Top College Draft Picks Splitsville for the Pros
Thanks to College Baseball Splits, we can analyze the statistics of college hitters and pitchers better than ever before. Powered by play-by-play logs, founders Kent Bonham and Jeff Sackmann have sliced and diced the data to develop extensive splits and situational statistics (through draft day) for 350 NCAA teams.
Using the links provided for college players selected on the first day of the 2008 amateur draft, I have cut and pasted the overall rate stats, as well as those vs. RHP/LHP, Home/Road, and on Fridays (which is generally against the ace of the opposing team), for all of the hitters chosen in the first and supplemental rounds last week. I have also added comments about the player to each entry.
Please note that the information offered below is intended to be instructive rather than conclusive. There are a number of caveats to consider, including the small sample sizes and the fact that the stats are unadjusted for ballpark effects and level of competition, both of which can play huge roles at any level but particularly in amateur baseball. For those of you who would like to make mental adjustments, be sure to check out the park factors and strength of schedules at Boyd's World.
While statistics tell us a great deal about the past, they rarely tell the complete story when it comes to projecting how amateur baseball talent will perform at the next level. Although our eyes can fool us at times – especially among the untrained – we should pay close attention to scouting reports, which rate players for their five tools (ability to hit for average and power, speed, fielding, and throwing arm), as well as makeup and other intangible factors. Like many others, I would also add a sixth tool that is as important as the others: the ability to control the strike zone (which basically comes down to plate discipline and pitch recognition).
Strikeouts and walks as a percentage of plate appearances and as a ratio tell a pretty good picture as far as plate discipline goes but seeing is believing when it comes to evaluating pitch recognition. Some players have it and others don't. A hitter may be able to rip 90-mph fastballs all over the park, but if he is unable to distinguish a slider from a fastball (or a strike from a ball), he is going to have a tough time adjusting to more advanced pitchers.
Lastly, it is important to note that college baseball hitters use aluminum bats whereas professional hitters use wood bats. In a nutshell, aluminum bats outperform wood bats. The sweet spot is larger and the balls come off the metal bats faster. Moreover, the barrel of an aluminum bat is hollow and the distribution of weight is substantially different than it is for a solid wood bat. The bottom line is that some players who hit well with an aluminum bat don't always transfer that skill set to the wood bat. As a result, talent evaluators like to see how amateur hitters perform with Team USA or in the Cape Cod League and other circuits and showcases where wood bats are required.
Here are the splits of hitters drafted in the first round:
Pedro Alvarez | 3B | Vanderbilt | Pittsburgh Pirates | #2
AVG OBP SLG TOT .319 .425 .595 RHP .337 .437 .624 LHP .290 .405 .548 HOME .313 .421 .521 ROAD .354 .455 .631 FRI .250 .372 .417
Pedro Alvarez suffered a hamate bone injury to his right hand early in the season and may not have returned to full strength until last month. After missing all but one game in February and all of March, his numbers improved over the course of the spring (April: .309/.404/.519; May: .333/.438/.693). Alvarez's Friday stats were less than inspiring, but we're only talking about 43 plate appearances here. His full body of work, including playing on the USA National Team twice during his collegiate career, is impressive. Importantly, he has always hit well with the wood bat, leading Team USA in batting average (.315), slugging percentage (.551), and home runs (7) last summer.
Buster Posey | C | Florida State | San Francisco Giants | #5
AVG OBP SLG TOT .460 .566 .866 RHP .463 .575 .878 LHP .450 .542 .833 HOME .472 .573 .896 ROAD .451 .557 .805 FRI .467 .567 1.022
Buster Posey hit everybody and everywhere all season long. He led the nation in AVG, OBP, and SLG while catching almost every inning, making him a virtual shoo-in to capture the Golden Spikes and Dick Howser awards as the college player of the year. Posey climbed draft boards throughout the spring and was among a handful of players considered by the Rays for the #1 pick. His Cape Cod League stats (.281/.361/.375 with 3 HR in 128 AB) suggest that he may not be the power hitter with a wood bat in the pros that he was with an aluminum bat at the college level. We called Posey a "solid and safe high first-round pick" when Live Blogging the MLB Draft but Matt Wieters he's not.
Yonder Alonso | 1B | Miami | Cincinnati Reds | #7
AVG OBP SLG TOT .358 .532 .746 RHP .441 .602 .924 LHP .227 .410 .467 HOME .377 .558 .781 ROAD .362 .538 .759 FRI .410 .593 .949
Yonder Alonso was the first in a long line of highly regarded college first basemen taken in this year's draft. As evidenced by his 74 BB (which led the country) and 32 SO, Alonso's approach at the plate is outstanding. A lefthanded swinger, the only question is whether he can hit southpaws well enough to become a star at the highest level. However, his low BABIP of .236 may suggest he was a victim of bad luck, especially given the small sample size of 100 plate appearances. There is no doubt that he can swing the wood stick based on his .338/.468/.497 line in the Cape Cod League last year. Alonso topped all battters in OBP and was third in AVG.
Gordon Beckham | SS | Georgia | Chicago White Sox | #8
AVG OBP SLG TOT .403 .512 .798 RHP .408 .514 .846 LHP .350 .487 .600 HOME .408 .516 .808 ROAD .378 .515 .770 FRI .354 .500 .646
Gordon Beckham was, by far, the premier batsman among all college baseball middle infielders in this year's draft. There is little not to like, particularly when one considers the fact that the University of Georgia home field played to a park factor of 79 from 2004-2007, meaning it suppressed runs by 21% during this period. Including Regional and Super Regional action, Beckham is tied for the most home runs in the country with 26 in only 252 AB. He also led the Cape in homers with nine and was third in slugging average when he hit .284/.370/.529 for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, a team that also featured fellow first rounders Buster Posey and Juan Castro.
Jason Castro | C | Stanford | Houston Astros | #10
AVG OBP SLG TOT .364 .418 .587 RHP .348 .422 .630 LHP .386 .414 .535 HOME .351 .409 .641 ROAD .378 .429 .510 FRI .200 .310 .380
Although the Astros surprised many by selecting Jason Castro with the 10th pick in the draft, the lefthanded-hitting catcher is coming off a superb Cape Cod season (.341/.434/.488) and junior year (.379/.431/.617 through the Super Regionals). Of note, Stanford played the toughest schedule in the country and its home ballpark is much more friendly toward pitchers than hitters. The only fly in the ointment was his performance on Fridays, yet his low BABIP (.216) may indicate that he was simply unlucky. As for the draft pick itself, I don't believe there is such a thing as a reach in the first round, provided that the prospect in question is a first-round talent (which Castro certainly qualifies as). If you like a player, you have to take him right then and there as league rules prohibit trading picks.
Justin Smoak | 1B | South Carolina | Texas Rangers | #2
AVG OBP SLG TOT .380 .505 .751 RHP .413 .551 .819 LHP .317 .404 .622 HOME .406 .539 .836 ROAD .365 .465 .635 FRI .408 .483 .633
Justin Smoak is coming off a terrific season in which he slugged 23 HR for the Gamecocks. A switch-hitter, Smoak has been compared to Mark Teixeira and Chipper Jones by Peter Gammons and others. His performance with the wood bat has been mixed as he led the Cape Cod League in HR (11), XBH (21), and slugging average (.565) after his freshman season in 2006, then slumped to .223/.291/.380 for Team USA last summer, producing only 20 hits and no HR in his last 102 at-bats.
Jemile Weeks | 2B | Miami | Oakland A's | #12
AVG OBP SLG TOT .359 .445 .627 RHP .336 .424 .550 LHP .414 .494 .800 HOME .353 .442 .647 ROAD .368 .434 .574 FRI .333 .379 .667
Jemile Weeks was the A's highest draft pick since 1999. The switch-hitting second baseman has had pretty consistent splits across the board and will be on display this week when the Miami Hurricanes play in the College World Series. Look for Weeks to become a prototypical first or second hitter in the pros with his on-base skills and speed.
Brett Wallace | 3B | Arizona State | St. Louis Cardinals | #13
AVG OBP SLG TOT .412 .529 .759 RHP .452 .558 .793 LHP .364 .495 .739 HOME .403 .505 .792 ROAD .443 .575 .754 FRI .383 .526 .667
The Cardinals chose Brett Wallace as a third baseman even though his body and lack of mobility suggest he would be a better fit on the other side of the diamond. A two-time Pac-10 triple crown winner, Wallace can flat out hit. Although he may have benefited by playing his home games in a hitter-friendly ballpark (118 PF), Wallace's road numbers were outstanding in their own right. He hit .312/.345/.404 in the Cape last summer. One baseball executive told me that Wallace reminded him of Sean Casey.
David Cooper | 1B | Cal | Toronto Blue Jays | #17
AVG OBP SLG TOT .350 .442 .677 RHP .376 .448 .752 LHP .303 .432 .539 HOME .391 .489 .809 ROAD .293 .376 .467 FRI .321 .381 .607
David Cooper was selected by the Blue Jays after playing two seasons at Cal and his freshman year at Cal State Fullerton. The lefthanded-hitter's value rests with the bat as he is not known for his baserunning or fielding. Cooper and Yonder Alonso played for the Brewster White Caps in the Cape last summer with the former hitting .284/.415/.463 while mostly serving as the club's DH. On Tuesday, Cooper became the first player drafted in the top round to agree to a contract, signing for a $1.5 million bonus. He will report to Auburn of the New York-Penn League but is expected to move up to High-A Dunedin by the end of July.
Ike Davis | 1B | Arizona State | New York Mets | #18
AVG OBP SLG TOT .378 .459 .756 RHP .397 .475 .777 LHP .347 .430 .733 HOME .379 .456 .743 ROAD .340 .421 .760 FRI .305 .406 .441
Another first baseman, Ike Davis was taken by the Mets with the next pick at #18. While his overall stats speak for themselves, Davis pumped up his numbers by pounding Saturday and Sunday pitchers (42-for-91 with 15 2B and 10 HR). He "hit" only .246/.308/.298 in a shortened performance in the Cape last summer after struggling in the Alaskan Baseball League in 2006. It seems prudent to view Davis with a healthy dose of skepticism until the son of former major league reliever Ron proves he can handle a wood bat.
Reese Havens | SS | South Carolina | New York Mets | #22
AVG OBP SLG TOT .349 .479 .627 RHP .402 .524 .692 LHP .238 .384 .488 HOME .372 .497 .679 ROAD .310 .444 .529 FRI .231 .333 .385
The Mets made Reese Havens the club's second first-round draftee when they chose him with the 22nd overall pick. The shortstop teamed up with fellow infielders Justin Smoak and James Darnell at South Carolina. Although his splits were a bit more uneven than other first rounders, Havens clinched his draft standing last summer when he hit .314/.371/.487 in the Cape. He reportedly has agreed to a $1.4 signing bonus with the Mets.
Allan Dykstra | 1B | Wake Forest | San Diego Padres | #23
AVG OBP SLG TOT .323 .519 .645 RHP .310 .515 .578 LHP .343 .526 .757 HOME .359 .541 .769 ROAD .310 .496 .575 FRI .182 .413 .364
Excluding Brett Wallace from the mix, the Padres made Allan Dykstra the fifth first baseman selected in last week's draft. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound lefthanded hitter combines raw power with the ability to take a walk. He slugged 16 HR and ranked second in the country with 62 BB in only 56 games. Dykstra struggled on Friday nights (although in a much smaller sample size than normal), going 6-for-33 with 2 HR. He was named as an All-Star in the Cape Cod League last summer, hitting .308/.444/.481 while ranking third in OBP. Dykstra was a teammate at Wake Forest with second baseman Matt Antonelli, who was SD's first-round pick (17th overall) in 2006.
Here are the splits of hitters drafted in the supplemental round:
Conor Gillaspie | 3B | Wichita State | San Francisco Giants | #37
AVG OBP SLG TOT .424 .508 .710 RHP .432 .509 .696 LHP .406 .506 .703 HOME .438 .510 .652 ROAD .391 .481 .783 FRI .444 .510 .800
Until Conor Gillaspie was selected by the Giants, no college position player had been drafted with the previous 13 picks. The lefthanded-hitting third baseman is a pure hitter with an advanced approach at the plate. This combination is likely to produce a high batting average with lots of doubles and a fair share of walks in the pros. Gillaspie was the MVP in the Cape Cod League last summer when he hit .345/.448/.673 while ranking first in AVG and SLG and second in OBP.
Ryan Flaherty | 2B | Vanderbilt | Chicago Cubs | #41
AVG OBP SLG TOT .324 .413 .545 RHP .366 .457 .640 LHP .250 .333 .380 HOME .299 .399 .488 ROAD .329 .427 .632 FRI .368 .393 .526
A shortstop at Vanderbilt, Ryan Flaherty was drafted as a second baseman by the Cubs. His college numbers were more solid than spectacular. A lefthanded hitter, Flaherty didn't fare too well against southpaws. Tall and lanky, Ryan isn't particularly strong and never really showed much power until this season when he went yard 14 times. He hit .270/.309/.383 for Team USA while fading after the team's opening six games in New England. If Flaherty's tools are found wanting at the big league level, look for him to stick around as a utility player. He signed a contract with the Cubs this week.
Logan Forsythe | 3B | Arkansas | San Diego Padres | #46
AVG OBP SLG TOT .353 .479 .533 RHP .374 .509 .504 LHP .305 .394 .593 HOME .350 .442 .530 ROAD .356 .515 .548 FRI .432 .561 .750
Drafted by the Padres, Logan Forsythe was the last player selected in the supplemental round. A third baseman, he can also help out at second, short, and outfield if need be. Forsythe played for Team USA last summer on a broken foot and hit .309/.463/.404, ranking second in walks and striking out fewer times than any other starter. He underwent surgery in November, then suffered a hamstring pull in the spring, and the injury affected his stroke during non-conference play, leading to a 12-for-49 mark with 2 XBH, 0 HR, 6 BB, and 11 SO on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Forsythe has signed with San Diego.