Evaluating Pitching Prospects
The following are some considerations for evaluating and identifying pitching prospects for college and professional teams.
Nothing will make a coach dig into his bag and take out his radar gun faster than apparent arm strength. Velocity alone is not enough, but it is the quality most coaches look for initially when attending a recruiting showcase or game. Simply stated, velocity allows a pitcher a greater margin for error. Arm strength is also an easy tool to evaluate. While some of the other physical tools require multiple looks at a pitcher, a pitcher's arm strength can be determined quickly.
The second quality for a pitching prospect is an efficient arm action. A loose or fluid arm action tends to allow for greater velocity gains, places less stress on the shoulder and elbow joints thus reducing the risk of injury, and lends itself to greater consistency in terms of a pitcher's command.
It goes without saying that if a pitcher cannot throw strikes, he is not likely to be considered as a pitcher for your program. Most pitching coaches preach the importance of working to advantage counts, forcing action early, and limiting walks. When evaluating a pitcher, pay particular attention to a pitcher's ability to work ahead of hitters, locate his fastball to both sides of the plate, and throw at least one off-speed pitch for strikes when down in the count. It is often difficult, however, to gauge a pitcher's overall command during a one or two inning appearance in a showcase setting. What is often relied on is the pitcher's K/BB ratio from school ball and summer programs.
Feel for Secondary Pitches:
After arm strength, nothing will peak interest more than a plus breaking ball or change-up. The ability of a pitcher to throw a quality off-speed pitch in a fastball count is critical. If getting outs is the ultimate goal, a pitcher's ability to fool hitters, induce weak contact, or to miss bats cannot be underestimated.
Physical tools alone do not determine a pitcher's future success. There have been countless talented pitchers who never reach their potential because they lacked mental where-with-all to do so. It is an examination of a pitcher's mental strengths and weaknesses that often determines the impact a pitcher will have.
Confidence is arguably the most important mental consideration when evaluating a pitcher. How one thinks will determine how one performs. While the less than confident pitcher will tend to nibble fearing contact, the confident pitcher who believes in his ability is better equipped to be objective about his performances, allowing for greater growth as an athlete.
A pitcher's response to adverse situations will often shape his future. How many times have you seen a talented pitcher come completely unraveled following a homerun, an error, or a questionable call by an umpire? Uncomfortable situations can bring out the worst in a pitcher. Observing a pitcher who can gather himself and refocus when faced with adversity speaks volumes about his mental toughness. Mentally tough pitchers have a knack for staying in the present and focusing on what is most important – the next pitch.