The Inside Pitch: Don’t Lose Sleep Over Player Rankings
With the start of the 2018 Arizona high school baseball season only 5 weeks away, its time to get ready for games that actually count.
I’ll begin the 2018 Season Preview next week.
I received a phone call a couple of months ago from a friend of mine who is a prominent local baseball guy, a former major leaguer who has a son playing at a Phoenix area high school.
Perfect Game had just released some updated player rankings, and he was concerned that his son had not made the list, and he was inquiring about how this would impact his boy.
To be honest, I was a bit taken aback by this. Here is a man who has played the game at it’s highest level, and he was voicing concerns over some player rankings.
I’ve been asked about rankings many times over the years, but I’ve never really addressed the topic here before.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve avoided doing conventional “Top 100” rankings on this site since its inception, but I have provided college coaches with position rankings over the years.
From my standpoint, player rankings are a no harm- no foul type of deal. It’s nice to see your name on a list, but let’s be honest here; the primary purpose of most player rankings is to sell website subscriptions.
You see, some real smart guys with some national baseball organizations figured out long ago that parents around the country would be willing to pay dearly to see their child’s name displayed on the internet. Once this was established, player rankings, scout blogs etc. became big business.
Player rankings are certainly no new phenomenon, it just seems like they’ve reproduced like rabbits over the last decade. Jeff Rattay has been running around Phoenix doing rankings for years, and with PBR branching out to the west coast another new player has been added to the landscape. Throw in Perfect Game, Baseball America etc. and you have this wall of noise that creates a lot of unnecessary angst for players and families.
In my opinion the best format for player rankings was done by the original Team One Baseball in the early 2000s before they sold out to Baseball Factory. Team One gave players a ranking as a college baseball prospect and as a pro baseball prospect
The reason this is significant is that some players have a highly developed baseball skill set in high school, and therefore profile as a good college prospect.
However, this same player may have some physical limitations that limit his ultimate ceiling as a professional player.
On the other hand, it is fairly common to see extremely athletic high school players who have not developed their baseball skills as much as other players. They may have a very high ceiling as a professional prospect due to the raw tools that they possess, but their game is not ready to play at a high level of college baseball.
I’ve said it a million times: Give me the athlete and I can teach him to play baseball. Professional baseball does an excellent job of this.
My biggest issue with the player ranking concept is that no one ever discusses the criteria used for these rankings.
Are we looking for the best player right now?
Are we looking for the best player 3 years down the road? Maybe 5 years down the road?
Are we taking academics into account?
Does position matter? I’d suggest that the 5th best left handed pitcher might have more value than the 2nd best outfielder in many cases. Does this matter?
What is it about player # 64 that makes him better than player #65?
You see the truth of the matter is that listing the top 10 or so players in the state of Arizona should not really be that difficult, and I would suspect most rational thinking people would be at least somewhat in agreement.
After that it gets increasingly difficult, and when we get past the top 20 or so it becomes pretty much a roll of the dice.
If you need any evidence to support this, you can take a look at the MLB Draft.
The top talent evaluators in the game spend millions checking and cross checking prospects leading up to the draft, and yet the long term success ratio of drafted players is shockingly low.
Why do you think minor league baseball is such a multi layered onion? It is necessary to allow the system to determine the best players by their performance on the field.
My advice to players and families is to take all of these player rankings with a ginormous grain of salt.
Keep working your rear end off to develop as an athlete and as a student. There are a multitude of examples of players who slipped through the cracks of the rankings people only to become wildly successful on the field.
Nice job by the coaches and players from Corona del Sol High School for volunteering their time at Feed My Starving Children.
The group packed more than 250 boxes of food for needy families in what has become an annual tradition for the Aztecs.
Excellent work by everyone involved.