With college baseball's postseason about to swing into action, drop by and chat with BP's Bryan Smith to ask about the selections and likely favorites for the CWS.
Bryan Smith: Happy Memorial Day, faithful BP readers. Looks like the queue is dragging a bit on this holiday, but we're fresh off the ESPN selection show, so the field of 64 has finally been revealed. Let's hope some of you stumble over here with questions in the next 60-90 minutes. I've updated yesterday's Unfiltered post to reflect the field, but here, let's start with the 8 national seeds: 1) Texas, 2) Cal State Fullerton, 3) LSU, 4) UNC, 5) ASU, 6) UC Irvine, 7) Oklahoma, 8) Florida. Let's talk tournament, draft, and anything else. Time to get going.
Ricky (Minnesota): OK, bracket's out: biggest surprise? Worst snub? Easiest road?
Bryan Smith: I still can't believe that Baylor and Oklahoma State got into this tournament. True, we thought this was the Big 12's breakout season before the year, but did the conference prove itself in the last three months? Like my former colleague Will Kimmey said on ESPN, Rhode Island is a much better choice for that spot.
But my biggest surprise is Virginia. Yesterday, it was a mild shocker that Virginia wasn't given a regional. We thought that might be because the committee didn't like the Davenport Field facilities enough to justify giving them a spot over Louisville or ECU. But no, the committee just flat didn't respect the Cavaliers. Yikes.
chris krygier (Tempe, AZ): Bryan, what do you think is the toughest potential super regional matchup you see?
Bryan Smith: I really love any combination we might see out of the Tallahassee and Norman regionals: Florida State and Georgia is going to be a real dogfight, while I think I like Arkansas as an upset over Oklahoma. Whatever that super regional becomes, I think that will be really fun. Also: Rice-LSU is probably more difficult than Paul Mainieri would have hoped. And that's assuming I pick Rice to hold on over a difficult Kansas State team.
Adam B. (Richmond, VA): As a Virginia alum, how angry should I be that there isn't baseball in Charlottesville next weekend? I thought the ACC Tournament was supposed to mean something!
Bryan Smith: I did, too. It's not even the committee's decision to not give Virginia a regional that bothers me, as I think they could have gone to Louisville or Greenville and won a regional. But instead, they have to travel across the entire country to Irvine, they have to face Steven Strasburg in the opener, and in the loser's bracket, they'll likely face a hungry Fresno State team. There's almost no chance Virginia makes it to the super regionals, and I can't figure out why the committee would do that.
Marco (San Diego): Bryan, We need BP to get you on college chats more often. If you would be so kind to answer a non-CWS question. What were your thoughts on Grant Green this season and has his draft stock dropped considerably?
Bryan Smith: Of course, draft questions are more than fair game here. I can't really explain why Grant Green didn't hit for any power this year, and as they should, comparisons to Tulowitzki and Longoria have gone out the window. Still, he's a smooth shortstop with a good feel for the game that hit .374/.435/.569. He hasn't fallen very far, and assuming he doesn't get cocky with his bonus demands, I can't see Green falling out of the top 12.
mike leake (pitching against KState): My stock seems to be rising in the draft, am I really top 10 material or just hot at the right time?
Bryan Smith: One of my first curiosities when looking at the bracket is who Pat Murphy throws in his first two games. Kent State is no easy tournament-opening assignment, as we all know about the arms that Kent State can throw at you. I agree, I throw Leake.
You know, I don't buy Leake as a top ten talent, because I don't think you're looking at a guy that could be a 1 or 2 in the Majors, and his stuff doesn't play in relief as well as some harder throwers. I like where KG put Leake in his "way-too-early mock draft," giving him to Arizona with one of their back-to-back picks. Diamondbacks have a nice opportunity to go safe with one pick and high ceiling with the other.
Shane (Miami): Bryan, Curious to hear what you think about San Diego State. They've got Strasburg to open, but is there any pitching depth beyond him to help them advance? Also, haven't heard an update about his oblique, is he still probable to start?
Bryan Smith: My understanding is that the oblique injury wasn't so bad that he might miss his start against Virginia, but just a cautionary move for a guy that was feeling sore. Behind Strasburg, the Aztecs have Tyler Lavigne, who was 7-2 with a 3.32 ERA and almost a strikeout per inning, so the UC Irvine Anteaters shouldn't sleep on SDSU in Game 2, assuming Strasburg leads to victory. However, behind those two starters and closer Addison Reed, there's not a lot of pitching depth, which always helps during a long weekend like regionals.
By the way, Strasburg needs to pitch 24.1 scoreless innings to finish the season with a sub-1.00 ERA, so he probably won't get there. But, you know he's shooting for 20 more strikeouts to get to 200. Can't wait to see what he's got in the tank for postseason.
twinkies25 (MN): How much of a chance do you think Minnesota has to win it all, and are their any Gopher players that could be in Major League uniforms in the next several years?
Bryan Smith: The Gophers have it tough traveling to Baton Rouge and Alex Box Stadium, which is one of the more difficult road environments in the nation. It's likely Mainieri will save Anthony Ranaudo for his second game, so Minnesota will have back-to-back tough tests in Kendal Volz and Ranaudo (if they should win). As for Major League potential, I think Derek McCallum has the most potential from that squad, but there's no really high draft picks, like Indiana has with Arnett, Phegley and Bashore.
Greg (Riverside, CA): Bryan, I know you had high expectations coming into the year for Kyle Blair, Vic Sanchez, etc. in San Diego, what do you think happened there?
Bryan Smith: I really did. San Diego was dealt a lot of blows in the injury department, as I remember there were some weekends when they had no idea who was going to throw. The fact that Matt Thomson was the only pitcher to make 10 starts is pretty telling, and I know they expected more from Matt Couch and Sammy Solis than 18 combined innings. I can't explain Sanchez' bad year at all, and I expect that to change next season. If Solis is ready to pitch next year, I guarantee I'll be high on the Toreros again.
Tucci (Draft Day): If you were drafting at 10, 20 and 30, and were limited to college players, who do you like?
Bryan Smith: If I was to have to reach at each of those benchmarks, I'd take Jared Mitchell at 10, Chad Jenkins at 20, and Rich Poythress at 30. I love Mitchell's potential, even if there's a long way to go both in the field (where he's mistake-prone) and at the plate. Chad Jenkins has become one of my favorite first round arms, as I'm a sucker for a power sinker. And Poythress is just going to mash. I see less differences between him and Yonder Alonso than their respective draft standings would suggest.
chris krygier (Tempe, AZ): How far has Florida come over the last few seasons, seems pretty impressive?
Bryan Smith: Yeah, Kevin O'Sullivan has really established himself as one of the best coaches in America, and it's only been two seasons. If you had told me one year ago that Cole Figueroa would not return to Gainesville, that Matt den Dekker wouldn't cross the .900 OPS plateau, and that Nick Maronde and Stephen Locke weren't considered for all-ACC honors, a national seed would have seemed impossible. But there's pitching depth here, there's a fantastic freshman (Preston Tucker), and a lot of good defense.
Looking at their road to Omaha for a second, the biggest question is getting past Miami. The Hurricanes had the Gators number earlier this season, but this is a different UF team. Bethune-Cookman isn't a cookie cutter first round match-up, but they'll get through that. In the Super Regional, Florida-Georgia Tech belongs on that list of the most fun super regionals. I'll probably pick Tech, but let's see how this weekend goes.
Steven (Anaheim): Any insight onto why UCLA disappointed for the second straight season? John Savage was supposed to save our program, and I can't help but think he's doing more damage than help.
Bryan Smith: You know, as disappointing as Baylor and Oklahoma State were this season, the Bruins were the team that let me down the most. Savage has really struggled getting his fantastic talent to translate to consistent wins, and at some point, you have to think that might make his recruiting road (which he's fantastic at) more difficult. I know Gavin Brooks and Rob Rasmussen fell apart a little bit this season, but the emergence of Bauer should have made up for that. And Cody Decker did exactly what we thought he needed to do in February.
There's really no excuse for 27-29. None at all.
Tanner (Sioux Falls): Bryan, As a guy who follows college avidly and probably seen him more than most, I'd love to hear your thoughts on Strasburg? Would you give him the title as Best College Pitching Prospect Ever?
Bryan Smith: I think that really comes down to Mark Prior vs. Steven Strasburg, as we all seemed to agree that Prior earned that title eight years ago. Their numbers really aren't that different, although Strasburg has a better ERA, and probably will get to 190 strikeouts this weekend. I think the biggest reason is that Strasburg earns that title is the hype that comes with the Internet era. More people were exposed to Strasburg this season than Prior ever had.
As far as their stuff goes, I think Prior gets points for a better change-up, and I think their breaking balls are pretty much on par. But Strasburg's fastball is just so good that he gets the title for me. TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle believes Strasburg has the edge, and I agree.
Rick (Athens, GA): Bryan, Besides Matt Harvey, who are five college guys we should be watching for next year that are draft eligible?
Bryan Smith: It's going to be pitching-heavy in a big way, and I think it's damning for the hitting crop that the first five guys I thought of were all pitchers. We mentioned Anthony Ranaudo already, and I think he's in the mix with Harvey along with San Diego ace Kyle Blair. Texas right-hander Brandon Workman threw a no-hitter this season, and has some dominant stuff. Also, if you can catch Deck McGuire's start for Georgia Tech this weekend, you should do so. He's a great arm.
Ryan (Charlottesville, VA): Ok, Virginia got absolutely screwed. If you're Brian O'Conner, what's your strategy for working through the Irvine regional? Do we have any chance to beat Strasburg, or would you punt game one and try to work through the loser's bracket?
Bryan Smith: No, you just can't punt a game in a weekend where it's two losses and you're out. That would mean beating UC Irvine twice in a row, with Bibona probably coming back for the second game. I think, if I'm O'Connor, I'm telling my kids to look first-pitch fastball often, and to sit on Strasburg's fastball throughout the game. I pray that Danny Hultzen can match him zero-for-zero, and we make it a bullpen game. Although if Hultzen gets touched up early, I have a quick leash, because we might need him later in the weekend. It's frustrating, because Hultzen-Carraway really is a nice one-two, but it's just so hard when you have Strasburg and Christian Bergman (if they could manage a win) staring back at you.
Matt Hunter (Tallahassee): How close was FSU to being a national seed? If we had beat UVA would it have done the trick?
Bryan Smith: I certainly thought they would be. It's sort of interesting to see the committee clearly gave more respect to the Big 12 than they did the ACC. I can't really figure out why. Although, it's telling that the committee thought highly enough of FSU to give them Oklahoma in a Super Regional -- I'm guessing Florida State was #9 on their list.
Jason (Oakland): Follow-up to your answer on UCLA, I was expecting more from Gerrit Cole but maybe that was just the hype surrounding him. What did you think of his season?
Bryan Smith: Obviously the 4-8 record is lousy, but considering the H/9 and K/9 were so good, I think Cole did what he had to do. I'm actually surprised the BB/9 wasn't worse. Really, the 10 home runs allowed were the only really disappointing peripheral. As far as his stuff goes, we heard 97-99 all season long. Savage is, if nothing else, a good pitching coach, and I think he'll get everything out of Cole that we expect by 2011. Hopefully, there will be an offense to give him more than four wins, however.
Nat's Strat (DC): Playing Devils Advocate for Moment after seeing the Prior comp question. Prior was obviously a bust. My assumption is that Strausburg gets $15M to sign. Should Washington consider draft Strausburg, not sign him (netting WAS the #1 next year) and use that money to sign all the best latin american talent? Wouldnt this bolster the farm faster and better than just Strausburg would?
Ignore the PR nightmare for a moment.
Bryan Smith: If the Nationals could get Strasburg for $15 million, that would be a steal. You have to do that. Oh, and the PR nightmare if they didn't...
...oh wait, you told me to ignore all that. The question, dumbed down a bit, is would I rather have 20 $1 million Latin players than one $20 million hyped-up American talent. And, my response is to give me Strasburg. Consider, for a moment, that Strasburg is going to contribute right away -- if he waits until August to sign, he's starting in September. He's throwing harder than any Major Leaguer currently is, and could literally be an ace in 2011. The ETA is worth the money. Strasburg is more of a free agent signee than he is a draft pick.
Given their attendance this season, their hopelessness for the future, they need a star right now. Strasburg is that guy.
mymrbig (New Orleans): Assuming Rice starting pitchers Ryan Berry and Mike Ojala drop some in the draft because of their injuries earlier this year, do you see either returning to Rice for their senior seasons?
Bryan Smith: Hard to know, but I doubt it. I think if Berry falls to the late second, early third, he's still getting drafted where he thought he would be before the season. Same for Ojala. You have to remember their late season slides (in draft standing) is met by their early season helium. And considering that next year could bring more injuries, I think the best option for both players is to take the money and run. But until we know where they're drafted, that's really impossible to know.
Jordan Ribera (Honolulu): Look at me, I did it again. Fresno State back in the postseason. Can people possibly overlook us now?
Bryan Smith: A very cool story to see Fresno State, again, rally against the odds and take two games from New Mexico State to get back into the tournament. The only bummer is that the Bulldogs are sent to the most difficult four-team regional across the entire bracket. I actually don't think beating UC Irvine is completely impossible in the regional opener, but there's just so little depth here, that it's hard to see them lasting an entire weekend. Good to see Tom Mendonca and company -- the guys leaving after this season -- get one more chance, though.
Trevor (College Station Texas): Will me home town aggies make it to the super regionls
Bryan Smith: We always knew the Aggies would be tough in the postseason format, with their pitching, so I know they will be tough for TCU. But the Horned Frogs are also flush with pitching depth. It's certainly the most intriguing 1-2 combination for me, and one I'll probably highlight in this week's column.
Back in about 5-10 minutes...
chris krygier (Tempe, AZ): Two questions:
1 - Spence started yesterday against UCLA, assuming Josh Spence is healthy, how big of a difference is he for ASU's hopes to reach Omaha?
2 - What team has the most momentum going into the regional?
Bryan Smith: Spence is so huge for the Sun Devils, as the Clemson offense is so good, they're going to need two dynamic arms for the Tigers. The regional is pretty manageable, so I'd be conservative with Spence (not Pat Murphy's specialty, I know) for the first weekend.
Momentum -- well, Texas and LSU were my first two thoughts, and Florida State is pretty close, even while losing to Virginia in the ACC Tournament final. However, I'm going to go off the board for a second, and throw Gonzaga out there. They finished the season 11-2, winning their last six games. Fullerton has the easiest road to Omaha in my opinion, but getting through Gonzaga shouldn't be a total sleeper.
baseballhack (san diego): While San Diego State did make the tournament, is the overall body of work enough for Tony Gywnn to keep his job? Seems like he hasnt taken the program to nearly the heights everyone thought possible.
Bryan Smith: I think he keeps his job this year. He was always going to be a tough person to fire, and with the goodwill surrounding the program in Strasburg's final season, I don't see it happening this year. Gwynn is safe for another year, but next year is when the real challenge begins.
Bryan Smith: Guys, I have to run, sorry to keep the chat short. We'll do it again before the College World Series, and with the draft happening before that, we'll have tons to talk about. Looking forward to that. Be well.