Duke’s Jarvis Leads 2020 All-Fitt TeamColumns
MARTINSVILLE, Va. — At the end of every season since 2007, I’ve posted a list of my favorite players to cover over the course of the season. Usually I polish up this column in the air-conditioned press box at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. Today, I find myself back at a ballpark for the first time in nearly four months. But instead of sitting on press row at TDAP, I’m watching batting practice from a picnic table down the first-base line at Hooker Field, where the Martinsville Mustangs will open their Coastal Plain League schedule against the High Point-Thomasville HiToms.
Suffice it to say, the spring of 2020 didn’t go down the way anybody expected. But I’m through mourning the season that could have been. Today I’m officially turning the page in my still-pristine black scorebook to the 2020-21 season. It just feels good to be back at a ballpark — any ballpark — listening to too-loud country music blare over the loudspeakers while players take BP.
But to mark the unofficial close of business on the lost 2020 campaign, I’m going to continue the All-Fitt Team tradition. We did not release All-America teams this year because we just didn’t have large enough sample sizes to give the awards any meaning — but this is just a 100 percent subjective list of the players I most enjoyed watching and speaking with this year. Since the season was only four weeks long, I’m also including players I covered during my fall ball travels, which included live looks at 35 different teams.
C: Michael Rothenberg, Duke
Over the last three years, I certainly enjoyed watching the Triangle area’s other switch-hitting star backstop — first-round pick Patrick Bailey of NC State — but Rothenberg was a similar kind of player who made big strides over the last two years at Duke. And the charismatic Rothenberg is a better interview than Bailey, so he gets the slight nod here.
Honorable mention: NC State’s Patrick Bailey.
1B: Aaron Sabato, North Carolina
The man they call ’Bato put on a show just about every time I walked into Boshamer Stadium over the last two years, starting with a game-winning opposite-field grand slam during his first Fall World Series as a freshman. The final time I saw the 2020 first-round pick play for UNC was also the final game I saw this spring — the Week Four finale against Notre Dame, when Sabato obliterated a home run to left field. Of course he did; Sabato’s power is gargantuan, and he was always worth the price of admission.
One good sign for @DiamondHeels is that Aaron Sabato seems to be heating up after a slow start. Homered twice Friday, and just crushed a majestic no-doubter to left in the 3rd on a fat 86 mph sinker. But UNC strands 2 and trails 7-2 after 3 innings. pic.twitter.com/8wdcBNp5Li
— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) March 8, 2020
2B: Justin Foscue, Mississippi State
Another 2020 first-rounder, Foscue was MSU’s quiet assassin. He always seemed in complete control of every at-bat, making him seem like a clinician in the batter’s box, but also on the infield dirt. I always appreciate the hard-nosed players who just go about their business in professional fashion, especially when they are as good at their business as Foscue is.
Honorable mention: Georgia’s Buddy Floyd and Riley King, Auburn’s Ryan Bliss, Virginia’s Max Cotier.
SS: Anthony Servideo, Ole Miss
Servideo was Mr. Swag in 2020, showing up with bleached-blond flow jutting out underneath the back of his cap. Sometimes that kind of look makes me roll my eyes, but Servideo pulled it off because he just looked like he was having a blast playing the game every time he took the field. He also showed off dazzling defensive ability at shortstop during the three games I saw opening weekend plus the fall scrimmage I caught, and he was one of the most improved offensive players in the country. Just a dynamic little 5-foot-10 ball of energy — my kind of guy.
Anthony Servideo has played so well this weekend for @OleMissBSB – lots of quality at-bats, rock-solid defense at short. And just showed off some pop with a majestic soaring 2-run HR down RF line. He looks more physical this year to me, and he's got some sneaky whip in the swing. pic.twitter.com/hMeR8LAEQ9
— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) February 16, 2020
Honorable mention: Illinois’ Branden Comia, Oregon State’s Andy Armstrong, Louisville’s Justin Lavey, Louisiana’s Hayden Cantrelle, Georgia Tech’s Luke Waddell, Virginia Tech’s Fritz Genther, Mississippi State’s Jordan Westburg … I could go on and on, there were just a ton of shortstops this year who were fun to watch.
3B: Kaden Polcovich, Oklahoma State
Speaking of guys who fit the vertically challenged All-Fitt prototype, Polcovich is a 5-foot-8 stick of dynamite. A switch-hitter with serious bat speed, foot speed and defensive versatility, Polcovich tore up the Cape Cod League last summer, when I first fell in love with his game. He also performed very well in my fall look and at the Frisco Classic this spring; the guy is just a baller.
Honorable mention: Ole Miss’ Tyler Keenan, Wake Forest’s William Simoneit, Boston College’s Cody Morissette.
OF: Chris “Bubba” Alleyne, Maryland
I’ll let my Twitter feed do the talking on this one:
— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) March 7, 2020
OF: Garrett Mitchell, UCLA
The No. 20 overall pick by the Brewers, Mitchell’s size and athleticism give him a very exciting ceiling once he learns to utilize his untapped raw power potential, but he’s on this list because he plays the game like somebody put a firecracker in his cleat, taking the extra base at every opportunity.
As I wrote after the Frisco Classic: “He regularly posts home-to-first times between 4.05 and 4.12 seconds, and he really turns on the jets when he gets underway. In each of his first two at-bats of the weekend, Mitchell hit ground balls up the middle and turned them into hustle doubles — he always plays the game at full speed, which makes him a joy to watch.” On top of that, I found Mitchell to be engaging and insightful in the postgame interview setting.
OF: Spencer Myers, Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish were one of college baseball’s biggest surprises during the abbreviated season, and Myers was a big reason why. The ultimate fire-starter, Myers is a 5-foot-11 switch-hitter with outstanding speed that he put to excellent use this spring, leading the nation with 15 stolen bases in 12 games, while also hitting .431/.492/.466.
Big 2nd inning for @NDBaseball, which scores 5 runs on 3 hits, 2 walks, an error and a sac fly. Big hits were a 2-run single by David LaManna and an RBI single by Spencer Myers (pictured), who has played great this first month. Irish chase Ollio and take a 5-0 lead. pic.twitter.com/Styohn3lGA
— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) March 8, 2020
Honorable mention: Florida’s Jud Fabian, Virginia’s Chris Newell.
DH: Cael Baker, Ole Miss
One of the tragedies of the lost 2020 season is that Baker never got a chance to fully realize his destiny as an Ole Miss folk hero. But the burly, fun-loving, mullet-sporting Baker sure made a hell of a first impression.
Mark it down, @OleMissBSB fans. Feb. 15, 2020: The day the Legend of Cael Baker was born. Just broke a 5-5 tie in the 7th with a two-run homer off Jared Poland, his 2nd long ball of the day. 4-for-4, 4 RBI. Punished fastballs earlier, so they fed him offspeed, and he hit a CH out pic.twitter.com/AAAHM6josU
— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) February 15, 2020
Honorable mention: NC State’s Brad Debo — one of the true good guys in the college baseball world.
UT: Alec Burleson, East Carolina
Like Foscue, Burleson is a natural born hitting machine. Like Baker, he’s a little burly (ahem) and has lots of personality. But unlike just about everybody, he was a true star as both a hitter and a pitcher, though it was his bat that made him a second-round pick by the Cardinals.
Honorable mention: San Diego State’s Casey Schmitt, North Carolina’s Joey Lancellotti, Connecticut’s Reggie Crawford.
SP: Bryce Jarvis, Duke
Jarvis is the captain of this year’s All-Fitt team. I spent a day shadowing him last summer while he worked out at the Cressey Sports Performance facility in Massachusetts, and I wrote about his aggressive summer plan to add velocity and fine-tune his arsenal. To see that hard work come to fruition in such spectacular fashion this spring was a whole lot of fun. I also really appreciate how intelligent, analytical and articulate he is. You just don’t run into a lot of players who can think and talk about the game at that kind of level.
SP: Nick Swiney, NC State
I was all-in on Swiney down the stretch of his sophomore year, when he showed me the makings of three above-average pitches out of the Wolfpack bullpen. It was fun to see him put it all together and blossom into one of the best pitches in the country as a junior this spring.
SP: Christian Chamberlain, Oregon State
I mean come on, this one’s a layup. Short guys with electric arms have a long history here on the All-Fitt team, from Marcus Stroman to Justin Garza to Max Meyer. The 5-foot-10 Chamberlain is the next in that lineage, and he put on a dazzling show in my Week Two look in Starkville, striking out 12 over 5.1 innings of two-hit ball against one of the nation’s most talented lineups. He competed his tail off as always, and his stuff was filthy.
Christian Chamberlain is dealing for @BeaverBaseball. He's got 7 strikeouts through 3 innings of 1-hit, scoreless ball. Buckling knees with that vicious curveball, and just pounding the zone at 92-94. Love how he's always in attack mode. No score after 3, MSU going to Landon Sims pic.twitter.com/9Iocswf4TE
— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) February 21, 2020
SP: Asa Lacy, Texas A&M
It’s always fun when elite talents perform at an elite level, and that’s just what Lacy did during the four-week season. Though he didn’t walk way with a victory in the game I saw against Illinois at the Frisco Classic, he showed the most explosive stuff I saw all year, with a ridiculous power slider at 86-90 mph in addition to his overpowering fastball. Sign me up to watch that show any day.
We've got a first-inning #HeatSheet Alert, @DSeifertD1PBR. Asa Lacy attacking at 94-96, up to 97-98 in a scoreless first for @AggieBaseball. Fanned 2, both on elevated heaters. That thing is just exploding through the top of the zone. No score after 1 inning. #mlbdraft pic.twitter.com/vfilYUofiH
— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) February 29, 2020
SP: Reid Detmers, Louisville
Like Lacy, Detmers proved as good as advertised when I saw him on opening night in Oxford. On a miserable cold night, he battled his way to victory against a loaded Ole Miss squad, showing off exceptional feel for that trademark old-school downer curveball. In an age where everyone is obsessed with velocity, it’s unusual to see a slower curve that is such a wipeout pitch; it harkens back to Kershaw and Zito.
Honorable mention: Georgia Tech’s Jonathan Hughes, Missouri’s Ian Bedell, Vanderbilt’s Kumar Rocker.
RP: Tyler Brown, Vanderbilt
Brown, a first-team preseason All-American who was a key piece of Vandy’s 2019 national title run, has had more life experiences than most people twice his age, and that means he’s uncommonly mature for a college baseball player. I only got to see him work one inning in the fall, but that’s enough to get him on this team; I just admire him, and he’s earned this tip of the cap.
RP: Carson Coleman, Kentucky
I enjoyed chatting with Coleman at the end of the dugout last summer in the Cape Cod League; he’s charismatic and outgoing. And then when I saw him in a fall scrimmage against Xavier, he showed the kind of fire and toughness I love to see from closers:
I dig Carson Coleman – he's a warrior for @UKBaseball. Inherited a jam, had bases loaded with no out, proceeded to strike out the next 3 hitters to strand them all. Just pounds fastballs at 91-93 with very good life from a low 3/4 slot – that's an uncomfortable AB. pic.twitter.com/8Sm3FQsBaZ
— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) October 28, 2019