The Top Performances of College Baseball

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 over the first weeks of the college season.

As in the first ever edition of this same thing from last week, 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, in light of how the three conferences here feature a plurality of college baseball’s best teams and yet how none of them have played a conference matchup so, that means (almost by definition) that most of the teams 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
Pavin Smith, 1B, Virginia (Fr)

Top Draft-Eligible Batter
Alex Perez, 2B, Virginia Tech (Sr)

Top Defensive-Type Batter
Cavan Biggio 2B, Notre Dame (So)

Top Pitcher
Drew Harrington, LHP, Louisville (So)

Top Draft-Eligible Pitcher
Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville (Jr)

Top Starter
Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville (Jr)

Top-Five Batters

# Name School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP KATOH+
1 Pavin Smith Virginia Fr 1B 35 14.3% .379 .455 16.7% .162 .350 120
2 Kel Johnson Georgia Tech Fr RF 38 23.7% .444 .391 20.3% .176 .348 120
3 Cavan Biggio Notre Dame So 2B 40 17.5% .323 .667 17.9% .156 .358 119
4 Matt Thaiss Virgnia So C/DH 35 2.9% .286 .320 12.5% .146 .346 118
5 Alex Perez Virginia Tech Sr 2B 34 5.9% .296 .292 13.7% .147 .345 117

Top-Five Pitchers

# Name School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% KATOH-
1 Drew Harrington Louisville So LHP 10.1 37 40.5% 2.7% 27.6% 7.0% 80
2 Brendan McKay Louisville Fr LHP 7.0 26 46.2% 3.8% 27.6% 7.4% 80
3 Kyle Funkhouser Louisville Jr RHP 11.2 49 38.8% 8.2% 28.2% 8.0% 81
4 Benton Moss N. Carolina Sr RHP 8.2 39 41.0% 7.7% 28.0% 7.9% 81
5 T.J. Zeuch Pittburgh Fr RHP 13.1 53 32.1% 0.0% 25.6% 6.1% 82

Notes
Freshman Pavin Smith was selected in the 32nd round of last year’s draft by Colorado, but didn’t sign. He’s started all seven of Virginia’s games so far — six of them at first base and a seventh at designated hitter — hitting two home runs over the last week. Sophomore Cavan Biggio (son of Craig) plays second base for a Notre Dame club that has won seven of its first eight games. As a team, Louisville have recorded a roughly conference-average ERA. Three of the school’s pitchers, however — starter Kyle Funkhouser and relievers Drew Harrington and Brendan McKay — have conspired to produce the top-three lines (by this methodology, at least) thus far in the ACC.

***

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

Top Draft-Eligible Batter
RJ Ybarra, DH, Arizona St (Jr)

Top Defensive-Type Batter
Scott Kingery, 2B, Arizona (Jr)

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

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

Top Starter
Daulton Jefferies, RHP, California (So)

Top-Five Batters

# Name School Yr Pos PA K% ISO BABIP xK% xISO xBABIP KATOH+
1 KJ Harrison Oregon St. Fr 1B/C 38 21.1% .529 .500 18.1% .201 .344 127
2 RJ Ybarra Arizona St. Jr DH 19 5.3% .647 .286 13.6% .181 .338 123
3 Scott Kingery Arizona Jr 2B 50 2.0% .227 .442 9.8% .152 .343 119
4 Brett Cumberland California Fr C/DH 34 23.5% .462 .467 18.9% .184 .343 118
5 Riley Moore Arizona Sr C/DH 44 4.5% .250 .424 11.3% .154 .342 118

Top-Five Pitchers

# Name School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% KATOH-
1 Ryan Burr Arizona St. Jr RHP 8.0 35 45.7% 8.6% 29.6% 8.4% 79
2 Bernardo Flores USC So LHP 9.1 38 39.5% 2.6% 27.9% 7.3% 81
3 David Berg UCLA Sr RHP 7.0 29 41.4% 3.4% 27.4% 7.6% 83
4 Dylan Neslon California Sr RHP 5.0 21 52.4% 14.3% 28.7% 9.0% 83
5 Brandon Choate Washington Sr RHP 9.0 36 38.9% 5.6% 27.5% 7.8% 83

Notes
As a team, Oregon State have recorded seven home runs, four of which belong to freshman KJ Harrison. Selected by Cleveland in the 25th round of the most recent draft, Harrison has started all eight of the club’s game. He’s played predominantly first base, but has also recorded a start at catcher, as well. The top eight spots on the Pac-12’s KATOH pitching leaderboard are occupied by relievers. Ninth is right-handed California sophomore Daulton Jefferies. Jefferies has struck out 18 of the 47 batters he’s faced (34.6%) over his first 11.2 innings. He sat at 92-96 mph and featured an 88-mph slider, according to D1 Baseball’s Shotgun Spratling, during his start against Duke.

***

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

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

Top Defensive-Type Batter
Kade Scivicque, C, LSU (Sr)

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

Top Draft-Eligible Pitcher
Justin Camp, RHP, Auburn (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 36 19.4% .533 .368 16.5% .219 .354 122
2 Kade Scivicque LSU Sr C 21 0.0% .556 .375 10.9% .197 .354 122
3 Casey Hughston Alabama So RF 37 16.2% .424 .731 15.3% .201 .366 122
4 Zack Bowers Georgia Jr C/1B 30 16.7% .500 .438 15.4% .205 .356 119
5 Logan Taylor Texas A&M Jr LF 29 20.7% .522 .429 16.7% .206 .356 118

Top-Five Pitchers

# Name School Yr Pos IP TBF K% BB% xK% xBB% KATOH-
1 Brady Bramlett Ole Miss So RHP 12.0 43 44.2% 2.3% 32.0% 8.1% 77
2 Wil Crowe S. Carolina So RHP 10.1 41 41.5% 7.3% 30.8% 9.1% 83
3 Justin Camp Auburn Jr RHP 5.0 21 52.4% 9.5% 31.0% 9.6% 83
4 Brigham Hill Texas A&M Fr RHP 6.2 28 42.9% 7.1% 29.8% 9.2% 85
5 Alex Lange LSU Fr RHP 10.0 41 39.0% 9.8% 29.9% 9.6% 86

Notes
Florida junior outfielder Harrison Bader appeared atop the SEC batter’s leaderboard here last week, which spot he’s retained through the second week of the season, as well. Bader and his prospects for the 2015 draft were the object of much scrutiny in a post published by the author yesterday. Left undrafted last summer, LSU senior Kade Scivicque has produced one of the SEC’s top batting lines so far while recording the majority of the team’s starts at catcher. In each of the last two seasons, Auburn reliever Justin Camp has recorded nearly 30 strikeouts in nearly 45 innings. In just two weeks this season, he’s posted 11 strikeouts in just 5.0 innings. He’s listed at only 6-foot-1 and doesn’t offer any physical projections, but sits at around 92 mph with his fastball in relief, throws a breaking pitch with good bite and also threw the breathlessly excellent changeup featured below at the end of his most recent appearance — which pitch was approximately 18 mph slower than the previous pitch.

The aforementioned changeup:

Camp CH Right

And the same thing in slow motion:

Camp CH Right Slow





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

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Darkstone42
Member
Darkstone42

Riley Moore could surprise some folks with his power this season, I think, and make himself a legitimate draft prospect. The defense remains good, but the only thing Arizona has going for them is a potent lineup, and he hits cleanup in it. He’s always used the whole field well, but this year, he’s driving the ball, including two home runs against Rice this past weekend in a very large ballpark which does not yield many round-trippers.

I’m going to claim him as “my guy” out of this year’s collegiate draft class, by which I mean the player who isn’t really being talked about, but who will ultimately prove to be a solid professional ballplayer.