The Top College Players by (Maybe) Predictive Stats

What follows does not constitute the most rigorous of statistical analyses. Rather, it’s designed to serve as a nearly responsible shorthand for people who, like the author, have considerably more enthusiasm for than actual knowledge of the collegiate game — a shorthand means, that is, towards detecting which players have produced the most excellent performances of the college season.

As in the first three editions of this same thing, what I’ve done is utilize principles recently 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: KATOH+ for hitters (where 100 is league average and above 100 is better than league average) and KATOH- (where 100 is league average and below 100 is better than league average.

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. Here are the types of player: top overall batter, top draft-eligible batter, top defensive-type batter*, top overall pitcher, top draft-eligible pitcher, and top starting pitcher. And here are the conferences: the Atlantic Coast (ACC), the Pacific 12 (Pac-12), and the Southeastern (SEC). As for why I’ve chosen those three conferences, it’s because they featured the most teams collectively included in D1 Baseball’s top-25 preseason rankings.

*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. Chief among them: these numbers don’t account at all for quality of opponent. That’s relevant because the three conferences here feature a plurality of college baseball’s best teams and yet few, if any, of them them have played a conference matchup. Which, that means (almost by definition) that most of the teams here have faced inferior competition.

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. Note that xK%, xISO, and xBABIP denote expected strikeout rate, isolated power, and batting average on balls in play, respectively.

ACC
Top Batter
Will Craig, 1B, Wake Forest (So)

Top Draft-Eligible Batter
David Thompson, 3B, Miami (Jr)

Top Defensive-Type Batter
Matt Thaiss, C, Virgnia (So)

Top Pitcher
Brendan McKay, LHP, Louisville (Fr)

Top Draft-Eligible Pitcher
Benton Moss, RHP, N. Carolina (Sr)

Top Starter
Benton Moss, RHP, N. Carolina (Sr)

Top-Five Batters

# Name School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP KATOH+
1 Will Craig Wake Forest So 1B 93 9.7% .364 .452 13.1% .210 .347 142
2 Matt Thaiss Virginia So C 76 6.6% .344 .302 11.8% .194 .336 134
3 David Thompson Miami Jr 3B 97 7.2% .253 .353 11.5% .173 .340 128
4 Kel Johnson Georgia Tech Fr RF 88 26.1% .354 .460 23.0% .204 .348 126
5 Alex Perez Virginia Tech Sr 2B 87 9.2% .264 .311 13.0% .174 .337 125

Top-Five Pitchers

# Name School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% KATOH-
1 Brendan McKay Louisville Fr LHP 19.0 72 41.7% 8.3% 31.6% 8.8% 72
2 Benton Moss N. Carolina Sr RHP 15.2 65 40.0% 4.6% 30.2% 7.7% 73
3 T.J. Zeuch Pittsburgh Fr RHP 31.1 122 32.0% 2.5% 28.0% 6.2% 75
4 Drew Harrington Louisville So LHP 18.2 71 38.0% 8.5% 29.7% 8.8% 77
5 Matt Pidich Pittsburgh So RHP 15.1 59 39.0% 8.5% 29.3% 8.8% 78

Notes
Florida’s David Thompson was the object of some discussion between the author and lead prospect analyst Kiley McDaniel when the former (an imbecile) attempted to craft his first pref list. The junior third-baseman recorded six homers in ca. 200 plate appearances as a freshman, but then zero in roughly 100 plate appearances last year as a sophomore. Of note, however, is that last year he was also recovering from a surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome. Now Thompson has four homers — and just a 7.2% strikeout rate — in roughly 100 plate appearances.

***

Pac-12
Top Batter
KJ Harrison, 1B/C, Oregon St. (Fr)

Top Draft-Eligible Batter
Chris Paul, 1B, California (Sr)

Top Defensive-Type Batter
Chris Keck, 3B, UCLA (Sr)

Top Pitcher
Ryan Burr, RHP, Arizona St. (Jr)

Top Draft-Eligible Pitcher
Ryan Burr, RHP, Arizona St. (Jr)

Top Starter
Griffin Canning, RHP, UCLA (Fr)

Top-Five Batters

# Name School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP KATOH+
1 KJ Harrison Oregon St. Fr 1B/C 96 15.6% .388 .458 15.9% .217 .345 140
2 Chris Paul California Sr 1B 80 7.5% .308 .436 11.3% .182 .342 132
3 Chris Keck UCLA Sr 3B 79 15.2% .369 .362 15.7% .200 .337 131
4 Gabe Clark Oregon St. Jr DH 67 17.9% .400 .297 17.2% .200 .333 128
5 Kevin Kramer UCLA Jr SS 89 11.2% .274 .458 13.3% .175 .345 127

Top-Five Pitchers

# Name School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% KATOH-
1 Ryan Burr Arizona St. Jr RHP 13.2 59 45.8% 11.9% 31.8% 9.2% 71
2 Griffin Canning UCLA Fr RHP 29.2 114 33.3% 3.5% 28.3% 6.4% 73
3 James Kaprielian UCLA Jr RHP 31.1 126 31.0% 4.0% 27.0% 6.4% 76
4 Bernardo Flores USC So LHP 13.1 54 37.0% 3.7% 27.4% 7.2% 77
5 David Berg UCLA Jr RHP 18.0 78 32.1% 2.6% 26.3% 6.5% 78

Notes
Nothing about senior third-baseman Chris Keck’s season thus far resembles his previously established levels. Over this first three years with UCLA, he recorded just two home runs in roughly 250 plate appearances. Over roughly 80 plate appearances this season, he’s already hit six of them. Only two other players in the conference — Oregon State tandem Gabe Clark and KJ Harrison — have produced a regressed isolated-power figure of .200 or better, and neither of them have made as much contact as Keck. Undrafted after his junior year, that particular interval of history is unlikely to repeat itself.

***

SEC
Top Batter
Harrison Bader, LF, Florida (Jr)

Top Draft-Eligible Batter
Harrison Bader, LF, Florida (Jr)

Top Defensive-Type Batter
Mikey White, SS, Alabama (Jr)

Top Pitcher
Ben Bowden, LHP, Vanderbilt (So)

Top Draft-Eligible Pitcher
Andrew Lee, RHP, Tennessee (Jr)

Top Starter
Brady Bramlett, RHP, Ole Miss (So)

Top-Five Batters

# Name School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP KATOH+
1 Harrison Bader Florida Jr LF 84 13.1% .484 .413 14.2% .246 .339 148
2 Mikey White Alabama Jr SS 83 12.0% .348 .458 13.6% .202 .342 133
3 Alex Bregman LSU Jr SS 98 2.0% .284 .289 7.3% .187 .330 132
4 Casey Hughston Alabama So RF 85 21.2% .351 .574 18.9% .204 .351 130
5 Rhett Wiseman Vanderbilt Jr RF 103 16.5% .302 .508 16.2% .195 .348 129

Top-Five Pitchers

# Name School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% KATOH-
1 Ben Bowden Vanderbilt So LHP 13.2 50 46.0% 8.0% 32.8% 9.2% 74
2 Brady Bramlett Ole Miss So RHP 29.0 111 32.4% 3.6% 28.9% 7.2% 79
3 Alex Lange LSU Fr RHP 31.0 117 33.3% 6.8% 29.6% 8.4% 81
4 Daniel Brown Miss. St. So LHP 13.0 50 40.0% 8.0% 30.3% 9.2% 81
5 Cole Lipscomb Auburn So RHP 22.1 90 33.3% 5.6% 29.0% 8.1% 81

Notes
While his name doesn’t appear beneath any of the three batting-related bold headings above, LSU shortstop Alex Bregman’s offensive accomplishment thus far this season is substantial: he’s the only batter in all the Southeastern Conference to have recorded more home runs than strikeouts. And, actually, it’s not particularly close at the moment: Bregman has a +3 differential, while the next-best mark belongs to a bunch of players tied at zero. Nor is this the only source of his offensive value: Bregman is also tied for second among all SEC player in stolen bases, having recorded 13 of them in 15 attempts.

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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JC Denton
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JC Denton

kek indeed