Scouts Want You Playing With Wood

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.

Wood batThroughout 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.

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  • Shane Cobb

    So should high school and college pitchers start playing catch and pitching with an Official Major League Baseball? Do scouts overlook pitchers who are in lower levels (HS, NCAA) and disregard their stats because they’re not using a Major League baseball?

  • The game of baseball is probably the hardest game to ever go PRO, it’s almost like hitting the lotto. I’ve been around way too many players in the High School and College Level that have gone no further than “AAA” and the “Mexican League” which are really good leagues but NOT the pros. I’ve seen players with “gifted talent” that never made it. If you EVER PURSUE baseball as a career you will need a back up plan. The best back up plan I’m aware of besides going to Mexico and playing there for peanuts is an EDUCATION. If you can get drafted out of high school the odds are you will be good enough to get drafted out of the college of your choice and at the same time earn a degree(YOUR BACK UP PLAN). If you don’t make it BIG you have a degree as your “umbrella when it rains”. If sign and go pro at the age of 18 and never make it then what do you do?
    If a scout wants to see you “swing it” w/ a “woody” you join a league during the summer and swing ONLY THE WOOD. Swinging the “woody” is a great thing to do young and often, no question about it. (It’s actually a great feeling when you get a hold of one with the woody). Plus, most “woody” leagues are very competitive so you won’t be shortchanged in the talent pool. If you do this you get the best of both worlds. The scout can see you swing a “woody” and you’ll be taking care of Plan B(education) while you play college ball AND swinging a “woody” helps you A LOT when your return to your team in the FALL because your metal bat is probably lighter and when you see the ball fly with the metal bat your confidence will build. IMO, NEVER TURN DOWN A FULL RIDE!!!!!

    Of course there’s always an exception(MILLION DOLLAR BONUS) to everything BUT this would be the safest.

  • Alex-

    No one is putting down the importance of an education. But almost any team, if prodded, will structure in an educational bonus along with the standard signing bonus offered to a high school drafted player. This will allow said player to earn his education even though he chooses to sign with a team out of high school.

  • Shane Cobb

    Exactly. Plus you can get some major connections in the MLB for a decent job.

  • GREAT! you learn something new everyday…It’s just a hard road for a minor leaguer after their career is over so I know they should get educated while pursuing their dream.

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  • Willie

    D1 college baseball teams bats are provided by the major manufacturers. If they can provide metal bats, then can supply wood bats as well. It starts with them, the NCAA, and MLB.

    The NCAA initially made the switch to metal as a cost-savings measure, and that evolved into a game excitement reason. The manufacturers have an extremely high gross profit on metal bats versus wood. They use the college teams as a ringing endorsement to the younger kids from tee-ball all the way up to high school age. Kids want the latest and greatest, so they paint a new color on the same technology and say $399 please!

    It is the same technology, right? According to rule, the bats can’t be enhanced to perform better anymore?

    College baseball is one of the feeder systems to pro baseball. You would think they(MLB) would push their weight around a little more on the NCAA and the manufacturers to revert back to wood. College pitchers would be able to work on their craft properly, real hitters, both for power and average would be identified quicker and more accurately.

    College players are men. The well-balanced metal bats with the huge sweetspot allows them to mash 94 mph fastballs regularly. End loaded wood bats with the quarter sized sweetspot force a hitter to refine their entire approach to delivering that spot to the ball in a timely manner. The difference is huge.

    Advisor/Agents shouldn’t use this difference on high school kids as a part of signing criteria. They should lobby all the parties involved in baseball to switch the college game back to wood.

  • I would agree, other than the fact that an agent lobbying for a switch will do absolutely nothing. Why does the MLB succumb to the NCAA’s desires? For the same reason that the NBA does with the one-and-done rule. Both professional organizations need the support of the NCAA. The one-and-done rule in basketball does not help the NBA. NBA franchises would much rather be able to get a guy like Rose or Beasley a year earlier, just like the MLB would be happier if schools were using wood bats.

  • FYI The Northeast 10 conference which is a D-2 conference in New England plays with Wood Bats during the conference season and plays with metal during OOC and NCAA tourney games. The Northeast 10 is a good conference and some of the teams could beat D-1 teams in New England.