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What are you looking for?

That’s the most common question that our scouts are asked. So, I wanted to give some insight into what we’re looking for when we’re evaluating players. In this post, I want to address the Short Stop and Second Base position when it comes to defense.

Physical tools are typically the starting point. There are certain physical traits that each position requires. When you’re looking at players up the middle such as a SS and 2B you’re looking at them differently than you are a 1B or 3B prospect. First, to play up the middle requires more speed and range compared to the corners. In order to play up the middle on a D1 field you must have elite level speed.

When evaluating players defensively you have to emphasize the physical tools in the order they play with. Think of it this way: a ground ball is hit to SS. The SS must first get to the ball, then catch it then throw it. So, a SS with a 72 MPH arm with average hands and below average speed isn’t necessarily a great SS prospect as her strengths are in reverse order compared to what a SS needs to be able to do.

A SS, for example has to have great speed, great hands and a great arm to play at the D1 level at SS. A 2B, however, needs speed and hands, but her ability to throw the ball is judged differently than a SS. A 2B needs to be able to operate within different space and throw the ball from multiple arm angles with touch and quickness. So, her throwing ability is much more than how hard she can throw the ball.

A lot of times a SS and 2B may fit the position profile of another defensive spot better. That SS that throws 72 MPH may be a great fit at 3B. This is why you see a lot of SS’s moving to another spot defensively at the D1 level because you really have to have all 3 defensive tools nearly maxed out to play D1 SS at the highest level.

The next thing we have to look for is skill. A lot of times physical tools are still a few years away from maturing and making a prospect extremely obvious. So, there are things that we have to pay attention to that are indicators of future ability and physical tool development.

Footwork is probably number one on the list, especially since the feet have to get you to the ball before your hands even matter. We’re looking for early movers. When the ball is hit, who has the quickest reflexes and moves first? Raw speed without reflexes doesn’t really get the job done. How do the feet work? Does the player drive in the direction of the ball, or does she have quick feet that take her nowhere? When she moves after a ball, does she have to change her course, or is she accurate with her angles? Can she get to full speed and then play through the ball, or does she lack the body control to play a ball at full speed? There are a lot of things to consider and these are the questions we have to answer on a player.

We’re also looking at a Middle Infielder’s hands. We’re looking to see if a player is getting the hop that she wants, or if she’s just catching the hop she’ been given. When she picks a hop, is she on plane with the hop or is she on an intersecting plane with her glove? We want to see if a player is comfortable with the backhand. We want to see a player’s vision as well. Does the player have her eyes up before she funnels the ball to the waste? If she doesn’t, then she’ll never be able to A.) know which type of throw the play requires and B.) be in a position to make the correct throw.

Throwing wise, raw arm strength is fairly easy to see, but we’re looking at how much effort it takes for a SS to reach her max velocity. We want to see how accurate her arm is and what type of carry/flight the ball has on it. For both MIF spots, we want to see what types of arm angles they can play with. They have to make a wide variety of plays, so you can’t be stuck in only 1 arm slot and be successful at the next level.

Once we identify the physical tools and skill set a Middle Infielder has, now we’re looking at their instincts. Basically, “CAN SHE PLAY?” Now, what do I mean by that? At the highest level of play decision making wins and loses ball games. The difference in ability between the #1 ranked SS in the nation and the #10 ranked SS in the nation at the D1 level is extremely small in terms of physical tools. What makes #1 the best, is decision making with her tools. How does she play under pressure? Does she adjust to a hitter swing by swing, pitch by pitch? Does she communicate? Does she compete?

Probably the most important thing that parents and players should realize is that within all of this, we’re not necessarily looking for the result. If a fielder makes an error, or makes a bad throw. Our job is not to keep score. Everybody goes 3 for 3 in a game and everybody makes every play defensively sometimes.

What we have to do is analyze all of the tools and skills and make our best judgement on what a player is likely to do on a consistent basis. Sometimes a player makes a bad throw and it was just a bad throw that may not happen for another 3-weeks. Sometimes a player makes a bad throw and we can find flaws mechanically that point to this being a reoccurring issue. So, no matter who is watching, players need to understand scouting is not keeping score, it’s about looking at a player’s combination of tools and skills.

On top of that, you have to consider a player’s age and physical maturity. The players with the best stats at 14-years old, aren’t always the best players at 21-years old. We’re looking at players and trying to project what her tools and skills will be when she’s fully matured. Some players mature early and put up better numbers at a young age. Scouting is much more than reporting on who grew the fastest, it’s about identifying future ability while collecting information and data in the present.

 

Mark Mulvany - President - Scout Softball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
   

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