Last week, I introduced the Fun With Stats column. Of course, it lead to the humorous moment where, after mentioning how no one had been talking about Jake Adams, both myself and Baseball America dropped an article on him on the same day. They were very different articles, but both are well worth reading, if I can toot my own horn for a moment.
The point of these articles will be to look at players in the top ten of certain stat categories and write up draft eligible players who I have not written about this year or seen a lot of coverage of on other sites. Some of these players are not going to be drafted or will be third day selections. The point is not to highlight hot draft prospects, but rather top performers who might have a chance to surprise down the road.
For this week’s fun with stats piece, I wanted to write up a pitcher, after focusing on a hitter last week. So for this week, I chose Wyatt Marks who, as of the writing of this article, was not just leading the nation in strikeouts per nine, 15.09, but leading it by a large margin. The gap between Marks and second place, Zac Lowther of Xavier, is nearly the same as between Lowther and sixth place, David Peterson of Oregon.
Wyatt Marks is a right handed pitcher for Louisiana-Lafayette. Marks had mostly been a starter his first two years, with mixed results. His strikeout and walk rates were solid, but nothing that was going to grab attention for a smaller school player.
This year, Marks has worked entirely from the pen and is on pace to pitch nearly as many innings as a year ago, in spite of changing his role. Marks was basically a two pitch guy with his fastball and slider. So a lot of credit should be given to the coaches who found a way to maximize his abilities. They saw that Marks had two strong pitches and, with his history as a starter, the coaches knew that Marks could be used as a workhorse arm out of the pen. Marks has been used as a multi innings reliever for the Ragin Cajuns.
While he has the best numbers of any pitcher on the staff, he has not been used exclusively as a closer; as a matter of fact, he is second on the team in saves, behind Dylan Moore. Instead, the coaches have used him as a bridge pitcher, which is something that every year seems to get more valuable to Major League teams. When I write about starters, I often talk about innings eaters. I think the same concept is something we are seeing more in pen arms. The ability to have a pitcher get more than three outs or be used multiple days in a row has been used successfully by several managers, notably Terry Francona of the Indians.
In addition to leading the nation in strikeouts per nine, Marks also leads the nation in fewest hits per nine, 4.13. Again, there is a large gap between him and second in this category. The gap between him and Jake Dahlberg of the University of Illinois-Chicago is a little bigger than the gap between Dahlberg and Brendan McKay of Louisville, who is fifth in hits per nine.
So, on top of striking out a high number of batters per inning, very few are able to actually make contact and get on base. His home run rate is a little high, which means when players do make contact, there is a decent chance for extra bases. I should note that his home park has pretty typical dimensions, but this year, according to the data from Chris D Long, it has been a park that has been more pitcher friendly. His walk rate is up this year, but still in an acceptable range.
I think there is a value in a player like Marks. He has performed at a high level this year and has experience as a multi-inning reliever. He could be a quick moving reliever for a team who drafts him. I don’t see him as a player who will be groomed to be a closer, and I think his value will be as a reliever who can soak up a lot of innings for a team.