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Why Do College Catchers Always Fail? Part II

Yesterday we took a look at some data supporting the idea that college catchers do not make particularly wise investments for big league clubs picking early in the draft. Today we begin to seek answers to the question posed in the title – why do college catchers always fail?
Theories — and, trust me, they are nothing more than theories — that seek to explain why college catchers tend to struggle as professionals after the jump…

Why Do College Catching Prospects Always Fail?

Photo Source: About.com

Photo Source: About.com

Alright, always might qualify as a bit of hyperbole (you can’t make it in this world without shock value, you know?), but it’s not as big of a stretch as it sounds. A quick scan of college catching prospects over the past few gradable drafts (gradable meaning we are far enough away to begin accessing what worked and what didn’t, thus eliminating the past four drafts, for now) show college catchers to be an awful investment for big league clubs to make.

The impetus for doing the research, such as it is, was pretty simple. Going through the upcoming draft’s available talent, position by position, revealed what I thought was a simple truth – boy, do these college catchers stink. However, since that initial reaction, I’ve come to a) appreciate some of the potentially undervalued mid-round players, and b) learn to accept the reality that college catchers are largely an underwhelming lot.  With a little historical perspective, this year’s class doesn’t look so bad, all things considered.

The research below follows a fairly simple methodology. I took five draft classes – recent enough to be relevant, but with enough time past to give the players a chance to develop – and simply assessed the success/failure of every college catcher drafted. I began by looking at the first ten catchers taken in each draft class. The number ten was chosen for two reasons – 1) it’s a nice round number and people just love round numbers, and 2) I had originally decided to make my 2009 college catching prospect list a top ten (I’ve since expanded it, but more on that later…). From there, I pulled out the college catchers from the previously selected draft classes and did a very scientific, high tech analysis of each player. My highly sophisticated method of measuring success/failure was based on a complicated, hard to comprehend question; for each catcher, I asked myself the following: is this player a “useful” major leaguer or not?

There are flaws in the research, something I recognize and feel obligated to point out. Five years is hardly a representative sample, the absence of the success/failure rate of other positions is a real drawback (I’d love to compare and contrast these findings with, say, the success rate of college middle infielders or something), and the vague terminology (“useful”) is open to interpretation…all of these are definite flaws that should be taken into consideration going forward. However, sometimes the data paints such a clear picture that it’s difficult to envision being able to draw any other conclusion.

After the jump, the damning evidence that college catching prospects don’t want you to see…

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Strasburg’s Latest – March 27th, 2009

Strasburg’s latest start against TCU went pretty well:

  • 8 IP 3 H 2 ER 1 BB 14 K (5 GO/5 AO)
  • Carpenter, Curry, and Vern went a combined 0-8 (BB, 4 K) against him

Not to pat myself on the back too hard, but I think it’s fair to say the predictions from yesterday held up pretty well, no?

  • Strasburg’s final line prediction: 7 IP 4 H 1 ER 1 BB 14 K
  • Carpenter, Curry, and Vern: 2-8, 2B, BB, 5 K

Off the grid for the weekend ahead, but expect an in-depth look at the nation’s finest catching prospects starting Monday…

Strasburg Day

Stephen Strasburg takes the hill tonight against nationally ranked TCU. Here’s what he’s up against:

  • Matt Curry (’09) – relatively slow start shouldn’t obscure the fact that the junior college transfer has a big lefty bat that will play; compared to current Phillie Matt Stairs (aka Jon Broxton kryptonite)
  • Matt Carpenter (’09) – better college player than prospect, but can’t argue with his production so far (.371/.525/.600 with a 23/11 walk to strikeout ratio); if he can stick at third in the long-term, could get a look as a mid-round senior sign
  • Matt Vern (’09) – another player who profiles better as a very good college bat rather than a legit pro prospect, but still capable of hitting the ball a long way when he gets a piece (team leading 6 HRs); Vern’s defensive limitations could keep him from being drafted altogether, but he’s no less of a threat to take Strasburg deep because of it

TCU has a senior-heavy lineup, but no singular hitter that can realistically be expected to do much damage against San Diego State’s ace. My totally baseless prediction for Strasburg’s final line:

7 IP 4 H 1 ER 1 BB 14 K

In addition, I’ll predict a cumulative 2-8 night (including a double, a walk, and five strikeouts) for the three players named Matt listed above.

I’m most curious to see how Curry does against Strasburg. One game is too small a sample to base anything important on, but, as a lefty bat with a powerful, all-or-nothing style swing, he actually matches up pretty well. Curry’s future as a pro could be as a pinch-hitter capable of hitting the ball out every time up, so his at bats against Strasburg correlate pretty well with the kinds of matchups he may see coming off the bench to face fireballing relief aces.

Anyway, any other guesses about how Strasburg will perform on Friday night?

College Baseball Weekend Five – Pitching Retrospective Continued

So much pitching to recap, so little time…

  • Relievers, relievers, and more relievers

Jake Morgan, redshirt sophomore from the University of Mississippi, gets a special mention for his complete wipeout of Alabama: (2 IP 1 H 0 ER 0 BB 6 K)

Long, lanky Matt Miller (6-6, 215) of Michigan’s great outing (3 IP 1 H 0 ER 1 BB 5 K) pushed his K/IP total to 16/12.2 on the season. It’ll interesting to see if he is in the mix for a starting spot for the Wolverines next spring.

Preston Claiborne has been a consistent strikeout per inning got out of the bullpen at Tulane since arriving on campus. His latest outing is a continuation of his success: 2.2 IP 1 H 0 ER 0 BB 4 K

Steve Kalush is a less well known name than Claiborne, but has had similar success as a collegiate pitcher. The Santa Clara is another strikeout per inning guy. His weekend outing: 2 IP 1 H 0 ER 0 BB 4 K

I love the adjective “hulking” when it describes a pitcher. Luke Demko is 6-6 and pushing three bills, but as nondescript college relievers go, he’s a good one. Demko could be a nice late round senior sign flier of a pick. His weekend: 2 IP 0 H 0 ER 1 BB 3 K (7th save)

Taylor Hill, a Vanderbilt sophomore talented enough to start for a lot of teams but forced to relieve for the pitching-rich Commodores, put up the following line: 4 IP 4 H 1 ER 1 BB 6 K. I’m thinking Vandy would be a good candidate for the next college profile piece…they are completely stacked with prospects, both hitting and pitching.

  • Non-prospect performance of the week

Alex Rivers, teammate of Kalush’s at Santa Clara, put up this beauty of a line against Dartmouth: 7 IP 2 H 0 ER 0 BB 11 K. Yeah, it was against Dartmouth, and, yeah, Rivers is a short righty without much of a pro future, but this strong outing is worthy of praise. Here’s to you, Alex Rivers!

  • Starting pitching prospects, now and in the future

Chris Rusin (Kentucky, 2009) – 9 IP 7 H 2 ER 2 BB 11 K against Vanderbilt. What I like best about Rusin is the steady increase in performance each year he has been in school.

Matt Harvey (North Carolina, 2010): 2 IP 7 H 7 ER 2 BB 1 K
Kyle Winkler (Texas Christian, 2011): 0.1 IP 5 H 6 ER 3 BB 0 K

Two really rough outings for two really good young pitchers. Winkler is a huge personal favorite – consider my love for him as a prospect partially due to my reverse short righthanded pitching bias.

Justin Grimm (Georgia, 2010): 5.2 IP 3 H 1 ER 3 BB 9 K
Gerrit Cole (UCLA, 2011): 5 IP 6 H 2 ER 1 BB 6 K, 101 pitches

Grimm is well known in scouting circles, but I consider him a 2010 sleeper anyway because even though he’s expected to go high in his draft year, I think he’ll go even higher – love his 30/7 K/BB ratio in just 25.1 innings. The odds-on favorite to go number two overall in 2011 keeps on doing his thing for the Bruins…

DJ Mauldin (Cal Poly, 2009): 8 IP 6 H 0 ER 0 BB 6 K, 12/4/1 (GO/AO/LO)…another short righty with a big game.

  • Strong outings, but heavy workloads…

Tyler Blandford (Oklahoma State, 2009): 8 IP 3 H 2 ER 3 BB 11 K, 117 pitches
Chad Bettis (Texas Tech, 2010): 8 IP 8 H 3 ER 3 BB 8 K (11/5 groundball to flyball ratio), 129 pitches

College Baseball Weekend Five – Pitching Retrospective

A quartet of fine starts from high-end draft-eligible righthanded pitching prospects (including three future pro relievers who took the ball as starters for their college teams), a host of current relievers and non-star starting pitchers put forth solid efforts (gotta show the little guys some love every now and again), a mixed bag of performances out of highly ranked 2010’s and 2011’s, and a huge baseball star (not to mention my personal favorite player of all-time) hits in the leadoff spot for Seton Hall…wait, what? Read on, my amateur baseball loving friends, read on…

Also, a slew of new content (lists, rankings, an updated mock, and even a creative idea or two…a first for this site!) is on the way…stay tuned!

Photo Credit: Al Dia Inc

Photo Credit: Al Dia Inc

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Stephen Strasburg: Five Starts and Fifty Million

At what point do we just give up and rename the site The Strasburg Draft Report?

His latest start: 7 IP 2 H 0 ER 2 BB 15 K

Season numbers: 34.1 IP 21 H 6 ER 7 BB 74 K (3 WP, 1 HBP, 5 extra-base hits allowed)

His K/9 actually fell from 19.43 to 19.40…

His K/BB also dipped from 11.80 to 1 to a pedestrian 10.57 to 1…

Of his 74 total strikeouts, 54 have been swinging and 20 have been looking…

Batters so rarely get a ball off of him in play, so his ground out/air out/line out data is based on too small a sample to really draw any conclusion. Even so, his GO/AO/LO numbers break down as follows: 13/11/2…

There have been only two innings this year that Strasburg hasn’t struck out at least one batter, including the two partial innings he has thrown through five starts (each partial inning was two-thirds of an inning). He has struck out at least three batters in 14 out of his 33 completed innings.

He’s good.

So good, in fact, it’ll cost you. An arm, a leg, another arm, half your torso, and, yes, maybe even a part of your unmentionables. Signing this guy won’t be cheap (or so goes the rumor).

I’ve got my own take on the latest “Strasburg’s bonus demands likely to include signing over a small island to him just to show you are negotiating in good faith” story, but the current plan is to hold off on these kind of shenanigans unless explicitly asked. Instead, I’ll open things up to the loyal readers of this site (fine, even the disloyal ones, too) – what do you think of the latest report stating Strasburg’s asking price could shatter the previous draft bonus record? Believe it, don’t believe it, don’t care about it, think he’ll get whatever he wants, think he’ll settle for substantially less, will he make more than Mark Prior, more than Daisuke Matsuzaka? Will Strasburg end up a National when it’s all said and done? Any validity to the wonderful threat to go play in Japan for a year?

In other words, fill in the blanks: Stephen Strasburg will be picked number ____ overall by the _________ and sign for ____ years and _____ million dollars.

March 20th College Pitching Retrospective (Strasburg Free!)

A quick buzz over, around, and through college baseball’s Friday night pitching landscape (whatever that means) as I continue to tirelessly input the many weeks worth of statistical data recently lost because somebody has a weird mental block about saving his work…

The one and only... (more…)

Stephen Strasburg Through Four Starts

27.1 IP 19 H 6 ER 5 BB 59 K (3 WP, 1 HBP, 5 extra-base hits allowed)

His K/9 fell to a mere 19.43…

His K/BB improved to 11.80/1…

Of his 59 total strikeouts, 45 have been swinging and 14 have been looking…

Batters so rarely get a ball off of him in play, so his ground out/air out/line out data is based on too small a sample to really draw any conclusion. Even so, his GO/AO/LO numbers break down as follows: 10/8/2…

There have been only two innings this year that Strasburg hasn’t struck out at least one batter, including the two partial innings he has thrown through four starts (each partial inning was two-thirds of an inning). He has struck out at least three batters in 11 out of his 26 completed innings. He’s good.

College Team Profiles: North Carolina Tar Heels

One of the most popular (fine, the only) question I’ve been emailed since starting this site up goes a little something like this: I’m going to see ____ University/College/State play this weekend and I was wondering if there was anybody with a professional future that would be worth watching. The College Team Profiles are designed to preemptively answer any and all questions about the prospects from a particular college team…or maybe just open up a whole new set of questions, we’ll see. The next three draft classes for one particular school are featured, with the players ranked in order (great to less great) within each class.

As always, whether you agree, disagree, or think I’m a dope who should leave this sort of stuff to the experts (thanks, Mom)…let’s hear it via email (thebaseballdraftreport@gmail.com) or in the comments section.

Photo Source: Sports Logos and Screensavers

Photo Source: Sports Logos and Screensavers

22 of the finest the University of North Carolina has to offer after the jump… (more…)

Monday Morning Update

Just a few idle thoughts to get the week going strong. The past few days have been more about research (tons of data input) than writing, but expect plenty of good stuff (college team profiles, finally!) coming your way in the coming days. For now, enjoy some amateur observations made while slaving away on some of that oh so much fun data collecting from the past weekend…

  • I saw this fact somewhere over the weekend and it totally floored me – Alabama has won seven of eight all-time series against the number one ranked team at the time. Can that be true? It sounds almost unbelievable to me, but there it is.

The Crimson Tide took down top-ranked Georgia this weekend with a little help from senior slugger Kent Matthes. His numbers so far are astounding: 12 homers in 59 official at bats (1.169 SLG). That’s almost exactly one bomb for every five at bats…crazy.

  • Answer: 127, 124, 122, 121, 125, 120

Question: How many pitches were thrown over the weekend by Austin Hyatt (Alabama), Kyle Gibson (Missouri), Grant Dayton (Auburn), Deck McGuire (Georgia Tech), Tim Clubb (Missouri State), and Nick Hernandez (Tennessee) in their most recent respective starts?

Hyatt, Dayton, and Clubb can all be called sleeper prospects on a generous day, but the other pitchers (Gibson, McGuire, and Hernandez) are big-time talents pitching for big-time professional contracts every time they take the ball. I know it can’t be easy for a college coach to balance the pressure of winning ballgames in the short-term with the obligation of keeping these young arms healthy for the long-term. It’s also difficult to pass judgment as an outsider without knowing all of the details surrounding each individual coach, player, and specific in-game situation. But, come on, 120 pitches is 120 pitches. I’ll do my best to stay off the soapbox for now, instead opting to just report on pitcher abuse when it happens. You see the names, you see the numbers…let’s see what happens next.

  • The weekend saw plenty of excellent pitching performances, but we only have time to highlight the best of the best.

Out of all the players I inputed data for this weekend, Erik Stavert (Oregon) had the highest number of groundball outs. Stavert recorded 19 outs on balls in play, 15 of them on the ground.

Dallas Keuchel (Arkansas) shut down a good Florida lineup with the following line: 7 IP 4 H 1 ER 1 BB 9 K  (9 GO/2 AO)

Kyle Blair (San Diego) was outdueled by the next player on our list, but his complete game line deserves props all the same: 8 IP 7 H 1 ER 1 BB 9 K (10 GO/6 AO)

Ryan Berry (Rice) clearly lives to to make me look stupid. It seems like every time I comment on how I like him but don’t love him, he goes out and does something like this: 9 IP 1 H 0 ER 0 BB 8 K (11 GO/6 AO/3 LO)

The most dominating performance of the weekend belonged to Anthony Ranaudo (Louisiana State): 6 IP 6 H 3 ER 3 BB 13 K. Thirteen strikeouts in six innings is pretty impressive, sure, but how he did it was what made it fun. First five batters – KKKKK. Then a dropped foul ball followed by a walk. Next four batters – KKKK. Ranaudo’s first nine outs came via the strikeout. Through three innings the man had 9 strikeouts. I think it works better visually when ripped right from the game log:

Kentucky 1st -
C. Bisson struck out looking (0-2).
N. Johnson struck out swinging (1-2).
K. Wiley struck out swinging (1-2).
0 runs, 0 hits, 0 errors, 0 LOB.

Kentucky 2nd -
B. Kapteyn struck out swinging (2-2).
C. Wright struck out swinging (1-2).
Dropped foul ball, E2. M. Nidiffer walked (3-2).
C. Farris struck out swinging (3-2).
0 runs, 0 hits, 1 error, 1 LOB.

Kentucky 3rd - 

C. Wade struck out swinging (3-2).
A. Burns struck out looking (2-2).
C. Bisson struck out looking (2-2).
0 runs, 0 hits, 0 errors,0 LOB.

Mailbag!

MAIL TIME!

Photo Credit: Quiz Law

One of the most appealing aspects of doing the blog thing is the ability to actually interact with people who care about college/high school ball and the draft. I like the diverging opinions people seem to have about the placement of players on some of the lists posted thus far. The comments have been of excellent quality and they always give me a chance to reevaluate how I’ve assessed a particular player’s value as a prospect – sometimes it takes nothing more than a kick in the butt from a different perspective than mine to remind me that, hey, Player X should/shouldn’t be ranked where he is…so long as there is some kind of reasoning to back it up, I’m always willing to listen and potentially change my mind.

To those that have comments featured in the mailbag, please let me know if you want attribution and I’ll add your name and a link or whatever so that you get proper credit. I wanted to do it right off the bat, but I figured I’d play it safe and ask just in case. I’m not sure if there will be any interest in this, but it’s something I feel like trying – my apologies to anybody who actually reads my responses in the comments and catches on that these are essentially re-runs…I’m not tryinig to pull a fast one, just wanted to give good comments (and hopefully well reasoned responses) the proper amount of recognition they deserve.

Reader comments/questions along with my answers after the jump… (more…)

MLB Draft Combine

Random tangent to buy me a little more time until new content is polished up and ready to see the light of day – wouldn’t it be cool if there was a combine for baseball? As it currently stands the timing wouldn’t really work out with the way the draft and the college baseball season overlap, but I think a televised combine event would be a great investment for MLB to make. A MLB Draft Combine would help players get noticed, provide scouting directors more data to help make their decisions, and generate interest in both amateur and minor league baseball through the development of interesting narratives for individual players leading up to the draft.

Clever, right?

Photo Credit: John Deere

More on the idea of a potential MLB Draft Combine after the jump… (more…)

2009 MLB Draft: College Big Board Report Cards

Things have been quiet around here lately, but for good reason…it’s report card season! Yes, I do have a day job that may keep me updating from time to time, and, yes, filling out report card after report card takes priority over draft coverage – sad, but true. However, with all that grading in the books, it’s time to move on. What better way to celebrate than by doing some more grading!

In case you’ve been busy like me and haven’t kept up with some of the top college prospects, below the jump is a look back at our earlier College Big Board 1.0 (just the top 25 this time) with grades based on their performance through the first three weeks of the college baseball season. (more…)

2009 MLB Draft: Top 15 College Righthanded Pitchers – Number 1, Stephen Strasburg

Photo Credit: yoda1 from minorleagueball.com

Photo Credit: yoda1 from minorleagueball.com

20.1 IP 13 H 4 ER 4 BB 45 K (2 WP, 1 HBP)

K/9: 19.92

K/BB: 11.25/1

Strikeouts – Swinging/Looking: 36/9

GO/AO/LO: 7/5/2

There has been only one inning this year that Strasburg hasn’t struck out at least one batter, including the two partial innings he has thrown in each start (each 2/3rds of an inning). He has struck out the side in 8 out of his 19 completed innings. He’s good.

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