The 2009 MLB Draft's College Hitters Crop

It's a prospect-nik's favorite time of year, as the draft is upon us. Just one more day and there will be no more mock drafts and no more rumors. Just the draft and a bunch of knee-jerk reactions.

We determined in our draft study that college hitters, on average as a group, are slightly more productive than high school hitters, and are far more productive than college or high school pitchers, or at least they were during the 1990's. Other studies show that college hitters hold the same advantage in the supplemental and second round before that upper hand evaporates in the third round. 1st to 3rd rounders is who we will be looking at.

Please note that the information offered below is intended to be instructive rather than conclusive. The usual caveats with college statistics apply, but I did take a couple of steps to even things out, like adjusting for park and strength of schedule. I used gross production average, an easy to interpret version of OPS, to measure production at the plate. The exact formula is (OBP*1.8+SLG)/4, and then divided by the square root of the Park Factor times the Strength of Schedule.  For more context, I'll refer you to this post at Phuture Phillies to eyeball the different league averages for conferences, but the data is from a year ago, so I'm not sure how much it rings true to this year, but it's better than nothing.

While stats inform us about the past, they seldom tell the whole story when it comes to projecting how collegiate baseball talent will perform at the next level. We ought to soak up all the info we can from 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 intangibles. There's also a "6th tool", if you will, and that is controlling the strike zone. To help with that, I listed out the batter's strikeout and walk per plate appearance percentages, but those numbers also do not tell us the whole story. Again, that's where scouting reports come in.

To drive the nail home that big college numbers don't always equal big league success, feel free to peruse some of Boyd's Adjusted OPS leader boards from years gone by.  There's some interesting names on there, ranging from Ryan Braun to John McCurdy.

Alright, enough caveats, let's look at some numbers and talk about some of the top hitting talent in this draft.

 

Name POS School Adj. GPA BB% K% Expected Pick
Dustin Ackley 1B/CF North Carolina .431 16% 10% Top 5
Grant Green SS USC .344 8% 16% Top 5-15
Tim Wheeler CF Sacramento St .432 12% 11% 1st round
AJ Pollock CF Notre Dame .356 11% 8% 1st round
Jared Mitchell CF LSU .323 20% 23% 1st round
Tony Sanchez C Boston College .357 11% 16% 1st round
Rich Poythress 1B Georgia .422 15% 14% 1st round
Brett Jackson CF California .339 12% 24% Supplemental
Kentrail Davis CF Tennessee .337 13% 19% Supplemental
Marc Krauss OF/3B Ohio .443 18% 11% 3rd-4th round
Jason Kipnis OF Arizona State .379 17% 11% Supplemental-2nd
D.J. LeMahieu 2B LSU .275 10% 13% 2nd-3rd round
Josh Phegley C Indiana .365 16% 13% Supplemental-2nd
Ryan Jackson SS Miami (FL) .244 14% 14% 3rd-4th round
Chris Dominguez 3B Louisville .370 11% 18% 3rd-4th round
Tommy Mendonca 3B Fresno St. .377 12% 23% 3rd-4th round
Matt den Dekker CF Florida .280 12% 17% 2nd round
Kyle Seager 3B North Carolina .358 14% 12% 2nd round
Kent Matthes OF Alabama .413 13% 18% 3rd-4th round
Angelo Songco OF Loyola Maramount .389 15% 19% 2nd round

Scouting snippets on the each of these players after the jump.

  • Dustin Ackley is the best hitter of the draft, and it's not even close. He played mostly first base this season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but should handle center field just fine. Scouts believe several batting titles are a distinct possibility for Ackley.
  • Grant Green drew some wild comparisons to Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria last summer in the Cape Cod League, but had a less than stellar junior season. He got off to a very slow start before coming alive later in the spring. He has the lowest walk rate of any of these draft prospects and only hit 4 home runs all season.  I've read mixed reviews on his defense.  If he can't stick at short, his value really sinks.
  • Tim Wheeler hit 3 homers his sophomore season, 18 this past season. Couple that with a .500 OBP and you have one amazing season. His performance is on par with Ackley's, but his tools across the board are Lake Wobegonish.
  • Pollock is similar to Wheeler, but with better bat control but not the pop. Think Skip Schumaker, in fact there's the notion of moving him to second base, where his bat would play a lot better. 
  • Jared Mitchell also played wide receiver for LSU and is the draft's best collegiate athlete by a country mile. He's longer on tools than he is on performance, and is seen as a high-risk, high-reward type of pick. Gotta like the walk rate.
  • Tony Sanchez could go 4th overall to the Pirates according to a couple of rumors out there, but he is more of a back of the first round type of talent. His defense is his best asset.
  • Rich Poythress is your prototypical slugging first baseman with power and patience. 
  • If you see Kentrail Davis, he will remind you of a young Kirby Puckett. He's a draft eligible sophomore who could be a tough sign. With the type of performance he had, I think he'll go back to school.
  • Brett Jackson is an impressive athlete with several plus tools (arm, power, speed) and several holes in his swing. High risk, high reward.
  • Marc Krauss put up video game numbers, but it was on level "easy", as he faced a weak schedule in the Mid-American Conference. Even so, after adjusting for strength of schedule, his offensive numbers exceed any of the other top draft prospects.  He also hit well in the Cape this past summer, posting a .473 OBP.
  • Jason Kipnis had a monster season, but is viewed as a possible tweener. He doesn't have the range or arm to stay in center field, and his bat doesn't profile as well in a corner spot, despite what the numbers say. There's a wild rumor the Indians will pick him 15th overall and move him to second base.
  • D.J. LeMahieu was believed to be a first rounder before the season began, but defensive struggles pushed him to 2B and offensive struggles might push him down to the 4th round. He's a sophomore who will likely take a mulligan and go back to LSU.
  • Josh Phegley can really rake for a catcher, but probably won't stay a catcher, which dings his value.
  • Ryan Jackson is the draft's best defensive shortstop and the NCAA's answer to Adam Everett.
  • Chris Dominguez is a Dave Kingman-like player, only with a rocket arm at the hot corner.
  • Tommy Mendonica is Chris Dominguez, sans the rocket. He's noted to have a fantastic glove at the hot corner.
  • Matt den Dekker's bat is a question mark, but he can run like the wind, is a heady base-stealer and can field his position extremely well.
  • Kyle Seager's upside is said to be Bill Mueller-esque.
  • Kent Matthes is a senior who put up a ridiculous .500 ISO for the Tide. His pitch recognition and plate discipline is questionable, but he showed improvement this year.
  • Angelo Songco is known for a quirky batting stance and a quick bat.  His power is a plus, but he is vulnerable to breaking stuff.

From my study, if this draft class lives is merely average, just two of the players taken in the first round will live up to their billing. After the first round, even fewer are expected to succeed. But for the teams who makes the right picks, the payoffs will be huge. I love draft day.

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