There has been a huge shift in much of what college baseball coaches and scouts are looking for in potential recruits and players.
In these periodic articles discussing "Things College Baseball Coaches and Scouts are Looking for", I'll touch on the ever-evolving world of baseball scouting. As a former college baseball player who spent some time in professional baseball, I've had the luxury of attending several scouting combines and talking with my fair share of scouts. There are a few things I've picked up along the way.
So...what are they looking for?
1) Athletes who don’t play baseball year-round
This is NOT the same as saying "athletes who play multiple sports," although that is a plus. Even still, this seems counterintuitive, but hear me out.
Have you paid attention to the huge increase in Tommy John surgeries from torn ulnar collateral ligaments (UCL) these past few years, and especially this year? It’s been one of the main storylines in baseball for the 2014 season. In fact, as I type this, there have been eighty-one Tommy John surgeries on professional baseball players in 2014.
Although there are a number of competing opinions about what’s causing the epidemic, most of the leaders in the injury prevention world can agree on one thing: throwing year-round is a huge risk for injury down the road.
The current youngsters in the MLB are the first generation of baseball players who did almost all of the following:
Played on their high school team
Played on a travel team after the high school season
Pitched in showcases all winter
Never took more than a couple weeks off from throwing each year
Take the advice of Dr. James Andrews, one of the most decorated – if not the most decorated – surgeons in history who performs more Tommy John surgeries on big-leaguers than anyone else.
Andrews advocates taking two or three months off each year from touching a baseball. It’ll go a long way in keeping you healthy throughout your career.
As you work your way through the season, many of the structures holding your arm together get stretched out, causing you to gain range of motion but lose stability of the elbow and shoulder joints in the process. This puts you at a huge risk for doing damage to your UCL and other vulnerable areas of the arm.
Two or three months off from throwing helps these structures tighten back up, allowing you to regain joint stability, giving you a clean slate to start the next season.
How it relates to what college coaches and scouts are looking for
Plain and simple, college coaches and pro scouts no longer feel comfortable giving a scholarship or signing bonus to a kid with an overly-extensive pitching or injury history.
An interesting consequence of this is that many of the major college baseball programs like Vanderbilt, Clemson, etc., have begun to recruit more players from the northern half of the country.
The thought process: baseball prospects living in colder climates can’t get outside to throw year-round. This means they have less accumulated throwing “mileage” and a decreased chance of getting injured and wasting a precious scholarship or signing bonus.
It's all about projectability.
This is NOT to say that playing on travel teams and pitching in showcases can’t be done safely, however. Rather, just find a two or three month window at some point in the year when you don’t throw a baseball.
Throwing year-round is a major risk factor for a significant injury down the road
College coaches and scouts do not want to see an overly-extensive pitching history
The world's leaders in injury prevention advocate giving yourself two or three months away from throwing a baseball each year