There is more to getting drafted than just talent. High school baseball players finishing their senior seasons are presented with three options for continuing their baseball careers: immediately being drafted, committing three years to a Division I school, or taking it year-by-year at a junior or community college.
Because of the money and instant gratification that come from signing a Major League contract out of high school, many players follow that path. However, in 2004 and 2006, significantly more college players were taken in the MLB draft than high school players.
The internal battle in a player’s head of whether to take the chance of being drafted directly out of high school or improving his skills at a college is an undoubtedly difficult decision to make. While the risk is big for the player, it’s also large for the scout. Scouts want to see if a player has any, or all, of the five tools required
to make it to the major leagues: hitting
for power, hitting for average, speed, arm strength and defense.
Possessing those tools is the key to getting drafted. But the younger a player is, the harder it becomes for a scout to evaluate whether those tools will be effective at the next level. In addition, a college player will often wind up bigger and stronger than a high school kid. He will see more on the field and be prepared for more at the next level. For scouts, there is less projection involved in drafting a college player.
And they become the safer bet.
Rob Valli, coach of Temple’s baseball team, knows this all too well. While coaching Gloucester County Community College from 2001-2005, Valli could see players drafted after one season, because a player’s three-year commitment to a school only applies to Division I colleges. Knowing exactly what scouts are looking
for, Valli has the ability to quickly prepare his players for the next level.
“[With s]couts, their job is to sign players to play professional baseball,” Valli said. “The type of player they would sign is the type of player that they would project to play in the big leagues. They’re not interested in someone who would top out at Double A, or win any games at Single A.”
The key, he says, is finding a player who will sign on the dotted line.”It’s of no benefit to the organization to draft a player,” Valli explained. “The only benefit is if they sign that player.”
Mike Garlotti, an east coast scout for the Colorado Rockies, reiterated that the draft isn’t always about who is the best. More often than not, it’s about who the team believes will sign.
“[The draft] has certainly become a business,” he said. “We’re not going to draft kids just for the sake of drafting them. We need to draft kids that we’re going to be able to sign.”Junior pitcher Arshwin Asjes understands this process. A native of Curacao, Asjes attended Gloucester County Community College out of high school. After his freshman season, the Cleveland Indians drafted him in the 34th round with the 1,024th overall pick.
Instead of signing with the Indians, Asjes followed Valli to Temple.
“I had to focus on different aspects of my game,” Asjes said. “I was still trying to lose more weight, get in better shape and be more consistent with my pitches.”Another key factor Asjes considered was his skepticism surrounding how far baseball could take him. With countless stories of players not even making it past Single A, Asjes was apprehensive about making such a major commitment.
“Sometimes you’ve got to be honest with yourself,” he said. “A lot of people get drafted and not everyone is going to make it, so I wanted to be closer to getting my degree and two more years to get bigger and stronger.”
For Asjes, these next two years will determine his fate of playing professionally. Having already being drafted and ultimately deciding on Temple over the pros, Asjes will continue
to be heavily watched by scouts and other coaches. Temple’s pitching coach Justin Gordon has been down this road before. Drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1999, Gordon spent six seasons in the minor leagues before going into coaching. Like Asjes, he faced the daunting task of trying to not only perform for his team in order
to win, but to impress the scouts.
“The biggest thing you need to do to impress a scout is be consistent,” Gordon said. “Your consistency is where you get drafted.”
The mental aspect of the game, especially with pitchers, can play a significant role in a player’s performance. Sometimes, this might mean radically altering pitching mechanics and trying too hard to impress a scout or coach. But Gordon continued to preach that consistency, and staying within your game, is the key to catching a scout’s eye.
“I really didn’t change [my game] much at all,” he said. “I was really one of those guys who was under the radar through high school. When I got to college, I kind of developed my arm to get it extremely strong from where it was a year before, over one offseason.”
Senior infielder Dan Brady has been developing his game throughout his three seasons at Temple. Last year, he was the team’s Most Outstanding Player and a first team All-Atlantic Ten Conference selection. However, those accolades haven’t resulted in Brady being drafted. Still, he hasn’t let that deter him from his hopes of one day reaching the major leagues.
“I like to say every year I’ve gotten better as a college baseball player,” Brady said. “I’ve worked on my hitting, my defense, just basically trying to get in the best shape, trying to get the most reasons to get drafted as possible.”With the season already underway, the time is now for Asjes, Brady and the rest of the players to make an impression on scouts. Asjes knows that scouts’ watchful eyes and their clicking radar guns will be on his every move, but he is also aware that he cannot let that pressure take over his game.
“[I] just try to go out there and have fun, you know, put my team in the best position to win ball games,” he said. “That’s all that matters to me right now, and if it happens to be that I get drafted, then it happens to be.”
The sentiment of winning games first and worrying about the personal aspects second, is what Valli’s coaching staff preaches. While other coaches at other schools may focus on simply getting players to the next level, Valli holds an even keel between winning and player development.
“The draft is a byproduct of what they do as a team player,” Valli said. “So we’re trying to develop all their skills to the maximum potential that they have.”Winning games, especially at the college level, can certainly account for a lot when a scout is evaluating talent. With the talent pool wide and sometimes watered down, the draft can often become inconsequential.
“Our draft, more than any of the [professional]drafts because we have a minor league, is an imperfect science,” said Garlotti, of the Rockies.
“There’s a long time in between when one signs to the time they make the big leagues.”Imperfect science or not, Asjes, Brady and the rest of the draft eligible players will be anxious and nervous come draft day this June.
Todd Orodenker can be reached at email@example.com.