Mississippi State University | Bill Simmonds
Baseball America's lead college writer Aaron Fitt stopped by to answer some questions on the Bulldogs for us.
How does the old phrase go -- it never hurts to ask? Last year, on a bit of a hail mary, I emailed Aaron Fitt, the college baseball writer for Baseball America. I had heard that Aaron was a nice guy, and would usually respond to requests for interviews, Q&As, and so forth. Even then, I know that guys like Aaron are extremely busy this time of year, so I didn't know what to expect in return when I contacted Aaron through email. What I got was a very prompt, thorough, and friendly response from Aaron, with good thoughts on MSU's 2012 season. Well, after such a good experience last year, I tried my hand again this year, and again Aaron was kind enough to answer a few questions for me by email regarding the upcoming season for the #5 MSU Bulldogs. Here's my questions to Aaron and his answers.
1) MSU returns a majority of its "starting 9" as well as a good portion of its pitching staff from the 2012 season. Which of those two do you think is more important for a more successful season and deeper postseason run for State in 2013?
Aaron Fitt: One of the reasons we ranked MSU fifth in the preseason is we believe this is a very balanced, complete team. With that said, there are a couple of relative unknowns, especially in the weekend rotation. I'm very excited about the potential of Jacob Lindgren and Brandon Woodruff, but both of these guys need to prove themselves, because they combined for just 62 innings last year. For Mississippi State to contend for a national championship, both of these guys need to thrive in starting roles, I think. I love their talent, and I'm optimistic that both are up for the challenge, but they are not yet proven commodities like Kendall Graveman is.
2) Are there any freshman that you see making an impact for this team in 2013?
Fitt: MSU's recruiting class this year was smaller than it had been in recent years because this is a veteran team with fewer holes to fill. But I think the coaches still brought in some impact players in this class, led by Jacob Robson. This guy is a stick of dynamite-a premium athlete with exceptional speed, good feel for his barrel, a strong arm-the whole package. I think he's got a chance to make a big difference as a freshman. Down the road, I think Kyle Hahn and Daniel Garner will also be good players, but I think they'll have smaller roles as freshmen because there are older players in front of them. John Marc Shelly has a big arm, with a 93-95 fastball and a really good mid-80s power slider, and I think he could be a key bullpen piece.
3) Last year Daryl Norris, C.T. Bradford, and Wes Rea were all hampered by injuries. In your opinion, which one of those three being healthy could have the greatest impact for MSU in 2013?
Fitt: They're all impact players, I think, and they're all important for the Bulldogs this year. But I've always been a big C.T. Bradford fan, and when he's healthy, I think he's got the ability to be a premier catalyst for this lineup, and a wizard in the outfield. So if I had to pick one of that group, I'd go with him, but Norris and Rea are also valuable players who provide crucial physicality in that lineup.
4) Where would you place MSU in the pecking order in another deep year in the SEC?
Fitt: We've got MSU ranked No. 5 in our preseason rankings, behind two other SEC teams: Vanderbilt and Arkansas. So that means we've got the Bulldogs picked to finish second in the SEC West. But realistically, the competition is going to be fierce as usual in the SEC, and I think there are four teams in the West capable of finishing in any order (Arkansas, MSU, LSU, Ole Miss). For me, there's some separation after that group, but A&M and Auburn could be dangerous, too. This could be a 10-bid league.
5) General predictions for MSU's 2013 season?
Fitt: I strongly believe that this is an Omaha team, and I will not be surprised at all if the Bulldogs win the national championship. This is a very deep, talented, experienced, balanced club. There is a plenty of reason for fans in Starkville to be excited about this season.
Again, I can't thank Aaron enough for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer these questions for us. Truly some exciting stuff from Aaron if you are a Bulldog fan. If you don't already, make sure you check out Aaron's work at the Baseball America college section, and you can also follow Aaron on Twitter. Also, make sure to check out Aaron's in-depth MSU review in the preseason top 25 capsule located here.