun against Clemson last week.

Aaron Fitt: I'll say this: elite college outfielders are hard to come by, and Noel has a legit chance to be an All-American at the end of the year. He's simply an electrifying player; watching him for three straight days against San Diego last weekend, I came away with a real appreciation for just how good he is. I'd like to see a footrace between him and Gary Brown to settle who is the nation's fastest player. Noel really knows how to put his speed to good use, too, and he has a flair for the dramatic, as highlighted by his heroics against Clemson.

    ScottAZ (Phx, AZ): Should the lack of any power or real offensive threat in our (ASU) lineup scare me? Last year we had Kipnis and Ramirez and couldn't keep up with Texas in Omaha. This year we don't have a single bat that scares anyone. Yeah we are #1, but will we make it out of a SR with this lineup?

Aaron Fitt: We talked about this in today's podcast: Arizona State really is not nearly as powerful and explosive offensively as it has been over the last decade. There's no Kipnis and Ramirez, or Wallace and Davis and Paramore, or Buck and Larish — no power presence in the middle that opposing teams have to really gameplan for. Obviously it's still a good offensive team, it's just built more like, say, Texas than Georgia Tech. ASU's lineup is deep and athletic and versatile, but I think the real strength of the team is the bullpen. The Swagerty-Lambson-Barrett trio is very formidable, and that allows the Sun Devils to shorten games considerably, taking a lot of pressure off the rest of the team. But to answer your question, I think Arizona State absolutely can win a super regional as currently constructed, but I also think ASU is not a slam-dunk Omaha team, and I still would not consider ASU the favorite for the national title (I'll stick with Texas and Virginia, our top two teams in the preseason, as co-favorites). The lack of power and the continued absence of Josh Spence are legit concerns, but Arizona State is an extremely mentally tough, resilient team, and that's very important.

    JH (Berkeley): I noticed Anthony Rendon shifted to SS for a bit in a game last week. One Rice team preview I saw mentioned that multiple guys in the Rice infield are capable of playing shortstop, but that Hague took the position out of seniority. Is Rendon capable of playing up the middle? Who moves to short for Rice next year when Hague's gone, Rendon, Ratterree, or someone else?

Aaron Fitt: Rendon was a shortstop in high school, and I do think he's got the range and arm strength to play the position, but he's just so spectacular at third base that I'm not sure Rice wants to mess with it. But next year, I do think there's a chance he moves to shortstop, and I bet he'd be very good there.

    Steve (Owltown): What will it take for Rice to get back in the rankings? Are you seeing signs of life?

Aaron Fitt: This was a very encouraging week for the Owls, going 4-0 and sweeping Houston — certainly I think that qualifies as "signs of life." Clearly, the pitching is still a work in progress, but Wall's gem on Thursday was huge. He really is capable of being a very good No. 1 starter — Wayne Graham said next week he'd just like to see Wall run his fastball a few ticks higher. He's been topping out mostly in the mid-80s this year, and he needs to get up to 88 or so to be able to put hitters away more effectively with his fastball. But he can be dominant when he has his good fastball and his changeup is really working. As for the rankings, the Owls will be back when they show a little more consistency. Let's see what happens with that Tulane series.

    Joe (SF Bay Area): Aaron What are your thoughts on Cal's young team and their pitching staff, especially their freshman Justin Jones?

Aaron Fitt: They've got some talented guys on that club, and they've shown a few signs of putting it together, taking two at Rice and, of course, sweeping Arizona this weekend. Jones is very intriguing, an unsigned seventh-round pick with an athletic, projectable 6-foot-3 frame and a loose, easy arm action. His curveball is a real out-pitch, and he has a quality three-pitch mix. That was a real gem he threw in the opener against Arizona — eight scoreless innings.

    Roger (Virginia Beach): How will his dismissal from the team affect Dustin Harrington's draft status at East Carolina? Also, where do you see Devin Harris going in this year's draft?

Aaron Fitt: Obviously it's a negative. I don't know the details of that situation and don't feel comfortable speculating, but certainly his dismissal raises makeup concerns. Of course, I think he was more of a very good college player than a premium draft guy anyway; he was probably an 8th-to-15th round type. As for Harris, I haven't spoken with any scouts about his stock lately, but I'd have to imagine it's on the rise. He was an eighth-round pick last year because he needed to improve his offensive approach, but he's always had huge tools — big-time raw power, speed, arm strength, the whole deal. Now he is taking a lot more walks and cutting down on strikeouts a bit, and he's still hitting for power. If he keeps this up, I could see him going in the top three rounds.

    Marc (Left Field): Texas flexed a bit in Norman this weekend. Do you see the Horns running away with the Big XII, and are they in pretty solid shape for Top 8 seed? I see their ISR is #4, with SOS at #9.

Aaron Fitt: I do see Texas running away with that league. They entered the year as the preseason No. 1, and no other Big 12 team was in the Top 25. To me, that reflects the power dynamics in that league this year. Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Kansas are all decent teams — they'd all fit into the 20-35 range somewhere — but there is no serious challenger to Texas for that league title. I'll be shocked if Texas does not wind up with a national seed. As I said earlier, I'd peg Texas and Virginia as my co-favorites to win the national title at the halfway point.

    Tom (Orange County): Is Christian Colon still going to be a top 10 pick in this years draft? Where do you see Gary Brown going? He has been doing just as well, if not better.

Aaron Fitt: I think he's a first-rounder, and maybe a top half of the first-rounder, but my gut says no college hitter will be drafted in the top 10 picks. Colon and Brown have been dynamos atop the Fullerton lineup lately, and that makes the Titans very dangerous. Brown has been outstanding all year, really. He's a potential first-round pick; he has learned how to use his superb speed more effectively, and he's made real progress offensively.

    John (Ashburn, VA): Aaron: Crazy weekend in the ACC. Tough for anyone to sweep. UVA, FSU and Clemson don't seem to want to pull away. My Tigers didn't do itself any favors by the way it played BC this weekend. Although BC was a heck of a lot tougher and played much better than other .500 teams. Of course, the Tigers made Mickey Wiswall look like Mickey Mantle. Question: Although the Tigers have depth, their lack of experienced middle inning pitching could come back to haunt them come tournament time. Their weekend starters have good numbers, but the kids in the middle of the bullpen lack a killer instinct. Worries to come? Thoughts?

Aaron Fitt: Clemson's middle relief is a bit of a concern, yes. I'd like to see somebody like Kevin Brady step up and become an overpowering bridge to David Haseldon at the back, the way Jake Barrett has for Arizona State. Brady doesn't quite have Barrett's stuff, but it's not far off — he just hasn't put it all together yet. I think he's a key guy for the Tigers. In the meantime, I think Clemson can mix and match in the pen with Cruz, Frederick, Meyer et al.

    Charles (Huntington): Hey Aaron thanks for the chats. Just curious as to whether or not the pitching staff at Pepperdine is going to get any recognition or just be looked over because of its offense-or lack there of. Through just 23 games, led by Cook and Bywater, 150 IP, 5 CG, 2 SHO, 122 K's, and a 3.17 ERA. At any other school, these numbers would equate to being a Top Ranked team. Your thoughts?

Aaron Fitt: We actually wrote about both Cook and Bywater earlier in the year, but if Pepperdine can't start winning, we're not going to spend a whole lot more words on that team. Hard to believe the Waves are 8-15 with the kind of arms they've got. Then again, it's not a terribly deep staff, and it's hard to win with a .244 team batting average. We'll see if the weekend off will help the Waves regroup.

    Jonathan (Fayetteville, AR): What a win yesterday for the Hogs vs Kentucky in a marathon game lasting almost 4hrs I believe the Cats lost the game by not pitching to a gimped up Andy Wilkins, instead choosing to pitch to Collin Kuhn & all the Hog fans know how that ended. Which brings me to my question - no matter how long Wilkins is out I have thought throughout the year, especially with the year Wilkins is having, that the Hogs will go as far as he carries them. Having said that and seeing as how the game went yesterday, I am now worried about our pitching, so how far can we go with our pitching as long as Wilkins comes back to the lineup as he did when he left it? Thanks & love the chat - GO HOGS!!!!

Aaron Fitt: It sounds like Wilkins could be back from his hamstring injury in 10 days or so, and that offense is certainly good enough to keep afloat without him. I was surprised how poorly the Razorbacks pitched this weekend, but I would expect guys like Baxendale and Eibner to bounce back from that. Right now, I'm not terribly worried about Arkansas' pitching — let's see if this becomes a trend, or if it was just a one-weekend blip.

    Gerrit (florida): Florida Gators took the series from Vanderbilt this past weekend. My concern is about our offense , not so much of our young pitching staff or SEC leading defense.. do you still think that the Gators our one of your favorites to make to the CWS ?

Aaron Fitt: Absolutely. The Gators are relying on an awful lot of young players, and they are certainly going to have their ups and downs this year, but I think they'll peak down the stretch. This team is deep enough that the coaching staff can give the freshmen breathers and keep them fresh, and guys like Austin Maddox, Nolan Fontana, Mike Zunino and Kamm Washington are only going to get better. Certainly, the Gators need Josh Adams to get going, and Preston Tucker really hasn't found his power stroke yet either, but I have to believe both of those guys will get hot soon.

    H. Houdini (Las Cruces, NM): Great weekend for the Yellow Jackets. What are your expectations for their next two weekends @ Virginia and home against Clemson?

Aaron Fitt: Those are two very compelling series, for sure. This weekend will be a huge test: on paper, it doesn't seem like Georgia Tech is built to win at a place like Davenport Field, which is not conducive to the longball - which is Tech's forte. Much will depend on which Brandon Cumpton and Jed Bradley show up Saturday and Sunday. I've got to give Virginia the edge at home, though.

    BL (Bozeman, MT): Hi Aaron, thanks for the chat, and for the great work! Western Kentucky and Coastal Carolina are obviously legit ball clubs that you've been on since the preseason, but are there any teams from mid-major (hate that term, but you know what I mean) leagues that have been a positive surprise this season?

Aaron Fitt: Actually I think WKU is a significant surprise. The Hilltoppers lost a lot from last year's regional final club, and I thought they'd take a bit of a step back this year, but that has not been the case. You could also throw New Mexico and The Citadel into the discussion — I figured both teams would be solid, but both look like regional teams right now, and that's a bit of a surprise.

    richard (new orleans,la): hi aaron. tulane seems to be coming into their own taking the weekend series at east carolina. how are you and john feeling about their chances the rest of the way? also, could you comment on the great year that robbie broach is putting together on the mound for the green wave.

Aaron Fitt: As I have maintained since the preseason, I think Tulane is a regional team this year. At this point, with East Carolina and Southern Miss both struggling, I think Tulane might wind up as the No. 2 team in CUSA (I still think Rice will win it, though). The Pirates could rebound, but losing Dustin Harrington was a huge blow. Broach has had a really nice bounceback year, giving Tulane some stability in the weekend rotation.

    Jeramey (Atlanta): After Trey Watkins gets injured on Friday night, Lsu moves Mahtook up to the lead off spot and he goes nuts (4 for 10 6 runs scored 2 hrs and 4 rbis) and the balls he got out on were just laser shots. It seems that Lsu hasn't missed anything yet with Watkins getting hurt. What kind of effect do you think it has on LSU's bats in the future?

Aaron Fitt: The Tigers will miss Watkins, for sure — he's a real sparkplug, a Paul Mainieri favorite, and it sounds like he could be out at least a month with a dislocated elbow. But they are deep enough to withstand it. Johnny Dishon is a very talented substitute; having a fourth outfielder like that is a nice luxury.

Aaron Fitt: OK everybody, that's all I've got time for today — thanks for stopping by, as always. Check back later this week for our Midseason Report.