The Top College Players by (Maybe) Predictive Stats

Week: 1 / 2 / 3.

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 the most current such 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 five 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 five conferences I’ve chosen here represent those most typically responsible for producing good major-league players.

*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 care of Baseball Cube and as current as Baseball Cube says they should be.

ACC
Top Batter
Adam Haseley, Jr, Virginia (Jr)

Top Draft-Eligible Batter
Adam Haseley, Jr, Virginia (Jr)

Top Defensive-Type Batter
Adam Haseley, Jr, Virginia (Jr)

Top Pitcher
Tyler Holton, LHP, Florida State (So)

Top Draft-Eligible Pitcher
Brendan McKay, LHP, Louisville (Jr)

Top Starter
Tyler Holton, LHP, Florida State (So)

Leaderboards

Top Ten Batters of the ACC
Player School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP MPS+
Adam Haseley Virginia Jr CF 79 7.6% .415 .365 11.9% .231 .329 142
Sam Fragale Virginia Tech RS-Jr 1B 88 20.5% .453 .415 19.3% .250 .333 140
Joey Bart Georgia Tech So C 71 16.9% .453 .409 17.3% .236 .331 137
Drew Ellis Louisville Jr 3B/1B 74 6.8% .352 .340 11.6% .208 .327 133
Ryan Tufts Virginia Tech Sr SS 99 7.1% .284 .333 11.1% .197 .327 129
Gavin Sheets Wake Forest Jr 1B 58 6.9% .360 .279 12.4% .200 .324 128
Brendan McKay Louisville Jr 1B 63 9.5% .319 .500 13.5% .193 .335 127
Seth Beer Clemson So COF 82 9.8% .327 .209 13.1% .205 .318 126
Stuart Fairchild Wake Forest Jr CF 62 12.9% .340 .385 15.3% .198 .329 124
Wade Bailey Georgia Tech Jr 2B 75 5.3% .197 .435 10.8% .162 .333 119

 

Top Ten Pitchers of the ACC
Player School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% MPS-
Tyler Holton Florida St. So LHP 25.0 91 44.1% 6.6% 34.9% 8.7% 66
Brendan McKay Louisville Jr LHP 18.0 68 42.7% 7.4% 32.7% 9.1% 73
J.B. Bukauskas No. Carolina Jr RHP 26.0 98 37.6% 5.1% 31.5% 8.0% 73
Andrew Karp Florida St. RS-So RHP 25.2 95 35.8% 3.2% 30.3% 7.4% 74
Graeme Stinson Duke Fr LHP 5.0 22 60.3% 4.6% 31.7% 9.2% 75
Ryley Gilliam Clemson So RHP 11.0 42 42.5% 9.4% 30.3% 9.7% 80
Tyler Jackson Clemson Grad! RHP 22.1 94 31.0% 3.2% 27.6% 7.4% 82
Will Zirzow Florida St. RS-Jr RHP 11.1 41 41.7% 9.8% 29.8% 9.8% 82
Riley Wilson Virginia Jr LHP 4.1 18 55.6% 11.1% 29.6% 9.9% 83
R.J. Freure Pittsburgh Fr RHP 11.2 43 37.3% 4.7% 28.4% 8.7% 83

Notes
During Eric Longenhagen’s most recent appearance on FanGraphs Audio, I asked him what sort of value he extracted from scouting a draft-eligible college pitcher who, despite excellent numbers, exhibits limited velocity and projection. The question pertained specifically to Long Beach State right-hander Darren McCaughan, who has recorded one of the better pitching lines in the Big West, but I was also thinking of Florida State left-hander Tyler Holton. As a sophomore, Holton obviously isn’t eligible for the draft this year. But the question will remain relevant until next spring if Holton continues both to (a) dominate opposing batters and also (b) top out in the high 80s (while maybe touching 90 on occasion).

Longenhagen’s response is nuanced. In summary, though, he feels there’s value in it — especially in an era when pitchers in the Yankees system (for example) appear to be adding velocity almost uniformly.

***
Big 12
Top Batter
Richard Cunningham, CF, Baylor (RS-So)

Top Draft-Eligible Batter
Richard Cunningham, CF, Baylor (RS-So)

Top Defensive-Type Batter
Richard Cunningham, CF, Baylor (RS-So)

Top Pitcher
Jake Irvin, RHP, Oklahoma (So)

Top Draft-Eligible Pitcher
Stephen Villines, RHP, Kansas (Sr)

Top Starter
Jake Irvin, RHP, Oklahoma (So)

Leaderboards

Top Ten Hitters of the Big 12
Player School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP MPS+
Richard Cunningham Baylor RS-So CF 52 15.4% .390 .424 16.7% .197 .340 125
Quin Walbergh Oklahoma RS-So COF 25 8.0% .500 .278 14.9% .184 .334 121
Kacy Clemens Texas Sr 1B 79 16.5% .286 .404 17.0% .185 .340 120
Jake Scudder Kansas St. Sr 1B 48 10.4% .317 .303 14.5% .178 .334 119
Hunter Hargrove Texas Tech Sr 1B 80 11.3% .243 .371 14.1% .172 .338 119
Steele Walker Oklahoma So OF 60 13.3% .268 .478 15.6% .172 .343 118
Garrett Benge Oklahoma St. Jr 3B 81 11.1% .234 .377 14.0% .169 .339 118
Quintin Crandall Kansas St. RS-Sr 3B 48 10.4% .286 .286 14.5% .171 .334 116
Luken Baker TCU So 1B 70 22.9% .294 .406 20.5% .184 .340 115
Garrett McCain Oklahoma St. Jr OF 83 14.5% .209 .426 15.9% .162 .342 114

 

Top Ten Pitchers of the Big 12
Player School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% MPS-
Jake Irvin Oklahoma So RHP 20.0 71 43.7% 4.2% 33.5% 7.8% 69
Sean Wymer TCU So RHP 13.1 47 45.0% 6.4% 31.9% 8.7% 76
Connor Berry Oklahoma So RHP 7.1 28 46.8% 0.0% 29.9% 8.0% 79
Stephen Villines Kansas Sr RHP 15.1 68 33.9% 2.9% 28.5% 7.5% 81
Brady Basso Oklahoma St. Fr LHP 6.1 27 44.8% 7.5% 29.2% 9.0% 84
Ryan Shetter Texas Tech So RHP 23.1 91 29.8% 3.3% 26.9% 7.2% 85
Jake Cowan Oklahoma St. Jr RHP 12.1 46 37.3% 8.8% 28.8% 9.2% 85
Kyle Hill Baylor So RHP 15.2 59 34.1% 6.8% 28.2% 8.7% 85
Devon Perez Oklahoma Jr RHP 9.2 37 35.2% 2.7% 27.4% 8.1% 86
Troy Montemayor Baylor Jr RHP 7.1 30 37.0% 3.4% 27.3% 8.4% 87

Notes
Baylor center fielder Richard Cunningham is absent from the most of notable draft-prospect lists. As a 21-year-old, though, he’s eligible for selection. Based on his play thus far, he would appear to merit some consideration. His combination of contact, power, and defensive utility is unrivaled through the first four weeks of the college season among his Big 12 peers. The author of only a single home run, Cunningham has also recorded seven doubles and three triples over his first 52 plate appearances — all while playing center field exclusively or something like exclusively.

Here’s a recent outfield assist for Cunningham against Ole Miss:

And a triple from that same game:

***
Big West
Top Batter
Keston Hiura, DH, UC Irvine (Jr)

Top Draft-Eligible Batter
Keston Hiura, DH, UC Irvine (Jr)

Top Defensive-Type Batter
Josh Rojas, 3B, Hawaii (Sr)

Top Pitcher
Connor Riley, RHP, Long Beach State (Fr)

Top Draft-Eligible Pitcher
Brendan Hornung, RHP, Hawaii (Sr)

Top Starter
Brendan Hornung, RHP, Hawaii (Sr)

Leaderboards

Top Ten Batters of the Big West
Player School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP MPS+
Keston Hiura UC Irvine Jr DH 71 19.7% .481 .541 19.1% .218 .327 145
Kevin Riley CS-Northridge RS-Jr 1B 72 16.7% .281 .300 17.5% .161 .312 120
Josh Rojas Hawaii Sr 3B 66 3.0% .184 .298 10.3% .131 .312 119
Ryan Anderson UC Davis So COF 64 10.9% .203 .388 14.5% .136 .317 117
Alvaro Rubalcaba C-S Northridge RS-Jr 2B 55 10.9% .222 .361 14.8% .138 .315 116
Albee Weiss C-S Northridge Jr C 70 17.1% .238 .319 17.7% .148 .313 115
Mark Contreras UC Riverside Sr CF 36 11.1% .233 .480 15.7% .132 .318 114
Ramsey Romano Long Beach St. Jr 3B 64 7.8% .140 .385 12.9% .119 .317 113
Mikey Duarte UC Irvine RS-Sr SS 58 10.3% .160 .386 14.4% .124 .316 112
Alex Fitchett Hawaii RS-Sr COF 53 24.5% .262 .357 21.3% .146 .315 110

 

Top Ten Pitchers of the Big West
Player School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% MPS-
Connor Riley Long Beach St. Fr RHP 8.0 36 49.4% 13.7% 29.2% 9.5% 75
Brendan Hornung Hawaii Sr RHP 30.0 117 29.1% 1.7% 25.2% 5.8% 76
Ryan Lillie UC Riverside Jr RHP 14.0 59 30.5% 5.1% 24.1% 7.7% 83
Blake Workman C-S Fullerton Fr RHP 15.0 59 28.8% 3.4% 23.4% 7.2% 84
Conner O’Neil C-S Northridge Sr RHP 14.1 59 32.0% 10.1% 24.8% 8.9% 85
Alex Fagalde UC Riverside Sr RHP 24.0 90 25.7% 3.4% 22.6% 6.8% 85
Darren McCaughan Long Beach St. Jr RHP 25.1 103 25.1% 4.8% 22.6% 7.1% 86
Andre Pallante UC Irvine Fr RHP 12.2 63 33.1% 15.7% 25.6% 10.5% 87
Casey Ryan Hawaii Sr RHP 2.1 9 55.1% 0.0% 22.9% 8.1% 88
Chris Rivera Long Beach St. So RHP 8.1 42 33.7% 14.4% 24.3% 9.7% 88

Notes
UC Irvine’s Keston Hiura was projected by D1 Baseball this preseason as most likely to win the Big West’s Player of the Year Award. Hiura was also the top-ranked player from the Big West in Baseball America’s preseason top-100 college-prospects list. He has recorded an isolated-figure mark over the season’s first four weeks that’s nearly double the second-best such figure in the conference. One concern at the moment is health: Hiura, who has played outfield and second base in recent years, has been relegated to DH by an arm injury.

***
Pac-12
Note: Pac-12 stats are unavailable in full this week, strangely.

***
SEC
Top Batter
Brent Rooker, COF, Mississippi State (RS-Jr)

Top Draft-Eligible Batter
Brent Rooker, COF, Mississippi State (RS-Jr)

Top Defensive-Type Batter
Jeff Moberg, 2B, Tennessee (RS-Sr)

Top Pitcher
T.J. Sikkema, LHP, Missouri (Fr)

Top Draft-Eligible Pitcher
Trevor Stephan, RHP, Arkansas (Jr)

Top Starter
Will Ethridge, RHP, Mississippi (Fr)

Leaderboards

Top Ten Batters of the SEC
Player School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP MPS+
Brent Rooker Miss. St. RS-Jr COF 82 15.9% .400 .479 16.1% .228 .350 135
Greg Deichman LSU Jr COF 74 16.2% .397 .340 16.3% .222 .340 129
Jeff Moberg Tennessee RS-Sr 2B 62 16.1% .382 .500 16.3% .209 .349 127
Grant Koch Arkansas So C 75 12.0% .348 .288 14.0% .208 .337 126
Evan White Kentucky Jr 1B 41 12.2% .433 .435 14.7% .202 .343 125
Braden Shewmake Texas A&M Fr 2B 86 9.3% .244 .444 12.2% .179 .348 121
Logan Foster Texas A&M Fr COF 78 24.4% .342 .460 20.9% .208 .348 120
Robbie Glendinning Missouri Jr SS 63 15.9% .265 .500 16.1% .179 .349 116
Marcus Carson Kentucky Sr CF 88 9.1% .194 .413 12.1% .163 .345 114
Jordan Rodgers Tennessee Sr 3B 56 7.1% .216 .378 12.0% .164 .342 114

 

Top Ten Pitchers of the SEC
Player School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% MPS-
T.J. Sikkema Missouri Fr LHP 22.0 80 45.1% 3.8% 36.0% 6.9% 69
Will Ethridge Mississippi Fr RHP 15.2 53 49.2% 3.8% 35.7% 7.3% 70
Casey Mize Auburn So RHP 22.2 88 43.1% 4.5% 35.3% 7.1% 71
Trevor Stephan Arkansas Jr RHP 24.0 90 35.7% 7.8% 31.2% 8.2% 84
Alex Lange LSU Jr RHP 20.2 83 34.9% 6.0% 30.6% 7.6% 85
Ryan Lee Missouri RS-Jr RHP 4.0 15 54.4% 0.0% 30.5% 7.7% 85
Andrew Gist Georgia Sr LHP 16.1 62 33.7% 3.2% 29.4% 7.0% 86
Cannon Chadwick Arkansas Sr RHP 12.1 49 34.4% 2.0% 29.2% 7.0% 87
Tyler Johnson So. Carolina Jr RHP 6.2 28 42.8% 7.1% 30.4% 8.2% 87
Wil Crowe So. Carolina Jr RHP 24.0 94 33.1% 7.5% 29.9% 8.1% 88

Notes
Between 2010 and -14, nearly three times as many good major-league pitching seasons were recorded by products of the SEC than the next-best conference. It follows, then, that the best draft-eligible pitchers in the SEC possess some likelihood of becoming the best major-league pitchers of the future. The conference currently features a number of pitchers who offer a combination of performance and physical tools. Arkansas right-hander Trevor Stephan sits at 89-93 mph, LSU’s Alex Lange at 91-94, South Carolina’s Wil Crowe at 92-94. All three are starters and all three appear among the conference’s top-10 pitchers here.





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

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CTTRIBE73
5 years ago

Richie Cunningham?