The Top College Players by (Maybe) Predictive Stats

Week: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 7.

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

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

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

Top Pitcher
Brendan McKay, LHP, Louisville (Jr)

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

Top Starter
Brendan McKay, LHP, Louisville (Jr)

Leaderboards

Top Ten Batters of the ACC
Player School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP MPS+
Sam Fragale Virginia Tech RS-Jr 1B 163 20.2% .386 .343 19.7% .264 .321 144
Adam Haseley Virginia Jr CF 160 8.1% .295 .394 10.9% .220 .327 142
Pavin Smith Virginia Jr 1B 160 3.1% .266 .297 7.2% .206 .315 137
Joe Dunand NC State Jr SS 130 16.2% .372 .222 16.8% .245 .308 136
Gavin Sheets Wake Forest Jr 1B 154 12.3% .305 .302 14.0% .223 .316 134
Ryan Tufts Virginia Tech Sr SS 173 13.3% .277 .374 14.6% .214 .325 133
Brendan McKay Louisville Jr 1B 132 12.1% .280 .420 14.0% .206 .329 133
Griffin Conine Duke So COF 157 14.6% .292 .340 15.6% .218 .320 132
Joey Bart Georgia Tech So C 146 21.9% .331 .356 20.8% .232 .322 130
Seth Beer Clemson So COF 82 9.8% .327 .209 13.3% .207 .310 127

 

Top Ten Pitchers of the ACC
Player School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% MPS-
Brendan McKay Louisville Jr LHP 45.0 174 39.0% 5.7% 34.1% 7.9% 62
J.B. Bukauskas North Carolina Jr RHP 51.0 193 38.8% 6.7% 34.3% 8.3% 62
Tyler Holton Florida State So LHP 47.1 179 35.8% 6.7% 31.9% 8.4% 69
Graeme Stinson Duke Fr LHP 19.1 80 42.5% 10.0% 32.9% 10.1% 71
Griffin Roberts Wake Forest So RHP 28.0 115 38.2% 11.3% 32.0% 10.6% 74
Ryley Gilliam Clemson So RHP 11.0 42 42.5% 9.4% 29.6% 10.0% 79
Tyler Jackson Clemson Grad! RHP 22.1 94 31.0% 3.2% 27.1% 7.7% 80
Andrew Cabezas Miami So RHP 28.2 118 32.3% 7.6% 28.4% 9.1% 80
Parker Dunshee Wake Forest Sr RHP 49.2 207 29.0% 6.3% 27.2% 8.0% 80
Jacob Hennessy Clemson Fr LHP 16.0 64 34.4% 6.3% 27.8% 9.1% 81

Notes
This represents NC State junior Joe Dunand’s first appearance on the ACC batting leaderboard. Dunand himself represents one of only two shortstops who currently sit among the league’s top-10 hitters by this potentially flawed methodology. He was excellent during last weekend’s series against a ranked Florida State club, recording two walks, a hit-by-pitch, two doubles, and a home run among his nine plate appearances.

Given Dunand’s physicality, it would be surprising were he to remain at short as a professional. His combination of power and defensive value, however, are nonetheless compelling.

Here’s video, nearly two years old, which gives a sense of Dunand’s size:

***
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
Vincenzo Aiello, RHP, Oklahoma (Grad!)

Top Starter
Michael Grove, RHP, West Virginia (So)

Leaderboards

Top Ten Hitters of the Big 12
Player School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP MPS+
Garrett Benge Oklahoma State Jr 3B 149 13.4% .304 .352 14.9% .212 .328 137
Hunter Hargrove Texas Tech Sr 1B 158 8.2% .227 .363 11.1% .177 .330 131
Renae Martinez Oklahoma Sr C 116 4.3% .214 .351 9.2% .165 .328 128
Steele Walker Oklahoma So OF 152 13.8% .233 .380 15.2% .179 .332 126
Kacy Clemens Texas Sr 1B 148 14.2% .240 .344 15.5% .182 .327 125
Quintin Crandall Kansas State RS-Sr 3B 127 13.4% .234 .247 15.1% .175 .317 119
Luken Baker Texas Christian So 1B 140 19.3% .241 .342 19.1% .181 .327 119
Orlando Garcia Texas Tech Jr SS 135 25.2% .282 .316 23.2% .198 .324 119
Jake Scudder Kansas State Sr 1B 139 15.8% .222 .278 16.7% .172 .320 117
Colin Simpson Oklahoma State So C 112 17.0% .221 .333 17.6% .167 .326 116

 

Top Ten Pitchers of the Big 12
Player School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% MPS-
Sean Wymer Texas Christian So RHP 25.2 95 37.8% 6.3% 31.4% 8.6% 74
Michael Grove West Virginia So RHP 39.2 150 34.6% 6.7% 30.8% 8.4% 74
Vincenzo Aiello Oklahoma Grad! RHP 15.0 59 43.9% 11.8% 32.4% 10.4% 76
Devon Perez Oklahoma Jr RHP 30.0 126 32.6% 4.0% 29.1% 7.4% 76
Jake Irvin Oklahoma So RHP 34.2 135 33.2% 5.9% 29.6% 8.1% 77
Austin Boyles Texas Christian RS-Fr RHP 10.1 40 42.9% 5.0% 30.0% 9.0% 78
Carson Teel Oklahoma State So LHP 32.0 136 31.7% 6.6% 28.6% 8.4% 80
Connor Berry Oklahoma So RHP 19.1 77 38.8% 14.2% 31.2% 11.2% 81
Brady Basso Oklahoma State Fr LHP 15.0 64 36.0% 7.8% 29.0% 9.3% 82
Stephen Villines Kansas Sr RHP 26.1 115 29.5% 3.5% 27.0% 7.3% 82

Notes
Texas Tech’s Orlando Garcia has recorded a strikeout rate (25.2%) nearly seven points higher than the the Big 12 average (18.7%). Few players post such a figure and still place among the league’s top-10 batters. Garcia has compensated for his swing-and-miss issues, however, with the second-highest regressed ISO in the conference. The combination of that power and Garcia’s defensive skill — he’s been Texas Tech’s starting shortstop for two years — is unrivaled throughout the Big 12 currently. A junior, he’s eligible for this June’s draft.

Here’s video of a recent home run by Garcia, which gives a sense not only of his power but his physical actions:

And a mostly routine defensive play, for some reason:

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

Top Starter
Spencer Howard, RHP, Cal Poly (So)

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 132 16.7% .308 .449 16.9% .197 .328 138
Kevin Riley Cal St. No.ridge RS-Jr 1B 142 16.9% .274 .320 17.1% .186 .314 129
Josh Rojas Hawaii Sr 3B 128 6.3% .198 .301 9.9% .150 .312 125
Lucas Tancas Long Beach St. RS-Jr COF 111 13.5% .222 .392 14.9% .156 .320 123
Albee Weiss Cal St. No.ridge Jr C 136 21.3% .248 .297 20.2% .173 .311 119
Al. Rubalcaba Cal St. No.ridge RS-Jr 2B 113 8.0% .165 .282 11.3% .134 .310 116
David Banuelos Long Beach St. Jr C 110 19.1% .219 .356 18.5% .155 .317 116
Zach Weisz Cal St. Fullerton RS-Fr COF 7 14.3% 1.000 1.000 17.2% .148 .318 116
Sam Cohen UC San. Barbara So DH 76 13.2% .229 .228 15.1% .149 .308 115
Caleb Van Blake UC Davis So 2B 43 9.3% .214 .333 14.1% .134 .314 114

 

Top Ten Pitchers of the Big West
Player School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% MPS-
Spencer Howard Cal Poly RS-So RHP 39.1 155 31.7% 5.8% 27.5% 7.1% 73
Connor Riley Long Beach St. Fr RHP 11.0 48 43.5% 14.5% 28.7% 9.7% 76
Brendan Hornung Hawaii Sr RHP 62.2 250 24.8% 2.0% 23.4% 4.6% 77
Darren McCaughan Long Beach St. Jr RHP 56.2 217 25.3% 3.7% 23.7% 5.7% 79
Chris Rivera Long Beach St. So RHP 13.2 59 37.5% 11.9% 27.1% 9.3% 79
Blake Workman Cal St. Fullerton Fr RHP 27.0 108 27.7% 4.6% 24.1% 6.9% 81
Steven Ledesma UC Santa Barbara Jr RHP 21.1 95 30.6% 9.5% 25.4% 8.7% 82
Connor Seabold Cal St. Fullerton Jr RHP 57.0 228 23.7% 4.4% 22.4% 6.1% 83
Josh Advocate Long Beach St. RS-Sr RHP 19.2 73 27.3% 2.7% 23.0% 6.6% 83
Slater Lee Cal Poly Sr RHP 22.0 97 30.8% 11.3% 25.6% 9.4% 84

Notes
Right-hander Spencer Howard’s bio page at the Cal Poly athletics website suggests that he’s “[e]xpected to be one of the top relievers out of the bullpen as a sophomore this season.” This wouldn’t have been a surprising outcome for Howard this year — that is, on account of he was one of the top relievers out of the bullpen as a freshman, too. He joined the team’s rotation a month ago, though, and is now one of the top starters on the team, having produced a 38:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 29.2 innings in that capacity. According to Kendall Rogers of D1 Baseball, Howard was sitting 91-93 mph — up to 94-95 — this spring. He’s recorded the top performance of any draft-eligible pitcher in the Big West.

***
Pac-12
As has been the case in recent weeks, the Pac-12 data appears to be incomplete — omitting, it seems, all players who haven’t qualified for the batting or ERA titles. The numbers below, then, are based only on qualified players.

Top Batter
J.J. Matijevic, 1B, Arizona (Jr)

Top Draft-Eligible Batter
J.J. Matijevic, 1B, Arizona (Jr)

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

Top Pitcher
David Peterson, LHP, Oregon (Jr)

Top Draft-Eligible Pitcher
David Peterson, LHP, Oregon (Jr)

Top Starter
David Peterson, LHP, Oregon (Jr)

Leaderboards

Top Ten Hitters of the Pac-12
Player School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP MPS+
J.J. Matijevic Arizona Jr 1B 144 14.6% .295 .429 14.8% .206 .349 133
Jared Oliva Arizona Jr CF 141 12.1% .252 .388 13.1% .186 .344 126
Andrew Vaughn California Fr 1B 132 9.1% .231 .382 11.1% .176 .343 124
Nick Madrigal Oregon State So SS 138 3.6% .183 .389 7.2% .155 .344 123
Dallas Carroll Utah Sr 3B 132 8.3% .212 .396 10.6% .167 .344 122
Sean Bouchard UCLA Jr 1B 133 19.5% .275 .369 18.3% .195 .341 121
Shane Matheny Wash. St. Jr 3B 117 16.2% .255 .382 16.0% .182 .342 120
Lars Nootbaar USC So CF 136 13.2% .212 .341 13.9% .168 .338 116
Nick Quintana Arizona Fr 3B 140 17.1% .211 .411 16.6% .168 .346 115
Alfonso Rivas Arizona So DH 132 12.9% .178 .451 13.7% .153 .350 115

 

Top Ten Pitchers of the Pac-12
Player School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% MPS-
David Peterson Oregon Jr LHP 52.1 205 37.6% 2.0% 33.1% 4.6% 57
Luke Heimlich Oregon State Jr LHP 58.2 217 29.0% 5.5% 26.8% 6.5% 78
Griffin Canning UCLA Jr RHP 52.2 219 30.1% 9.1% 27.6% 8.5% 81
Kris Bubic Stanford So LHP 39.2 171 29.9% 8.8% 27.0% 8.2% 82
Jake Thompson Oregon State Jr RS-Jr 53.1 203 27.5% 8.8% 25.6% 8.3% 86
Noah Bremer Washington Jr RHP 53.1 214 27.5% 10.3% 25.7% 9.1% 88
Andrew Summerville Stanford Jr LHP 30.0 132 25.8% 8.4% 23.8% 8.0% 90
Rio Gomez Arizona Jr LHP 40.2 169 20.8% 4.2% 20.5% 5.9% 93
Mitchell Verburg Oregon State Fr RHP 4.1 18 27.9% 5.6% 21.5% 7.5% 95
Cody Anderson Wash. St. Jr LHP 42.0 173 21.9% 7.5% 21.4% 7.6% 95

Notes
I’ve been publishing these reports with some regularity for roughly eight weeks now, and for nearly all eight of those weeks, Arizona junior Jared Oliva has appeared among the top-two or -three hitters in the Pac-12. He makes contact at a better-than-average frequency, has produced one of the top isolated-slugging marks in the entire conference, and plays center field. He was omitted from Baseball America’s preseason top-100 college-draft-prospect list. Nevertheless, the whole profile seems quite promising.

***
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 Batters of the SEC
Player School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP MPS+
Brent Rooker Miss. St. RS-Jr 1B 157 15.9% .560 .471 16.6% .338 .349 185
Grant Koch Arkansas So C 145 13.1% .317 .295 14.6% .220 .328 135
Greg Deichman LSU Jr COF 148 16.9% .303 .337 17.3% .214 .332 131
Jeren Kendall Vanderbilt Jr CF 161 24.8% .295 .367 23.1% .214 .336 124
Riles Mahan Kentucky Jr 2B 152 15.8% .246 .321 16.5% .189 .331 122
Evan White Kentucky Jr 1B 91 16.5% .253 .431 17.2% .178 .339 120
Braden Shewmake Texas A&M Fr 2B 153 9.8% .177 .368 12.2% .157 .336 118
Kramer Robertson LSU Sr SS 155 10.3% .188 .321 12.6% .162 .331 117
Carson Shaddy Arkansas RS-Jr 2B 133 25.6% .269 .391 23.3% .195 .338 117
Julian Infante Vanderbilt So 1B 152 20.4% .220 .426 19.8% .176 .343 117

 

Top Ten Pitchers of the SEC
Player School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% MPS-
Casey Mize Auburn So RHP 52.2 206 36.4% 3.9% 33.2% 6.2% 68
Kyle Serrano Tennessee RS-Jr RHP 7.2 31 54.8% 6.4% 33.4% 8.6% 74
Logan Salow Kentucky Sr LHP 24.1 90 40.0% 6.7% 33.0% 8.2% 74
Will Ethridge Mississippi Fr RHP 29.0 119 36.1% 7.6% 31.6% 8.4% 78
Blaine Knight Arkansas So RHP 46.1 174 31.0% 2.9% 28.9% 5.9% 79
Trevor Stephan Arkansas Jr RHP 44.0 173 32.9% 5.8% 30.3% 7.4% 79
Chris Machamer Kentucky Fr RHP 11.1 45 41.8% 4.4% 31.0% 8.0% 79
T.J. Sikkema Missouri Fr LHP 42.0 159 33.4% 6.9% 30.5% 8.0% 80
Andrew Gist Georgia Sr LHP 37.1 150 32.0% 5.3% 29.5% 7.3% 81
Cannon Chadwick Arkansas Sr RHP 22.1 91 34.2% 6.6% 29.7% 8.1% 83

Notes
Mississippi State’s Brent Rooker managed, somehow, to improve upon his monstrous numbers since last week, both (a) lowering his strikeout rate (from 17.5% to 15.9%) and (b) improving his isolated-power figure (from .513 to .560). One way he did that was by hitting three home runs on Saturday alone. He continues to play first base exclusively but also continues to lead the SEC in stolen bases — the latter fact suggesting that he possesses a sort of athleticism uncommon to first basemen.

Would you care to watch a local-news segment about Brent Rooker’s exploits? Here’s what that is:

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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rlwhite
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rlwhite

Supposedly Rooker’s natural position is RF, according to an MSU alum who follows the program.

TKDC
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TKDC

He doesn’t look particularly lumbering in that highlight.