College baseball began in earnest this past weekend, marking an unofficial beginning to the spring follow period, where scouts get final looks at the class before making key decisions in June’s draft.
This year’s class is largely defined by the pitching at the top, with prep lefthander Jason Groome competing against college arms A.J. Puk (Florida) and Alec Hansen (Oklahoma).
At the top of the draft, teams clearly value track record. More data available on a player can allow teams to feel more comfortable in their assessment of the player’s tools. For first-round picks, teams usually have seen college pitchers throw hundreds of innings, both in college and in summer ball.
Over the past three drafts, 22 pitchers have been selected with a top-30 pick. If we total their innings in school, Team USA’s Collegiate National Team and in the Cape Cod League, here’s the number of innings each of those pitchers racked up.
|Overall Pick, Year
|4 (2015)||Dillon Tate||RHP||161|
|6 (2015)||Tyler Jay||LHP||150|
|8 (2015)||Carson Fulmer||RHP||296|
|16 (2015)||James Kaprielian||RHP||304.2|
|24 (2015)||Walker Buehler||RHP||273.1|
|29 (2015)||Jon Harris||RHP||292.1|
|3 (2014)||Carlos Rodon||LHP||381.2|
|7 (2014)||Aaron Nola||RHP||343|
|8 (2014)||Kyle Freeland||LHP||332|
|9 (2014)||Jeff Hoffman||RHP||306|
|14 (2014)||Tyler Beede||RHP||299.2|
|15 (2014)||Sean Newcomb||LHP||239.1|
|17 (2014)||Brandon Finnegan||LHP||278.1|
|18 (2014)||Erick Fedde||RHP||299.2|
|27 (2014)||Luke Weaver||RHP||290.1|
|1 (2013)||Mark Appel||RHP||406.2|
|15 (2013)||Braden Shipley||RHP||216|
|18 (2013)||Chris Anderson||RHP||276.1|
|19 (2013)||Marco Gonzales||LHP||336|
|20 (2013)||Jonathon Crawford||RHP||193.2|
|23 (2013)||Chi Chi Gonzalez||RHP||386.1|
|29 (2013)||Ryne Stanek||RHP||290|
The mean number of innings is just under 290, being dragged down by outliers Tyler Jay—who was used as a reliever in college—and Dillon Tate, who pitched out of the bullpen until his junior season. If those two were removed from the sample, the mean would be over 300 innings. Also of note is the historical weakness of the 2015 class; both Tate and Fulmer have reliever traits to their deliveries and were able to go towards the top of the draft in a class that was light on college pitching.
This year’s college pitching class is not exceptionally good, but it has quality depth, with many pitchers showing promising starter traits and having strong track records of performance.
Here’s the number of innings logged (at school, with Team USA and on the Cape) so far by pitchers who ranked among college baseball’s top 15 prospects for the 2016 draft class, as well as a projection of their final innings total. Based on the history of each pitcher, I project either 90 or 75 more innings, both pretty conservative estimates.
|Player||Preseason College Rank||Innings||Projected Innings|
This year’s class has, in general, logged fewer innings than the classes preceding it. Kyle Funkhouser will have the longest track record, likely to reach the 400-inning mark, something done only by Mark Appel, who also played four years of college baseball. Mike Shawaryn, Logan Shore and Connor Jones could reach the mean of 290 innings, but it seems unlikely that the rest of the group will.
Oregon lefthander Matt Krook has logged the fewest innings of any pitcher in this group, having missed the entirety of his sophomore year and pitching just over 11 innings on the Cape as a rising junior due to Tommy John surgery. Cal Quantrill is likely to miss most of his junior season for the same reason. Robert Tyler missed much of his sophomore year due to injury. A.J. Puk has a clean bill of health, but hadn’t really established himself as a rotation piece for Florida until midway through his sophomore season.
Oklahoma righthander Alec Hansen has pitched the fewest innings of anyone in this group that has been healthy throughout their college career. Hansen pitched sparingly as a freshman, as he learned to harness his elite raw stuff. He made strides in the California Collegiate League as a rising sophomore, then earned a spot in the Sooners’ rotation in 2015. Hansen logged 82 innings in 15 starts. This season, Hansen is off to a rough start; he threw 36 pitches over one-plus inning, allowing four walks, hitting one batter, throwing one wild pitch and surrendering three runs and one hit.
Hansen’s track record to this point is not like that of most top picks. Over his 94 1/3 innings, he’s walked 61 batters and posted a 4.29 ERA. He has also been sidelined with arm issues, once during his senior year of high school, and then again this past fall, though that was more precautionary than it was alarming.
Hansen certainly has time to right the ship, with more than three months until the draft. His raw stuff will keep him in the discussion to be chosen early in the draft, but he’ll have to show the ability to make adjustments soon, as the longer it takes for him to find success, the less confidence teams will have in his ability to eventually use his tools.