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.

Two weeks ago, I published the first such report for the 2016 college campaign; last week, the second one. What follows represents the third installment of a possibly infinite series.

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 courtesy Baseball Cube and are current through Wednesday’s games.

ACC
Top Batter
Corey Ray, COF, Louisville (Jr)

Top Draft-Eligible Batter
Corey Ray, COF, Louisville (Jr)

Top Defensive-Type Batter
Chase Pinder, CF, Clemson (So)

Top Pitcher
Aaron McGarity, RHP, Virginia Tech (Jr)

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

Top Starter
Bailey Clark, RHP, Duke (Jr)

Top-Ten Batters of the ACC
Name School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP MPS+
Corey Ray Louisville Jr COF 59 8.5% .458 .350 11.8% .216 .351 136
Nick Yarnall Pitt Jr DH/1B 35 8.6% .533 .455 12.7% .201 .354 130
Chase Pinder Clemson So CF 49 6.1% .368 .323 11.1% .185 .350 125
Blake Tiberi Louisville So 3B 50 4.0% .318 .463 10.1% .175 .356 125
Alex Kowalczyk Pitt Sr C/DH 48 16.7% .405 .367 15.8% .192 .352 121
Elijah Sutherland No. Carolina Sr 2B 25 8.0% .500 .267 13.1% .180 .349 120
Seth Beer Clemson Fr COF 42 4.8% .314 .367 10.9% .169 .352 120
Pavin Smith Virginia So 1B/DH 60 1.7% .234 .313 8.4% .160 .349 119
Adam Haseley Virginia So CF 64 7.8% .245 .333 11.4% .164 .350 116
John Sansone Florida St. Sr 3B 65 6.2% .196 .444 10.5% .151 .356 115

Top-Ten Pitchers of the ACC
Name School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% MPS-
Aaron McGarity Virginia Tech Jr RHP 8.0 33 53.9% 6.0% 32.8% 8.1% 73
Patrick Krall Clemson Jr LHP 10.2 37 43.2% 5.4% 29.8% 8.0% 80
Bailey Clark Duke Jr RHP 18.1 71 33.8% 4.2% 28.3% 7.2% 82
Tyler Warmoth Florida St. R-Sr RHP 5.1 21 47.8% 4.8% 28.5% 8.1% 84
Jacob Stevens Boston Coll. Fr RHP 18.0 67 34.3% 7.5% 28.4% 8.2% 84
Matthew Gorst Geo. Tech Jr RHP 9.0 36 38.5% 5.5% 28.1% 8.0% 84
Alex Eubanks Clemson R-Fr RHP 17.0 64 31.3% 3.1% 26.8% 7.0% 85
Brendan McKay Louisville So LHP 21.0 77 31.2% 5.2% 27.2% 7.5% 86
Zac Gallen No. Carolina Jr RHP 22.1 84 31.0% 6.0% 27.2% 7.7% 86
Drew Harrington Louisville Jr LHP 17.1 68 29.4% 1.5% 26.0% 6.5% 86

Notes
Present once again atop the ACC’s batting leaders is Louisville junior outfielder Corey Ray, who has now recorded as many home runs as strikeouts (five, in each case) over the first 59 plate appearances of the season. The exhibition of power has been impressive. Also impressive, however, has been the rate at which he’s been making contact. After producing a strikeout rate of almost precisely 20% as a sophomore last year, Ray has more than halved that mark. One notes, of course, that Ray has likely benefited from Louisville’s non-conference schedule. And certainly, the relative ease of that schedule oughtn’t be ignored. Still, to match last year’s strikeout mark, Ray would now have to record 45 strikeouts over his next 238 plate appearances (for a roughly 23% mark). That seems unlikely at this point.

***

Pac-12
Top Batter
Logan Ice, C, Oregon St. (Jr)

Top Draft-Eligible Batter
Logan Ice, C, Oregon St. (Jr)

Top Defensive-Type Batter
Logan Ice, C, Oregon St. (Jr)

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)

Top-Ten Batters of the Pac-12
Name School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP MPS+
Logan Ice Oregon St. Jr C 43 2.3% .457 .375 10.9% .181 .325 135
Colby Woodmansee Arizona St. Jr SS 58 13.8% .318 .361 15.4% .164 .325 123
Brett Cumberland California So C 46 13.0% .324 .429 15.3% .157 .328 121
Jeremy Martinez USC Jr C/1B 55 0.0% .220 .275 8.9% .138 .321 121
Adalberto Carrillo USC So 3B 48 6.3% .289 .250 12.2% .151 .320 120
Patrick McGrath Wash St. Sr 1B/3B 46 4.3% .186 .385 11.5% .128 .326 115
AJ Young Utah Sr C/DH 38 15.8% .300 .261 16.5% .146 .321 113
KJ Harrison Oregon St. So 1B 55 14.5% .217 .395 15.8% .138 .327 113
Cody Scaggari Utah Sr 2B/SS 49 4.1% .159 .317 11.2% .123 .323 112
AJ Balta Oregon R-So COF 43 7.0% .222 .129 12.8% .134 .316 112

Top-Ten Pitchers of the Pac-12
Name School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% MPS-
Cole Irvin Oregon R-Jr LHP 22.0 82 33.1% 2.4% 27.3% 6.8% 77
Troy Rallings Washington Sr RHP 10.0 38 41.7% 7.8% 28.1% 8.7% 80
David Peterson Oregon So LHP 20.0 77 32.6% 5.2% 26.9% 7.7% 80
Griffin Canning UCLA So RHP 20.2 82 31.6% 4.9% 26.6% 7.6% 81
Matt Krook Oregon R-So LHP 17.0 68 38.2% 14.7% 29.3% 10.5% 81
Stephen Nogosek Oregon Jr RHP 8.1 31 42.2% 6.5% 27.3% 8.5% 82
Daulton Jefferies California Jr RHP 19.0 76 31.7% 5.3% 26.4% 7.8% 82
Erik Martinez California So RHP 9.1 39 38.8% 10.3% 27.1% 9.1% 84
Eder Erives Arizona St. Jr RHP 14.1 55 32.5% 7.2% 25.9% 8.5% 85
Spencer Jones Washington Sr RHP 13.2 54 29.8% 3.7% 24.7% 7.6% 86

Notes
Oregon currently features four pitchers — and three starters — among the Pac-12’s top-10 pitchers by the probably flawed method employed here. Cole Irvin, Matt Krook, and David Peterson have produced a collective 78:16 strikeout-to-walk ratio over nine starts and 59.0 innings. Have they benefited from their non-conference schedule? Perhaps. In any case, that triumvirate receive a legitimate test this weekend: on Friday, the Ducks begin a three-game series at Mississippi State, which latter school is ranked 20th by D1 Baseball. All three telecasts are available by way of SEC Network+ and Watch ESPN.

***

SEC
Top Batter
Jack Kruger, DH, Mississippi State (Jr)

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

Top Defensive-Type Batter
JaVon Shelby, 3B, Kentucky (Jr)

Top Pitcher
Robert Tyler, RHP, Georgia (Jr)

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

Top Starter
Robert Tyler, RHP, Georgia (Jr)

Top-Ten Batters of the SEC
Name School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP MPS+
Jack Kruger Miss. St. Jr DH 59 8.5% .375 .500 11.8% .203 .348 130
JaVon Shelby Kentucky Jr 3B 54 13.0% .415 .323 14.1% .209 .339 126
Jake Arledge Arkansas Jr OF 43 9.3% .393 .478 12.6% .194 .345 124
Jeren Kendall Vanderbilt Jr COF 62 9.7% .314 .476 12.3% .190 .347 124
Jordan Romero LSU Jr C/DH 27 7.4% .526 .333 12.7% .197 .339 123
John Jones So. Carolina So DH/C 64 14.1% .300 .541 14.5% .187 .351 121
JJ Schwarz Florida So C/DH 65 12.3% .319 .316 13.6% .193 .338 120
Hunter Melton Texas A&M Sr 1B 63 9.5% .283 .409 12.2% .182 .343 120
Michael Bernal Arkansas R-Sr SS 55 7.3% .319 .205 11.3% .187 .333 119
Deacon Liput Florida Fr 2B 61 4.9% .245 .413 9.9% .171 .343 119

Top-Ten Pitchers of the SEC
Name School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% MPS-
Robert Tyler Georgia Jr RHP 17.0 63 44.4% 4.8% 33.7% 7.5% 72
Adam Hill So. Carolina Fr RHP 14.0 53 45.2% 3.8% 33.2% 7.4% 73
Tyler Johnson So. Carolina So RHP 6.2 29 44.8% 6.9% 30.1% 8.3% 83
Thomas Burrows Alabama Jr LHP 8.0 30 44.0% 6.8% 30.0% 8.3% 84
Joey Abraham Vanderbilt So RHP 9.2 38 42.1% 10.5% 30.4% 8.9% 84
Alex Faedo Florida So RHP 17.0 66 34.9% 6.1% 29.3% 7.9% 84
Caleb Gilbert LSU Fr RHP 8.1 35 40.4% 5.8% 29.5% 8.1% 85
Patrick Raby Vanderbilt Fr RHP 14.1 56 37.2% 8.9% 29.9% 8.6% 85
Ryan Hendrix Texas A&M Jr RHP 7.2 27 47.7% 14.7% 30.7% 9.4% 85
Sean Hjelle Kentucky Fr RHP 4.0 18 51.0% 5.7% 29.5% 8.3% 85

Notes
It’s not unusual to find Robert Tyler’s name atop the pitching leaderboard here. The right-handed Georgia junior possesses excellent arm speed and is beginning to produce numbers commensurate with his physical tools. Less expected is the presence of South Carolina right-hander Adam Hill just below Tyler on that same leaderboard. The freshman has now recorded a 24:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio over three starts and 14.0 innings. In his most recent effort, Hill struck out five of 11 Wofford batters he faced over 3.0 innings, an appearance that was truncated not due to ineffectiveness or injury, but to South Carolina’s decision to move Hill from midweek to the Gamecocks’ weekend rotation. Shall we all regard together hastily edited video footage from Hill’s most recent start? “Yes,” appears to be the only possible answer the question.

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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Brian Baker
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Brian Baker

Good stuff Carson. A topic that has always fascinated me as well.