The Top College Players by (Maybe) Predictive Stats

On multiple occasions last year, the author published a 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.

Last week, I published the first such report for the 2016 college campaign. What follows represents the second one.

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 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 current through Tuesday’s games.

ACC
Top Batter
Nick Yarnall, DH/1B, Pitt (Jr)

Top Draft-Eligible Batter
Nick Yarnall, DH/1B, Pitt (Jr)

Top Defensive-Type Batter
Aaron Schnurbusch, OF, Pitt (Sr)

Top Pitcher
Aaron McGarity, RHP Virginia Tech (Jr)

Top Draft-Eligible Pitcher
Aaron McGarity, RHP Virginia Tech (Jr)

Top Starter
Packy Naughton, LHP, Virginia Tech (So)

The Top-10 Batters of the ACC
Name School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP MPS+
Nick Yarnall Pitt Jr DH/1B 30 3.3% .640 .421 12.1% .220 .352 134
Corey Ray Louisville Jr OF 39 10.3% .545 .462 14.0% .220 .354 132
Aaron Schnurbusch Pitt Sr OF 34 20.6% .464 .444 18.0% .199 .353 118
Chase Pinder Clemson So OF 31 3.2% .346 .273 12.0% .177 .348 117
Blake Tiberi Louisville So 3B 34 2.9% .286 .481 11.6% .170 .354 117
Pavin Smith Virginia So 1B 36 0.0% .259 .407 10.3% .167 .352 117
John Sansone Florida St. Sr 3B 41 7.3% .265 .483 12.8% .170 .354 116
Adam Haseley Virginia So OF 39 7.7% .300 .321 13.0% .175 .349 115
Alex Kowalczyk Pitt Sr C 35 20.0% .419 .333 17.8% .193 .349 115
Evan Dougherty Duke So OF 38 15.8% .367 .273 16.2% .187 .347 114

 

The Top-10 Pitchers of the ACC
Name School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% MPS-
Aaron McGarity Virginia Tech Jr RHP 6.0 23 52.2% 8.7% 31.1% 9.5% 82
Tyler Warmoth Florida St. R-Sr RHP 4.1 15 60.0% 6.7% 30.5% 9.3% 83
Packy Naughton Virginia Tech So LHP 10.2 45 35.6% 2.2% 28.6% 8.0% 84
Pat Krall Clemson Jr LHP 5.0 20 50.0% 10.0% 29.9% 9.6% 85
Matthew Gorst Georgia Tech Jr RHP 7.0 28 42.9% 7.1% 29.5% 9.2% 85
Zac Gallen No. Carolina Jr RHP 14.2 55 36.4% 9.1% 29.5% 9.5% 86
Connor Jones Virginia Jr RHP 12.0 46 34.8% 4.3% 28.3% 8.5% 86
Parker Johnson Wake Forest R-So RHP 1.2 5 100.0% 0.0% 29.2% 9.3% 86
Will Gilbert NC State Sr LHP 10.0 42 38.1% 9.5% 29.4% 9.6% 86
Jack Roberts Virginia R-So RHP 6.1 24 50.0% 20.8% 30.7% 11.0% 86

Notes
Can likely first-rounder Corey Ray play center field? It would seem so, given his athleticism and foot speed. That said, he doesn’t appear to have recorded a start there yet this year, in deference to other junior Logan Taylor, who himself has produced one of the top batting lines (108 MPS+) among ACC batters this season after working mostly as a defensive replacement during the 2015 campaign… If the author’s calculations are correct, three of Virginia’s offensive starters — Ernie Clement, Pavin Smith, and Matt Thaiss — have accumulated a 110 plate appearances collectively without recording even one strikeout. Smith has also produced five extra-base hits in eight games, placing him among the conference’s top batters… Virginia sophomore center fielder Adam Haseley isn’t among those Cavaliers to record zero strikeouts. He does appear among the top-10 batters here, however, while also having started most of the club’s games in center. A compelling package of offense and defense, that.

***

Pac-12
Top Batter
Adalberto Carillo, 3B, USC (So)

Top Draft-Eligible Batter
Colby Woodmansee, SS, Arizona St. (Jr)

Top Defensive-Type Batter
Adalberto Carillo, 3B, USC (So)

Top Pitcher
Cole Irvin, LHP, Oregon (R-Jr)

Top Draft-Eligible Pitcher
Cole Irvin, LHP, Oregon (R-Jr)

Top Starter
Cole Irvin, LHP, Oregon (R-Jr)

The Top-10 Batters of the Pac-12
Name School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP MPS+
Adalberto Carillo USC So 3B 34 2.9% .423 .273 12.2% .171 .323 126
Colby Woodmansee Arizona St. Jr SS 33 15.2% .414 .348 16.6% .168 .325 119
Josh Cushing Washington Jr 3B 30 16.7% .385 .526 17.2% .160 .330 117
Jeremy Martinez USC Jr C 39 0.0% .207 .310 10.6% .137 .324 116
Logan Ice Oregon St. Jr C 30 3.3% .259 .320 12.7% .142 .324 114
AJ Young Utah Sr C 21 14.3% .471 .167 16.6% .159 .321 114
Patrick McGrath Washington St. Sr 1B/3B 35 5.7% .242 .345 13.1% .142 .325 114
AJ Balta Oregon R-So OF 29 6.9% .320 .143 14.0% .150 .320 114
Brett Cumberland California So C 29 20.7% .375 .375 18.5% .158 .326 113
KJ Harrison Oregon St. So 1B 40 12.5% .235 .414 15.5% .143 .327 112

 

The Top-10 Pitchers of the Pac-12
Name School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% MPS-
Cole Irvin Oregon R-Jr LHP 14.0 50 42.0% 2.0% 30.0% 7.6% 73
Stephen Nogosek Oregon Jr RHP 5.1 18 55.6% 5.6% 28.4% 8.9% 81
Troy Rallings Washington Sr RHP 7.0 26 46.2% 11.5% 28.1% 9.5% 83
Daulton Jefferies California Jr RHP 12.0 48 35.4% 6.3% 27.1% 8.6% 83
Erik Martinez California So RHP 4.2 19 47.4% 10.5% 26.9% 9.3% 86
Joe Navilhon USC R-Jr RHP 6.2 24 41.7% 8.3% 26.6% 9.1% 86
Brooks Kriske USC Sr RHP 7.1 25 40.0% 8.0% 26.3% 9.1% 87
Colton Hock Stanford So RHP 8.2 32 37.5% 9.4% 26.4% 9.2% 87
Chris Viall Stanford Jr RHP 7.0 25 36.0% 4.0% 25.2% 8.5% 88
Eder Erives Arizona St. Jr RHP 9.0 33 33.3% 6.1% 25.2% 8.7% 89

Notes
Oregon left-hander Cole Irvin was well regarded after a freshman year in 2013 during which he produced a 12-3 record and 2.48 ERA. So when he posted just a 2-5 record and 4.10 record in 2015 — this after having sat out the intervening year because of Tommy John surgery — there was a general sense that the injury and subsequent rehab had adversely affected him. And perhaps it had. That said, his strikeout and walk rates were roughly equal in both seasons — and impressive in neither. (He produced a strikeout rate of 5.0 per nine innings in 2015, for example, which was even better than his so-called “good” year.) The first two starts of Irvin’s 2016 season represent a great departure from either of his first two campaigns with the Ducks — if not in terms of run prevention, then at least in terms of fielding-independent outcomes. During those appearances, Irvin has recorded strikeouts at roughly three times the rate of that celebrated freshman season. He appears to have maintained his arm speed through all his ordeals: reports which the author has neglected to link here placed his fastball velocity in the low-90s.

***

SEC
Top Batter
Jack Kruger, DH, Mississippi St. (Jr)

Top Draft-Eligible Batter
Jack Kruger, DH, Mississippi St. (Jr)

Top Defensive-Type Batter
Michael Bernal, SS, Arkansas (R-Sr)

Top Pitcher
Robert Tyler, RHP, Georgia (Jr)

Top Draft-Eligible Pitcher
Robert Tyler, RHP, Georgia (Jr)

Top Starter
Robert Tyler, RHP, Georgia (Jr)

The Top-10 Batters of the SEC
Name School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP MPS+
Jack Kruger Mississippi St. Jr DH 41 7.3% .438 .593 12.0% .211 .359 128
Jeren Kendall Vanderbilt So OF 39 10.3% .406 .560 13.3% .203 .357 123
John Jones So. Carolina So DH/C 42 9.5% .355 .625 12.9% .196 .360 122
Michael Bernal Arkansas R-Sr SS 37 10.8% .455 .240 13.5% .210 .346 121
Niko Buentello Auburn Jr 1B 42 9.5% .389 .379 12.9% .202 .351 121
Anfernee Grier Auburn Jr OF 47 6.4% .314 .500 11.3% .191 .356 121
Hunter Melton Texas A&M Sr 1B 43 9.3% .342 .387 12.7% .194 .351 118
JJ Schwarz Florida So C/DH 44 11.4% .375 .269 13.6% .201 .347 118
JaVon Shelby Kentucky Jr 3B 31 9.7% .407 .409 13.3% .195 .352 118
Deacon Liput Florida Fr 2B 40 5.0% .290 .448 11.1% .182 .353 117

 

The Top-10 Pitchers of the SEC
Name School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% MPS-
Robert Tyler Georgia Jr RHP 11.0 38 55.3% 2.6% 36.6% 7.8% 71
Adam Hill So. Carolina Fr RHP 11.0 38 50.0% 5.3% 34.7% 8.3% 77
Thomas Burrows Alabama Jr LHP 6.1 19 57.9% 0.0% 33.2% 8.0% 80
Jake Walters Alabama So RHP 10.2 42 45.2% 9.5% 33.5% 9.1% 82
Alex Faedo Florida So RHP 12.0 45 42.2% 6.7% 32.6% 8.5% 83
Josh Reagan So. Carolina Jr LHP 4.2 15 60.0% 0.0% 32.4% 8.2% 83
Caleb Gilbert LSU Fr RHP 5.0 21 52.4% 4.8% 32.4% 8.5% 83
James Teague Arkansas Jr RHP 5.1 19 52.6% 10.5% 32.0% 9.1% 86
Kyle Wright Vanderbilt So RHP 5.0 18 50.0% 5.6% 31.3% 8.6% 87
Matt Foster Alabama Jr RHP 4.2 15 53.3% 6.7% 31.2% 8.8% 87

Notes
Vanderbilt sophomore Jeren Kendall is, at some level, the SEC’s version of Corey Ray in that he (a) possesses one of college baseball’s most compelling power/speed combinations, (b) has produced a markedly lower strikeout rate over the season’s first couple weeks than he did last year, and (c) doesn’t play center field for his college team despite appearing to possess all the requisite tools… Almost that exact collection of traits applies to Auburn junior Anfernee Grier — except that he actually does play center for the Tigers… Research conducted by the dumb author last year revealed that, during a recent five-year stretch, over 20% of the good seasons produced by major-league pitchers who’d attended college were recorded by products of an SEC school — more than twice as many as the next best conference. Georgia right-hander Robert Tyler appears most likely to represent that 20% in a few years.





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

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Danny Cioffari
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Danny Cioffari

is this a running series of maybe logic inspired by robert anton wilson?