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High School players all around the country are dying to play at the next level, whether it be college or pro. Many are driven competitors who are willing to do whatever it takes to win and achieve their personal goals. Kids, and their parents, often like to know where they stand in relation to their peers and to the players that have already been where they hope to be.
This often leads to questions such as “How hard do I need to throw?” “How fast do I need to run my 60?” “How many home runs do I need to hit?” And the big one, “What does my batting average need to be to make it to the next level?
A good batting average in high school baseball mostly depends on the competition the player plays against, but .300 and above is a good mark to strive toward for most high school hitters. High school baseball players must remember, however, that a high batting average is not the only thing on which to judge a hitter.
This will be discussed later on, but the good news is that high school hitters should not have to stress about their batting average as it relates to making it to the next level because many college and pro scouts don’t care much at all about a player’s batting average.
The reason it is difficult to put a set number to this answer is the fact that the level of competition in high school baseball across the United States varies from state to state and city to city. High school baseball is governed at the state level making the comparisons between each state virtually impossible to predict. In any given year, the overall depth of talent in each state, city, league, division, etc. can vary.
Hitting .300 in a region with multiple college level arms on each team is much different than hitting .300 in a region with very few if any college potential pitchers. Hitting above .300 is a good goal to have for any high school player, but that player must realize that simply reaching that mark does not necessarily make him a good hitter.
College and Pro Evaluations
Batting average is one of the last things college and pro scouts consider when evaluating a high school prospect. Let me repeat that for all of the high school players and their parents out there. BATTING AVERAGE IS ONE OF THE LAST THINGS COLLEGE AND PRO SCOUTS CONSIDER WHEN EVALUATING A HIGH SCHOOL PROSPECT.
Scouts and college recruiters often don’t care what a player’s batting average is in high school for many reasons.
For one, not all stat keepers at the high school level are completely objective and/or knowledgable about what classifies as a hit and what doesn’t. It is not uncommon for the shortstop’s dad to keep the official stats for the team, and he may be inclined to give his son and some other players hits when they reach base on an error. This is not true for every high school team, but it happens so often that evaluators have learned not to completely trust high school stats.
Secondly, they care more about the tools that he has to make it at the next level. This is what they call “projecting talent”.
Professional scouts grade on a 20-80 scale. Baseball America breaks down this scale in an easy-to-understand way:
Notice that there are no specific batting average numbers placed on this scale. Also notice that Major League players are used as comparisons for each grade. That is because pro scouts don’t look at high school prospects for what they are at the high school level; they look at them for what they think they will be at the pro level.
College recruiters typically use more general terms like average, above average, plus, minus, etc. to evaluate players. There is no real standardized way of evaluating at that level like the 20-80 scale at the pro level. Still, the focus is on projecting the player for what he can be in college, not what he is in high school.
Now, don’t be fooled. If a scout thinks a player has what it takes to hit at the next level, but he is only hitting .260 against below average high school pitchers, that may raise some eyebrows. The point here is that if Player A hits .450 in high school but appears to have reached his ceiling in talent, and Player B hits .370 but projects to improve exponentially once he gets on a more sophisticated hitting program, Player B will typically get the nod over Player A.
Batting averages don’t always tell the whole truth. Player C can go 5-10 with five infield singles while Player D can go 2-10 with eight line drive outs. Which looks better on the stat sheet? Player C. Which player has had more productive at bats? Player D.
Because of this, there is a stat that more high school baseball programs across the country are beginning to use: Quality At-Bats (QABs).
Steve Springer from Qualityatbats.com classifies as a QAB as any at-bat that results in the following:
- Hard it ball
- 8 Pitch At-Bat
- Sac Bunt/Fly
- Move Runners Over w/ Less than 2 Outs
- Base Hit
Yes, getting a hit is normally always a good thing for a team and a player, but focusing more on quality at-bats than batting average allows players to understand that getting hits isn’t the end all be all. As stated several times, batting averages can lie.
Springer also notes, “After 30+ years in baseball as a player, coach, and scout, I believe what causes hitters to underachieve is
- Their goal is to get a hit instead of hitting the ball hard
- They make it about them instead of about helping their team win
- They try to hit the fastball, curveball, and changeup all at the same time. Swinging at everything instead of Hunting Pitches
- Go into Pout Mode when they don’t get a hit instead of being a better competitor than they are a player”
QABs are much more difficult to track than batting average, but for teams with a trusted statistician, it is worth it to teach young hitters to focus on being productive rather than just getting hits.
Many colleges have been using this metric for a while, so hitters who want to advance to the next level should get used to tracking their QABs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the record for the highest high school batting average?
There are seven high school players who have hit above .800 for a season with a minimum of 50 at-bats according to the National Federation of High School Sports. One of those seven players is current Cleveland manager Terry Francona who accomplished this feat for New Brighton (PA) in 1976. The highest batting average for a career is held by Melvin Begley (Boise City, OK 1953-54) and Rod Tartsan (Cache, OK 1982-84) who both hit over .700.
Do college recruiters and scouts even want to know a high schooler’s batting average?
Most likely not. If they see the player, and he looks to project well, they probably won’t even bother looking at the batting average. However, for borderline guys, it may be a piece that they consult to help them evaluate. For example, if a player has borderline talent, they may look at his batting average. If they notice that it is much lower than what they believe he is capable of hitting at his level, then they may mark him off their list. Rarely will they decide to offer or draft a prospect solely based on a high batting average.
Does the MLB track QABs?
Yes, they do, but they don’t often broadcast it to the general fan. More fans don’t know what a QAB is than do. It is not a sexy stat like batting average. MVPs, Silver Sluggers, and Triple Crowns are awarded based on batting averages, not QABs. Major League Teams often use it to make personnel decisions, however.
It is understandable why so many young baseball players get caught up in their batting average. Every time they watch a baseball game, the hitter’s average pops up right below his name. It is almost as if it is part of his identity. The sooner a young hitter realizes that his batting average is not the only qualifier in whether or not he is successful at the plate, the more fulfilling his baseball career will be.
Hitting .300 at any level of baseball is usually a good goal to have, but high school hitters must remember that their high school batting average is relative to the competition they play and that it is rarely an indicator of how successful their baseball career will be.