Alternate Universe Chris Volstad

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Yesterday we threw some numbers around and came up with an Alternate Universe version of Andrew McCutchen at the University of Florida. Switching to the pitching side, an interesting candidate for similar treatment is Chris Volstad, first-round pick of the Marlins out of high school in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, in 2005. He had a University of Miami scholarship, but passed that up to sign as the 16th overall pick.

What would Volstad's stock be like right now if he had gone to college?

Statistically, I'm not nearly as comfortable guesstimating numbers for a pro/college pitcher conversion as I was for a hitter, and even doing a hitter requires all sorts of assumptions which may be bogus. Still, you can manipulate the numbers for a hitter and come up with a plausable guess.

Volstad's "freshman" year in 2006, he went 11-8, 3.08 with a 99/36 K/BB in 152 innings, allowing 161 hits for Greensboro in the Sally League. It seems unlikely that his numbers would have been any WORSE in college, but how much better would they be?  The team ERA for Miami in 2006 was 4.33, and none of their regular starters had an ERA less than 4.31. The run environment, metal bat, and level of competition are so radically different. The same thing goes for 2007: how do we rate a 4.50 ERA and a 93/37 K/BB in the Florida State League, or a 3.16 ERA and a 25/10 K/BB in 42 innings in the Southern League into college numbers? Someone smarter than I am could probably do it, but I'm not that smart. If someone wants to try it, be my guest.

So we will turn to the scouting reports and see if they have changed much. Volstad's Baseball America scouting reports entering 2006 rate him as a tall, projectable right-hander with an 89-91 MPH fastball that occasionally hits 94. His curveball and changeup were promising, but inconsistent. HIs BA scouting reports entering 2007 rate him as a tall, projectable right-hander with an 88-92 MPH fastball, along with moderate improvement in his curveball and changeup compared to 2006. His scouting reports entering 2008 show him at 89-92 MPH, occasionally hitting 94 MPH, and continued improvement in his curveball and changeup.

See a pattern? Scouts expected Volstad's velocity to pick up by now, but it hasn't happened, at least not consistently. His secondary offerings have reportedly improved, but this has not shown up in his component ratios: indeed, he's been very hittable (422 hits in 385 career innings) and his strikeout rates have not been overly impressive.

If Volstead had gone to Miami, I imagine that the scouting reports would be about the same as they are now: he's got a good arm, and throws strikes, but the heater hasn't improved as much as scouts assumed it would.

Where would he rank in the 2008 college draft class? Looking at the February Top 100 from Baseball America, I think he'd definitely rank behind the elite guys like Aaro Crow and Brian Matusz. I'd see him slotting somewhere in the 20-25 range, which on draft day would probably put him at the back end of the first round or more probably in the supplemental round.

Basically, Volstead's stock has dropped somewhat since he was drafted. If he had gone to college, he'd still rate as a good prospect, but not equal to where he went in the draft back in '05.

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