I have a little cognitive dissonance in writing this blog. Cognitive dissonance is the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes related to decisions or attitude change. Let me explain. In the Fall, I decided to delve into player rankings. Many of TBR's followers were very excited about it. As I began the process of ranking players individually, I soon realized it doesn't really matter at all. In the grand scheme of things it is little more than a mechanism to inflate parents' and players' egos.
The cognitive dissonance comes in because at TBR I rank teams, some as low 8 years old. If I felt this way about player rankings, then why have a rankings website at all? I pondered more in depth about it and came to the conclusion they are two completely different things. The team rankings started because some companies were using highly flawed complex algorithms and virtually all of them, were pay-to-play rankings(similar to player rankings). From the onset, TBR would not be one of these companies.
TBR has never contended anyone is getting a college scholarship from their team being ranked or playing in TBR tournaments. From the website's inception, it was a way for coaches to track other teams, fuel competitive spirit, give teams something to play for, entertainment, and most importantly FUN! TBR, like every travel baseball company, is not getting your athlete a scholarship, their own desire and motivation is. We are extremely happy that many athletes who have played in TBR tournaments have been offered to colleges like Tennessee, Louisville, Notre Dame, Virginia, and more. This speaks to the highly competitive nature of TBR tournaments more than anything.
The Truth About Player Rankings
Player rankings are virtually impossible to compile accurately. You think there is subjectivity in team rankings? Try ranking players individually. There are 9 positions on the field. Which position is most important? Is the five tool player more important than the pitcher throwing 95? How about the Pujols-like kid with 2 tools, but can hit the ball a country mile. When assessing a kid as a 9th grader, what if that kid picks up other tools along the way and/or is a position player that develops an A+ fastball? Finally, burnout, injury, and other factors make individual rankings extremely difficult.
For one individual player ranking company, 5 of the top 10 were former baseball players' sons. Did these players just have excellent pedigree or just a lot of cheddar(cash money)? Without sounding like a hater, the realistic argument is more of the latter. The game of player rankings is the more you pay(go to events), the higher you climb. The more butt kissing you do to the State rep, the more you climb. The bigger the name in the case of former pros sons, the better for both the company and the potential star.
Lets assume player rankings are 100 percent accurate and aren't a money grab. Is there really a solid way to rank players that are taking big daddy hacks that are no where near close to HOW they should be swinging in a game. Additionally, some organizations use wood off tee, some use BBCOR with front toss, and nothing is really uniform. In the end, it is just simply an ego inflator. So what should you do?
What Should Your Player Do To Get Seen?
The Vast majority of College coaches aren't sitting back and saying, "I want to offer the kids that pay the most money, attends the most showcases, and kisses the most behinds". They want talent, good grades, and good kids. They don't care if the talent comes from comes from the Dominican Republic, the South Side of Chicago, or a farm in Grass Lake, MI(Shout out to GL). The best way to get recruited-get in front of college coaches on their turf.
I'm a huge fan of Ryzer and they aren't paying me to say this. Ryzer is a platform that displays 100s of college camps across the country. If a college you are targeting is not on Ryzer, simply go to the College's website and find out when/where their camps are. The majority of coaches aren't looking at your 7th-10th grader, trust me. Contrary to the slew of early verbal commitments, the vast majority of kids are offered after their Sophomore year through their Senior year (after growth and maturity). The camps are still an excellent experience even for the younger kids and you are also helping your favorite teams out financially.
I took my son to the University of Michigan camp hosted by Erik Bakich, fully knowing he wasn't looking at my 7th grader. He specifically put the 150 kids or so into two groups, 7-10th graders and 11-12th graders. The amount of technology they had on the older kids was truly amazing. The point is, that when the time comes to go to camps, coaches compile their own metrics. There is no middle man needed and they are generally highly focused on the older kids. Now these metrics could get your foot in the door and get you noticed, but they are not the end all be all.
The other thing to consider is to send videos, live games, and your resume to the assistant coaches. The head coaches have a lot going on managing a team and will often delegate to them. If you choose to pick a showcase/camp for recruiting purposes, find one in the late Summer/ Fall. Coaches have more downtime out of season and might actually attend these events. Also, stick away from the dead periods and shoot for "contact periods" referenced below.
Take The Route Less Traveled
Don't be too good for JUCO or any other stepping stone. Remember, in baseball there are multiple paths to success. Some kids are found later than others and/or just aren't ready for D1 yet. It could be because of grades, physical maturity, not spending large amounts of money at showcases, etc. This year, like many other colleges, Louisville has picked up a couple very talented JUCO transfers. One of these pitchers, Greg Farone, is a 2020 HS grad that went the JUCO path through Herkimer College. Farone was ranked a mere No. 116 by Prep Baseball Report in New York for the 2020 class. Farone went to nearby Herkimer College and helped lead them to the 2022 NJCAA DIII championship. Keep an eye on him this year! The point of the Farone story is worry about what you can control, work hard, and block everything else out.
This article may sound like an indictment on youth baseball and it is to some extent. The moral of the story is if your player puts in the hard work, there are multiple avenues to success. Don't get caught up in player rankings, because most college coaches don't either. TBR has decided to not go forward with any player rankings and will take more of a leaderboard approach from our tournaments. We will also be implementing exciting new technologies at our tournaments to help athletes reach college coaches, stay tuned!
Dead Periods/Contact Periods