TAMPA - I probably receive more emails about ranking lists from parents than any other topic in baseball.
College decisions, attending the "right" events, spending thousands of dollars on summer baseball - no questions asked about this kind of stuff. But, boy do those rankings lists cause a stir.
I think a big reason for that is parents don't understand the role of a rankings list, who looks at them, why they look at them, and how the information is used.
I will tell you now, any college coach or scout who signs a player based off where he is ranked should be fired - no questions asked. I think parents seem to underestimate the evaluation ability of these guys. These guys job's and livelihood is on the line in the player's that they recruit, and you'll just have to trust me when I say they need to do their own evaluations and see player's for themselves before making any decision on who they will recruit.
Prospect Wire, Perfect Game, Baseball America, or any other outfit that publishes rankings or lists is providing a service to colleges and recruiters. And like any service, you can choose to utilize someone to assist you - but the decision to utilize a service is optional. You can hire someone to mow your lawn, or you can just do it yourself. Or you can hire someone just to trim those hard to reach places, like a tall tree in your front yard. Or, you can go "old school" and get up on a ladder and do it yourself.
High school baseball also tends to have some hard-to-reach places. There are hundreds of high schools in every state around the U.S. There are thousands, and thousands of baseball players out there. There are thousands (yes thousands) of travel baseball teams across the U.S. It is almost impossible to see everyone, especially if you are a college with just 2 recruiters.
Many colleges and scouts decide to utilize a service - like a ranking list. But please give these college coaches some credit - they are not looking at ranking lists to determine who the best players are. They use their own eyes for that. I would say the majority of colleges or scouts utilize a ranking list as a follow list.
Every college has some kind of a follow list or target list that they compose themselves. This is a list of players that they need to see - composed over time and built from people that they trust.
On Monday January 12th, they may have a conversation with a high school coach that they trust in San Diego, CA and that coach is informing the college coach that there are 3 stud pitchers at San Diego Prep that he needs to see. The college coach gets their names and information and starts to build a follow list. That same college coach may have a different conversation 3 weeks later with someone in Phoenix, AZ about 2 kids that he needs to see over there. A follow list is created and added upon over time.
For a college coach, a rankings list is a tool to compare that follow list to. The first thing a college can do is see what players are on the published rankings list that aren't already on his follow list. He can also see if players on his current follow list are ranked high or low. If a high school coach says some kid is a "stud" and then the college coach sees that the same player is ranked #11 on a ranking list - that's some confirmation that he needs to go see that player. But that doesn't mean he is going to recruit him. That college has to still like the player - regardless of what any ranking list tells him.
See...colleges and scouts do NOT care if a kid is ranked #11 or #26. They don't care if a kid is ranked #75 or #102. There is no college in their right mind that bases his scholarship offer based on ranking slot. There is not a college in their right mind that recruits players based on ranking slot.
Colleges have limited recruiting budgets, and they have limited time. And a ranking list can help that college determine a list of players that they should go see. They need to be efficient because it's a big world of baseball out there.
When you go to a college website and read their press release about their recruiting class - you may see mention about how their recruiting class has five top-100 players. Or, you may read that player's bio at his college website and see that he was ranked #40 in the country by this and that publication.
It's all for show and helps the casual university fan to understand the recruiting class. These articles and bios are NOT written by the college coach - nor does he supply the information on where the player was ranked. Each university has a SID (sports information director). It's these guys job to publish content, and they back their content by researching the recruiting class and getting as much information about it as possible. And they do a great job. But don't think that the college signed those players because they were ranked #76 by Prospect Wire in the state of Florida.
The player was signed by XYZ University because the coach saw him play and liked him. He may have seen him at a summer tournament, or a showcase, or at his college camp, or a high school game. He may have first seen the player's name or heard about the player on a ranking list. But it was the college coach who pulled the trigger on the player to sign him. Once the player signs, the SID from the school will sometimes call the player or family, introduce himself, and ask if the player has any honors or awards or rankings to put in their biography on the college website. At that point the player would tell the college to check out Prospect Wire because he was ranked #34 in the country by them.
It is important to understand the role of a ranking list, before you get upset or excited about it.
Have questions on ranking lists? Leave a comment below.