Jupiter, FL - In the old days, you played high school ball and you played summer ball and that was all college coaches and pro scouts had to grade you on. There were no such things as showcases and only on occasion would you be asked to do a workout.
Nowadays, showcases are aplenty and they’ve certainly streamlined both pro scouting and college recruiting. Their purpose is to put a number of top prospects in one place at one time and to run them in specific workouts and controlled games for all the teams to see.
Showcases are a good thing and if you’re lucky enough to get invited to a reputable event, it’s worth looking into if you can spare the expense.
But as big as showcases have become, they haven’t replaced actual competition, whether it be high school ball or summer ball. Showcases have allowed scouts and coaches a closer look. They’ve allowed them to identify players and determine who has “tools”, but the smart scouts and coaches don’t make their big money decisions off of a showcase.
The longer I do this, the more “showcase players” I’m able to recognize. These are players who, in short, look like world-beaters in showcases but don’t play well in real competition. They simply aren’t as good in the meaningful games as they are in a controlled setting.
They occasionally go high in the draft, but these types invariably fail to reach their teams’ expectations. Year after year, I see proof that learning how to false start on a 60 yard-dash, cheat on a pop-time, light up a radar gun for an inning, or take a good batting practice doesn’t make you a good player. It might look good on your PW profile and make you a good prospect in some eyes, but if you can’t put it to work in a competitive setting, you won’t become a top player.
Scouts have made many mistakes on showcases and even their private workouts. I’ve heard tragic stories of GM’s insisting their scouting director drafts a certain player in the 1st round just based on one workout in the stadium even if the area scout and crosschecker had that player much lower. It’s because they fall in love with the tools and have no idea whether the player can recognize a curveball, judge a fly ball in center, or show that killer instinct on the mound. You need a real game to bring that out!
What I love about tournaments such as the Prospect Wire 16U/14U West Coast Finals (beginning in Scottsdale, AZ this weekend) is that you see these players on a team in a competitive setting. You see how they hit real pitching, not a 50 year-old coach’s. You see how they compete, how they hustle, all-in-all what they can do to help a team win.
It’s generally more competitive than a typical high school game because these are only the most serious players. The ones who played high school ball just to get a varsity jacket are sitting at home.
A tournament has more urgency than a regular high school game because every team is going after the same prize and they have just a few days to get it. You can see in each individual player how committed he is to helping his team. A showcase is intended to showcase individuals, there’s no way of determining teamwork in that setting but in a tournament you can.
College coaches see this much more than pro scouts. They have to live with any player they recruit for 3-4 years and they know their wins and losses depend on their recruiting. A scout sends the player out to rookie ball for someone else to develop, he doesn’t see or necessarily care about the whole picture. He sees that the player has tools and hopes for the best that his farm system will make him into a big leaguer.
But college coaches want to see him hustle down the line and dive for ground balls from day one. He wants to see him hit to the situation and give himself up for the team when it’s needed. Again, he has to live with him for four years.
As much as I value and enjoy scouting the top showcases, I’d forewarn young players from looking at it as the end-all. Baseball is a game, not a workout. To be a good college player or a major league player, you simply have to play the game well. They want players who help them win, first and foremost. The “tools” are just a consequence of that, the means and not the ends. You play actual games in tournaments, games with consequences, and how you go about it will be noticed.
Anyone notice how often the “ringer” team fails to win the trophy at a summer tournament? At a lot of events, there’s a singular team that has much more talent than all the others yet they so often fall short of standing on the pedestal.
It’s almost always because their stars aren’t buying into the team concept. Hitters are swinging for the fences regardless of count or situation. Pitchers are trying to light up the radar gun. Nobody is playing hard for the sake of winning, only to impress scouts, and it shows in the results.
I like to see those games because it shows me which of the “talented” players are competitive and which are just out there styling. Because I know at some point, the styling goes nowhere. And if they don’t have it in them to compete and win now, they probably never will.
So work on your tools and go to showcases, but it’s most important to help your team win. That is what makes you a better player and that, in the end, is what college coaches and scouts want. They want to win and they want players who will help them win. Show that you can do that!