Those who know me also know that I have a fair number of contacts throughout college and professional baseball and have had jobs in both arenas. Through those experiences, plus my experiences as a coach/trainer for a number of high school players who are going through the college and professional scouting and recruiting process, I’d like to talk a bit about the misconceptions, perceptions, and flat-out arrogant thoughts when it comes to playing beyond the high school level.
You Are Trying to Take Someone’s Job
People tend to forget this cardinal rule when it comes to the recruiting process. By thinking that you are someone who should be recruited, you are saying that you are either currently better than the person ahead of you at that next level or you project to be better than that person when you reach the next level.
Since I’m in the Pacific Northwest, the organization to envy is Oregon State. Many kids want to play for Oregon State.
(As of this writing, two of our athletes are committed there – one pitcher , one catcher .)
Depending on what organization you choose to believe, Oregon State is ranked anywhere from #1 to #3 in the nation, making them pretty damn good. Let’s assume you are a pitcher, since that’s generally the focus of this blog and Driveline Baseball in general. Before we even look at their pitching staff, I suggest you take a look at this sobering list of the best prospects in the Pac-12 – courtesy of Baseball America:
Alright, let’s take a look at their weekend starters:
- RHP Andrew Moore: 14-2, 131 IP, 1.79 ERA, 28 BB, 72 K. 88-92 MPH.
- LHP Jace Fry: Pitched sparingly in 2013, recovering from surgery. When healthy, 91-94 MPH.
- LHP Ben Wetzler: 10-1, 96 IP, 2.25 ERA, 32 BB, 83 K. 88-92 MPH.
If you expect to pitch in the rotation of the Beavers, you need to be AT LEAST that good. And oh yeah, Dylan Davis pitches in relief every once in awhile. Remember how hard he threw out of high school? (I would note that Dylan’s velocity on this page is from the fall after his junior year of high school.)
The message is this: Take the organization (college or pro) that you think you’re good enough to play for and simply see if you are as good as any of the guys in it. Then think about the fact that the college or pro organization is going to get the best recruits/signees they can, and you have to compete with THEM. If you expect to go into the next level and simply cruise and develop there, you are out of your mind. You have to go into the organization being as good as you can possibly be, and THEN develop.
As one of my clients (who is committed to a Pac-12 school) put very clearly: “The current version of me wouldn’t get out of the first inning of a Pac-12 game. That’s why I train here.”
Your Grades and Test Scores Matter
This is a message that is hammered over, and over, and over again, yet student-athletes think they can just get a 3.0 GPA and cruise. Wrong. NCAA has come down hard on college baseball grades, so coaches are looking for any reason to discard marginal recruits – and a big focus here are grades and test scores.
Want a baseline? Alright – do you have a 3.75+ GPA and a 1900+ SAT score? You can skip this part.
The reality is that baseball scholarships are capped at 11.7 full rides for every program – assuming that it’s fully-funded, of course. That means coaches and athletic directors have that many scholarships to give to ALL of their baseball recruits and current players, and oftentimes walk-ons earn scholarships by performing well on the current roster – which means fewer scholarships for their recruits.
It should go without saying, then, that full scholarships to the school in question are exceedingly rare. And if you want to play for a Top 10 baseball school like Cal State Fullerton or Oregon State, why would they give you a full scholarship? Everyone already wants to play for those schools.
Grades and test scores are hugely important for two reasons – first, to keep your scholarships and maintain eligibility, you need to keep your grades up. Second, if you can get 75% of your tuition covered through academic scholarships, the coach will fall to his knees and thank the heavens knowing he only has to give you the minimum baseball scholarship to sign you (25%). Take two players who are similar in ability and projection. One of them has a 2.2 GPA and hasn’t taken the SAT yet while the other guy might be a tick worse athletically but has a 3.5 GPA and an 1870 SAT. Do you honestly think this is a tough decision for the coach?
Additionally, the grades you get are an indicator of your character. We all know that high school can be a boring grind and you might feel as though you aren’t learning much. And given the ridiculous structure of our public high schools in today’s society, you may very well be right. To which I say: Who cares? It doesn’t matter. Your results in school reflect your ability to focus on a difficult task and complete it regardless of your feelings for it. And I’ll say this: I’ve coached hundreds of athletes, and there is a huge correlation between GPA and work ethic in the weight room, batting cage, and pitching tunnel. College coaches and pro scouts know it too – and the biggest separator up there is work ethic.
College and Pro Scouts Look for Different Things
A college program may be in a position to highly recruit someone who can help them win quickly – for example, a pitcher with good command and below-average velocity (83-85 MPH) may pick up a bunch of innings early in his NCAA career simply because they need a guy to throw strikes. (You’ll note that this isn’t the case at the most competitive schools, of course.)
However, in professional baseball, projection is the name of the game – and for pitchers, that means a few things that you can’t help (height, arm span, relatives who played pro ball) and a few things you can (velocity, weight, body type, command). However, velocity is and remains the single most important thing when it comes to evaluating an amateur player. As former pro pitcher Matt McCarthy put it in Odd Man Out – “Derek Jeter is going to hit an 82 MPH fastball regardless of where it crosses the plate. You have to throw 90.”
If you happen to be of average height (6’0″ or so), right-handed, and you throw 95 MPH, well, I promise that colleges and professional organizations will be talking to you at length. Even if you don’t throw strikes, the arm strength alone shows them something serious. If you throw strikes at 95 MPH with even one single serviceable secondary pitch, expect a LOT of phone calls.
Still think velocity doesn’t matter? Think control really does? I want you to look at this pitcher’s Perfect Game profile and note the round he was drafted in as well as his velocity.
Pretty rare velocity, I’d say. Stetson Allie signed at the last minute for $2.25 million. Now look at his stats in pro ball:
Uh… not too good. You might be wondering why Stetson hasn’t pitched since 2012, and the answer is because the Pittsburgh Pirates converted him to an infielder.
Let’s do this in reverse. Take a look at Jason Neighborgall’s stats. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
This guy signed in the 3rd round for a huge bonus. You might be wondering to yourself how this is possible given his crazy stat line. The answer is that Jason was able to throw 100 MPH with a wipeout curve ball.
So just because you get hitters out with an 84 MPH fastball with decent command and you might see people do that at the college level, that doesn’t mean you will get the same opportunities as the guy who throws 92+ MPH with average or worse command.
Let’s close on this simple statement to bring this post full circle in the baseball recruiting process: The next level is NOT about how good you are now. It is about how good you MIGHT be. The sooner you can accurately and honestly evaluate yourself in these terms, the better off you will be in the recruiting/scouting process.
If you are good enough, we wrote a post about how to make a recruiting video that college coaches will actually watch.