These days, we’re spoiled for statistical information on our favorite big league players, and it’s trickled down to the minors as well. But we just don’t see a lot of quantitative analysis on college players around the ‘net. It’s a shame, too, because when hearing name after name being called on draft day, there’s little we know about the players who are being called and how they truly performed against their peers. Sure, the top players get some ink, but after the first couple of rounds we’re left with some superficial college stats that may look good on the surface but tell us nothing about the context they were in.
Thankfully, there are some hard workers out there like Mike Rogers, who have taken the time to apply some of the advanced metrics to the college game to give us more information on some of these draft picks out of the D-I schools. He’s also been kind enough to share with me his findings. Mike has used Tango’s wOBA (weighted on-base average) for players, as well as speed scores, isolated power, walk rates, strikeout rates and the like to find some of the top college performers in the draft. He’s even applied things like strength of schedule, average conference stats and park factors for context.
Now, I recommend reading the scouting reports first. Tools trump performance in evaluating amateurs. Just because someone is a good college baseball player doesn’t guarantee success at the major league level. But this does tell us more about what these players have done, and one thing we know, the Cardinals highly value track record in many ways.
I don’t want to take up too much time explaining how Mike evaluates players, but you can read more at an article he and Myron Logan penned at Baseball Analysts. He has six tiers of scores in his system: Anything over 122 is elite, anything over 102-121 is considered to be very good, 82-101 as “good”, 61-81 as average/above-average, 41-60 as below-average, 21 or worse is just plain bad.
Speed scores are scaled down and to eyeball it, keep this in mind: -5 is terrible, 0 is bad, 5 is average, 10 is good, 15 is great, 20+ is flat-out burner.
Let’s look at the players the Cardinals drafted early and how rate statistically.
After making adjustments, Stock doesn’t look like someone who has to convert to pitching permanently, especially not for a 19-year old. Stock has shown a pretty good eye at the plate. Comparing ’09 with ’08, it’s obvious Stock was willing to trade contact for power, and that caused him to get out of sorts. He hit .299 in ’08, .236 this past year. To me it sounds like a kid who is trying to develop an identity at the plate after not quite delivering on the hype right away. There are plenty of positives here to cause me to believe he can still be a fine backstop, and there is still plan B should he falter.
Defense is Jackson’s thing, as scouts say his glove would play in the big leagues right now. We know the bat is sketchy at best. Jackson actually hit fairly well in 2008 in the batting average department, but his most recent season rates higher in Mike’s system due to the increased walk rate. If he can continue to control the strike-zone, draw a half-decent amount of walks while playing top notch defense, then you got a pretty nice 5th round pick. Neither Jackson or Stock really wow with the numbers, but both get some bonus points from me for playing tough positions, and playing them well.
Reading the scouting reports, Conley sounds Chris Duncan-esque. Big, tall hitter with pull power, weak contact and defensive skills. He took a step back this year, especially in the strikeout department, and his final rating he went from great to good. Conley tried to slim down and change his approach to an “all-fields” approach, maybe he should retrace his steps.
Stidham seems to be Dan Descalso-like, only with less contact and more power. Good walk rate and he definitely was one of the best college performers this year. He offers little in the way of speed and while he was drafted as a shortstop, second-base seems inevitable. Stidham was abysmal in the Cape Cod League until the playoffs, so there is the concern he’s more of a “ping” hitter, but he sounds like an interesting sleeper. The last time the Cardinals took an elite FSU performer was Shane Robinson, and say what you will about Robinson, he made the big leagues.
I like the hitters the Cardinals drafted early for the most part. You can argue that they should have drafted so-and-so over some of these players, but each player brings some interesting abilities. I think Conley and Stidham are interesting sleepers who could either top out AA or surprise. Getting a role player in the 7th and 8th round is a major success, so it’s not like they have to put on a show. Stock is a bit of a wild card, and despite Jackson’s offensive foibles I love what I hear about his defense and the Cardinals could use some depth at SS.
Bear in mind this statistical break-down is more about what the player has done then what they will do, but hopefully it gives you more context as to how these players performed. Hopefully their success in Division I carries over.