Baseball is a statistic-based sport. As players, we’ve all been caught obsessing over our stats and doing calculations in our head after a 3-for-4 performance to figure out what that raised our batting average to. This begs the question, do college coaches even care? When they are recruiting high school players do they factor in their high school stats? The answer is while it may be the factor, it is often far down the list of importance.
College coaches and scouts evaluate players on factors far beyond in-game statistics. While they might be interested to know a player’s stats, they are often more interested in the player’s potential and how their abilities project to the next level, which isn’t always correlated with stats.
For high school players that are interested in playing college baseball, the purpose of this article is to demonstrate why they shouldn’t stress about their stats, and rather focus on playing consistent high-quality baseball. Some may argue what is the difference, but we’ll explain that and what exactly players should be more concerned with in order to impress scouts.
Evaluating High School Stats
The problem with using high school stats as the only way to evaluate a player is that they only tell part of the story. There are very different levels of high school baseball competition, based on school size, region, and division. There are also inconsistencies in record keeping. Often high school teams need to rely on parents, volunteers, or players themselves to keep score and record stats. Therefore, the legitimacy of a player’s stats can be effective if the person keeping stats is not impartial.
Another reason, and arguably the most impactful reason, is the high school season is short. Players on average may only have 60 to 80 at-bats in a given season. With the small sample size, a player’s statistics can drastically fluctuate throughout the season and a couple of lucky hits or line-outs can be the difference in a player batting .300 versus .375.
Let’s use an example, say two players are in their last game of the season, and both players are 20-for-60 on the year, batting .333. In the last game, Player A goes 4-for-5, and 3 of those hits were weakly hit ground balls that snuck through the infield. Player B goes 0-for-5, with 3 lineouts and a deep flyout. While Player B hit the ball much better than Player A, their batting averages and the end of the season don’t show that.
- Player A (after going 4-for-5) – Batting Average: .369
- Player B (after going 0-for-5) – Batting Average: .307
Without considering any other factors besides batting average, on paper, it looks like Player A had a much better season. While just one game before that, they were equal. This is an overly simple example but it is used to show why scouts don’t take statistics at face value and use statistics as just one of many factors to evaluate players.
It’s All About Projectibility
Another reason most college coaches are not overly concerned with a player’s high school stats is that they are interested in how they will perform at the college level, not high school. A good example of how this would be evaluated is bat speed or exit velocity. Two players may have similar high school stats, but one player is stronger, more athletic, and has great bat speed, while the other does not. Which player will likely have a better chance of excelling against college-level pitchers who throw significantly harder than high school pitchers?
Another example to explain projectability is maybe a player doesn’t have great bat speed right now, but they have good swing mechanics and an athletic body frame that will be good for putting on muscle and getting stronger, ultimately leading to increases in bat speed and power. While these factors are very subjective and college coaches have different methods of evaluating, it is just another illustration of how college coaches evaluate more than just stats.
How to Stand Out
If a college coach is watching a high school player in a game, they aren’t looking for results but rather the quality of their performance. In reference to Player A, and Player B from earlier, stats and results are sometimes misleading and college coaches understand this. For hitters, they will be evaluating the quality of their at-bats. A quality at-bat could mean the following:
- The batter swung at good pitchers to hit
- The batter made hard contact with a pitch, regardless of the result
- The batter worked a count and swung at the pitch they were looking for
- The batter executed a situational hitting scenario
- The batter was in control of their at-bat
This can be applied to all aspects of the game; pitching, hitting, fielding, base-running, etc. College coaches want to see players consistently play the game hard and control what they can control. A player can control how well they hit the ball, but they can’t always control if it happens to be a lineout right at someone. Consistently performing well will eventually lead to good stats, but with a small sample size in our example, it can take more games and at-bats for statistics to become a better representation of a player’s ability.
Coachability in Players
College coaches make a living off coaching and developing players to succeed. They often factor in coachability when evaluating players. Coachability is how well players respond to criticism, suggestions, and overall coach’s advice. It is the ability to make adjustments based on what they are taught. If a coach is confident a player will listen and has a willingness to be coached, they won’t be as concerned with the player’s refinement and may weigh factors like athleticism, work ethic, and projectability more heavily. Again, this has nothing to do with stats but can be a major part of a college coach’s recruiting philosophy.
There are no absolutes when it comes to college coaches and their approach to recruiting, but if players focus on the things they can control and play the game hard, it will set them up for much better success than just focusing on stats.