02 May 2011

Collegiate Diamonds by the Numbers: Introduction and ACC

Unlike my fellow writer here at the depot, Nick Faleris, I do not see as much film as he does and have far less experience with scouting collegiate players.  As such, I scan over batting lines and employ strength of schedule adjustments of players in the college ranks over at College Baseball Splits.  Nick and others do a great job keeping us aware of talent likely to be selected in the top ten rounds.  I, on the other hand, like to look at the numbers that are available and determine if anything with that small a sample size and uneven competition can tell me anything about future success.  I prefer using the adjusted numbers from that website to try to normalize the data against the parks and strength of schedule.  All numbers cited in these posts are adjusted numbers and not raw numbers.

What are those criteria?

Plate discipline - I measure plate discipline by the walk rate and the ratio of walks to strikeouts.  I have arbitrarily set these lines as a walk rate >15% and a >1.5 BB:K ratio.  The thought behind this is to target players who have a good understanding of hittable pitches and their ability to work for a walk.

Contact rate - I also look for batting averages greater than .300.  From an anecdotal perspective, players with good plate discipline AND poor contact rates in college have trouble progressing through the minors.  As they face a greater number of pitchers with more command of their pitches, the opportunities for walks will decrease.  Pitchers are more likely to pitch in the zone and for a player to make contact.  Collegiate players who do not have good contact rates tend to get eaten up by pro-quality offerings.

Power - Good contact rate and plate discipline are a great foundation for a hitting skill set.  However, slapping the ball in professional leagues with players who field better is not as useful.  There are just not many Ichiro Suzukis out there.  In the pro game, there needs to be some power to go along with these skills.  Otherwise, pitchers will go at hitters and give them pitches to hit, knowing that there is unlikely to be much damage.  For this criteria, I set an ISO of .180.

The numbers I use above are eyeball figures.  My goal is to find players who sit above the 75th percentile for these three categories.  As I learn more these numbers may change.

Continue reading to see my review of several players in the Atlantic Coast Conference who match this criteria.  After the ACC, I will be going through each collegiate conference and identifying players who fit these criteria.

ACC (as of May 1st)

Hitting All Four

Matt Skole, 3B, Georgia Tech
386/497/575; 18% walk rate, 1.55 BB:K, .189 ISO
Diamond Scape Scouting: 6th best 3B (midseason), 102nd best overall (preseason)

Scouting the Sally has a nice write up of Skole over on his site.  Both DSS and StS see Skole as a top three round consideration.  By hitting the three areas I look for, Skole is showing a good core for measurable performance.  He does not exceed any of the criteria by much, but there is certainly the makings of a solid talent.  If he has to shift off third base and over to first, the value his bat provides matters more and there is certainly risk there.  The Orioles could potentially draft him in the second and maybe even third rounds.

Close, But Not Quite

Levi Michael, MIF, North Carolina
349/489/523; 22% walk rate, 1.78 BB:K, .174 ISO
Diamond Scape Scouting: 6th best 2B and 10th best SS (midseason), 66th best overall (preseason)

Levi just missed the .180 ISO criteria I set, but easily met the other three considerations.  He will likely go in the first round by a team that thinks he might be able to pull it off as a SS.  Both Keith Law and Baseball America have him as a top 25 prospect at this point.  It is unlikely the Orioles will see him when their second round selection comes around.  Here is a nice writeup of Levi from Baseball America. 

Future Draftees (not eligible this year)

Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina
360/469/615; 17% walk rate, 1.65 BB:K, .255 ISO

Colin's uncle is former Oriole B.J. Surhoff, who was a monster at North Carolina during his playing days.  Moran went undrafted last year due in large part to his commitment to North Carolina.  Nick Faleris wrote this about him last year, expecting his name to go off the board:
Colin Moran, 3B, Iona Prep HS (N.Y.) is a projectable third baseman committed to the Tar Heels if he doesn't sign with a pro club this summer. Like his brother, Colin has a slight build, but his long frame works well already to generate good leverage. His swing is projectable with easy mechanics and stands a good chance to see a big in-game spike in power production. If Moran loses a bit of quickness as he fills-in, he could be athletic enough to shift to an outfield corner before having to move over to first base.

Devon Travis, 2B, Florida State
335/450/532; 17% walk rate, 1.50 BB:K, .197 ISO

Travis has been doing well as a table setter for the Seminoles.  Travis went undrafted in 2009, but has begun to flourish in college.  Some of this is due to maturation, but his gap power has also increased as he has recovered from wrist surgery after his senior year of college.  He is another name to remember.

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