The term projectable or discussions about projectability come up frequently in scouting and recruiting. But what exactly does projectability mean? Furthermore, how does projectability impact the college baseball recruiting process? In this two-part article series, we answer these questions.
At KPB our simple definition of projection is forecasting a player’s room for growth in an effort to predict future ability. A simple way to think about projectability is to ask how much better we think a player can become in the future. Projection usually takes an optimistic view of what a player can become if everything goes well with their development, maturity, and training. Prejectability is especially important for and most often used to describe young players and prospects who theoretically should continue to improve.
Like a weather forecast, projecting a player’s future is not an exact science, but rather an informed guess about a player’s capabilities in the future. A player with lots of projectability is said to have a lot of room for improvement or a high upside or ceiling. A player who is not viewed as projectable is someone who is considered to be closer to their full potential and who has less room for growth and improvement. That doesn’t mean that a player with low projectability is not a good player, it just means that their skills aren’t expected to improve as much or they are already performing close to their believed ceiling. Chris Sale, for example, could be considered less projectable than a prospect in Rookie ball, because he is performing closer to his ceiling and has less room for growth. However, Chris Sale in high school could have been seen as having a lot of projectability due to his raw ability and having the frame/mentality to make big developmental jumps. We hope you can see that projectability is different from ability or talent.
Projecting a players ability is exactly what college coaches do when deciding whether to recruit players like you. It’s also why coaches spend so much time trying to gather information about players of interest. College coaches try to learn as much as they can about each recruit so they can better predict how these characteristics will impact player performance in the future. Some things about recruits are easier to find out than others. Because there are so many unknowns, coaches are forced to use their experience with development and the information they do have on a player to try to predict what they will be like in the future. In addition to projectable, you may have heard words like ceiling or upside. These synonyms are also used to assign value to a player’s future potential.
Projecting players can be hit or miss, so coaches place differing amounts of importance on finding players they consider projectable in recruiting. In our conversations with college coaches, projectability is always on their radar, especially at schools that can’t compete for big time recruits and instead must rely on developing players over time.
The way projectability impacts recruitment is also something that confuses many players and parents, who spend too much time comparing their current production or skills to peers as if growth for all players is linear. The differing levels of importance that college coaches place on finding players who are projectable is exactly why a recruit shouldn’t waste their time making these types of comparisons between their recruitment and that of their teammates or peers. Coaches are looking for different things and players are in different stages of their development. Here’s a good example of how projectability comes into play in the recruiting process and why everyone’s recruiting journey is so unique:
Player A and Player B are the same age and on the same team. Player A is an outfielder with solid fundamentals and is very athletic. Despite working out, he has not yet started to mature and so far has been unable to put on the mass he needs to really do damage at the plate. He’s long and lean with a baby face. He’s got a good arm action and moves well, but the arm strength isn’t there yet. Even when he really gets into the ball at the plate, it’s a double at best. As a result, he bats 6th for his high school team. Player A is not as far along in his development as his teammate, Player B. Player B is also an outfielder and has been tearing the cover off the ball. In a lot of ways, he’s a man among boys. He’s always performed better than Player A because of his strength. He throws a bit harder, runs just about as well, and hits the ball harder. Unlike most of his peers, he has a full beard and is stronger than just about everyone. He has a few home runs and leads the conference in doubles. He bats 3rd in the order.
If Coach X really values projectability in recruiting, he is likely to favor Player A because his skill set is solid, and he has a lot of room for growth. He figures that as Player A matures physically, his frame will allow him to add a lot of strength and he can see him being a true 5-tool outfielder if things go right. At the moment, he’s not as good as Player B, but he doesn’t think it will take that long to pass him up once he starts to physically mature. Coach Y on the other hand doesn’t put a lot of emphasis on projectibility. He likes to find guys who are ready and can step in and contribute right away. For him, he wants Player B over Player A any day of the week. Player B has outperformed Player A and right now, he is more likely to step in and be an everyday player for his team right out of the gate. He’ll bank on his skills already being good enough and improving enough to stay competitive, despite already being physically mature.
This is a simple scenario, but you can see how projectability helps to explain why recruiting is not as simple as comparing two players side-by-side to see who has the better stats or is performing better at the moment. While some coaches value room for growth, others may just want to see that players have the skills. Regardless of the relative importance they place on projectability when choosing players, all college coaches are trying to predict how good they think a player can be in the future as a part of their program.
Now that you know what projectability is and have a better understanding of how it is used in recruiting, you can start to think about the way college coaches may view your future. We’ll help you figure out what you can do to influence your projectability in part 2 of this mini-series, so click here and read it now!