As you embark from South Africa on your trip to the 15U World Cup in Baja California Sur, Mexico, embrace the fact that you have an extraordinary opportunity to showcase your individual abilities to a very receptive audience. Scouts will be there in large numbers, representing all 30 Major League clubs. Give them something to write home about.
"Projectability" is one of those words that you will hear frequently at the 2014 15U World Cup. Typically it describes the likelihood of a player's improvement over a four to five year time period.,
Scouts are paid to make an educated guess as to the likliehood of a players contributing to a Major League club sometime in the future, and it is based on many factors. Colleges are more likely to look for polished current ability. Colleges coaches are paid to win, they don't have the time or resources to focus on development or potential.
See also: SCOUTING GUIDELINES - THE TOOLS OF A MAJOR LEAGUE BALL PLAYER
Professional scouts need to look at a 15-year-old and try to figure out the players ceiling or potential. Colleges might be interested in players that project to get much better in a shorter period of time.
Here are some of the things that can play a part in projecting a player: Body type (projectability often equates to size); Physical maturity or immaturity (some boys may be fully developed by fifteen); Athleticism (speed and arm strength are two of those things that cannot be taught); Peer Comparisons; Player Track Record; Mechanics; Tools; Passion for the Game; Competitiveness; Work Ethic and Makeup. The scouts know that you are from a non-traditional baseball country, a lack of polish is not necessarily a negative.
The best current player does not necessarily equate to the most projection. A high school player who hits .300 might get drafted while another high school player that hits over .400 receives no interest. A statistically successful high school pitcher might get overlooked in favor of one who was less successful.
That said, the highest level of interest will center on the best current players who still project to get even better.
Scouts do not rely on high school or club stats. The all state high school pitcher with the great statistics including a 10-0 record could be ranked lower than another pitcher with mediocre statistics. Scouts determine who they think will end up being the best. You might hear the term "upside" applied to the chosen player.
The game changes at every level. Success at one level doesn't mean success at the next level. An all-star pitcher, even when he is pitching in one of the strongest US high school leagues, is likely to take the mound in the pros and face nine hitters that are better than anyone he ever faced in his league, county or region. Scouts need to rely on their experience to determine if the player has the ability to make that step up.
You could say that scouting is all about projection. Trying to figure out who will end up being in the Big Leagues and how much they will contribute there, takes projection. Same for college recruiters, except they try to figure out how important a player will be to their program. It's all about the future and that is what makes it difficult.
It does not take talent to hustle
As simple as it may sound, you need to play as much baseball as you can before the 15U World Cup. Baseball is not just about talent, it's about repetitions. The more reps you have under your belt, whether it be swinging the bat, throwing the ball, taking grounders or fielding fly balls, the better prepared you will be to play in this tournament. The better the competition you play against, the better the preparation and when you are playing in a pool that includes the USA and Japan, both of whom are currently in season, preparation is key.
Make sure you are on some kind of throwing program. Throw long toss to prepare your arm. Whether you were the youth baseball shortstop of the year or all league third base, your arm needs to withstand the rigours of tournament play. Expect to throw more during that week than you have in months. Scouts are on the lookout for arm strength because it is an integral part of baseball, in any position. If you have arm strength (and speed) coaches believe they can teach the rest. If your arm is tired after day one because all you did since the season ended was play "Call of Duty", you have given them a reason to overlook you.
Look the part! Arrive looking like a baseball player! That means proper baseball pants with a belt and your baseball top neatly tucked in, clean cleats and a baseball cap. The cap should not be tipped back on your head or worn backwards. Avoid anything that might detract from your performance. Your peers might really like your two glistening diamond earrings; the funky haircut; your ability to keep your pants hanging below your behind without falling off; but this screams to the scouts that you are an uncoachable individual playing a team sport.
The first impression during a baseball tournament is vital. Get there early and eagerly (you can bet that scouts will be watching you arrive). Maintain eye contact with the coaches and hustle between innings. Not only are scouts evaluating your ability, they are also keenly watching your effort. If two players are of roughly equal ability they will then look for a reason to follow one over the other. This is the time to disregard the peer pressure to conform to the mediocrity of the majority. This is no time to be timid. Give your best effort, hustle everywhere and go out of your way to be helpful. And above all else, be nice! You are very likely to be tense and focused but force yourself to be relaxed and friendly. Not only will you perform better but you may give the scouts a reason to add you to their follow list.