The Top College Players by (Maybe) Predictive Stats

Week: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4.

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, CF, Virginia (Jr)

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

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

Top Pitcher
J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, North Carolina (Jr)

Top Draft-Eligible Pitcher
J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, North Carolina (Jr)

Top Starter
J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, North Carolina (Jr)

Leaderboards

Top Ten Batters of the ACC
Player School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP MPS+
Adam Haseley Virginia Jr CF 141 7.8% .308 .402 10.9% .222 .326 142
Sam Fragale Virginia Tech RS-Jr 1B 144 22.2% .398 .326 21.0% .263 .318 140
Ryan Tufts Virginia Tech Sr SS 154 11.7% .311 .381 13.5% .227 .325 139
Pavin Smith Virginia Jr 1B 141 2.1% .283 .270 6.9% .211 .312 138
Joey Bart Georgia Tech So C 129 19.4% .365 .354 19.0% .243 .321 136
Gavin Sheets Wake Forest Jr 1B 137 11.7% .310 .284 13.7% .222 .313 133
Griffin Conine Duke So COF 142 14.1% .297 .337 15.3% .217 .319 131
Tom Stoffel Virginia Tech RS-Jr COF 145 8.3% .242 .361 11.2% .193 .322 129
Drew Ellis Louisville Jr 3B/1B 126 11.1% .258 .413 13.4% .196 .327 129
Seth Beer Clemson So COF 82 9.8% .327 .209 13.3% .208 .309 127

 

Top Ten Pitchers of the ACC
Player School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% MPS-
J.B. Bukauskas North Carolina Jr RHP 47.0 175 39.9% 6.3% 34.8% 8.1% 61
Brendan McKay Louisville Jr LHP 38.0 148 38.6% 6.1% 33.3% 8.2% 65
Tyler Holton Florida State So LHP 42.0 157 37.0% 7.0% 32.4% 8.6% 69
Graeme Stinson Duke Fr LHP 19.1 80 42.5% 10.0% 32.9% 10.1% 71
Griffin Roberts Wake Forest So RHP 23.2 96 37.4% 11.4% 31.0% 10.6% 78
Ryley Gilliam Clemson So RHP 11.0 42 42.5% 9.4% 29.7% 9.9% 79
Tyler Jackson Clemson Grad! RHP 22.1 94 31.0% 3.2% 27.2% 7.6% 80
Parker Dunshee Wake Forest Sr RHP 42.2 180 29.9% 6.6% 27.7% 8.3% 80
Jacob Hennessy Clemson Fr LHP 16.0 64 34.4% 6.3% 27.9% 9.0% 81
Will Zirzow Florida State RS-Jr RHP 25.0 101 32.5% 8.9% 28.3% 9.6% 82

Notes
Lead prospect Eric Longenhagen recently launched a campaign aimed at convincing the present author to attend this afternoon’s game between North Carolina and Boston College at the latter’s home park — with a view, in particular, to observing talented UNC right-hander J.B. Bukauskas. I, for my part, have resisted his rhetorical offensive.

The logic behind our respective arguments is summarized briefly in this exchange from FanGraphs’ Slack page:

Owing to the possibility of ice pellets — i.e. almost literally one of the plagues that Yahweh visited upon Egypt — I will not be attending. The point remains, however: in addition to exceptional physical tools, Bukauskas also possesses a strong statistical record. It’s possible he really will be selected first overall in the 2017 draft. It’s even more possible that I won’t have seen him pitch in person.

***
Big 12
Top Batter
Garrett Benge, 3B, Oklahoma State (Jr)

Top Draft-Eligible Batter
Garrett Benge, 3B, Oklahoma State (Jr)

Top Defensive-Type Batter
Garrett Benge, 3B, Oklahoma State (Jr)

Top Pitcher
Sean Wymer, RHP, Texas Christian (So)

Top Draft-Eligible Pitcher
Devon Perez, RHP Oklahoma (Jr)

Top Starter
Devon Perez, RHP Oklahoma (Jr)

Leaderboards

Top Ten Hitters of the Big 12
Player School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP MPS+
Garrett Benge Oklahoma St. Jr 3B 131 11.5% .283 .333 13.6% .196 .325 133
Hunter Hargrove Texas Tech Sr 1B 144 9.0% .215 .368 11.8% .169 .329 127
Renae Martinez Oklahoma Sr C 101 5.0% .211 .317 10.0% .160 .323 124
Kacy Clemens Texas Sr 1B 137 14.6% .232 .341 15.8% .175 .326 122
Steele Walker Oklahoma So OF 135 14.8% .223 .388 15.9% .171 .331 122
Quintin Crandall Kansas State RS-Sr 3B 113 11.5% .232 .220 13.9% .171 .314 119
Jake Scudder Kansas State Sr 1B 124 14.5% .221 .284 15.8% .168 .320 117
Quin Walbergh Oklahoma RS-So COF 54 18.5% .295 .344 18.5% .169 .325 116
Richard Cunningham Baylor So CF 68 22.1% .286 .341 20.4% .174 .325 115
Austin O’Brien Oklahoma Sr 1B 77 18.2% .224 .442 18.3% .159 .331 115

 

Top Ten Pitchers of the Big 12
Player School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% MPS-
Sean Wymer Texas Christian So RHP 24.1 90 37.8% 5.6% 31.2% 8.4% 73
Carson Teel Oklahoma St. So LHP 29.0 122 33.7% 4.9% 29.6% 7.9% 76
Devon Perez Oklahoma Jr RHP 30.0 126 32.6% 4.0% 29.0% 7.4% 76
Jake Irvin Oklahoma So RHP 31.0 122 34.4% 6.6% 30.1% 8.5% 76
Brady Basso Oklahoma St. Fr LHP 12.0 51 41.1% 7.8% 30.4% 9.5% 78
Austin Boyles Texas Christian RS-Fr RHP 9.1 36 44.8% 5.6% 30.1% 9.2% 78
Vincenzo Aiello Oklahoma Grad! RHP 14.0 56 40.9% 12.5% 30.8% 10.6% 80
Jackson Sigman West Virginia Sr RHP 20.1 88 35.3% 9.1% 29.7% 9.7% 80
Morgan Cooper Texas RS-Jr RHP 43.2 173 32.4% 9.8% 29.6% 9.9% 81
Nicholas Kennedy Texas So LHP 24.0 100 31.9% 6.0% 28.1% 8.5% 82

Notes
Not only isn’t junior third baseman Garrett Benge the most physically impressive position player on the Oklahoma State roster, he’s likely not even the most physically impressive Garrett. That distinction probably belongs to center fielder Garrett McCain, who’s an inch taller than Benge and whose body offers some projectability. Benge, meanwhile, appears maxed out phyisically. He also appears to exhibit some effort while making throws to first and, despite a pretty deep leg kick, fails to radiate a sense of total coordination in the lower half of his body while swinging.

An example of what I mean:

Whatever his limitations, however, Benge has also produced both (a) the best batting line in the Big 12 by the methodology used here and (b) definitely the best batting line among draft-eligible Big 12 players. Oklahoma’s Sheldon Neuse parlayed that distinction last year — albeit as a shortstop — into a second-round draft pick.

***
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
Spencer Howard, RHP, Cal Poly (So)

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 115 17.4% .356 .439 17.4% .208 .325 142
Kevin Riley Cal St. Northridge RS-Jr 1B 125 16.0% .278 .318 16.4% .181 .314 128
Josh Rojas Hawaii Sr 3B 115 6.1% .187 .298 9.9% .141 .312 122
David Banuelos Long Beach St. Jr C 106 18.9% .226 .352 18.3% .155 .317 117
Albee Weiss Cal St. Northridge Jr C 121 20.7% .234 .293 19.6% .162 .311 116
Cameron Olson UC Davis Sr 1B 70 24.3% .279 .375 21.1% .159 .317 115
Ryan Anderson UC Davis So COF 95 11.6% .153 .375 13.8% .126 .318 113
Mikey Duarte UC Irvine RS-Sr SS 102 7.8% .118 .351 11.4% .114 .317 111
Lucas Tancas Long Beach St. RS-Jr COF 98 15.3% .161 .362 16.1% .129 .317 111
Kekai Rios Hawaii So C 111 9.0% .112 .372 11.9% .112 .319 110

 

Top Ten Pitchers of the Big West
Player School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% MPS-
Spencer Howard Cal Poly So RHP 33.2 130 30.7% 3.8% 26.5% 6.4% 74
Brendan Hornung Hawaii Sr RHP 53.2 217 25.9% 1.8% 24.1% 4.7% 76
Connor Riley Long Beach St. Fr RHP 11.0 48 43.5% 14.5% 28.8% 9.7% 77
Chris Rivera Long Beach St. So RHP 13.2 59 37.5% 11.9% 27.2% 9.3% 80
Ryan Lillie UC Riverside Jr RHP 23.2 98 27.6% 4.1% 23.9% 6.8% 82
Blake Workman Cal St. Fullerton Fr RHP 24.0 93 27.8% 4.3% 23.9% 6.9% 82
Josh Advocate Long Beach St. RS-Sr RHP 18.1 70 28.5% 2.9% 23.6% 6.7% 83
Erich Uelmen Cal Poly Jr RHP 45.1 186 24.2% 5.4% 22.7% 6.8% 85
A.J. Jones Long Beach St. Jr RHP 19.0 79 28.0% 6.4% 23.6% 7.7% 85
Alex Fagalde UC Riverside Sr RHP 36.0 141 24.2% 4.3% 22.3% 6.5% 85

Notes
A couple years ago, right-hander Thomas Eshelman — currently a member of the Phillies system — recorded a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 139:7 in 137.0 innings for Cal State Fullerton. In 53.2 innings this season, Hawaii right-hander Brendan Hornung is nearly on Eshelman’s pace, having produced a 56:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Prorated to Eshelman’s 137.0 innings, that’s 146 strikeouts and 10 walks. So, actually a greater differential.

Obviously, there are differences — most notably, that Hornung is a senior. He has decent velocity, though (a 91 mph fastball according to Stephen Tsai of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser), and a split-finger pitch.

***
Pac-12
The Pac-12 continues to provide an incomplete collection of conference numbers. It appears, from what numbers have been available, that Arizona junior Jared Oliva continues to possess one of the top batting lines in the conference while also serving as the team’s center fielder. Among pitchers, 6-foot-6 junior right-hander David Peterson of Oregon has recorded the top line, including a 66:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 46.1 innings.

***
SEC
Top Batter
Brent Rooker, 1B, Mississippi State (RS-Jr)

Top Draft-Eligible Batter
Brent Rooker, 1B, Mississippi State (RS-Jr)

Top Defensive-Type Batter
Grant Koch, C, Arkansas (So)

Top Pitcher
Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn (So)

Top Draft-Eligible Pitcher
Kyle Serrano, RHP, Tennessee (RS-Jr)

Top Starter
Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn (So)

Leaderboards

Top Ten Hitters of the SEC
Player School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP MPS+
Brent Rooker Miss. St. RS-Jr 1B 143 17.5% .513 .476 17.6% .308 .350 171
Grant Koch Arkansas So C 131 12.2% .319 .303 14.0% .217 .330 134
Jeren Kendall Vanderbilt Jr CF 146 21.9% .331 .361 20.8% .227 .337 131
Greg Deichman LSU Jr COF 135 16.3% .312 .313 16.8% .215 .331 130
Riles Mahan Kentucky Jr 2B 137 14.6% .258 .323 15.6% .192 .333 123
Evan White Kentucky Jr 1B 76 15.8% .286 .449 16.8% .184 .341 122
Carson Shaddy Arkansas RS-Jr 2B 120 25.8% .302 .400 23.2% .206 .340 121
Braden Shewmake Texas A&M Fr 2B 140 10.0% .194 .386 12.4% .164 .340 120
Kramer Robertson LSU Sr SS 141 9.9% .203 .337 12.3% .168 .334 120
Luke Heyer Kentucky Jr 3B 45 20.0% .395 .346 18.9% .192 .334 119

 

Top Ten Pitchers of the SEC
Player School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% MPS-
Casey Mize Auburn So RHP 45.2 182 34.5% 3.8% 31.6% 6.2% 73
Kyle Serrano Tennessee RS-Jr RHP 7.2 31 54.8% 6.4% 33.5% 8.5% 74
Blaine Knight Arkansas So RHP 40.1 151 31.8% 1.3% 29.4% 5.3% 77
T.J. Sikkema Missouri Fr LHP 38.0 140 35.0% 5.7% 31.4% 7.4% 77
Logan Salow Kentucky Sr LHP 22.0 84 37.0% 7.2% 31.1% 8.3% 80
Trevor Stephan Arkansas Jr RHP 37.0 148 33.9% 6.8% 30.7% 7.9% 80
Will Ethridge Mississippi Fr RHP 25.2 103 35.9% 7.8% 31.2% 8.4% 80
Konnor Pilkington Miss. St. So LHP 44.1 177 32.9% 7.4% 30.4% 8.1% 82
Dallas Woolfolk Mississippi So RHP 21.2 74 33.6% 2.7% 29.0% 7.0% 82
Alex Lange LSU Jr RHP 41.0 173 31.8% 6.4% 29.6% 7.6% 82

Notes
There’s nothing equivalent offensively in the SEC right now to Mississippi State junior Brent Rooker. He’s produced the highest regressed ISO in the conference by 81 points and the highest regressed BABIP by 13. The second-place batter in the SEC by definitely flawed MPS+ metric (Jeren Kendall) is actually closer to average than Rooker’s mark. He’s maintained a league-average strikeout rate at the same time.

The question of defense is an interesting one where Rooker is concerned. On the one hand, he’s more or less become Mississippi State’s starting first baseman. On the other hand, he’s exhibited signs of athleticism more commonly associated with more challenging positions. He’s hit three triples, for example, which is tied for second in the SEC. Plus he’s stolen 14 bases (in just 17 attempts), which leads the league.

Here’s Rooker’s most recent home run, a game-winner against Florida International:

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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mike sixel
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mike sixel

Having spent most of my life in MN and WI….I agree with your decision to avoid ice pellets…