As the 2011 college baseball season kicks off this weekend, so does the scouting season. With over 4000 players currently playing ball collegiately, identifying the best can be a challenge.
With that in mind, a few years ago I set out to see if I could conjure up a system that could take college offensive statistics and project a player's major league ability. The system I came up with, RENDON, is a mildly-complex algorithm developed by looking at the differences in collegiate production from high level draft picks who went onto successful big league careers versus those who did not. Based on comparable players and with a database now going back near a full decade, the RENDON system is able to pinpoint the players whose performance gives them the best shot at big league stardom.
A few highlights of the RENDON system:
- RENDON is just one tool. It gives you part of the picture, not the whole thing. It is designed to be used in conjunction with traditional scouting approaches.
- There are a lot more guys who mash in college and don't go onto big league success than guys who struggle in college then flip a switch.
- The median score for all players in my database is 464.
- Players who score higher than average (over 470) and are seen as high level scouting talents are good bets to be productive big leaguers. 64.8% of players drafted in the top 50 who score 470 or greater since 2002 have had successful big league careers.
- Where RENDON really shines is in finding potential busts. Players who score below average and get drafted in the top 50 anyway are very poor bets to be productive big leaugers. 83.3% of players drafted in the top 50 who scored below average in RENDON have, thus far, failed to have a successful big league career - i.e. more than a replacement level or bench player.
- Players who strike out a lot in college have especially poor track records. Of top 50 draft picks, only Drew Stubbs posted a sustained strikeout higher than 17% and has made any kind of big league career for himself since 2002. In other words, keep an eye on George Springer's contact rates this spring!
- The correlation between RENDON and park-adjusted ML OPS is 0.522.
- The correlation between draft slot and park-adjusted ML OPS is -0.306. Negative, in case, is expected. The closer to No. 1 overall a player is draft, the higher his offensive production.
While RENDON relies heavily on year-to-year trends as a proxy for growth and potential, a lot can and will change as the players below begin their all-important junior seasons. The players below are listed by their sophomore rankings only. Junior seasons are much more important. Buster Posey, for example, had a monster junior season after hitting for very little home-run power his first two years in college. As a result, the 2010 NL ROY scored 466 as a sophomore, while quality, only marked him as a borderline first round pick.
Pedro Alvarez (426) struck out over 20% of the time which kept his score down. Gordon Beckham (506) wasn't far off but didn't have a lights out sophomore season, 969 OPS.
Posey went on to post a 615 junior year, by the way.
Anthony Rendon's 631 is the second highest single season score of anyone in my database, trailing only Rickie Weeks' 2003 junior year at Southern when he hit. .500/.619/.987 (1606 OPS) with a 20.4% BB rate and just 7.5% Ks. Nearly half of Weeks' hits went for extra bases, he posted a .660 park-adjusted wOBA. He also was a perfect 27-for-27 stealing bases. Weeks put up a 697 score that year - which is over three standard deviations above the median. Rickie Weeks was really, really good in college.
RENDON rankings should not be viewed as exact, chisled-in-stone rankings, but rather a reflection of a player's production best viewed in tiers. One guy scoring 500 and another scoring 520 should be viewed as very similar. While by no means sure things, the players below have produced well enough as underclassmen to warrant close following this spring.
|Joe Panik||SS||St. John's||534.0||.488||635.8||13.6||6.1||128.7|
|Zach MacPhee||2B||Arizona St||527.0||.476||617.8||14.8||14.1||398.6|
|Levi Michael||2B||North Carolina||520.0||.404||571.0||15.4||9.1||273.7|
|Pratt Maynard||C/1B||NC State||500.8||.416||621.3||22.8||14.9||30.6|
|Nick Martini||OF||Kansas St||498.5||.521||436.4||14.4||7.4||245.8|
|Travis Shaw||CIF||Kent State||497.8||.497||805.1||17.1||14.3||-75.0|
|Zach Borenstein||3B||Eastern Illinois||485.4||.445||555.2||10.7||14.8||187.9|
|Jackie Bradley Jr||OF||South Carolina||476.7||.431||498.0||14.0||12.6||95.5|
|Riccio Torrez||CIF||Arizona St||474.9||.476||660.0||7.1||14.6||261.6|
|BA Vollmuth||SS||Southern Miss||471.8||.458||737.3||14.9||17.7||72.5|
|Zach Kometani||C/1B||San Diego||466.8||.472||633.9||9.3||11.2||33.8|
|Aaron Westlake (rs)||1B||Vanderbilt||459.7||.430||631.3||10.4||15.3||102.0|
|Johnny Coy (rs)||CIF||Wichita State||457.6||.464||744.0||7.0||16.6||95.5|
|John Hinson (rs)||3B||Clemson||456.9||.402||539.0||9.2||16.9||356.8|
|Johnny Ruettiger||OF||Arizona St||456.6||.411||438.2||12.8||11.1||252.3|
|Harold Riggins||1B||NC State||454.6||.444||759.5||10.1||20.7||76.5|
|Jarod Berggren||OF||N Colorado||447.6||.343||586.6||7.6||14.5||326.0|
|Zach Wilson||OF||Arizona St||433.8||.425||652.5||9.9||18.8||132.8|
|Andrew Susac (f)||C||Oregon St||420.0||.433||372.3||12.5||19.2||-50.0|
|Tyler Grimes||SS||Wichita State||391.2||.391||394.9||13.7||18.3||125.5|
|Derek Dennis (f)||SS||Michigan||387.5||.369||307.9||6.6||23.1||150.3|
(rs) - indicates that the player has red-shirted, either due to injury or tranfer.
(f) - indicates that the player was a freshman last spring but is age-eligible for the upcoming draft.
Lincoln Hamilton can be found on Twitter at @LHamiltonPP.