College Baseball Rankings Top 25 Chat (2/19)

Teddy Cahill: It was an exciting Opening Weekend around college baseball and you all have questions about it, so let’s get right to them

Josh (Olive Branch): What do you make of Southern Miss weekend sweep of Miss State? I know it’s early but is Southern Miss this good this year, or did Miss State just have a bad weekend?

Teddy Cahill: One of the weekend’s biggest series seems like a good place to start. I think it’s some of both. Southern Miss is good – that’s why we ranked the Golden Eagles No. 21 coming into the year – and Mississippi State clearly had a rotten weekend. Konnor Pilkington is going to pitch better. But I am slightly concerned that my two biggest questions about Mississippi State went unanswered this weekend. Jake Mangum and Josh Hatcher, the top two hitters in the lineup, were all of the Bulldogs’ offense. Someone needs to step up to bring them home. And Ethan Small had a poor start as he works back from injury. Mississippi State needs the pitchers that missed last year to come back and contribute. That said, it was one weekend. The Bulldogs have a chance to get it going this week.

Cade (Hattiesburg): Southern Miss made one of the loudest statements of the weekend sweeping Mississippi State. Were you guys tempted to move them up more than 4 spots?

Teddy Cahill: I was not and we didn’t talk about them any higher than 17. I am very unreactive early in the season, possibly to a fault. It was a loud sweep for sure, but it was one weekend at home to a team that we had ranked below them. I feel good about where Southern Miss is in the Top 25 right now.

David (Gulfport, MS): What’s your early opinion of Southern Miss? How do they stack up in CUSA?

Teddy Cahill: They entered the year as the CUSA favorites. Obviously that hasn’t changed. I think they might be able to boss that league again. Rice had a solid weekend and figures to be better and I like Florida Atlantic a lot too. But Southern Miss separated itself last year and could do so again this year. I wrote a lot more about Southern Miss in Off the Bat, if you want more in-depth thoughts

David (Mississippi): Thoughts on Ole Miss sending 16 batters to the plate over the 3 game series and all 16 getting a hit? Bode well for Ole Miss or still too early?

Teddy Cahill: That’s kind of cool, I guess? We knew there was depth at Ole Miss this year. It’s good that they all came out swinging, but the Rebels aren’t going to use 16 position players on an SEC weekend.

Dustin (Austin, Tx): The horns struggled to score runs this weekend. Were the Cajun pitchers that good? Should Texas fans expect another season of below average offense?

Teddy Cahill: Talked about this a bit on the podcast today, which will be online later this afternoon. I know Texas fans are eager to see more offense, but this is still a pitching and defense team. And Louisiana-Lafayette can really pitch. I think Texas has enough hitting, but I don’t think it’s going to be a particularly dynamic offense. I am very interested to see how the Longhorns hitters do this weekend at LSU.

Peter (Chicago): Does LSU have some serious issues on the mound and plate or is Notre Dame better than expected. Only one weekend but Notre Dame outplayed LSU in every aspect this weekend.

Teddy Cahill: We knew LSU was going to struggle early. Losing what they did from last year’s team, there were always going to be growing pains. The Tigers still have a lot of work to do, especially on the mound. All three of the starters can be better, but they need to get it turned around in a hurry. And while there’s some depth to that staff, it would really behoove LSU if those three can all stay in the rotation. I think Notre Dame might be a little better than expected as well, but we’re going to need to see some more baseball before we really have a feel for that.

VandyMan (VandyLand): Vanderbilt’s freshman class looked as advertised. Hickman was locked in and solid, Martin, Clarke, and Gonzalez all showed tremendous thump, oh and DeMarco was an on base machine. If these guys keep contributing (and covering an Infante 0-fer for the weekend) could this be a team that makes some SEC noise?

Teddy Cahill: Yeah, that’s kind of the formula for Vanderbilt this year. The faster the freshmen get up to speed (and clearly some are there already), the better the chances that the Commodores hit their ceiling. There’s a lot of talent on that roster.

Phil (Corvallis): Question on Trevor Larnach – obviously the numbers are going to come down a little from the first weekend but if he continues to show power where can he possibly go in the draft?

Teddy Cahill: Larnach has always been an interesting draft prospect to evaluate because the raw power was in there, but he had never really unlocked it. He had three career home runs coming into the weekend. If he keeps hitting, he can go pretty good. Barring a Player of the Year type season, I don’t think he gets into the top half of the first round because he’s a corner guy and the depth of the college outfield class (there are only going to be so many college outfielders taken really high and it won’t be easy to get past the likes of Conine, Jenista, Pompey and Swaggerty), but he can be a first rounder.

Jonathan Watkins (Birningham, AL): Auburn looked really good this weekend. Almost looked like a better team than last year. Do you think Auburn is a deep program or did they just play a really bad team this weekend?

Teddy Cahill: Well, Auburn played a really bad team this weekend. Longwood ranked 258 in RPI last year and I don’t think it will be much better this year. But that doesn’t mean this Auburn team isn’t good. Casey Mize is a legit ace and both of Butch Thompson’s first two recruiting classes have been ranked in the Top 25. The program is on the rise. I think there’s a lot to be excited about on the Plains, but I’m also very eager to see Auburn play better competition.

Nick (Greenwood, AR): Razorbacks. Any weak areas to speak of? Thanks.

Teddy Cahill: I don’t see any. I called Arkansas one of the most complete teams in the country all preseason. There’s a reason the Hogs are ranked No. 4

Chuck (Atlanta): Did Clemson pitching show enough to add confidence in their outlook if they start hitting the baseball and could they win the ACC? I know it was W&M, but first series sweeps since 2010

Teddy Cahill: I mean, Clemson was No. 12 in the preseason and the third-ranked ACC team. I feel like we already had established that the Tigers are ACC title contenders.

Burke Lyle (Kennesaw Georgia): I saw UConn lose to to Kennesaw Sate on Friday. What did they do the rest of the weekend to get into the top 25?

Teddy Cahill: Won the next two games, for starters. UConn is a team we talked at length about ranking in the preseason. We opted for St. John’s at the time, but UConn was very close. So they were kind of the first team up. It was a solid weekend for the Huskies. Not particularly groundbreaking, but I thought it was good to see them go on the road and score as many runs as they did. For Northern schools, getting through that first weekend, when you haven’t been outside much is key, and I think the Huskies will be strong on the mound going forward. Tim Cate is going to pitch better than he did Friday. It’s a solid all-around team.

Bill (Orlando): The Southern Miss offense was not a question going in to this season. But the pitching was a big unknown, so after this weekend is the pitching much better than expected or is MS State just really bad offensively?

Teddy Cahill: I think Nick Sandlin’s move to the front of the rotation changes the complexion of things. If he can lock down that spot, Southern Miss is going to have the edge on the mound most (every?) Friday nights in CUSA. And Wallner being healthy adds a premium arm to the bullpen. While Southern Miss lost a lot on the mound, there’s still plenty of talent there. But I don’t want to go overboard on Southern Miss’ pitching yet. It’s one weekend and Mississippi State is young offensively.

Dean (Greenville, NC): How do you see the East Carolina-UNC matchup panning out this weekend? Do the Pirates have a chance to win the series, and if they did, is there a possibility we see them in the top 25?

Teddy Cahill: I think North Carolina takes the series. They’re No. 6 in the country for a reason and I don’t think ECU can match up on the mound. But it should be a fun series. I know ECU fans will be fired up to see UNC in Greenville and the setup with the neutral site game at Duke’s home ballpark and the finale in Chapel Hill is cool. If ECU were to pull the upset, I wouldn’t look for them in the Top 25. It would be a really nice win, but we didn’t have ECU as a regional team in the preseason. So it would take a little more than just that series win.

Dan (DC): Tell me anything positive about GW’s chance in the A10 this year.

Teddy Cahill: I think the conference slate sets up pretty well for George Washington. Some winnable series at the start. Tough close with VCU and SLU on back-to-back weekends in May. It was a tough weekend at Florida Atlantic for the Colonials, but they played a very good Owls team tight.

Lionel (Nashville): How volatile are losses for Power 5 conference teams against mid-majors this early in the season? For example, if you’re a top 10, top 25 team, and you take 2 of 3 from a much weaker team, does it sway the rankings? Should it? Thanks!

Teddy Cahill: In isolation, I don’t get hung up on one loss in a series to a team you shouldn’t be losing to. So if, say Vanderbilt, lost a game to, say UMass-Lowell, say this weekend, I wouldn’t much care when I went to evaluate for the Top 25. But if Vanderbilt were to make a habit of losing games like that, either in midweek or on the weekend, that’s when it starts to make an impact on the ranking. Even if they keep winning series, that points to a larger issue, for me. UCLA was like that two years ago. Fullerton did it early last year before it got rolling. But on any one weekend, I don’t want to put too much stock into one game, unless it’s to like an RPI 250+ team. Baseball is a funny game and sweeping series is difficult.

Teddy Cahill: That’ll do it for today. Thanks for your questions. And, as always, if I didn’t get to yours, leave it in the comments and I’ll come back and answer there.

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