The Top College Players by (Maybe) Predictive Stats

Don’t hesitate to ignore all this introductory matter.

Over the last couple years, the author has published a periodic statistical report designed to serve as a mostly responsible shorthand for people who, like the author, possess more enthusiasm for collegiate baseball than expert knowledge of it. Those reports integrated concepts central to much of the analysis found at FanGraphs — regarding sample size and regression, for example — to provide something not unlike a “true talent” leaderboard for hitters and pitchers in select conferences.

What follows represents an updated report for the 2017 college campaign.

As in the original edition of this same thing, what I’ve done here is to utilize principles introduced by Chris Mitchell on forecasting future major-league performance with minor-league stats.

To review those principles very briefly: for hitters in the low minors (i.e. a level similar to the better collegiate leagues), the metrics most predictive of major-league success (besides age) are strikeout rate (K%), isolated power (ISO), and batting average on balls in play (BABIP). For pitchers, the most important metrics are strikeout rate (K%) and, less important but also second-most relevant, walk rate (BB%). What I’ve done here is to combine regressed versions of those various metrics into a pair index stats: MPS+* for hitters (where 100 is league average and above 100 is better than league average) and MPS-* (where 100 is league average and below 100 is better than league average.

*MPS denotes (maybe) predictive stats.

Using that methodology (about which one can read more thoroughly in an earlier post), I’ve identified six types of player in three different conferences each: the top overall batter, top draft-eligible batter, top defensive-type batter*, top overall pitcher, top draft-eligible pitcher, and top starting pitcher. The three conferences I’ve chosen here represent those most typically responsible for producing good major-league players. Later editions of this same report will contain more conferences.

*Meaning, the top batter who also plays a position towards the more challenging end of the defensive spectrum.

There are nearly one-thousand caveats to supply concerning the data here. Numbers don’t account at all for quality of opponent or park. Note that, as some conferences have less robust data than others, that I’ve had to provide (sensible) plate-appearance and batters-faced estimates in some cases. xK%, xISO, and xBABIP denote expected strikeout rate, isolated power, and batting average on balls in play, respectively. Stats are current through the Tuesday’s games.

ACC
Top Batter
Sam Fragale, 1B, Virginia Tech (RS-Jr)

Top Draft-Eligible Batter
Sam Fragale, 1B, Virginia Tech (RS-Jr)

Top Defensive-Type Batter
Robbie Coman, C, Virginia (Grad!)

Top Pitcher
Ryley Gilliam, RHP, Clemson (So)

Top Draft-Eligible Pitcher
J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, No. Carolina (Jr)

Top Starter
J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, No. Carolina (Jr)

Leaderboards

Top Ten Batters of the ACC
Name School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP MPS+
Sam Fragale Virginia Tech RS-Jr 1B 39 17.9% .647 .435 17.1% .251 .337 134
Kel Johnson Georgia Tech Jr 1B 37 13.5% .576 .250 15.4% .235 .331 128
Adam Haseley Virginia So OF 39 7.7% .469 .400 13.1% .218 .336 127
Brendan McKay Louisville Jr 1B 31 6.5% .476 .556 13.1% .210 .340 125
Robbie Coman Virginia Grad! C 35 0.0% .367 .379 10.5% .197 .335 122
Stuart Fairchild Wake Forest Jr CF 42 14.3% .417 .259 15.6% .212 .331 119
Jon. Pryor Wake Forest Sr COF 42 11.9% .308 .531 14.7% .191 .341 116
Drew Ellis Louisville Jr 3B/1B 31 3.2% .333 .263 12.0% .188 .332 116
Gavin Sheets Wake Forest Jr 1B 40 10.0% .314 .367 14.0% .191 .335 115
Pavin Smith Virginia Jr 1B 38 2.6% .265 .323 11.2% .181 .333 115

 

Top Ten Pitchers of the ACC
Name School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% MPS-
Ryley Gilliam Clemson So RHP 7.2 25 56.0% 0.0% 32.3% 8.4% 75
J.B. Bukauskas No. Carolina Jr RHP 13.0 47 44.7% 4.3% 32.2% 8.4% 75
Tyler Holton Florida St. So LHP 13.0 48 39.6% 8.3% 30.3% 9.3% 83
Luca Dalatri No. Carolina Fr RHP 15.0 57 35.1% 3.5% 28.9% 8.1% 83
Jacob Hennessy Clemson Fr LHP 8.2 34 41.2% 5.9% 29.5% 9.0% 84
Charlie Barnes Clemson Jr LHP 12.1 49 34.7% 2.0% 28.3% 7.9% 84
Andrew Karp Florida St. RS-So RHP 14.2 50 34.0% 2.0% 28.1% 7.9% 85
Josh Hiatt No. Carolina RS-Fr RHP 5.0 21 47.6% 9.5% 29.3% 9.6% 86
Brooks Crawford Clemson So RHP 3.1 14 50.0% 0.0% 28.2% 8.9% 87
Michael McAvene Louisville Fr RHP 8.2 38 39.5% 13.2% 29.4% 10.3% 87

Notes
For the second straight week, UNC right-hander J.B. Bukauskas earns the distinction of top starter in the ACC. After striking out 10 of 23 batters in his debut (box), the junior recorded 11 strikeouts against 24 batters in his second start (box). In his first start, Bukauskas was hitting 96 mph on his fastball and complementing that pitch with an 85-87 mph slider, according to Baseball America’s Michael Lananna, who has no obvious reason to lie about such things.

Catcher Robbie Coman has returned to play for Virginia after missing last year due to a Tommy John procedure. He’s actually already graduated, earning a bachelor’s degree in economics this past spring. He’s also recorded roughly 35 plate appearances without striking out.

***
Pac-12
Top Batter
Jared Oliva, CF, Arizona (Jr)

Top Draft-Eligible Batter
Jared Oliva, CF, Arizona (Jr)

Top Defensive-Type Batter
Jared Oliva, CF, Arizona (Jr)

Top Pitcher
Kris Bubic, LHP, Stanford (So)

Top Draft-Eligible Pitcher
Kris Bubic, LHP, Stanford (So)

Top Starter
Kris Bubic, LHP, Stanford (So)

Leaderboards

Top Ten Batters of the Pac-12
Name School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP MPS+
Jared Oliva Arizona Jr CF 38 7.9% .429 .467 13.3% .176 .348 127
Lars Nootbaar USC So OF 37 18.9% .500 .471 17.5% .188 .348 125
Sean Bouchard UCLA Jr 1B 30 23.3% .522 .533 18.9% .180 .349 121
JJ Matijevic Arizona Jr 1B/2B 39 5.1% .235 .438 12.1% .142 .348 116
Frankie Rios USC RS-Jr SS 36 16.7% .300 .375 16.7% .152 .345 112
Nick Madrigal Oregon St. So SS/2B 35 0.0% .167 .333 10.5% .129 .344 112
Shane Matheny Wash. St. Jr 3B 16 6.3% .385 .273 14.5% .144 .343 111
Nick Quintana Arizona Fr 3B 39 12.8% .200 .577 15.2% .136 .352 111
Cal Stevenson Arizona Jr COF 39 5.1% .185 .308 12.1% .133 .343 111
Mitchell Morimoto Arizona Jr COF 38 10.5% .188 .519 14.3% .133 .350 110

 

Top Ten Pitchers of the Pac-12
Name School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% MPS-
Kris Bubic Stanford So LHP 12.2 46 45.7% 8.7% 32.0% 9.8% 76
Griffin Canning UCLA Jr RHP 13.0 48 41.7% 10.4% 30.6% 10.2% 80
Justin Hooper UCLA So LHP 10.2 39 41.0% 7.7% 29.5% 9.6% 82
Jacob Rebar Utah Fr LHP 9.2 33 36.4% 6.1% 27.3% 9.4% 87
Noah Bremer Washington Jr RHP 12.0 48 37.5% 14.6% 28.9% 11.1% 87
Cameron Ming Arizona Jr LHP 7.2 27 37.0% 3.7% 26.9% 9.2% 88
Scotty Sunitsch Wash. St. Jr LHP 5.1 22 40.9% 13.6% 27.3% 10.5% 90
Landon Faulkner Arizona Jr RHP 4.2 21 38.1% 9.5% 26.5% 10.0% 91
Eli Lingos Arizona St. Jr LHP 12.2 47 29.8% 6.4% 25.8% 9.3% 91
Connor Zwetsch Oregon Sr RHP 4.0 12 41.7% 0.0% 25.8% 9.4% 91

Notes
Arizona junior Jared Oliva didn’t appear among Baseball America’s top-100 list of college draft prospects, but he has distinguished himself over the first two weeks of the season. While playing center field exclusively or something like exclusively, he’s recorded 15 extra bases and just three strikeouts — for a 5:1 ratio. As noted, the Pac-12 leader by that measure last season was USC catcher Jeremy Martinez, who produced a 3.3:1 ratio. Martinez proceeded to promptly dominate short-season pitchers after being selected by the Cardinals.

***
SEC
Top Batter
Jorge Gutierrez, C/2B, Texas A&M (Fr)

Top Draft-Eligible Batter
Greg Deichmann, COF, LSU (Jr)

Top Defensive-Type Batter
Jorge Gutierrez, C/2B, Texas A&M (Fr)

Top Pitcher
Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn (So)

Top Draft-Eligible Pitcher
Tyler Johnson, RHP, So. Carolina (Jr)

Top Starter
Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn (So)

Leaderboards

Top Ten Batters of the SEC
Name School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP MPS+
Jorge Gutierrez Texas A&M Fr C/2B 20 25.0% .846 .600 18.6% .223 .363 126
Greg Deichmann LSU Jr COF 37 13.5% .500 .273 15.4% .212 .356 124
Brent Rooker Miss. St. RS-Jr COF 43 16.3% .424 .435 16.4% .205 .362 122
Chandler Taylor Alabama So COF 35 28.6% .517 .200 21.0% .212 .354 115
Kramer Robertson LSU Sr SS 37 10.8% .290 .519 14.3% .176 .364 114
Jeff Moberg Tennessee RS-Sr 2B 33 18.2% .357 .550 17.1% .184 .364 114
Grant Koch Arkansas So C 32 9.4% .323 .346 14.0% .178 .359 114
Braden Shewmake Texas A&M Fr 2B 38 10.5% .278 .484 14.2% .174 .363 113
Luke Alexander Miss. St. So 2B/3B 46 15.2% .297 .414 15.9% .182 .361 113
Evan White Kentucky Jr 1B 13 7.7% .500 .750 14.9% .176 .363 113

 

Top Ten Pitchers of the SEC
Name School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% MPS-
Casey Mize Auburn So RHP 10.0 38 50.0% 2.6% 34.5% 7.4% 75
TJ Sikkema Missouri Fr LHP 12.1 44 43.2% 4.5% 32.7% 7.7% 81
Tyler Johnson So. Carolina Jr RHP 4.1 17 58.8% 0.0% 32.5% 7.7% 81
Alex Lange LSU Jr RHP 11.0 43 41.9% 4.7% 32.1% 7.7% 82
Will Ethridge Ole Miss Fr RHP 6.0 23 52.2% 8.7% 32.5% 8.5% 83
Dallas Woolfolk Ole Miss So RHP 6.1 20 50.0% 0.0% 31.4% 7.6% 84
Brigham Hill Texas A&M Jr RHP 13.2 54 37.0% 5.6% 30.8% 7.8% 86
Riley Self Miss. St. Fr RHP 9.1 32 40.6% 3.1% 30.6% 7.6% 86
Wil Crowe So. Carolina Jr RHP 11.1 43 37.2% 4.7% 30.3% 7.7% 87
Davis Vainer Alabama RS-Fr RHP 7.0 27 44.4% 11.1% 31.2% 8.9% 88

Notes
Auburn’s Casey Mize appears to have a special arm. Not only has he been sitting at 95-96 mph with his fastball — and even touching 100 at points — but the talent has translated into results, as well: over his first two starts, a total of 10.0 innings, Mize has struck out half the batters he’s faced while walking just one.

Junior right-hander Brigham Hill of Texas A&M possesses less arm speed than Mize, but he does sit in the low 90s and also feature an impressive changeup, video of which the author captured when he should have been doing basically anything else with his time.

We hoped you liked reading The Top College Players by (Maybe) Predictive Stats by Carson Cistulli!

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Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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matt
Member
matt

Jeren Kendall’s strikeout rate scares me, he has 13 K’s in 45 PA’s (and only 4 BB). I think he’s overrated tools and all, did have a 2 homer game earlier this week.

Sonny Price
Member
Sonny Price

And against weak competition too. I am a huge VU baseball fan but Kendall does not have a great approach at the plate and lacks elite contact skills. Incredible athlete with surprising power for a guy his size. But if he goes #1 overall then it must be a really weak draft.