Projecting the College Players Taken on Day One of the Draft

As you’re probably aware, the first two rounds of Major League Baseball’s amateur draft took place last night. With the first 77 picks off the board, let’s take a look at what my KATOH projection system has to say about the college players from the major conferences who were taken thus far. I’ll be back with projections for the remaining players once we know where they’re going.

These projections are far from gospel. Scouting the stat line is always dangerous. It’s even more dangerous than usual at the college level, where the samples are small, the players are raw, and the quality of opposing pitching runs the gamut. Nonetheless, performance is often an overlooked component of prospect evaluation, and the players who outperform expectations in college and the minors often go on to do the same in the big leagues.

As I did with minor league players, I deployed a series of probit regressions to see what stuck when it came to forecasting major league performance, and used those results to generate an expected WAR total. In this case, I generated WAR totals through age-27. One caveat: Due to the poor quality of publicly available college data, these projections do not directly account for players’ defense or defensive position. So you’ll need to mentally adjust for hitters’ defensive prowess.

I generated projections for all college players who logged at least 100 plate appearances or batters faced in select major NCAA conferences this year. Those select conferences include the: AAC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big West, Pac 12 and SEC. KATOH projection isn’t well equipped to evaluate players from conferences that seldom produce big leaguers, so I do not have projections for players from lower-tier conferences. I also do not have projections high school draftees.

Finally, the cumulative WAR projections will probably feel a bit low to you. They feel low to me too. For this reason, I recommend you don’t take the projections themselves literally, but instead use them to compare draftees to other draftees.

***
2. Nick Senzel, IF, Cincinnati

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 2.0

The stats back up the industry consensus on Senzel’s bat. He posted excellent strikeout and walk numbers at Tennessee and laced tons of doubles. Look for him to continue raking once he arrives in the Reds’ farm system.

*****

5. Corey Ray, OF, Milwaukee

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 1.2

Ray has perhaps the most compelling combination of power and speed in the draft. As a junior at Louisville, he belted 15 homers and went a remarkable 44 for 4 on the basepaths. KATOH is somewhat turned off by his mediocre on-base skills, though his speed makes him a very good bet to play at least some role in the majors.

*****

6. A.J. Puk, LHP, Oakland

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 2.3

Puk leveraged his excellent stuff to strike out tons of batters at Florida. KATOH really likes him for that reason, but Puk’s stat line isn’t all roses and sunshine. His walk and homerun numbers aren’t great, and since he averaged less than 5 innings per start, he doesn’t have the large sample of success that some of his fellow draftees do.

*****

10. Zack Collins, C/1B, Chicago (AL)

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 0.8

Fourteen years ago, Paul DePostina famously dubbed Kevin Youkilis the Greek god of walks for his exorbitant walk rates at the college level. Collins appears to have channeled that deity by posting an absurd 27% walk rate at Miami. On the downside, Collins strikes out a bit often, and it isn’t entirely clear how his homer/walk-centric approach will translate to pro ball. As a catcher, he likely has some defensive value that my number crunching isn’t accounting for.

*****

16. Matt Thaiss, C, Angels

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 1.3

Thaiss doesn’t strike out. The Virginia catcher went down on strikes in less than 6% of his trips to the plate this year, yet still managed to hit for decent power. His combination of contact and power makes him intriguing.

*****

19. Justin Dunn, RHP, Mets

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 0.1

Dunn posted a sparkling 1.49 ERA at Boston College, but did so as a swingman with unspectacular peripherals. BABIP luck played a role in his stellar ERA, as he didn’t miss a ton of bats. To his credit, Dunn doesn’t turn 21 until the fall, so he’s on the young side for a college draftee.

*****

21. T.J. Zeuch, RHP, Blue Jays

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 0.3

Zeuch’s college numbers weren’t great. His strikeout and walk rates were both fine, but neither was excellent. He was also limited to just 10 starts, so all we have statistically is a small sample of merely good pitching.

*****

22. Will Craig, 1B/3B, Pirates

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 0.7

Craig is widely considered to be one of the best hitters college in the draft, but KATOH’s lukewarm on his offensive potential. While he’s exhibited tremendous power, he’s done so with a non-elite strikeout rate and a complete lack of speed.

*****

26. Zack Burdi, RHP, Chicago (AL)

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 0.2

KATOH’s way down on Burdi. He pitched to a sparkling 2.20 ERA this year with a butt-load of strikeouts, but he was used almost exclusively as a one-inning reliever. It’s hard to project much big league success from a reliever with less than 30 inning to his name this year.

*****

27. Cody Sedlock, RHP, Baltimore

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 2.3

KATOH loves Cody Sedlock. Although Illinois squeezed a lot of innings out of him, he still pitched excellently by all measures. He missed lots of bats, and did an excellent job of keeping the ball in the park.

*****

29. Dane Dunning, RHP, Washington

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 0.4

Dunning’s numbers look solid enough, but they came primarily as a reliever. He appears to be a bit homer-prone, which dampens his projection. Flaws and all, his impressive strikeout numbers earn him some KATOH cred.

*****

31. Anthony Kay, LHP, New York (NL)

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 0.8

Kay lacks elite strikeout numbers, but he threw a lot of solid innings at UCONN. Strikeouts or no, 110+ quality innings in a top conference is enough to pique KATOH’s interest.

*****

32. Will Smith, C, Los Angeles (NL)

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 0.1

Smith put the ball in play as Louisville’s catcher, but did little else offensively. Although he popped seven homers, his overall power numbers were underwhelming. Though, as a catcher, he’ll likely provide some defensive value that isn’t accounted for by my model.

*****

34. Dakota Hudson, RHP, St. Louis

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 2.3

Hudson lacks elite strikeout numbers, but otherwise pitched excellently at Mississippi State. Very few players can claim over 100 innings of excellent work this year in a top conference.

*****

36. Jordan Sheffield, RHP, Los Angeles (NL)

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 2.7

Sheffield struck out loads of batters in Vanderbilt’s rotation, giving him one of the best projections. His walk high-ish walk rate is a concern, but only a mild one given how many bats he misses.

*****

37. Daulton Jefferies, RHP, Oakland

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 1.6

Jefferies posted excellent strikeout and walk numbers at California this year, which resulted in a 1.08 ERA. They came in a limited sample (8 starts, 50 innings), but that was still enough to get KATOH excited.

*****

38. Robert Tyler, RHP, Colarado

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 1.8

Tyler pitched exceptionally well at Georgia. He recorded lots of strikeouts, though he’ll need to work on controlling his walks. His 46 walks in 75 innings prevent him from being an elite college pitching prospect by the projections.

*****

39. Anfernee Grier, OF, Arizona

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 1.0

Grier had some trouble making contact this season at Auburn, but still managed to hit .366 with 12 homers. Although he’s a junior, he doesn’t turn 21 until October. He’s aged more like a sophomore, making his performance all the more impressive.

*****

43. Chris Okey, C, Cincinnati

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 0.9

Okey showed a fair amount of power at Clemson, but had some trouble putting the ball in play. His high walk rate is a point in his favor, but not enough to make him one of KATOH’s favorites. Still, his catching abilities likely give him some defensive value that my math isn’t accounting for.

*****

45. Ben Bowden, LHP, Colarado

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 0.5

Bowden turned in solid numbers with lots of strikeouts, but a lot of it came in relief. His performance wasn’t quite good enough to compensate for that in KATOH’s eyes.

*****

47. Logan Shore, RHP, Oakland

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 0.5

Shore doesn’t miss many bats, but succeeded at Florida by issuing very few walks. His mediocre strikeout numbers make him less-than-elite in KATOH’s eyes, but he’s still one of the more promising college pitchers out there.

*****

48. Buddy Reed, OF, San Diego

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 0.1

Reed does not look very good from a statistical standpoint. He struck out far too often at Florida for someone with just middling power. He went an impressive 24 for 24 on the bases, but has an otherwise underwhelming statistical profile.

*****

49. Alec Hansen, RHP, Chicago (AL)

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 1.6

Hansen struck out lots of batters in his junior season at Oklahoma, resulting in a highly favorable projection. His elevated walk rate is a knock against him – as is the fact that he didn’t pitch exclusively as a starter – but he still looks very good by the numbers.

*****

53. Ryan Boldt, OF, Tampa

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 0.0

Aside from his 20 steals, there’s very little to like about Boldt from a statistical standpoint. He hit an unremarkable .288 at Nebraska, and neither hit for power nor drew many walks.

*****

57. J.B. Woodman, OF, Toronto

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 0.9

Woodman’s 14 homers in his junior season at Ole Miss almost single-handedly explain KATOH’s affinity for the outfielder. Woodman doesn’t make tons of contact or steal loads of bases, but did enough of each to generate a strong projection.

*****

58. Sheldon Neuse, 3B, Washington

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 1.7

Statistically, if you take Nick Senzel and strip away his elite contact ability, you get Neuse. Neuse may not immediately crack any prospect lists, but his doubles power and walks make him a good bet to succeed in pro ball.

*****

59. Bryan Reynolds, OF, San Francisco

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 0.4

Reynolds demonstrated power at Vanderbuilt, but he struck out rather often. His limited speed is also a knock against him. The power alone isn’t enough for KATOH to get on board.

*****

61. Ronnie Dawson, OF, Houston

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 0.5

Dawson demonstrated good speed at Ohio State, but his performance at the plate wasn’t overly encouraging. He popped 13 homers, but the rest of his stat line – including his strikeout rate –underwhelms.

*****

62. Nick Solak, 2B, New York (AL)

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 0.1

Solak makes a decent amount of contact, but showed minimal power and speed at Louisville. His college production was largely built around singles and walks.

*****

64. Peter Alonso, 1B, New York (NL)

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 0.8

Alonso hit the snot out of the ball at Florida and ended with an impressive 12 home runs. My math likely overrates him a bit due to his defensive limitations, but still: his bat looks like it could carry him to the show.

*****

70. Connor Jones, RHP, St. Louis

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 0.5

Jones struck out alarmingly few batters at Virginia – 72 in over 100 innings pitched. His 2.34 ERA was mostly due to BABIP luck, as he didn’t miss many bats and lacked a pristine walk rate.

*****

72. Logan Ice, C, Cleveland

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 0.6

Offensively, KATOH is lukewarm on Ice. Although he controls the strike zone well, he’s yet to hit for much power at all. This projection almost certainly sells him short, however, as he’s a well-regarded catch-and-throw guy behind the plate.

*****

76. Brett Cumberland, C, Atlanta

Proj. WAR thru age-27: 0.5

Cumberland hit lots of homers in the Pac 12, but had some trouble making contact. He also didn’t have a ton of doubles to supplement his copious dingers.

*****

77. Jake Fraley, OF, Tampa

Proj. WAR thru age-27: o.6

Fraley puts the ball in play often and stole bases at LSU, but the rest of his game left something to be desired. He hit for very little power and didn’t walk a ton either.

*****

Here’s most of the above information in a table format for your sorting pleasure.

College Picks from Rounds 1 and 2
Pick Name Position Team MLB% WAR thru 27
2 Nick Senzel IF Reds 63% 2.0
5 Corey Ray OF Brewers 75% 1.2
6 A.J. Puk LHP Athletics 50% 2.3
10 Zack Collins C/1B White Sox 32% 0.8
16 Matt Thaiss C Angels 38% 1.3
19 Justin Dunn RHP Mets 18% 0.1
21 T.J. Zeuch RHP Blue Jays 29% 0.3
22 Will Craig 3B Pirates 35% 0.7
26 Zack Burdi RHP White Sox 26% 0.2
27 Cody Sedlock RHP Orioles 61% 2.3
29 Dane Dunning RHP Nationals 32% 0.4
31 Anthony Kay LHP Mets 34% 0.8
32 Will Smith C Dodgers 15% 0.1
34 Dakota Hudson RHP Cardinals 48% 2.3
36 Jordan Sheffield RHP Dodgers 49% 2.7
37 Daulton Jefferies RHP Athletics 62% 1.6
38 Robert Tyler RHP Rockies 37% 1.8
39 Anfernee Grier OF Diamondbacks 42% 1.0
43 Chris Okey C Reds 29% 0.9
45 Ben Bowden LHP Rockies 30% 0.5
47 Logan Shore RHP Athletics 31% 0.5
48 Buddy Reed OF Padres 15% 0.1
49 Alec Hansen RHP White Sox 47% 1.6
53 Ryan Boldt OF Rays 1% 0.0
57 J.B. Woodman OF Blue Jays 35% 0.9
58 Sheldon Neuse 3B Nationals 47% 1.7
59 Bryan Reynolds OF Giants 23% 0.4
61 Ronnie Dawson OF Astros 21% 0.5
62 Nick Solak 2B Yankees 14% 0.1
64 Peter Alonso 1B Mets 23% 0.8
72 Logan Ice C Indians 31% 0.6
76 Brett Cumberland C Braves 53% 0.5
77 Jake Fraley OF Rays 35% 0.6

We hoped you liked reading Projecting the College Players Taken on Day One of the Draft by Chris Mitchell!

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Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.

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Really wanted the Sox (of Red) to take Dakota or Sheffield, but when talent like Groome falls I guess you have to jump. Nice table though, I like seeing MLB% and projected WAR side by side.