Below is a table of ‘Major League Equivalent’ (‘MLE’) statistics for the 2019 NCAA baseball season. Included are MLEs for hitters from the following D1 conferences; the SEC, ACC, PAC 12, Big 12, Big 10, Big West, Big East, Conference USA, Sun Belt, and Atlantic Sun.

The first caveat to keep in mind when looking at these MLEs is that statistics from low-minors, fall/winter leagues, and the NCAA are subject to a lot of noise. As a player climbs the minor league ladder, the statistical record becomes more reliable as a predictor of future performance. These MLEs should always be looked at in this context and in conjunction with available scouting reports.

What is a MLE? Like so much other stuff that I talk about in regards to baseball analysis, Bill James was going over this stuff back when I was still playing RBI Baseball on the Nintendo. James said that the MLE was the most important concept he ever came up with. An MLE takes statistics from outside of Major League Baseball and adjusts them so that they can be used in a similar way that one would use MLB statistics.

MLEs are not projections. Rather, they are used to show what a player’s performance would have looked like had it hypothetically occurred at the Major League level. However, an MLE can be a key component of a player’s projection, and MLEs have been shown to have predictive value.

This set of NCAA MLEs are adjusted by conference, but not park. We haven’t (yet!) created park factors for NCAA baseball. So a hitter who puts up big numbers in a higher scoring run environment compared to the MLB, like each these NCAA conferences, will have his offensive production discounted down to the MLB level. In addition, part of the MLE process also discounts the player’s statistics based on the level of competition he was facing at the time. I made some assumptions about these discount rates based on the NCAA conference:

NCAA Conf. R/G Approx. MiLB
SEC 13.14 A-Full
ACC 13.4 Rookie Adv.
PAC 12 12.78 Rookie Adv.
Big 12 12.18 Rookie Adv.
Big 10 10.56 Rookie Adv.
Big West 10.76 Rookie
Big East 11.2 Rookie
CUSA 12.16 Rookie
Sun Belt 12.76 Rookie
Atlantic Sun 11.12 Rookie

Outside of Bill James, other references I relied on to create these MLEs were this write-up of a method used by ZiPS creator Dan Szymborski. All the raw NCAA statistics from 2019 come courtesy of baseball-reference.com. The discount rates for each minor league baseball level I used in creating the MLEs came from Jordan Rosenblum of The Dynasty Guru.

Below the table are some players to watch in the NCAA this season based on their MLE performance in 2019.

2019 NCAA D1 MLE

wdt_ID Name MLE AVG MLE OBP MLE SLG MLE K% MLE BB% MLE OPS
1 Adley Rutschman 0.334 0.467 0.551 19.5% 20.0% 1.018
2 Jake Sanford 0.321 0.377 0.584 24.6% 8.2% 0.961
3 Andrew Vaughn 0.300 0.418 0.515 18.0% 16.7% 0.933
4 Jake Holton 0.319 0.381 0.521 20.5% 9.0% 0.902
5 JJ Bleday 0.283 0.366 0.519 21.4% 11.6% 0.885
6 Hunter Bishop 0.272 0.358 0.525 28.2% 11.8% 0.883
7 Austin Martin 0.337 0.396 0.482 13.6% 8.9% 0.878
8 Cameron Cannon 0.321 0.377 0.499 13.5% 8.4% 0.877
9 Harrison Freed 0.310 0.354 0.513 18.0% 6.3% 0.867
10 Mike Antico 0.319 0.398 0.465 25.7% 11.7% 0.863
Name MLE AVG MLE OBP MLE SLG MLE K% MLE BB% MLE OPS

2020 NCAA MLE Watch List

Austin Martin – 3B – Vanderbilt

Martin finished 2019 as the #7 overall hitter on my list by MLE OPS, slotting in right behind 2019 first round draft picks Adley Rutschman, Andrew Vaughn, JJ Bleday, and Hunter Bishop. We mocked Martin as the 3rd overall pick in this summer’s Rule 4 draft, but a repeat statistical performance could push him up to first overall consideration.

Mike Antico – OF – St. John’s

Smaller statured outfielder from non-traditional baseball program St. John’s. Antico is under the radar at present, but his 2019 NCAA performance was one of the best for any hitter who was not selected in the 2019 draft. Antico did struggle a bit more in the CCBL, where he struggled to hit for power and compiled a .307 MLE slugging average.

Spencer Torkelson – 1B/RF – Arizona State

Soon to be Detroit Tiger (maybe?), Torkelson is the current favorite for 1.1 selection in this summer’s draft. He got out of the gate quickly to start the 2020 season, as he rung up two home runs in his opening weekend. I make him the favorite to land at the top of the 2020 NCAA MLE OPS leaderboard at the end of the season.

Ethan Wilson – OF – South Alabama

An unheralded recruit from Andalusia, AL, Ethan Wilson put together a ridiculous freshman season last year for the Jaguars, posting an .830 MLE adjusted OPS and finishing as a First-Team Freshman All American. Wilson is now on everyone’s radar, making the Golden Spikes watchlist to start the 2020 season.

Aaron Sabato – 1B – North Carolina

Tar Heels slugger turned some heads as a freshman last season, earning First Team All-American honors. MLEs believe in his raw power, as his .493 MLE slugging mark was the 12th best in all of the NCAA last season. 26.0% MLE K-rate gives some pause as an area of opportunity for the 2020 season. Sabato was pretty heavily scouted as a prep, so he might hit his way into a first round selection in the 2020 draft if he keeps up this pace.

Jordan Nwogu – DH – Michigan

Nwogu was a two-sport star and homegrown talent at Ann Arbor Pioneer high school. He followed up a freshman campaign where he made the team as a walk-on with a standout Sophomore year performance, posting a .820 MLE OPS and helping the Wolverines make it all the way to a College World Series finals appearance last summer.

Alerick Soularie – OF – Tennessee

Soularie was a JuCo transfer out of San Jacinto who torched the SEC in his D1 debut last season. We got eyes on Soularie in the CCBL, where he struggled a bit in comparison to his standout work for the Volunteers. The plate approach is worth keeping eyes on, as Soularie posted an impressive .289 MLE batting average in addition to a 10.4% MLE BB-rate.

Richard Constantine – 1B – Western Kentucky

There is very little information out there on this WKU slugger. Constantine was an offensive force last year though, posting a .811 MLE OPS and a really impressive .301 MLE batting average, which was the 11th best in the NCAA last season.

Parker Upton – OF – Creighton

Upton returns to Creighton for his senior season after putting together an impressive performance in 2019. The NCBWA named Upton a Second Team Preseason All-American this offseason. Upton led the Blue Jays to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2012. The MLEs gave him a .804 OPS last year, but beware of the 32.0% MLE strikeout rate.

Matthew Dyer – C – Arizona

MLEs loved the contact-oriented approach that Dyer flashed last season, giving him credit for a .317 MLE batting average, good for ninth overall in the entire NCAA. Dyer was named a NCBWA preseason First Team All-American this offseason. Dyer is an interesting player with a lanky (6’4″, 187 lbs.) frame. He made the Buster Posey Award watchlist last year, so it will be interesting to see if he’s able to stick defensively behind the dish at the next level.