As a baseball advisor lending “advice” to high school baseball players drafted by an MLB organization, you may be confronted by this tough question by a young client many times in your life: Should I sign the offer presented with me and forgo my verbal commitment to _______ Junior College/University, or decline the offer and play ball at _______ Junior College/University? Your answer will undoubtedly be based on a variety of factors including, the final bonus amount offered, importance of a college education, need for growth, etc. A big factor pushing a player to sign with a team straight out of high school may be overlooked by a ton of advisors: playing with a metal bat for three to four years could seriously interrupt, instead of help develop, a player’s swing.
Throughout little league, middle school, and high school, we swung at pitches with our metal bat of choice. What could three to four more years of using the same type of equipment do to impede a player’s progress? Maybe not much, but it also may not be as productive as jumping into an MLB organization at an earlier age and start getting acquainted to using wood bats, gaining a competitive advantage over those who choose to enroll in a university.
Some scouts will not even look at a player’s stats and ability to hit the ball when a metal bat is in play. This is why there is such a high premium placed on many of the summer wood-bat showcases that we in the agent profession are fond of attending. A few Junior Colleges compete in wood leagues and have their players valued higher than Division 1 schools with bigger name players who have been accustomed to relying on the power of metal.
[Brent] Lillibridge [SS for the Atlanta Braves] suggests players with pro aspirations swing wood as often as possible. He often did it during high school and college batting practices. It’s better to get comfortable sooner than later, he said: “When you get drafted, there’s no more metal. You’ve just got to figure it out.”
So what do you think? Extra impetus to advise a player to sign with a team straight out of high school and say no to college? Or instead, maybe find a Junior College that uses wood bats instead of a four year university? Will you catch Don Mattingly’s attention if you use one of his new bats?
HT: Brian Foley at The College Baseball Blog for sending me the linked story.