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Pat Biserta Can Hit. Is He Draftable?

April 22, 2010

Every year, there are a couple of draft-eligible players who absolutely crush the ball, but get very little love from draft watchers. Maybe the big season is a fluke; maybe the level of competition is too low; maybe he'll be stuck at DH, and who wants to draft a DH?

This year, that guy may be Pat Biserta, an outfielder and (sure enough!) designated hitter at Rutgers. When we added wOBA to our batting leader pages, Erik Manning was quick to note this unfamiliar name and his otherworldly numbers.

Without any adjustments, Biserta's slash line is 362/428/766, for an OPS just shy of 1200. That's impressive enough, yet it sells him short. Rutgers plays in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in college baseball, plus they play a reasonably difficult schedule. Adjust for those factors, and the OPS soars to 1395.

Best of all, he's not striking out too much. 19 K's in 158 PA is a 12% rate, plenty acceptable, and just barely higher than his walk rate.

Devil's Advocate

The most obvious gap in Biserta's game is that he doesn't play the field. For every Jack Cust who gives you solid production for a few years in the major leagues, tons more guys of his type hit their ceiling by Double-A. Biserta has played some left field (in fact, he's recently moved into the field, coinciding with even more offense) but the vast majority of his at-bats have come at DH.

You've got to be a really, really good college hitter to get much attention from the DH spot. The fact that Biserta hit "only" 318/383/514 last year means that analysts haven't had much time to consider whether the bat is enough to overcome his defensive liabilities.

Also, the 300-point jump in OPS from sophomore to junior year demands that we ask if it's for real. We can quibble about the factors that adjust his current-year OPS up to the 1400 range, but on the more general level, the current-year numbers look legit.

First off, Biserta is hitting fewer balls on the ground. Last year, more than two-third of his batted-ball outs were on the ground, while this season, the ratio is about one-half. From 2009 to 2010, his BABIP has gone way down--that OPS of 900 was aided by a BABIP of .394, while this year's gaudy numbers are supported by a mere .336 BABIP. Maybe opposing outfielders know to camp out right at the wall.

Biserta's K rate has gone down, too. In limited time in '08, 26 percent of PAs ended in the strikeout; last year it was 21 percent, and as noted, this year it's only 12 percent.

The Adjustments

An OPS of 1200 doesn't get you anywhere close to the top of the unadjusted D1 rankings. If we're going to believe that Biserta really is an elite bat, we have to trust that the park and schedule adjustments are correct.

The park factor is as close to unassailable as you can get in college ball. Our adjustments use data going back to 2007, and whether you use single-year factors or weighted three- or four-year factors, the results are always the same. Rutgers sits around 80 or 85, more extreme than Petco, meaning that hitters there have a lot to overcome.

The story is similar with the schedule adjustment. This year, we have Rutgers' schedule at about 10 percent more difficult than average. For 2007 and 2009, the number is six percent above average; in 2008, it was 11 percent above average. That's about par for the course in the Big East, and Rutgers played early series this year against #3 Georgia Tech and #13 Miami.

The only thing that slightly lessens the impact of the factors is that Rutgers has played more than half of its schedule on the road this year. If we alter the park adjustment accordingly, Biserta drops from the very top of Division One down to fifth or sixth. Still really freaking good.

We'd love to hear an in-person scouting report on this guy, especially if anyone has insights on his ability in the field. He may be stuck at DH forever, but it would be nice if, like Matt LaPorta, he could at least fake a position for a while.