Do You Want to See the Future in College Baseball Recruiting?

college baseball recruiting

I have seen the future and sorry guys and college baseball recruiting is about to get harder.

In just about every showcase you attend this summer, the event operator will be collecting information and relaying it back to the college coaches in attendance. This info will include the same stuff we have all been hearing about, such as pitching velo, 60-yard dash, exit velo and infield velo among others.  Basically, coaches are making educated bets, and any and all information is valuable to them.  However, I believe the process is about to get a little easier for the coaches and a little more difficult on the college baseball recruiting front.

Enter Rapsodo and other tech like it.  They are like baseball’s version of an MRI machine.  They (the cameras) will watch you pitch and/or hit and then spew out a report filled with numbers. These devices track and chart your pitches and hits in every way imaginable.  The data can be a little difficult to decipher at first but it can be enormously valuable to any recruiter once they figure it out.  How do I know? We have been living with one of these cameras for the past few months in our Pitching Lab.  What it tells you is uniquely informative.

First there was command and it ruled for decades.  Then came radar guns and velocity and they kind of kicked “command” to the side for a little while.  But, now I believe “command” will come back into the picture in full force because of technology.  It’s already happening at the major and minor league levels.  Players are getting tossed aside or moved up through the ranks quicker and/or earlier simply based on what the front office sees in the data.

You see, until recently, college coaches only had access to very basic “data”, as in velo.  They supplemented their impression of a player any way they could.  They would come to see you pitch / play and make judgments about your abilities.  They watched, as you walked batters or got struck out 3 times.  But times are changing, and progressive recruiters and college coaches are jumping all over the data coming out of the new devices. They are already using them to help develop their existing pitchers and players on campus. But soon these same coaches, that understand what the data is telling them, will recruit smarter and faster with data in hand.

Here is a quick look at a summary of what a college coach can get his hands on today on any pitcher that has thrown in front of a Rapsodo camera.  It doesn’t take that many throws in front of one of these cameras to assemble what I refer to as a baseball DNA on a pitcher.  The data covers everything from velocity to spin rates, spin axis, horizontal and vertical movement and more.  And believe me when I tell you they can make a more educated decision about a pitcher when they look at this type of info.  Every piece of info below tells the coach something about you as a pitcher, most of which was previously unavailable.

By the way, position players aren’t immune to this new info.  There are also similar cameras and devices for hitting as well.  The data may be different but it’s just as informative nonetheless.

It’s not like this type of data is new.  Pitch/Fx data on pitching has been available in the major leagues for many years.  Statcast, installed in every major league stadium, now provides hitting, pitching, fielding and running speed data by the game, by the terabytes.  There is no doubt that new terminology has made its way into the mainstream and college baseball recruiting is no different.

However, until recently, this type of data hasn’t been available at a reasonable cost to the commercial facilities that train and recruit high school players. It can be complicated and somewhat involved at first, and you might need a basic understanding of physics to appreciate and really understand the information (a degree in Engineering from over 30 years ago is probably helpful… Lol).  Like all new things, especially in baseball, old school guys will dismiss this info.  They will say they don’t need it. They prefer to observe the pitch and hear the bat.  But the past is history.  The future is here and data analytics will change everything all the way down to high school baseball.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  Coaches will still come and watch you play the game this summer.  They will want to see how you handle the ups and downs.  They will want to see how you handle runners on base or field a ball.  They will want to watch you hit and pitch.  They will want to see how explosive and/or fast you are.  They will want to see if you got any stronger over the winter.  But, soon, they will have access to all this new data.  They will simply demand it by going to wherever and whoever provides it.

Now, let’s circle back to the opening statement “it’s about to get harder to get recruited”.  Here is why.

Data doesn’t lie and it eliminates much of the guesswork.  Let’s say you’re a highly reputable high school pitcher and you think you have 3-4 solid pitches, a 4-seam, a 2-seam, a change-up and a curveball.  The data will show if that’s true.  If your 4-seam and 2-seam move similarly and your curveball isn’t breaking then perhaps you only have 2 pitches in your arsenal. Or, let’s say you think you have a curveball and a slider and they both move like a slurve then you have neither.  You have a slurve.  Or, you have exceptionally high spin rates but your velo is lacking, a college coach may be ok with that.  With all this info, pretty soon spin rates, spin axis and ball movement will begin to play a role in college baseball recruiting.  The data exposes a great deal and college coaches will be able to make better decisions.

If you’re looking for additional insights on the recruiting process you can click here.

So, what does this mean for you? Stay tuned…

By Bahram Shirazi (BSEE, MBA and Co-owner at RPP)

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