Baseball talent can sometimes be difficult to spot. Whereas basketball talent might include pure shooting or being 6’10, there are so many ways to be productive on the diamond. This is especially true at the youth level where players are developing physically, mentally, and emotionally on a daily basis.
So how does one identify talent in youth baseball? There are a number or tried and true methods to evaluate baseball players which certainly hold true in youth athletics. It is also important to understand exactly what talent is and how it can shape a young player’s career.
With that in mind, here are a few considerations to keep in mind when scouting youth baseball players.
Talent is defined as “a special often athletic, creative, or artistic aptitude”. Ask ten different youth baseball coaches this question and you are likely to receive ten different answers. The fact is, there is no one answer to such a question.
Ask ten major league baseball players whether then consider themselves a result of talent or hard work, and we can almost guarantee all ten will tell you that hard work is more important. To be an elite player, it takes both.
To be a great youth athlete, it might only take one of the two. That is why we do believe identifying talent in youth baseball is extremely important. A young athlete with natural baseball gifts should be encouraged to work hard and not coast.
This goes along with the philosophy that youth athletics is about developing young players and young human beings. Talent might not be the most important thing in youth athletics, but it is important to identify and understand your players’ abilities.
“Talent” at the youth level can sometimes be confused with physical superiority. Many youth baseball evaluations will be to either determine rosters or simply for coaches to place players into appropriate team roles. Here are a few basic ways to structure practice or tryouts to identify youth baseball talent.
Position player evaluation in baseball can be as simple or complex as you would like to make it. At the youth level, we try to identify talent based on potential rather than the player’s effectiveness at the given moment. With this in mind, position players should be evaluated on their natural abilities to perform these five actions, frequently known as the five tools of baseball:
Hitting for average: the heart and soul of offensive baseball is getting on base. Talented baseball players should hit for average and also have the ability to draw walks when necessary.
Hitting for power: of course nothing beats a big fly. Home run power at the youth level is more about solid contact than physical ability, so evaluation of power should come from the player’s natural proclivity towards hitting sharp line drives.
Fielding ability: the ability to field in youth baseball requires athleticism, soft hands, and good on-field awareness.
Arm strength: a hard thrower is generally a talented player. Coaching a harder throw is possible, but this is generally a god-given ability.
Base running (speed): speed is also generally an issue of talent. Speed kills on the basepaths just as it does on the gridiron.
Pitching is an art form which develops for many, many years. Even MLB pitchers frequently add or remove pitches from their repertoire as it can take multiple seasons to get comfortable. So how do we evaluate youth arms? Here are a few high level tips:
Pittsburgh-based Hustle Training is a growing startup created for the sports-driven players and coaches out there looking to up their game and maximize performance potential. Their website coupled with the mobile app makes it easy for players to improve their fundamentals and move on to master advanced techniques by providing crafted workouts and drills created by college coaches, professional players, and expert trainers.
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