2017 FaBIO Ratings of Top Draft-Eligible Pitching Prospects from NCAA Division I Schools

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Below I will present ratings from my Fielding- and Ballpark-Independent Outcomes (FaBIO) statistical evaluation system on 2017 NCAA Division I pitchers who were ranked within Baseball America's BA 500 as of June 5. Play-by-play data collection was cut off with games of May 30 (all pre-Regionals competition is included).



Each pitcher is rated only relative to their conference's starting pitchers' or relief pitchers' qualifier pool (naturally some conferences are more stacked with talent than others). The Overall Rating is determined first independent of all other ratings (in a world where a K has a certain fixed runs value, as does a BB, IFFB, pull-third GB, ..., pull-third LD, ..., oppo-third OFFB), then it is deconstructed to reveal how it was manifested in terms of three sub-components: 1. Strikeout (K) Rating (K%-based, most consequential to Overall Rating), 2. Batted Ball Profile Rating (computed just like Overall Rating but ignoring the non-batted-ball outcomes plate appearances), 3. Control (Ctl) Rating (BB+HBP%-based, least consequential). A percentile score of 97 is plus plus, 84 is plus, 50 is average, 16 is minus, and 3 is minus minus.

For the batted ball profile analyses, note that the general batted ball type is not provided by the NCAA stats portal on base hits, and in these cases the hit type and field location are used to infer what it is most likely to be per the FaBIO MiLB dataset (for example, a single to a certain area could be broken down into 0.48 line drive + 0.39 groundball + 0.13 outfield flyball). Given that and that I am also not yet correcting for a given stadium venue's relative bias towards an outfield airout being logged as a lineout, there is increased uncertainty regarding the LD Avoid Rating component of the NCAA Batted Ball Profile Rating versus the MiLB FaBIO data. The batted ball profile subratings may reveal quite a lot about a given pitcher's approach. Expect a higher IFFB Avoid Rating for an OFFBer and a lower one for an IFFBer. On those rare occasions of a definite OFFBer where the IFFB Avoid Rating and LD Avoid Rating are each high, the pitcher was either quite fortunate at LD avoidance (more likely) or possesses some unique abililty to both ride and cut a fastball (think Kenley Jansen and Marco Estrada among major leaguers). A definite GBer would ideally display a LD Avoid Rating in the general neighborhood of their GB Rating/OFFB Avoid Rating; in the case of a much lower LD Avoid Rating, suspect that their 2-seamer/sinker straightens out at times vertically and/or horizontally placing them at a higher than expected risk of LD singles. An OFFBer would ideally post a LD Avoid Rating that falls within the neighborhood of league average and post a Pull OFFB Avoid Rating that exceeds their OFFB Avoid Rating. When Pull OFFB Avoid exceeds OFFB Avoid the OFFB contact is later than normal per conference standards and less likely to yield an extra-base-hit outcome; these pitchers tend to possess higher effective velocity on their primary fastball and not be overly reliant on changeup usage in garnering swing whiffs.

There is a much deeper of analysis that can be done beyond what is presented here, inclusive of analyzing what the ultimate batted ball outcomes were versus what they should have been and how the various ratings change in going from opposite-handed batters (OHB) to same-handed batters (SHB) - the latter often sheds light on primary fastball movement biases and offspeed repertoire effectiveness (i.e., things that go a long way towards quantifying a professional pitcher's potential to stick as a starter).


2017 Results: Starterish-Workload Pitchers

84 pitchers worked their way into this cohort. The three tables include 2016 FaBIO ratings of the two pitchers who missed all of 2017 (Tarik Skubal, Tristan Beck) and those of a few who spent 2016 at a Division I program before transferring to a non-Division I program for 2017.

Top honors went to Baseball America's 150th-ranked Cory Abbott of Loyola Marymount; a closer look at Abbott and a few other arms of interest spanning multiple FaBIO campaigns has been appended to this FanPost. Fellow members of the 100 Overall Rating Club James Karinchak and Oliver Jaskie each experienced a relatively high proportion of loud batted ball contact on their actual batted ball outcomes. Transcendent two-way talent Brendan McKay mostly earned his 100 via the non-batted-ball outcomes route. A more general observation would be the preponderance of southpaws at the top of the first table, with 12 of the 23 tabled lefthanders placing within the top 20 of the 84 pitchers.


The two highly ranked Southeastern Conference Alexes, Lange (88 Overall, as below) and Faedo (87 Overall), showed similar 2017 vulnerabilities to OHB. Between the duo one can spot fellow conference RHP Kyle Wright and certainly envision a mid-rotation sort of MLB SP future given the solidly good all-around profile that would seem to lack an overwhelming strength. Among the 48 who rated plus or better on Overall Rating, the best at avoiding louder batted ball contact (per their non-park-adjusted percentile rating at isolated power per batted ball) were Will Gaddis (99), Luke Heimlich (98), Wright (97), Drew Strotman (97), Tristan Beck (96, albeit in 2016), Erich Uelmen (94), Abbott (93), Colton Laws (91), Morgan Cooper (90), Kevin Baker (87), and Nick Margevicius (85); the poorest at avoiding such loud contact among the 48 were Darren McCaughan (27), Eli Morgan (27), Jaskie (23), Andrew Karp (23), Karinchak (22), Zac Lowther (18), Seth Romero (11), Alex Eubanks (7), Ryan Lillie (4), and Bailey Ober (2).



Wil Crowe and Tanner Houck each clock in with a 54 Overall Rating (below) for 2017 and seem short on the sorts of out-generation skills that would merit a Top 100 draft prospect ranking.



2017 Results: Relieverish-Workload Pitchers

The 2017 of Zach Schellenger has featured bouts with biceps tendonitis and decreased fastball velocity but also marked a second consecutive campaign with a 100 Overall Rating that stems from a supreme combination of the K and weak GB-skewed batted ball contact. Even though Wyatt Marks pitched as a 2016 starter to the tune of a 95 Overall Rating, he spent 2017 as a reliever who feasted via the K much more than he was famined by loud batted ball contact (an extremely high rate of pulls within a relatively small sample of OFFB poured the foundation for a 2 percentile rating at isolated power per batted ball). Senior Logan Salow posted a 100 Overall Rating while working as a closer and ranks among one of the better all-around lefthanded relief prospects in the draft class (along with Blake Weiman, 96 Overall).




The common theme for 2016 among the 2017 non-Division-I arms who frequent the bottom of the second relief table is that they seldom pitched at their former institution or fared well in so doing.


2017-2015 Results: Select Draft Prospects of Interest

The tables that follow include percentile ratings for batting average (AVG) on batted balls and isolated power (ISO, or slugging percentage minus batting average, or alternatively, extra bases per plate appearance) on batted balls. Ideally the latter would be ballpark-adjusted in order to avoid over-rewarding the pitcher whose home park is very much the power-stifling venue of his conference and avoid over-penalizing the pitcher whose home park is very much the power-amplifying venue of his conference, but those corrections have yet to be implemented into the computations.


RHP Cory Abbott, Loyola Marymount


That over 3 NCAA campaigns Abbott has not posted a percentile rating under 75 for any of Batted Ball Profile, AVG on Batted Balls, or ISO on Batted Balls rather loudly signals that he has excellent movement on his primary fastball (if not also some ability to the move a fastball in other planes). The elephant in the room would be the 92 percentile point spike in K Rating from 2016 to 2017, one which Baseball America primarily attributes to adoption and deployment of a new slider grip. Plus to better performance figures to carry over into Abbott's post-draft debut, with the degree to which that newfound strikeout ability translates over to the spring of 2018 being what will determine just how formidable of an MLB SP prospect Abbott is.


RHP James Karinchak, Bryant


Though Karinchak has been an elite K artist over his three seasons at Bryant, he profiles as a bit of a one-trick pony who lacks a second strong out-generation skill and thus projects as more of a power relief prospect in the pro ranks.


LHP Oliver Jaskie, Michigan


The consistent blemish on the Jaskie FaBIO scorecard is a high ISO on batted balls, a result which could stem in part from that his primary fastball tops out only in the neighborhood of 90 mph.


LHP Brendan McKay, Louisville


McKay's ceiling as a professional starting pitcher would stand to be limited by his batted ball profile, which on these sorts of metrics rates in the neighborhood of conference average over the most recent two seasons and those marks are perhaps even inflated a few ticks thanks to some potential good fortune in LD avoidance. That I like McKay's offensive batted ball profile much more than his pitching batted ball profile would have me in the camp of his MLB future being best cast at first base, excluding the unique prospect of a DH/LHP scenario that could remain in place for a few American League organizations.


LHP Tarik Skubal, Seattle


Skubal went under the knife for Tommy John surgery in April of 2016 and did not return in time for 2017 action.


LHP David Peterson, Oregon


The batted ball blemishes on Peterson's FaBIO scorecard are that he surrenders too many LD and induces too few IFFB for a pitcher with his GB rate, which in concert suggests that the movement profile on his two-seam fastball is almost entirely downward. Continuation of those trends in the pro ranks would render him vulnerable to the LD single on batted balls, with maintenance of his newfound control and pull OFFB avoidance working in the other direction to minimize the run-potential of those singles. Development-wise, incorporation of an effective cutter into his repertoire would help boost his IFFB generation and LD avoidance.


LHP Tyler Holton, Florida State


Holton is a few mph short at present on fastball velocity (note the statistical bias towards pulls on OFFB) and that coupled with his reported enthusiasm for all things Florida State makes a return to Tallahassee probable for '18. Should Holton operate more in the 90s than 80s with his primary fastball then he could well be a day one draft selection this time next year.


LHP Zac Lowther, Xavier


Lowther displayed a strong bias away from pulls of his OFFB in his freshman and sophomore campaigns despite featuring sub-90-mph fastball velocity, but was unable to turn the trick again in 2017 as his Control Rating regressed back in the direction of the 2015 freshman season mark.


LHP Seth Romero, Houston


Aside from his well-publicized off-field and pregame on-field problems of 2017, Romero surrendered a bevy of LD and pulled OFFB within his batted ball sample when he did manage to toe the rubber. All that aside, his slider is a true K weapon against LHB and if there is one postseason contender who could sorely use that sort of pitcher in their bullpen come October it would be his collegiate hometown nine.


LHP Luke Heimlich, Oregon State


Before the unsettling skeleton in Heimlich's closet came to public light this week, a case could have been made that he was some combination of a mph or two in fastball velocity and a tick or two upgrade in breaking ball quality shy of joining instate conference rival southpaw David Peterson as a first round selection on Monday night.


LHP Ricky Tyler Thomas, Fresno State


Rudyard Kipling's top draft prospect pitched up within, above, and outside the strike zone much more this time around than in his dominant 2016 FaBIO campaign, yet still managed to post an alluring combo of K ability and batted ball profile. Thomas may evolve into a much more viable MLB LHSP prospect than scouting reports portend today should he find his way next week into the fold of an organization that has a stronger track record of pitcher development and also can coax that extra mile per hour or two out of his often sub-90-mph primary fastball.


RHP Tristan Beck, Stanford


As the completeness of Beck's 2016 FaBIO ratings trumps all other freshman campaigns featured within this section highlighting more well-regarded draft prospects, it would not be surprising were he to emerge from this draft class to become its top-ranked pitching prospect within a year to two were he to enter the professional ranks next month. Whether he accepts an offer from an MLB organization come then likely boils down to a combination of dollars and doctors.


RHP J.B. Bukauskas, North Carolina


Hard-throwing Bukauskas made some definite statistical strides forwards during 2017 in OHB results and batted ball profile. That he has been able to incorporate a gradually increasing percentage of GB into his batted ball profile over the past two seasons without a noteworthy downturn in K Rating attests to just how well the offspeed repertoire plays at garnering swing whiffs. An MLB projection of plus to plus plus K ability, average to half-plus batted ball profile, and half-minus to minus control would position Bukauskas rather nicely as a mid- to front- of-rotation SP prospect. Since at least three readers will wonder how Vanderbilt's Carson Fulmer rated on the 2015 FaBIO NCAA scales, the answer is ...

Carson Fulmer (513 BF, 27/G): 94 Overall (83 OHB/93 SHB), 33 Ctl, 99 K, 35 Batted Ball (31 GB, 84 IFFB, 54 LD Avoid, 36 OFFB Avoid, 15 PullOFFB Avoid)


RHP Griffin Canning, UCLA


Canning is another who has displayed some definite adaptability with regard to batted ball profile development and without much in the way of an associated K compromise. Canning clearly has a leg up on Bukauskas in the department of control, so in his case a league-average batted ball profile could be more than enough to manifest a mid- to top-of-rotation MLB SP future.


RHP Will Gaddis, Furman


Gaddis ranked among FaBIO's favorite all-around pitching prospects coming into the spring but seemed to sacrifice too much in the way of K results for more nominal gains in batted ball profile. Gaddis conjures up memories of '16 third-rounder Aaron Civale wherein in the control/batted ball profile combo projects rock solid with K ability being the wildcard that will determine where the future pitcher falls within the wide spectrum spanning from strike-throwing/weak-contact-inducing reliever to mid-rotation starter.


RHP Clarke Schmidt, South Carolina


Schmidt will be sidelined until at least mid-2018 owing to recent Tommy John surgery but should remain appealing to organizations who value concomitant weak contact and K ability and still more so to the ones who can afford to wait out a year to two of recovery.


RHP Morgan Cooper, Texas


Cooper improved in the two out-generation realms, K ability and batted ball profile, in his second year back from late 2014 Tommy John surgery. Further gains made as a professional in the batted ball profile columns would make Cooper a still stronger MLB starting pitcher prospect.


RHP Alex Lange, LSU


Lange profiles so much like a 4-seamer-upstairs sort of power reliever statistically and visually that it is difficult to project an MLB ceiling higher than back-of-rotation starter at present.


RHP Kyle Wright, Vanderbilt


Aside from Wright's CTL Rating rising and LD Avoid Rating falling over 3 Vanderbilt seasons not much has changed in his FaBIO statistical profile. With attention to the comprehensive out-generation skills encompassing K ability and batted ball profile, an MLB outcome of mid- to back-of-rotation starter seems somewhat more likely than a mid- to front-of-rotation starter.


RHP Alex Faedo, Florida


Excluding the 2017 gains in GB ability, the table features a number of numbers that portend poorly for Faedo's prospects as an MLB SP.


RHP Blaine Knight, Arkansas


Knight morphed from plus GBer to plus plus OFFBer in his sophomore season in Fayetteville, with clear tradeoffs in batted ball profile effectively offsetting the corresponding gains in K ability to yield an equivalent overall performance rating to that achieved via the alternate route of 2016. Another season of SEC seasoning would seem to be in order and advisable here.


RHP Corbin Martin, Texas A&M


Martin seems more difficult to project relative to others profiled in detail here in so much as he has yet to be turned loose over a full season to the tune of a starter's batters faced per game workload. That said, relief deployment seems a rather likely to necessary means for maximizing Martin's out-generation skills and especially so in the upper professional ranks.


RHP Wil Crowe, South Carolina


Crowe could certainly be cut some slack on account of a '16 lost to Tommy John surgery, yet even the pre-surgery sophomore season of '15 was fairly devoid of numbers to crow about.


RHP Tanner Houck, Missouri


FaBIO has Houck's overall performance in a gradual tumble since his beyond promising freshman campaign. One can spot definite contradictions with attention to the '17/'16 marks when comparing the LD Avoid columns to the AVG on Batted Balls columns as generally those two ratings fall within shouting distance of one another over such large samples, and in these disputes I have learned it wiser to trust the expected results over the actual results.


RHP Drew Rasmussen, Oregon State


FaBIO favors recent returnee Rasmussen's Tommy-John-shortened '16 and '17 campaigns over the freshman '15 campaign that put him on the prospecting map and also comprises roughly 2/3 of his total collegiate experience.


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