2019 College Baseball Top 25 Chat (6/27/19)
Teddy Cahill: The college baseball season sadly came to an end last night with Vanderbilt's 8-2 win against Michigan to win the College World Series for the second time in six years. I thought it was a great CWS this year, full of competitive games and good weather. Hard to believe the season is over now, however. But let's talk about the season and the series before we flip the calendar to 2020.
- How do you balance evaluating teams based on how they did all year and how they did in the NCAA Tournament when making the final Top 25? Also, when will you guys release a 2020 preseason Eight for Omaha? Who are your Eight?
Teddy Cahill: Ultimately, it gets pretty heavily weighted toward the postseason, for better or worse. I try to include the regular season in there where I can - that's how UCLA finishes sixth without going to Omaha - but the CWS champion and the runner-up will always finish 1-2. It's very rare for a team to not be included in the Final Top 25 that made super regionals. While I don't think the tournament format is really set up to determine the best team in the country, it is what everyone is playing for, ultimately.
- Both un-ranked FSU and Michigan came out of nowhere and knocked out some serious competition (eg LSU, UCLA). Where do you see them now in your final rankings and do you think both are going to be back in the CWS next year?
Teddy Cahill: Well, Michigan is No. 2 and Florida State is No. 7. Now, can they make it back? Both return a lot of important pieces from these teams, though since they were both in the last four teams in the field, they both will need to find more consistency next year. I'm more bullish on Michigan than Florida State in 2020. The Seminoles, as you may have heard, have a new coach for the first time in 40 years. I really believe in Mike Martin Jr., but that's a level of uncertainty that Michigan doesn't have to deal with. But both should be pretty good again.
Adam (Crown Point, IN):
- Got to think with winning series being so beneficial, the one two punches for some teams are going to be UNREAL! Georgia with Hancock and Wilcox, Florida with Mace and Leftwich, Vandy w Kumar and Hickman and Louisville w Detmars and Miller. I'm sure I'm missing a ton, but these have to be on the very short list of contenders for 2020, right? PS - Is it Feb 14th yet?!
Teddy Cahill: Those ones are all really good. You can throw in Tanner Burns and Jack Owen at Auburn and Chis McMahon and Slade Cecconi as well. After a pretty mediocre college pitching crop this year, next year looks excellent. Should make for some fun showdowns.
Al (Greenville, NC):
- How do you feel about East Carolina next year? I know losing Agnos, Packard, Brickhouse, and Washer will be a lot to replace along with seniors like Turner Brown and Brady Lloyd. But other than Agnos they have a large amount of arms returning. Burleson, Kuchmaner, Sinkballer Tyler Smith and flame thrower Gavin Williams. And a deep incoming class. If Bryson Worrell can live up to his potential, he has the opportunity to do big things. How’s BA feel about the future for the Pirates?
Teddy Cahill: Cliff Godwin and his staff have recruited really well at ECU for several years now. I think the Pirates probably take a small step back because that's just an awful lot to be losing and this year's team was excellent, but I still would figure they'd be a regional team and again be competing at the top of the American. The key is going to be replacing the offense, I think. A lot of different pieces are gone now and that impacts the depth of the lineup.
Roma1625 (New Orleans):
- Would love to get some historical perspective on this Vanderbilt team. In the conversation for best college baseball team of all time?
Teddy Cahill: That's something I'm tasked with doing over the next week or so, but the surface level indicators are strong. Vanderbilt set an SEC record with 59 wins, which is the most by a national champion since 1989 and back then teams weren't limited to 56-game regular-season schedules. It is the first team since 1996 to be No. 1 in the Preseason Top 25 and the Final Top 25. First SEC team since 2009 to win the regular season, conference tournament and College World Series. Projects to have a top-10 pick (and maybe a top-five pick) in the 2019, 2020 and 2021 drafts. So, yeah, when you start talking about all-time teams, this one deserves to be in the discussion.
- If there is one team that is must see next year who would it be?
Teddy Cahill: Georgia's 1-2 punch of Emerson Hancock and Cole Wilcox figures to be pretty special. I don't know that that's the right answer, but that's what's popping into my head.
- UConn is currently a fringe top 25 team year in and year out in the AAC. With the move back to the Big East (generally a 1 bid league) Will UConn baseball go the way of UConn basketball and lose its relevancy?
Teddy Cahill: I'm optimistic. I'm looking at this more as an opportunity for the Big East to improve as a baseball conference. You now have another team in the league that cares about the sport. That should help everyone. St. John's, Creighton and Xavier have all shown you can be successful out of the Big East. This is going to make maintaining the gaudy RPIs that UConn has sometimes had more difficult, but I don't think it's going to doom the program.
- Looking back on the season, who were some teams that surprised you with overachievement or underachievement? In the NCAA Tournament, sure, but also just over the course of the whole season, who surprised you this year?
Teddy Cahill: Well, if you look at the Preseason Top 25, you'll see Florida ranked quite highly. And, of course, I was a big Texas believer the whole first half. On the flip side, Indiana State and Illinois State were nice surprises getting to regional finals out of the Valley (DBU did as well, but that's less surprising). Boston College did a really nice job this year and I thought the Gino DiMare era got off to a great start at Miami, probably a little better than I expected. I would have been surprised by West Virginia, but Dave Serrano did a great job identifying the Mountaineers as a team that could compete at a high level.
Leslie Chow (Caesar’s Palace):
- Which team that made it to Omaha this year do you think has the best chance to return next year (besides Vanderbilt) and which team that did NOT make it this year do you think has the best chance to make it next year?
Teddy Cahill: Let's say Louisville for best chance to return. They have a dynamic set of underclassmen returning and while the Cardinals have to replace Logan Wyatt and Tyler Fitzgerald, among others, they have a pretty good stockpile of talent and have shown they can compete at the top of the ACC, get a high seed and then excel at Jim Patterson Stadium in the postseason. I'm still working on my Eight for Omaha, so the second part of this is tougher, but I guess I'll say Georgia. Hancock/Wilcox will be really tough to beat in a series and while the regionals haven't been successful the last two years, I think the Bulldogs are ready to take the next step.
Logan Field (Michigan):
- Do you think Michigan will be a top 15 team next year?
Teddy Cahill: Maybe? Some big pieces to replace in Jordan Brewer, Tommy Henry and Karl Kauffmann. Some of the young pitchers are going to have to step up. But they're strong up the middle with Joe Donovan, Jack Blomgren and Jesse Franklin and the best recruiting class in Big Ten history will next year be juniors. Could very well see Michigan in the top 15.
Nick Jonas (The Year 3,000):
- If you follow college basketball, would you compare Georgia and Stanford in baseball to Virginia and Villanova in basketball? UVA and Nova underachieved all the time but finally won it all. Would you compare Georgia and Stanford in baseball to that and do think one or both of those teams could break through and win the whole thing like UVA and Nova soon?
Teddy Cahill: So I'm not as big of a college basketball guy as, say, former BA college writer John Manuel, but I see some parallels, but I think they ultimately fall a little short. Georgia is in a baseball hotbed and has long been looked at as a sleeping giant. Villanova is in a hotbed, but always seemed like a scrappy underdog until Jay Wright got it rolling. Stanford has immense tradition, just not national titles. But the Cardinal have 14 CWS appearances in the last 40 years, five of which ended in the finals. Now, they haven't been since 2008, but I think that's more than what Virginia has done in its basketball history. I'm more comfortable with football comps and I'll say Georgia baseball is Georgia football. Stanford baseball is maybe like a Nebraska or Tennessee football.
- What is your early 2020 expectation for the Canes? What their biggest question mark heading into next season?
Teddy Cahill: I think after the way this year ended Miami is shooting for at least a super regional, if not a return to Omaha. The young pitching is going to have to collectively step forward, but the talent is for sure there. The Canes have done a good job of bringing in strong recruiting classes the last few years.
- If there is one player that is must see next year who would it be?
Gus Fring (Los Pollos Hermanos):
- Net year’s Golden Spikes winner will be _______.
Teddy Cahill: I'll say the answer to both of those questions is Spencer Torkelson, but there are a lot of good answers - Kumar Rocker, Austin Martin, Emerson Hancock, to name a few.
SEC Fan (The South):
- In the SEC, do you think Vandy repeats as East Champs or do you think Georgia or someone could take their throne? Do you think Arkansas/Mississippi State repeat as West champs or do you think someone else takes over?
Teddy Cahill: Right now, I'd probably take Vanderbilt to win the East again. I think Arkansas and Mississippi State both have some questions right now. Given how tight the margins have been in that division I might want the field, but if it ends up as one of those two, I wouldn't be surprised. Really, nothing would surprise me in the SEC West. It's a cage match out there.
Archie Andrews (Riverdale):
- Next year’s National Championship series will be _______ over _______. Go!
Teddy Cahill: Because I'm still not done with my Eight for Omaha, I'm really struggling on this one. But if forced to pick a national champion in 2020 right now, only June 27, I'd say Vanderbilt. But it so rarely happens that teams repeat, and I'd rather say something like, Auburn.
Greg (Orange, CA):
- Has there been a bigger surprise in recent college baseball history than UCLA not making the CWS this year?
Teddy Cahill: There was that time that a 56-4 Oregon State team lost two straight to LSU. Or Coastal Carolina winning the national championship. Or when UCLA lost a regional to Maryland as the No. 1 overall seed. So, yes, I'd say we've had bigger surprises in the last few years.
Teddy Cahill: That'll do it for today. Thanks to everyone for their questions today and throughout the season. We'll have plenty more college coverage throughout the summer and fall at Baseball America, so make sure to check that out as we navigate the long offseason of college baseball.