Perhaps no one knows college baseball better than Aaron Fitt. The national college baseball writer and analyst for Baseball America, Fitt also served as a studio analyst for ESPN's coverage of the Major League Baseball draft last June. As in-state programs jockey for postseason position, and as Clemson Nation braces for Kyle Parker's selection in the June draft, The Post and Courier's Travis Sawchik went One-on-One with Fitt to talk about a number of Palmetto-centric baseball subjects:
How do you handicap the in-state programs' chances to host regionals?
"(Clemson) is certainly falling off the inside track. South Carolina has certainly passed them. I think Coastal Carolina is ahead of them as well. Let's say you are looking at two out of those three hosting, which I think is realistic. Right now it looks like it would be South Carolina and Coastal. (Clemson) had a rough stretch, they've hurt themselves."
What's the latest you are hearing about Kyle Parker and Sam Dyson's draft stock?
"(Parker's situation) remains muddled. It sure seems like he's going to come back and play football next year. At this point it would take a lot of money to buy him out. I think the prevailing sentiment out there is that he is going to come back and play. I definitely could see a team spending some money on him and letting him play football like (Florida receiver) Riley Cooper. … I think (South Carolina pitcher) Sam Dyson is definitely going to be gone."
Former South Carolina star Justin Smoak recently made his major league debut. What should we expect?
"The comparison is always Mark Teixeira. It comes up all the time. He's a switch-hitter with power. A patient approach and a good defender at first. It's not really fair to compare him to Teixeira but that's the kind of player he can become. I still can't believe he slipped to 11 (in the 2008 draft). At the time everyone said it was a steal."
What do the Tigers need to get back to Omaha?
"They've had depth but they haven't had front-line stars to carry them, especially at the front of the rotation. To me that's the biggest thing they have missed -- front-line proven pitching. And also, I don't know if you'd call it a stigma in the program, but they have had a hard time living up to their potential. They have gotten tight in certain spots. They've had a tendency to let things spiral out of control."
Who are your favorite pro prospects on the Clemson and South Carolina rosters?
"Certainly Parker stands out. I like Jeff Schaus a lot. He's got some power, he has a good line drive stroke. I think he's going to hit a lot. Defensively, he's not going to be a stalwart, but you're buying a bat. If you see Sam Dyson on the right day he looks like a high first-round pick. … Jackie Bradley Jr. is my favorite player on either team. He is not eligible this year but he is a five-tool guy and I think he'll be a first rounder next year."
Are you still bullish on Goose Creek native Matt Wieters? He's off to a solid start, but is not exactly Joe Mauer -- the MVP version -- out of the gate as some predicted.
"Oh yeah, no doubt. I think he is a can't-miss star in the major leagues. I think it is expected for a player, especially a catcher, to have a little bit of a breaking-in period. Even Joe Mauer wasn't Joe Mauer from day one. I think he is going to have a huge year this year, a breakout year, and become a perennial all-star. Everyone in our office feels the same way. A switch- hitting catcher with power who squares up balls consistently, a big arm ... what's not to like?"
If you could be the czar of college baseball for a day, what would you change?
"Certainly more scholarships would be great. A lot of people want more than 11.7 scholarships. The problem with that is there are a lot of teams under-funded as is. I think half of college baseball doesn't have 11.7 scholarships. If you raise the national level to 14 or 15, that puts some teams at a further disadvantage. I'd like to see the season played during baseball season. February is not baseball season. Maybe in the South it's relatively warm, but there are a lot of intense baseball fans in the Northeast as we've seen (in the pro game). Ohio State and Michigan are bigger names than (low-level minor league teams). If you played in nicer weather, those teams would draw big and the sport would get a foothold up there. I'd like to see a later season. Start in March and play through July."
How would you rank the programs in South Carolina. Not just based on 2010 performance, but regarding overall prestige?
"South Carolina and Coastal have the most positive momentum right now. Clemson is always going to contend. Clemson is Clemson. They have a beautiful stadium and a great fan base. They are always going to get players, but they haven't really made positive strides in the last few years. … Coastal has emerged as a mid-major super power, and South Carolina has opened a brand new stadium, which has given them a lot of momentum. They've got a guy, Chad Holbrook, who I really respect as a recruiting coordinator. I think Holbrook is one of the best recruiters in the country. That is two things South Carolina has going for itself and I think you have to give South Carolina the edge."