Every youth baseball player dreams of one day playing at the professional level, but before you can hear your name called on draft day, you often have to establish yourself as a solidified college baseball player. If you are one of the roughly 500,000 high school baseball players across the United States looking to elevate your playing career to the collegiate level, this article is a must read. I frequently have players ask me what it will take to get to the next level of their playing career, so I put together an article covering the essentials for a high school baseball player looking to play at the collegiate level.
In this article, I will cover an array of topics surrounding what it takes to become a college baseball player and how you can get there, as well as how you can squander your potential to play at that level with poor decisions both on and off of the field.
College baseball is the final step before the professional level, and at the collegiate level the competitive edge is paramount to one’s success. It’s a dog-eat-dog world at the collegiate level, where only about 57,000 of the aforementioned 500,000 high school baseball players will have the opportunity to further their baseball playing career. So how can you become one of the 11.6 percent of high school baseball players that make a successful transition to the collegiate level?
Obviously, the first factor in determining a player’s chances of playing at the collegiate level is his skill-set as a baseball player. It goes without saying that a player looking to play college baseball should possess above-average to excellent on-field skills by the time they near their senior year in high school.
A Division I college baseball player should possess a polished set of skills, or “tools,” as they are commonly referred to by scouts. The five tools of baseball are of course hitting for average, hitting for power, fielding ability, throwing ability, and speed.
A Division I-ready baseball player should be able to post benchmarks in those measurable tools or skills equivalent to or greater than the low end of the major league averages. A Division II ready baseball player should be near that range as well, with room to grow during their underclass years at the collegiate level.
As you know, some high school baseball players’ skills are so polished after high school that they are selected in the draft right out of high school. While that possibility is always there, the odds are even lower than the odds of one making the jump from high school to college baseball successfully. So let’s focus on those players who will be using collegiate baseball to hone their polished skill-set to position themselves for the draft after their collegiate career has concluded.
Here are some basic skill guidelines for players aspiring to play collegiate baseball:
- Pitchers: Throwing Velocity 86 MPH or greater (consistently), while possessing at least two other consistent pitches, above average fielding skills, and the ability to stay poised under pressure.
- Catchers: Should possess a pop-time of 1.95 or below, with the ability to manage a game and pitchers, drop down to block pitches, the ability to frame pitches, as well as above average arm strength.
- Middle-Infielders/Outfielders: Should possess a 60-yard-dash time of 6.80 or below, as well as a throwing velocity of 85 MPH or greater.
- Corner-Infielders: Should possess a 60-yard-dash time of 7.25 or below, as well as a throwing velocity of 85 MPH or greater.
- Pitchers: Throwing Velocity 81 MPH or greater (consistently), while possessing at least two other consistent pitches, above average fielding skills, and the ability to stay poised under pressure.
- Catchers: Should possess a pop-time of 2.0 or below, with the ability to manage a game and pitchers, drop down to block pitches, the ability to frame pitches, as well as above average arm strength.
- Middle-Infielders/Outfielders: Should possess a 60-yard-dash time of 6.90 or below, as well as a throwing velocity of 80 MPH or greater.
- Corner-Infielders: Should possess a 60-yard-dash time of 7.25 or below, as well as a throwing velocity of 80 MPH or greater.
- Pitchers: Throwing Velocity 80 MPH or greater (consistently), while possessing at least two other consistent pitches, above average fielding skills, and the ability to stay poised under pressure.
- Catchers: Should possess a pop-time of 2.1 or below, with the ability to manage a game and pitchers, drop down to block pitches, the ability to frame pitches, as well as above average arm strength.
- Middle-Infielders/Outfielders: Should possess a 60-yard-dash time of 7.25 or below, as well as a throwing velocity of 75 MPH or greater.
- Corner-Infielders: Should possess a 60-yard-dash time of 7.35 or below, as well as a throwing velocity of 75 MPH or greater.
A potential college baseball player should possess a batted-ball exit speed in the range of 85 MPH or greater on a consistent basis.
Keep in mind that these are just guidelines, and the numbers are fluid from year to year as players and humans in general continue to become more physically advanced.
As a rule, most college scouts will look for a potential Division I baseball player to possess an above average rating in at least two of the five basic tools before they begin consideration for that player.
Academic Standing and Ability
It’s not all about athletic ability and baseball skills when it comes to furthering your amateur baseball career; in fact, it is actually pretty far from that. As well as above average athleticism, you must have above average academic standing to have any hopes of receiving scholarship dollars at the collegiate level.
Most Division I NCAA baseball programs, as well as the lower levels (i.e., DII, DIII, JUCO, etc.), expect the student athlete to possess a GPA (Grade Point Average) of 3.0 or higher, as well as an SAT (Standardized Aptitude Testing) score of 1000 (out of 1600) or higher.
Unlike football and basketball, which boast large television deals, corporate sponsorship, and endorsements worth millions of dollars, baseball for the most part is not seen as a “money sport” in collegiate athletics. What that basically means is that college baseball doesn’t draw the same interest as college football or basketball from the general public, so they do not receive large profits from sponsors like the other two sports.
Because of that, a far superior value is placed on academic standards for baseball players when colleges are determining who gets scholarship dollars and who does not. You’d better believe that you need to invest just as much time into your academic career as you do your baseball career if you want to make it to the next level.
If you do not possess a natural ability to learn at a high level academically, or even take an interest in academics, make sure that you seek out the appropriate assistance. Tutors are always available through your respective school as well as for hire privately. I know that investing the amount of time and dedication that it takes to perform at a high level in academics as well as athletics could be stressful and time-consuming, but it certainly can be achieved with the right amount of determination.
Character and Integrity
As simply as I can put this, college coaches do not want student athletes with poor character or integrity. Obviously, every institution has its own standards that minimally adhere to the standards of the NCAA to some degree, with some schools having stricter rules and regulations than others.
With that being said, nearly none of those schools will pay for you to attend their institution and represent their program if you do not possess a high amount of morals, character, and integrity.
We see it more and more often in college sports lately: with social media becoming a source for every little piece of information to be made public in some fashion, students with poor character are paying the price for their actions.
Generally staying free from trouble with law enforcement, teachers, and school administrators should be the minimal goal set forth by a student athlete, or every student and young adult for that matter. But one thing that I see so many athletes overlook is how they hold or portray themselves in their social lives.
This is just as important as how they carry themselves in school or on the field, and is often the Achilles heel for many student athletes. If you’re doing anything morally questionable in your personal lives, bet on the fact that at some point it will become public, and it will negatively affect your potential to obtain a scholarship or even play collegiate sports in general.
Keep your head up, and strive to be the best person that you can be all of the time. Besides, if an athlete is truly committed to excellence in both his or her athletic performance as well as their academic performance, they should be hard pressed to find time to get into trouble in their social lives.
Social media is an invaluable tool in the recruiting process of young athletes, as it allows you a platform to easily and efficiently broadcast your talents and abilities. It can also very easily become the downfall of a student athlete, as well. If you think that coaches are not constantly checking up on potential recruits’ social media pages, think again!
This is an excellent way for coaches to gauge an athlete’s morals, integrity, character, decision-making ability, maturity level, etc., and they will be checking. Don’t believe me? Take a look at some of the tweets that I have included for your viewing.
Academic institutions do not want to invest money into players who can’t represent themselves as well as their school in a respectable fashion. Likewise, coaches do not want to waste the time and energy that it takes to recruit and teach a player who will potentially become ineligible for sports due to academic or character issues.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the wrong crowd, both in high school and in college. One mistake could end your playing career before you even know it, and that is not something that you should take lightly at all. Be better than the rest, be more driven than the rest, and always be the best that you can possibly be on and off of the field.
Putting It All Together
A potential college baseball player must have all of the skills, qualities, and characteristics that I have outlined thus far. They have to have above average, polished baseball skills complimented by an above average knowledge of the game tactically, or as most call it, “baseball IQ.” Along with those skills, a baseball player must have the ability to perform at an above average level academically in addition to those athletic abilities. And last but certainly not least, a player must exhibit positive character with good morals.
So let’s say that you’ve taken in the information and expectations outlined in the core qualities above, and you think that you have what it takes to make the transition to the college baseball world in the near future. What are the chances of receiving a scholarship?
Scholarships in baseball are hard to come by, largely due to the point that I touched on earlier in the article: college baseball is not a “money sport.” Therefore, scholarship dollars in baseball come at a premium and often only cover a student athlete’s partial tuition for the school year. Most colleges only cover roughly one-third of the yearly tuition rate of a student athlete with a baseball scholarship.
On average, an NCAA Division I school receives 26 scholarships per team, with the average dollar amount per player or recipient being roughly $13,709 per year. Some schools offer baseball scholarships in the dollar amount as high as $26,000, and some as low as $6,300 per school year.
While those numbers help offset the cost of attending the academic institution of your choice, you will need to obtain an academic scholarship in addition to further offset the cost and avoid student loans as much as possible. If you still didn’t believe that academics play as big of a role as athletic ability in your quest to play collegiate baseball, those numbers should further reinforce the concept.
So what does this all mean to a prospective college baseball player, or a prospective player’s parents?
None of the information in this article was meant to scare a player away from trying to obtain the goal of playing baseball at the collegiate level, but rather to enlighten the player on just how difficult it is to accomplish the feat, as well as how much work and dedication goes into furthering the players baseball career.
Of the 11.6 percent of high school baseball players that make the transition to college baseball, only 2.1 percent will play at a Division I school.
If you’re one of the 2.1 percent of all high school baseball players that will go on to play Division I college baseball, that is truly an amazing, and odds-defying feat to have accomplished.
If you’re one of the remaining 9.5 percent of those players that play elsewhere in college baseball, please do not be disappointed. Division II, III, and JUCO programs are an excellent place to hone your skills, while still working towards the ultimate goal of playing baseball at the professional level.
Whatever path you take to the next level of your playing career, remember that only you can accomplish that goal. Only you as a player can make time to put in the work required to obtain the skills needed, only you as the student can make the time to achieve the academic standards needed, and only you as a person can ensure that you carry yourself to the highest standards. No one can do these things for you, and only you can be responsible for not accomplishing any of these goals. Take accountability for yourself, seek the guidance or assistance that you need, and always keep pushing forward.
E-Mail your questions on anything baseball to [email protected] to have them answered each Monday in “A Word from the Dugout’s” Mailbag Monday article.