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A lot of things about baseball have changed over the years, but one thing that has remained true is that you can never have enough pitching. This is why college scouts are always on the lookout for quality pitchers to join their program.
When they are out there on the recruiting trail watching high school pitchers, there are many things that they are looking for in the pitchers that they hope to sign.
When recruiting a pitcher, college baseball scouts look for velocity, command, offspeed pitches, mechanics, athleticism, and some of the intangibles the pitcher possesses.
Of course, there are other qualities and skills that coaches look at when recruiting a pitcher, but these are the six things that just about every college coach wants to investigate before offering a pitcher a scholarship.
The Most Important Thing to Remember
As a high school pitcher looking to be recruited at the college level, the most important thing to remember is this:
College scouts care more about the pitcher they think you can be in the future than the pitcher you are right now. This is what they call projectability.
The scouts must evaluate the pitcher you are right now to make a sound projection of what you can be in the future which is why they will spend time evaluating these six things.
Pitching velocity is a hot topic in baseball these days because pitchers at all levels are throwing harder than ever.
Velocity is not everything, but college scouts need to know if a pitcher has the velocity to get people out with his fastball at the next level.
Again, I must reiterate that college scouts care more about what they project your velocity to be in college than what it is in high school, but the higher a pitcher’s velocity is in high school the higher it may be in college. This is not always the case, but most of the time it is.
Not all college coaches are looking for the highest velocity, but the bottom line is that the harder a pitcher throws, the more attention from colleges he is likely to get.
Like I said, velocity is important to college scouts, but it is not everything. They also like to evaluate a pitcher’s command.
College scouts evaluate a pitcher’s command to understand what control the pitcher has of all of his pitches.
Many college scouts have different preferences when it comes to evaluating command in a high school pitcher. Some scouts put more stock in a pitcher’s velocity because they feel confident in their pitching coach’s ability to teach command to his pitchers.
Other scouts prefer to recruit pitchers with above average command because they feel confident in their program’s ability to develop pitchers’ velocities once they get to college.
It all comes down to the program’s philosophy on pitching. Of course, all scouts would prefer a pitcher who has both high velocity and command of all his pitches, but that is not always the case with many high school pitchers, so scouts are sometimes forced to choose.
The fastball is a staple in a pitcher’s arsenal, but at the college level, it takes a lot more than just a fastball to be successful.
College scouts always evaluate a pitcher’s offspeed pitches in the recruiting process to look for potential “out pitches” at the next level.
An “out pitch” is a go-to pitch that a pitcher can use to get hitters out. Most college coaches agree that a pitcher must have another out pitch other than just his fastball.
College scouts understand that most high school pitchers are not polished products. That is why they don’t expect perfection when evaluating their offspeed pitches. Instead, they look for what many call their “feel” of the pitches.
Having a feel for an offspeed pitch means that while the command of it may not be great, the pitcher shows that he can throw the pitch with an effective spin and break.
For example, a pitcher with a good feel for his slider may not always be able to throw it for a strike, but it shows good velocity and breaking action that proves to scouts that it can be an effective college-level pitch once he gains more command of it.
High school pitchers that show a good feel for at least one offspeed pitch typically project as relievers in college. Pitchers who show a good feel for more than one offspeed pitch often project as starters.
Have you ever wondered why scouts take so many videos of the pitchers they recruit from a side angle? When a scout does this, he is taking videos to analyze the pitcher’s mechanics.
College scouts analyze a pitcher’s mechanics to look for two things: repeatability and signs of potential injury.
In today’s world of pitching, it is widely accepted that there is not one way to teach a pitcher mechanics. College scouts understand that what works mechanically for one pitcher may not work for another. They are not looking for robotic mechanics.
Instead, college scouts look for repeatability in a pitcher’s mechanics during the recruiting process. The idea is that the more repeatable a pitcher’s mechanics are, the more consistent he will be with his command and endurance.
Some scouts also look for checkpoints in a pitcher’s mechanics to look for possible signs of future arm injuries. For example, it was long-believed that pitchers who made an inverted W with their elbows before releasing the ball were at higher risk for Tommy John surgery.
Some of these injury checkpoints are up for debate among sports doctors, but some scouts believe they have valuable information about injury prevention when it comes to mechanics.
They use this information to either stay away from recruits they feel may be on their way to injury, or they use it to understand what they need to work on with that pitcher if they sign him to a scholarship.
Many people jokingly say that pitchers aren’t athletes. While there are many pitchers who do not have elite athleticism, being a good athlete is certainly an advantage as a pitcher.
College scouts often evaluate a pitcher’s athleticism in the recruiting process because it helps in projecting his potential.
As stated earlier, being a great athlete as a pitcher is not crucial, but pitchers who have above average athleticism tend to have more potential to have repeatable mechanics and throw at higher velocities.
Being athletic means that a player has above average control of the movements of his body. Pitching is all about having rhythm and being under control while simultaneously being explosive towards the plate.
The better athlete a pitcher is, the more likely he is to be able to do all three of those things at a high level. Therefore, college scouts use a pitcher’s athleticism as a tool to project him as a college pitcher.
Intangibles are skill sets that a person has that aren’t necessarily coachable. The thought is that you either have it or you don’t. Some intangibles that coaches look for in players are things like leadership, competitiveness, work ethic, etc.
College scouts evaluate a pitcher’s intangibles in order to project what he will be like as a teammate and how hard he will work to improve his game.
Sometimes, intangibles can be hard to see in the evaluation process. This is why many scouts prefer to talk to a player’s coaches, parents, and sometimes teammates to get an understanding for what intangibles he may bring to the table.
A scout may love a player’s skill set on the mound, but if through asking around he finds out that the player is lazy and proves to be selfish at times, it may cross him off the list.
On the flip side, a scout may be on the fence about a pitcher’s skill set, but if he learns of the player’s competitiveness and tireless work ethic, then he may be willing to take a risk and sign him because of his intangibles.
Different scouts look for different things when it comes to a player’s intangibles. The bottom line is that they all want players with high character and a strong work ethic.
And remember, it is not about what you are right, but what you have the potential to be.
How Many Pitchers are on a College Baseball Roster?
On a team of 35 players, there are typically anywhere between 14 and 18 pitchers on the roster. Having players that both pitch and play a position is rare in college baseball, but it happens more often than in professional baseball.
How Many Scholarships Do College Baseball Teams Have?
A Division 1 college baseball team has 11.7 scholarships that they can divide among 35 players. Division 2 programs have 9 scholarships while Division 3 programs have 0. NAIA baseball teams have 12 scholarships.
The junior college level is where all of the scholarships can be found. NJCAA programs have 24 scholarships to divide among their players.