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D1Baseball Weekly Chat: Feb. 17

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Wally: The Big West had a fairly strong weekend overall.  What are the chances that we may see 2 or 3 teams in the post season?
Kendall Rogers: Wally — Still too early to predict how many postseason teams the Big West will get, but certainly am impressed by the league’s weekend. I heard great things about Fullerton — the offense and pitching seem to be much improved, and Cal Poly absolutely looked like an NCAA tournament team to me. Taylor Dollard is so hard-nosed and knows how to utilize his FB and young RHP Drew Thorpe impressed me against Vandy yesterday. I like CSF and Cal Poly for sure — and we’ll see if LBSU/UCSB can establish consistency.


Gary: Curious about this UF-Miami series from a UF perspective. Mace gave up a ton of hard contact on Friday after being mediocre last year. Sunday pitching looks like a mess. Leftwich was good, but I’m struggling to come up with a path to a UF series win in Coral Gables against that pitching staff. What am I missing?
Aaron Fitt: I didn’t see any of the Florida games last week, but Mace’s final line was solid enough, and I still feel like he’s going to have a nice year. Leftwich pitched great, which was encouraging, and they have so many options for that Sunday job; I still feel like Barco winds up there when the dust settles. They’re definitely capable of winning that series in Coral Gables; I think it’ll be a very competitive series that could go either way.


Taylor: Small sample size, but what are your thoughts on A&M’s offense? It also included some pretty poor pitching from Miami (Ohio), but night and day difference from last 2 years.
Kendall Rogers: Taylor — I don’t think Miami is a bad team at all. The Hawks have a good ace in Sam Bachmann and I actually like the top of the MAC. We’ll see how A&M does against much better competition in Frisco in two weeks, but the offense certainly seems better. A&M would not have hit MOH like that last season. Zach DeLoach hit .778 over the weekend, and that’s a potential huge development to watch. Logan Sartori also had a nice weekend for the Aggies. I would not be surprised to see A&M hit .260-270 as a team, which would be a huge improvement over 2019. First thought? Looking good. Second thought? Let’s see what they do against UCLA/OK State/Illinois.


josh: Thoughts on Auburn and their opening weekend?
Aaron Fitt: Fantastic weekend for the Tigers — looked like they played very well in all phases in a dominant four-game sweep of a solid UIC club. One of the things I liked most about Auburn in the fall and entering the year was the pitching depth, and that was on full display this weekend; they used 14 different arms, and only three of them gave up a run (including Tanner Burns, who allowed 3 of UIC’s 7 runs on the weekend). And certainly it was a great start for the lineup too. Tyler Miller is the one guy who wasn’t as much on my radar in the fall, looks like he could be a nice piece of this lineup.


Guest: Glad we are back! Guys, did Nate Rombach have a good weekend? Texas Tech may have their best team yet….
Kendall Rogers: How about that weekend from the Texas Tech freshman? It’s almost kind of funny that Nate Rombach had a huge Opening Weekend, because Tim Tadlock LOVED this kid in the fall. Tech has so many good options offensively, and I feel very good about the pitching staff as well. I’m pumped to see Tech in Round Rock this weekend.


Wolfer: Nick Swiney had a great opening weekend. If he has the kind of year he is capable of, is he a first round/day draft pick?
Aaron Fitt: Yeah, I like him as a Day One guy, with a chance to be a first-rounder. I mean, he’s a 6-foot-3 lefthander with a 90-94 fastball and the makings of two above-average to plus secondary pitches in the changeup and breaking ball — what’s not to like? Plus he had a ridiculous K rate last year, so I think the analytics guys will actually feel OK about his track record. He’s really good.


CC: Was TCU in the discussion for the Top 25 this week? I realize Kentucky is not the elite of the SEC and made a lot of errors this weekend, but the Frogs were able to capitalize and take advantage of those errors and the pitching felt really solid.
Aaron Fitt: Yeah, TCU and Texas were both right there, and if we had more spots I think both of them have the look of Top 25-caliber clubs after the first weekend. Very encouraging, dominating series sweep for TCU. A major key for this team is how those very talented newcomers perform on the mound, and so far, so good.


Cody Thrasher : Michigan seems to be ranked a little low after wins against Vandy and Arizona State. I watched the game against Vandy, and that was a great game to start the college baseball season. Are they a possible 45 or 50 win team?
Kendall Rogers: Michigan is fine where it is IMO. I wrote about just how good Michigan looked over the weekend, but it’s also important not to overreact and take the first weekend of the season as the gospel, so to speak. With that said, I feel very good about Jeff Criswell and Steven Hajjar. Hajjar has a destructive FB with the angle it comes from, and the CB/CH are nice offerings as well, with the CH coming along. Michigan is getting contributions from a lot of guys right now, and I could definitely see it winning 45-50 games.


Cole: What are your thoughts on Mississippi State’s pitching staff after the first weekend? Do you think Cerantola and MacLeod have what it takes to make State one of the top staffs in the SEC? Also whats your prediction for the series next week vs oregon state?
Aaron Fitt: Very encouraging season debuts for both MacLeod and Cerantola, and I’m really looking forward to getting a look at them in person this weekend against Oregon State. The talent is definitely there for them to be one of the SEC’s better staffs — you’ve got a tall lefty with an 89-92 fastball that can touch better and a wicked breaking ball on Saturday, and a big horse of a Sunday guy who can touch high-90s. It’s just a matter of gaining experience, and in Cerantola’s case, proving he can be efficient and get deep into games. I feel pretty good about the bullpen depth too, lots of different looks they can mix and match with. I like their chances at home against the Beavers.


Bobby: After this weeks games, who do you think is the best team in Mississippi and which new freshmen/transfers were you most impressed with from ole miss and state?
Aaron Fitt: I’ll still stick with Mississippi State as the best team in the state, but I did like what I saw from Ole Miss. Obviously Cael Baker looks like he’s going to be a difference maker — he’s got power, but I also like his simple setup and feel for hitting. Derek Diamond and Wes Burton both impressed me off the mound yesterday; they’re going to have great careers for the Rebels. And Peyton Chatagnier is a dynamo, an on-base machine who can defend at a variety of positions and brings a ton of energy. I’ll have more thoughts on MSU’s newcomers after I see them this weekend.


Brock: Thoughts on the Round Rock Classic this weekend?  Texas Tech and Stanford are the marquee teams, matching up on Saturday.  Looking forward to the step up in competition for my Red Raiders!
Kendall Rogers: Brock — Really excited to see Texas Tech, and it looks like Tennessee played well over the weekend. You know Tony is going to have the Vols playing hard. Unfortunately for Stanford, Jacob Palisch will not pitch this weekend because of some lat soreness. But Stanford has the pitching to make some noise in that tournament. The offense will need to be better, however. Will also be interesting to see how UH bounces back from a surprising series loss to Youngstown State at home.


Clay Taylor: Who was your biggest surprise player over the weekend?
Kendall Rogers: I think Zach DeLoach is the guy for me. Though DeLoach had a strong summer at the Cape, he really struggled in the fall, per my look and the look from several scouts. DeLoach showed a mature approach and hit .770 over the weekend against Miami Ohio. That definitely surprised me a little bit.


Lloyd: Nice week for the Big West. Cal Poly beats Vandy while FullErton and Long Beach get series wins against Pac 12 schools.
Aaron Fitt: Definitely a huge weekend for the Big West. We’ve talked about this a lot over the past few years — the Big West hasn’t gotten many teams into regionals because it just hasn’t taken care of business in nonconference play, so its RPIs have not been good. This weekend, the Big West flipped the script on that narrative — this is exactly the kind of start this conference needed. Kendall will have more on the Big West’s big weekend in his piece this afternoon.


Eric F: Biggest surprise of Week 1?
Kendall Rogers: I honestly would have to go with Arizona State’s offense. We talked about this offensive lineup as one of the top two or three in college baseball, and it did almost nothing against Villanova, and of course, Michigan. I am definitely not worried just yet — but will be interesting to see if this becomes a trend in Tempe.


Shaun: Who had the more impressive weekend? Heston Kerjstad, Nick Gonzales, or Nate Rombach.
Aaron Fitt: Take your pick! They all put up huge numbers against lesser competition. But they were all in the discussion for our inaugural AstroTurf Player of the Week award; stay tuned to see who got it.


Aggie: Have y’all heard anything about Jonathan Childress’ recovery? He looked very good in his 3 starts last year before that season-ending injury.
Kendall Rogers: Last I had heard on Childress is that he was looking very good and on track to return sometime in mid-to-late March. We’ll see. The Aggies have a ton of pitching weapons, so I don’t think you’ll see A&M remotely rush him back into action.


J Rod: As disappointing as last year was for Cal State Fullerton, Titan fans should be excited. They have a young team, but they look like their pitching is back to Titan standards and Zach Lew looks like an All American. What are your thoughts on CSUF?
Aaron Fitt: I agree with you, J Rod. I’m a big Zach Lew fan, and he was a force atop the lineup this weekend; just a winning ballplayer who really has a knack for getting on base and playing sound defense. And of course you have to be encouraged by what the Titans did on the mound, holding Stanford to 4 runs in 3 games, on the road. That Bibee-Luckham-Magrisi trio looks like a strong rotation.


Guest: Cade Doughty and Zack Mathis really looked comfortable against a decent Indiana pitching staff this weekend. If they continue to swing it well, what’s the best the LSU offense can be?
Kendall Rogers: Guest — Coming into the season, I felt very good about LSU’s pitching staff, granted they could stay healthy. So far so good there. And then the offense had a solid weekend for the most part. I had heard outstanding things about Doughty well before he showed up in the fall, so not really surprised he made a loud first impression. I don’t think this LSU offense will be one of the program’s best, but it can be solid with Beloso/Cabrera/DiGiacomo and Garza, among others. No doubt.


Ryan L: Louisiana Tech had a nice opening weekend with strong starting pitching performances in wins over Louisiana-Lafayette (twice) and Southeastern. Did you guys have them in consideration for the top 25 or do they still have a lot to prove before consideration especially with so many quality teams already in the top 25?
Aaron Fitt: We knew we only had one spot available in the Top 25 this week, and Fullerton was the obvious choice after winning a road series against a ranked team, but Louisiana Tech definitely raised its profile this weekend. The Bulldogs were a team we debated quite a bit in our preseason field of 64 projections, and I think they wound up being one of the first teams out of our field. But we liked their team on paper, and boy, that was a heck of a first weekend, allowing just one run in three games against quality opposition.


Doug: There are 9 SEC teams in the top 25.  How close was South Carolina to being the 10th?  They were dominant this weekend and are clearly the best team in the conference left out.
Aaron Fitt: South Carolina was in the 26-30 range in the preseason, a team I really believed was Top 25-caliber and would find its way into the rankings pretty early on. They took care of business against the pride of Worcester County this weekend, but there were a few other teams that beat better competition this weekend and were ahead of the SC in the pecking order (Texas and TCU would have come in before SC). Anyway — very encouraging weekend for a South Carolina team that I am convinced is dramatically better than a year ago.


Tyler: You stated at the beginning of the year you worried about power production for Texas Tech. After this last weekend has the question been answered or do we need to see them against better pitching?
Aaron Fitt: I don’t think we can learn a lot from this weekend based on the caliber of competition, but Kendall pointed out in the preseason that Tech always finds power from somewhere, and he’s right. They have a lot less PROVEN power production this year, but clearly Rombach has juice, and I know Conley and Jung hit a couple homers this weekend too. The jury is still out on just how good this offense can be, but obviously it was an encouraging start.


Wendell: What teams were on the cusp of making the Top 25 this week?
Kendall Rogers: For me, Cal Poly was the team that I hated to leave out, and I also had strong marks for Pepperdine, Texas and TCU. CP has a solid one-two punch, and I really like the offense with Cole Cabrera, Tate Samuelson, Marinconz and others. Pepperdine looked solid as well — watch out for SS Wyatt Young and power hitter Justin Lutes. Both stood out to me. And I thought TCU and UT both played very well over the weekend.


Cowtown Bill: TCU did sweep but admittedly Kentucky is not exactly a powerhouse in SEC baseball. I think you’re correct to keep the Frogs unranked for now, but would you agree their start was better than expected– especially the pitching?
Kendall Rogers: Cowtown — I think the big name I’m pleased to see perform well is RHP Johnny Ray. There were some skeptics with Ray coming into his first start. After all, he had yet to prove anything at the D1 level. However, his arm was real when I saw him in the fall — explosive FB, strong body, good stuff. So it’s nice to see him get off to a fast start. I also wasn’t surprised to see Charles King starting. I thought that was the best role for him coming into the spring. So far so good for the Frogs.


Scott: Was Louisiana Tech brought up in discussions this week? 3 huge wins over UL Lafayette and Southeastern with 2 shut outs and 2 one hit games.
Kendall Rogers: Scott — not quite yet, but I did notice the weekend Tech had, including silencing Louisiana. I think I said this in the Preseason Podcast, but La Tech was close to being my non-field of 64 sleeper. I really liked the pieces it had back offensively, and I liked some of the pieces on the mound, too, with Follis and of course power armed Jonathan Fincher on the back end. Lane Burroughs is an absolute stud, IMO.


TigerRag: Excited to see Clemson open with a sweep, even it came against a quality Liberty club. Where you surprised to see this?
Aaron Fitt: Liberty certainly is a quality opponent — they have a lot of pieces back from a regional team last year, so that’s a great sweep for Clemson. I think that pitching staff is going to keep Clemson competitive all year, but I’m going to take a wait and see approach on the offense and the defense. They’re well coached though, and they were able to scrap together enough offense against a very solid Liberty pitching staff this weekend.


Alex Graboyes: How do you feel about Coastal Carolina’s start to the season and how far do you see them going?
Aaron Fitt: Solid start for the Chants, going 1-1 with a rainout. The most encouraging thing was the way they pitched, especially Zach McCambley, who has big stuff and looks like maybe he’s ready to put it all together. Scott Kobos was good in defeat too, and he’s certainly got solid stuff, a lefty up to 94-95. I’m a little concerned about the lineup with Parker Chavers out until May — they’re leaning on a whole lot of unproven pieces there. We’ll see how it comes together.


Brendon from Pebble Beach: Not the most encouraging start for  Stanford at the plate. We knew they’d rely on their work on the mound. With that said, where was Jacob Palisch against Fullerton? Is he hurt? When can we expect to see him? The freshman Williams struggled in his presumptive spot in the rotation.
Kendall Rogers: Brendon — Stanford is going to take some time to get into a groove offensively. Christian Robinson needs to step up, and while Henry Gargus, Brock Jones, etc, are good hitters, they are still young guys who will go through the usual young player doldrums. Palisch is out for a TBD amount of time. It’s nothing serious — but with lat soreness, Stanford is not going to risk reaggravating the injury.


Ben: Hey guys! Great to have baseball back! I know, one start and all, but, do you think Jake Mulholland sticks in the rotation? Sidenote, nice little starts for mcgarry and claunch. Thanks!
Aaron Fitt: I would guess that they’ll stick with Mulholland in the rotation a little longer, but that’s just speculation — I know his debut did not go well. I still think his four-pitch repertoire would play well in a starting role, however. And yes, it looked like Claunch and McGarry got off to good starts — those are the two most talented guys in that lineup, in my opinion, so they need to carry big loads this year. I’ll have a lot more to say about the Beavers after sitting on them for three games in Starkville this weekend.


FrogBall: Best series outside of Florida – Miami this weekend?
Kendall Rogers: There are three that come to mind for me: DBU at UNC, Ohio State at Georgia Tech and Connecticut vs. Michigan. I think all of those series are highly intriguing.


FFEJ: What are your thoughts on how the Hogs looked this weekend? I know it was against lesser competition, but the starting rotation impressed and the lineup is deep.
Kendall Rogers: FF — Honestly, that is kind of what I expect Arkansas to do against a team like EIU, but it does sound like Nolan’s pure stuff was a tick better — which is a great development for Arkansas, even though DVH said in the fall his stuff had been crisper/harder. As for the offense. Heston freakin’ Kjerstad. What a beast.
Aaron Fitt: Lots of great questions left, but that all I’ve got time for today. Lots of content on the way at D1Baseball this week, so make sure to check back! Thanks folks.


Andrew: After a year on the job, how would you grade chris lemonis on the work hes done at mississippi state?
Kendall Rogers: Honestly? I’d give Lemonis a solid A. He inherited a situation with some drama attached to it and navigated it like an absolute bro. Does that surprise me at all? Nope. Chris was an outstanding assistant, good head coach at IU and he’s continuing that trend at Mississippi State.


Bob: I see that Abel for the Beavs is no longer on the roster.  Any words on what his plans are?  Any change he decides to come back next year. Would be great to have two Abels in the pitching rotation.
Kendall Rogers: Bob – I said in the fall that it was highly unlikely that Kevin Abel pitches again for the Beavers. I stand by that. My guess is he’ll rehab this spring, get drafted decently high and sign a pro contract this summer. Anything but that happening would surprise me.


MW: What were your thoughts on the OU/UVA series?
Kendall Rogers: MW — Very impressed with what Oklahoma did over the weekend. After losing the series opener, Levi Prater put together a quality start and the bullpen performed at a high level. Like I said in our preseason podcast, OU has so many pitching weapons with power-armed Zack Matthews, Jason Ruffcorn and so many others. Love where OU stands right now.


Walt: Owls hit .224-2-7, gave up 16 runs and led for half an inning in three games. How far does Rice have to go to compete with the best teams in the region? By your own admission they made Texas look like a top 25 club, will they win a series before C-USA play?
Kendall Rogers: Walt — I’m just not on Rice this year, and you probably know that. I think they can finish fourth or around there in C-USA, but that’s a far cry from what this program is accustomed to. The problem Rice has is the talent level is so low compared to where it has been in the past. For instance, Comeaux, Edwards and Gneiting are nice players, and Cruz and Collins are certainly studs. But after that? It’s slim pickens. And the pitching talent that Cory Barton has to work with right now is rough. I’m not writing off Rice one weekend into the season, but I have serious concerns about its viability this spring, for sure.



Kendall Rogers: All right, gang. That’s all the time we have today.
Kendall Rogers: Make sure you subscribe to D1Baseball at http://www.d1baseball.com/subscribe!

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