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D1Baseball Top 25 Rankings Chat: Preseason

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Eric Simmons: What team that’s not in your Preseason Top 25 will surprise?
Kendall Rogers: Eric — Texas is kind of the team outside of the Top 25 that I could see being very good if everything clicks. The Longhorns will start three freshmen in the infield. And while I think Trey Faltine and Dre Duplantier will be good, expecting all three to be productive as freshmen is a tough ask. WTS — The outfield is in strong shape, getting DJ Petrinsky back is massive and I still like the pitching staff with Bryce Elder and Ty Madden leading the way. It would not shock me to see Texas finish in the Top 15 by season’s end. Just too many ?’s right now.
Aaron Fitt: Hello gang, excited for another year of talking college baseball with you all. Let’s dive in!


Russell Glenn: I noticed only one non power 5 team ,East Carolina, made your pre-season top 25.  Who are some other non 5 teams that could make a dent this year?
Aaron Fitt: Coastal Carolina is an obvious one that comes to mind for me. The Chants have some youth in their lineup, but I really like the talent of freshmen like Eric Brown and Brian Port plus juco transfers Fox Leum and Alex Gattinelli, who could provide some punch. Obviously there’s a nice core up the middle with Parker Chavers and Scott McKeon leading the way. If Zach McCambley, Shaddon Peavyhouse and Garrett McDaniels can pitch up to their talent, the Chants have a chance to make plenty of noise.


Sam : what kinda season do you Ucsb will have
Kendall Rogers: Sam — UCSB is a huge ? this season. There’s no doubt the Gauchos will be a confident club after what they did last season. And while I love Rodney Boone on the front end and Michael McGreevy at the backend, there are just too many question marks right now. The good news? Pretty much the rest of the Big West is in the same boat.


Mac: Can’t disagree with your preseason poll.  Louisville was a championship quality team last year and don’t seem to have lost much.  Vandy also has a solid pitching returning from 2019.  How do the two pitching staffs compare considering the starters and relief/closer?
Aaron Fitt: I think the rotations are just about a push. Detmers/Miller/Smith has as much upside as any trio in the country… but Vandy still has two proven championship-caliber weekend starters in Rocker and Hickman, plus two premium talents vying for the Sunday job in Jake Eder and Jack Leiter. I like Louisville’s bullpen too with Michael Kirian anchoring things, but I’d give Vandy a slight edge with Tyler Brown and Ethan Smith leading the way. But Louisville has the more experienced and proven lineup, which is why the Cards ultimately got the nod for the top spot.


Matt: What do you think will be the biggest keys for Arkansas to finally break that final barrier and hoist a national title trophy?
Kendall Rogers: Matt — Arkansas will get there at some point. I have zero doubt. I don’t think there’s anything the Hogs could have done differently in the past. They had one bad play that spiraled everything out of control two seasons ago. That’s pretty much it. Hogs will have an incredibly potent offense this spring. If Noland/Wicklander can take steps forward, the sky is the limit for this team. I’m also excited to see what Peyton Pallette is all about.


Guest: Probably not in the Top 25 discussion, but where would you rank the Cajuns?
Aaron Fitt: Definitely an interesting squad, I saw them play pretty well in Starkville this fall. I have some questions about the lineup outside Hayden Cantrelle and Brennan Breaux, but there’s upside there, especially if athletes like Alex Hannie, Gavin Bourgeois and Jonathan Windham can continue to make strides. I think the top five or six arms are pretty good too, but I’m not sold on the overall pitching depth. Feels like a potential regional team, but not a slam dunk.


Guest: Wanna hear pitching preview of Wake Forest. I guess there’s too poor SPs as #18 position. Will they be able to recover from awful 2019 rotation?
Aaron Fitt: I am really intrigued by the upside of that Wake Forest pitching staff — Tom Walter thinks it’s the deepest and most talented staff he’s ever had, comfortably nine or 10 quality arms deep. There’s no question about the arm strength of likely weekend starters Jared Shuster, Ryan Cusick and Will Fleming — those are all guys who can work in the mid-90s and miss bats with their secondary pitches… they’ve just got to do it for a full season. I believe that staff is going to be very good, but it’s still a bit of an unknown right now, so it makes sense to be a little cautious with our projections. But that should be one of the best offenses in the country, without question.


HawkTalk: How would you break down the top starting pitching rotations in the nation?
Aaron Fitt: I already broke down Vandy and Louisville — those are very clearly two of the three best rotations, in my opinion. I think the other rotation in that same category is Georgia, with flame-throwers Emerson Hancock and Cole Wilcox plus a proven lefty in C.J. Smith. I think you could rank those three rotations in any order, really — but I think there’s some separation between those three and the other best rotations. Florida, Miami, Auburn, LSU and Florida State would be the next tier for me, in some order. Lots of very exciting arms in that group, but also some more question marks.


Tony: UCLA has to fill a lot of holes in its lineup this year. What’s your level of confidence in guys like Schwartz, Moberg, Perez, Curialle, etc.?
Kendall Rogers: UCLA definitely has some holes to fill from an offensive standpoint, but I also think there’s a decent nucleus there with the return of Garrett Mitchell as the obvious big-time bat, while I think a guy like Matt McClain takes a sizable step forward in 2020. Kevin Kendall also is back. In essence, there are offensive options here. Do I expect UCLA to be great offensively? Nah, but I also don’t think it has to be with the pitching as good as it will be.


Will: What is your biggest concerns with Texas Techs squad?
Aaron Fitt: We always give Texas Tech’s offense the benefit of the doubt, because those guys always hit… but there are a lot of less proven faces in that lineup this year, and no more Josh Jung and Cam Warren to anchor everything. I suspect this year’s Raiders will have some growing pains offensively, but certainly the talent remains intriguing. And while they’ve got some big-time power arms expected to work in the rotation, I need to see guys like McMillon and Bonnin establish themselves as consistent strike-throwers in starting roles. I’d say overall there’s a little more risk with the Raiders this year than usual. But obviously we still really like the potential and we believe in the coaching staff, that’s why Tech is still ranked as high as it is.


JoshW2571: Most interesting early series matchup?
Kendall Rogers: Louisville at Ole Miss opening weekend is outstanding. But the one for me is Florida at Miami. Miami is ranked slightly ahead of Florida and that’s a huge series for the Hurricanes in terms of just setting the narrative for the season in that state.


Guest: Who are the teams in the B1G that could make some noise far into the post season similar to what Michigan did in 2019?
Kendall Rogers: Guest — The Big Ten has several teams that could make some noise with Michigan and Minnesota standing out to me. Michigan is the obvious one and we won’t dive into them too much. But Minnesota looks really strong with a very good weekend rotation with Max Meyer and Patrick Frederickson leading the charge. Sam Thoreson is another high-quality arm. If the Gophers hit — they can be an Omaha quality club. I also think Ohio State has a strong one-two punch on the mound with Lonsway and Burhenn. Keep an eye on Indiana and Nebraska as well, while Iowa, as usual, should be on anyone’s radar.


Josh: How does Mississippi State matchup with Oregon State and Texas Tech early in the season?
Aaron Fitt: I’m really high on Mississippi State this year — I think you could make a strong case for the Bulldogs as high as No. 4 or 5 in the rankings, and there’s very little separation between teams 5-12 in my mind — you could line those up in a lot of different orders. So I think MSU will be a heavy favorite against a much less experienced Oregon State team in Week 2. MSU and Tech are pretty comparable in my mind, but the Bulldogs have a few advantages. Very few teams in the country have four players anchoring the lineup who are as good as Rowdey Jordan, Justin Foscue, Jordan Westburg and Tanner Allen. And JT Ginn should be one of the best aces in the country this year, but he won’t be pitching in a midweek game against Tech. Both teams have pitching depth, but Tech probably has the more experienced bullpen, which could loom large in a two-game midweek set. Should be a great early-season test for both teams; if MSU’s talented freshmen arms mature quickly, they could be very good in the midweek.


RCS: Do you see the Aggies making an improvement at the plate this year? If they do, will they be a top 10 team?
Kendall Rogers: RCS — That’s the million dollar question. The Aggies will have the pitching to do some very special things, but you still have to hit. I tend to believe Chad Caillet will change the dynamic of the A&M offense enough to make it much more productive. A great lineup? Not at all, but definitely more dynamic. I look for guys like Cam Blake and Mikey Hoehner to having strong years, while I’m intrigued to see if Bryce Blaum builds off last year’s incredible finish from an offensive standpoint.


Adam: With Miami at 3, do you see McFarlane developing this year as a midweek starter? Also do you see this team getting back to Omaha for the first time since 16?
Aaron Fitt: Yeah, I’d expect McFarlane to cut his teeth as the Tuesday guy this year, with Van Belle, McMahon and Cecconi holding down the weekend spots. That’s some serious talent on the mound for Miami, and having an elite talent like McFarlane for those critical midweek games against quality Sunshine State competition is a very nice luxury. Yes, I think this is an Omaha team — I have a lot of conviction in that pick.


Sparky the Sun Devil: How do you see the Pac-12 playing out this year? Also is this the first season they will have a conference tournament?
Kendall Rogers: Sparky — the conference tournament isn’t coming this year. Potentially next year, but it’s far from a done deal at this point. I like Arizona State, UCLA and Stanford on paper, while Oregon State is probably right there behind those teams. The team that might intrigue me the most is Arizona. The Wildcats are going to hit, hit, hit — if Nate Yeskie can work some wonders with the pitching staff, Arizona has a lot of upside, IMO.


Alan: I saw Kendall’s comment on Twitter about Florida having a very good weekend rotation. Even as a Florida fan, I’m pretty surprised by that comment. I like the depth of the overall staff, but I actually see the rotation as the weakest point of the team. There’s no All-American type like usual and Mace/Leftwich seem like just average at best guys in the SEC. What am I missing?
Aaron Fitt: If you’re looking only at last year’s numbers, you’re right — Mace and Leftwich struggled last year. But they both have serious potential — it’s legit Friday night talent for both of these guys, and I expect them to blossom into reliable frontline starters as juniors. It takes some guys longer than others to get there, but we’ve seen other power arms come into their own as juniors before at Florida (Dane Dunning comes to mind — these guys might follow a similar trajectory). I also love Hunter Barco, I think he’s gonna be a stud from the outset of his career. And guys like Nick Pogue, David Luethje and Ben Specht all have obvious weekend starter ability as well, giving the Gators plenty of other options if somebody falters. Those are all power-armed sophomores that should take big steps forward this year. In sum — yes, there’s still some risk with that rotation, those guys need to prove themselves. But I think it’s the deepest pitching staff in the country, and Sully will find a way to put the right guys i


Cap: what Preseason (non league) tourney or matchup are you most looking forward to this spring?
Aaron Fitt: Kendall’s going to two very good early tournaments in Round Rock and then Shriners, but I’m going to the Frisco Classic in Week 3, and I’m very excited about that field: three Top 25 teams (Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and UCLA) plus a quality Big Ten team in Illinois. That’s gonna be fun.


MsStateBaseballFan: Kendall, when do you plan on visiting the New Dude? Arkansas Series will be the best home series we have unless Oregon State surprises.
Kendall Rogers: My plan is to make Arkansas my first series at the new Dude. Aaron hogged the Dude all to himself last year. 🙂


southernbeav: Where did Oregon State fall just outside of the top 25? I know it’s a complete rebuilding year for the Beavs with the coaching staff and then pretty much of every position, except for a couple of players. Know the talent is there, just unproven.
Kendall Rogers: Southern — Oregon State was in the discussion and is in our next group of 10 teams to watch. The Beavers just have a lot of question marks right now. I do think the offense has a chance to be productive with the return of Dukart, McGarry and others. I also think Troy Claunch will be an asset both at and behind the plate. But we’ll see how the pitching staff does with Chamberlain and Mulholland both making the move to the rotation. I love both as relievers — but can they sustain stuff for 5-6 innings? We’ll see.


JB: How significantly do you think Nate Savino’s early arrival changes things for UVA Baseball this Spring? Does he have a chance to be the Friday night type guy (at least later in the Spring) that UVA has lacked in the last couple of years?
Aaron Fitt: Getting Savino to enroll early is a game-changer, there’s no doubt about it. We’ve got UVa right on the cusp of the Top 25, one of the teams that just barely missed out — I have a strong feeling that team will spend plenty of time in the rankings as the year progresses. Savino is definitely the kind of talent that has anchored weekend rotations for most of UVa’s great teams in the past — he’s got a chance to do what Danny Hultzen and Nathan Kirby and Connor Jones did in years past. How quickly that happens will obviously be key — you never quite know what to expect from an early enrollee who didn’t get a chance to get his feet wet in the fall like the other freshmen. He might just be good enough to hit the ground running anyway, but it could take some time to get acclimated.


Ray T: Thoughts on South Carolina this year?  Certainly not a team that should be top 25 after last year. Can they get there before the season ends?
Aaron Fitt: We actually gave South Carolina strong consideration for the Top 25 — they’re in our group of Next Ten. I think getting those two four-year transfers (Dallas Beaver and Bryant Bowen) was absolutely huge; that gives the lineup some much-needed veteran presence and physicality, and both of those guys should slide right into the heart of the order. They need Noah Campbell to put it all together as a junior, and I think he can do that. I think it’s actually going to be a pretty good lineup, and the pitching staff looks much deeper, thanks in part to all the power armed juco guys they brought in, plus Carmen Mlodzinski’s return from injury. That pitching staff has exciting upside.


CypressAg: Do you think Sam Houston could make their way into the top 25 at some point? Do you think Colton Cowser picks up where he left off?
Kendall Rogers: Cypress — It wouldn’t shock me much at all actually. I thought the Bearkats showed some quality pitching depth when I saw them against Rice. Tyler Davis and Dom Robinson are both quality arms, and I think Matt Dillard and Landon Ausley are capable of being dominant arms this season. The big key will be how much help they give Colton Cowser. SHSU will finish at the top or near the top of the SLC yet again.


Nate: Who do you anticipate will end up being in the weekend rotation for UNC?  Also, outside of Sabato do you think the Tar Heels will hit well enough to make another run to Omaha?
Aaron Fitt: In a perfect world, I think the Tar Heels would roll out Dalatri, Max Alba and Will Sandy on weekends, and stick with Austin Love and Joey Lancellotti anchoring a shutdown bullpen. Obviously Dalatri’s health remains a wild card, but if he can return to form, that should be a good staff. Alba made some noise in the fall, it’s a power fastball and a swing-and-miss breaking ball, but we’ve yet to see him at the Division I level, so a little caution is prudent there. Sabato and Danny Serretti is a nice place to start with the lineup, but there’s a lot of uncertainty after that — I’m in wait-and-see mode with that offense, but newcomers like Mikey Madej and Tyler Causey have a chance to be impact guys. Right now, I don’t see UNC as an Omaha team, but the potential is there if things break the right way.


HornFan: How close was Texas to cracking the top 25? Feels like they’re on par with Ok State as a backend of the top 25 type team.
Kendall Rogers: HornFan – UT was in the next 10 group along with TCU. And you’re right, there’s not a lot of separation between OSU/OU and Texas/TCU, IMO.


KD: Yall are much higher on Florida (10+ spots) than any other publication releasing their pre-season rankings so far. I know yall are always very high on Sully but what specifically has you ranking them Top 5?
Aaron Fitt: Put it this way: I saw just about all of the ACC and SEC this fall, and I saw Florida twice… and they were the best team I saw all fall. Fall ball is not the SEC season, but I’m just in love with the talent, balance and depth of this roster. And frankly I trust my own instincts on this one — I don’t mind being out in front on the Gators. They’re going to be really, really good. For more, read the Top 25 breakdown on Florida that we just posted.


Terrance: ACC seems stacked this year, perhaps more so than it’s been in a while. What do you like about them most this year and do you think the league will be able to maintain this number through the season?
Aaron Fitt: Yeah, I agree with you Terrance — I think this is the strongest the ACC has been in a long time, from top to bottom. I see three legitimate top-end contenders in Louisville, Miami and FSU, then a really strong next tier in Duke, NC State, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech (which you could line up in any order, really), then another really good tier of regional-caliber teams in UNC, UVa, Clemson and Boston College. That’s 11 deep of regional-caliber clubs, and I think Virginia Tech is a very frisky 12th team, behind a rotation that should be very competitive and a nice group of emerging sophomores in the lineup. Obviously the ACC isn’t going to get 11 or 12 regional teams, but nine or 10 feels very possible to me, and it will be fascinating to see how it shakes out.


Brandon: Have insight into the third piece of Tech’s potential weekend rotation? Who do you think will join Dallas and Bonnin?
Kendall Rogers: Brandon — With the Red Raiders feeling pretty good about Kurt Wilson and Clayton Beeter out of the bullpen, I’d look for an experienced arm like John McMillon to be in the weekend rotation. He obviously has a power and a quality slider. I really like Tech’s rotation and entire pitching staff entering the spring.


Guest: What are your thoughts about N.C. State pitching?
Aaron Fitt: Nick Swiney is one of my big picks to click this year — I think he’s going to have a huge year. It’s a 90-94 lefty with a changeup and breaking ball that both flash plus, and he came on strong down the stretch last year. With him and Reid Johnston, you’ve got two quality veteran starters, and Chris Villamon is a freshman who is ready to start on weekends right away — he’s going to have a great career at NC State. I also really like the veteran presence at the back of the bullpen with Feeney, Klyman and Cotter leading the way, though Cotter could also be a starting candidate. I think it’s a pretty deep, varied staff that can offer a lot of different looks.


Jake: Any sleepers outside the Top 25 who could end up as non-legacy Regional hosts?
Aaron Fitt: Kendall mentioned my favorite non-Top 25 sleeper earlier: Minnesota. I love their pitching this year, we just need to see some of the guys in the lineup prove themselves. But I think that’s definitely a team that can host a regional for the second time in three years if things break the right way.


Mitchell: Two questions. 1) What about Arkansas do you like so much that has them at #7….2) This is the second pre season poll I’ve seen that has Louisville and Vandy #1/#2, how close together are those two overall?
Kendall Rogers: Mitchell — I just think Arkansas is the total package. I love that lineup with Kjerstad/Martin/Nesbit/Goodheart/Opitz and I think Christian Franklin has a big-time 2020 campaign. I also think the bullpen will be solid. The weekend rotation might not have that “star” power, but I think Patrick Wicklander and Connor Noland at the front-end of the rotation are more than serviceable for this team to have a great season. As for Vandy and Louisville — I don’t think there’s much difference between UL and the top 3-5 teams. Very close race IMO.


Justin: I read the fall ball write up on Ole Miss but do you think the Rebs have a chance to out perform your current ranking of #25? We all want to see post season baseball at Swayze.
Aaron Fitt: Sure they do — it’s a young team, but a very talented team. If all those underclassmen grow up in a hurry, that team could definitely wind up in the hosting discussion again. I think it’s going to be a very fun team to watch, full of athleticism in the lineup and well stocked with quality arms on the mound. Nikhazy and Hoglund will both have big sophomore years anchoring that rotation, I suspect.


RCRaider17: Losing Ethan Small is huge.  Do the Bulldogs have enough behind JT Ginn to win the SEC?  Looking forward to another season with D1 Baseball.
Aaron Fitt: Thank you, sir! Behind Ginn, the MSU pitching staff is definitely less proven than it was a year ago, but I think Christian McLeod and Eric Cerrantola offer really intriguing upside, it’s just a matter of harnessing their talent. McLeod looked very good when I saw him in the fall; I think he’ll do a nice job as the Saturday guy. And Cerrantola’s arm strength has never been in question, let’s just see how the pitchability develops as a sophomore.


Bobby: How about some lower tier teams in power 5 conferences that could surprise?
Kendall Rogers: Bobby — out of the different leagues. Alabama could surprise a little in the SEC. Really like the personnel upgrades the Tide has made. In the ACC, keep an eye on Boston College. There’s some definite talent there to work with. In the Pac 12, Arizona is my team to watch that is not ranked. In the Big 12, I feel like we’re all going to regret not buying in on Baylor. Steve and his staff just do a great job.


SECbaseball: Hey guys, the SEC, as always, is very deep. What teams outside the top 25 do you see putting together a solid year? Thanks for all you do, and so glad to be back reading a chat!
Aaron Fitt: Honestly, every team in the SEC is capable of jumping up and being a regional-caliber club. I love Missouri’s weekend pitching and think that team is going to win a lot of games, it’s a shame they won’t be eligible for regionals this year. Kentucky looked very offensive in my look this fall; their pitching is unproven, but there’s reason for cautious optimism there. Tennessee has some real star power in Alerick Soularie and Garrett Crochet leading the lineup and the pitching staff, respectively, and I suspect the Vols will be very competitive once again. And Alabama should be dramatically improved from a year ago — keep an eye on the freshman lefty Connor Prielipp, who be the Friday guy right away and isn’t a bad bet for SEC freshman of the year honors. It’s gonna be a battle royale once again.
Aaron Fitt: All right gang, that’s all we have time for today — thanks for a great batch of questions to kick off the year. Looking forward to another great year of talking college baseball with you all!


jeremy: Do you know who the weekend starting pitchers will be for TCU?
Kendall Rogers: Jeremy — I think TCU’s rotation is still up in the air. Johnny Ray is a power arm the coaches really like and he could be in the mix for one of the top two roles. Marcelo Perez will be in the mix for a starting job and Harrison Beethe is another interesting arm to watch. I really like Beethe during fall workouts.


Quentin: What’s your feel on Southern Miss this season? Lost a lot of big players at the end of last year.
Kendall Rogers: Quentin — There’s no doubt the Golden Eagles have some question marks, but I actually think they’ll be pretty decent. Gabe Sheppard is an absolute star and he’s going to lead them to many wins on Friday nights. The offensive lineup definitely has question marks with the departure of Chad Caillet as coach and others personnel wise — but Gabe Montenegro is a spark plug, Matt Guidry is really seasoned and I think Danny Lynch continues to develop into a premier hitter. Hunter Leblanc also has a lot more potential than he showed last season at times.



Kendall Rogers: hey guys — that’s all the time we have today.
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