Explanation of How We Navigate Arkansas State Rankings

Brian Walker
Arkansas Scouting Director

How do you navigate ranking players?

This is a very popular question across each PBR territory.  Each state director, and even our overall ranking’s process, can differ slightly.  Below is a look at how in-depth the rankings process can be in Arkansas where I head up our process.

Every player our state staff sees, we feel we can evaluate and put in a diagram of what their player grade is and what the projection looks like. Along with grading out the physical tools, which is how we grade the present, we also grade out where they project to be in a year from now and so on depending on age level. We also assign a ranking to how confident we feel on this grade that we put on the player meaning a firm grade that this is exact or a follow grade meaning we need to see the player some more before we feel confident in the grade. So the more we see a player the more confident we will feel with the grade and projection that we put on the player.

Once we grade out the players, we input them into a spreadsheet to place in order. The graded level we put on a player is listed in a numerical fashion creating the rankings. With several players having the same grade, we then have discussions as a staff to discuss the order of the ranked players and who should be where. Position matters to a certain extent as premium positions take a higher precedence over other positions however the players comp at the future levels also plays apart. 

After we set the initial order in the spreadsheet, I begin to navigate the rankings to make sure we like the order they are in. We then compare position to position like catcher to catcher to create what we feel is the most accurate presentation of rankings. Sometime we can catch a player in a spot we dont like being too low in the rankings. Rankings are stopped at a number we feel comfortable with for that graduating class. It is constantly being evaluated and worked on to make it as accurate as we can. Sometimes we just need to see the player a little more before we feel comfortable assigning them a spot in the rankings.

How much do rankings play a part in college coaches recruiting me and do they matter to them?

Short answer: Sometimes yes and sometimes no but more so for who the player is than where they are ranked. Here is why..

Every recruiter has a certain criteria they have when they go recruiting. Certain coaches like certain types of players i.e super projectable with speed or big power but need some more work on the swing. As a recruiter myself I constantly checked the rankings just to see the updates and see who is moving around and to stay up to date on their current videos. I also didn't want to miss a new player that was added to the rankings. Most coaches know what they want so the rankings are just a way to see players names then they decide what they want. As a college recruiter I once signed a kid that was ranked 173rd in his state rankings. He ended up being drafted out of high school. It all depends on so many variables. The player fit a need and I felt like we could help him be better at our school. This is where the rankings sometimes dont matter as it did not impact my decision in recruiting the player.

College coaches do pay attention to rankings to see if their evaluation or player grade is different than that of other people. With many of PBR’s staff coming from the college and pro ranks, and our history with the MLB Draft, coaches can view our information as trusted. This does not mean they agree with every rank that they see. Many programs may value different tools that they like over some others which could bring about disagreeing with where certain players are ranked.

College coaches will also use rankings’ lists to find new names and possible recruits.  Part of the service PBR is providing is adding additional eyes and ears to a college staff.  When we run across a player they have not seen, they can take our video and our notes to determine if the player needs to become a potential recruit. Often times when I would see a player's name I haven't seen before after an event, I would immediately watch their video and have a discussion with the director to garner more information. This is ever evolving and I checked almost daily to make sure I knew who was doing what in the areas I recruited.

Here is the bottom line, if a college recruiter needs a player they will put their own grade on them decide if it is a fit from a physical standpoint and proceed with the recruiting process. Make up of player is the most asked question from college and pro scouts. This also plays a part in how they decide if they want a player.

How is Player A ranked ahead of Player B when that stats for Player B are clearly better?

This question is asked often to our staff. Here is the deciphering of that question. Every layer has tangible stats at our events which are expanding this summer. However not every player projects the same as physical stature family blood lines, cleanliness of movements among other things play a part in this response. 

Along with the tangible stats that play a part in the piece of the rankings, we also have to navigate how those tangible stats translate to the game setting. If a player has the highest exit velocity but struggles to translate it to the game that plays apart as well. Or a pitcher that throws real hard but can't in game find the zone the velocity number is less useful so we need to continue to see the player translate it in game. Translation to game is key but not the only measure either. Projection to the future level is also a factor meaning where do we see this player in the future and at what level. With that said JD Martinez went to a Division 2 school. So remember the level doesn't necessarily dictate the career.

As part of the recruiting process coaches like to see showcase workouts to see raw skill set and in game situations to see what the player can translate to the game. One game doesn't dictate a players future recruiting process just like a bad round of batting practice doesn't necessarily cancel the players chance to be recruited either. It is an ever flowing process that sometimes can evolve quickly and slowly in the same right.

Rankings are difficult to navigate but something we take great pride in. The amount of man hours and conversations that go into rankings would probably surprise most readers. We understand rankings are not perfect and opinions will always be out there as they should be. We take pride in having a reason why a player is ranked where they are and why it can change over time. We also are not afraid to say we missed on a players ranking, but we also try out best to have a solid reason for where the player is placed. I have never been a part of a rankings process that has had players stay the exact same over the whole tenure of their career. Every re-ranking has players moving and we prefer to move players up as they are improving. 

I leave you with this, I never once signed a player because of where they were ranked. Rankings are a great tool for recruiters to navigate and see players videos and updated stats. At the end of the day, when a college recruiter is deciding on several players, the rankings will not be the determining factor. The players ability, make up, and fit to the program will be the defining factors of what school chooses what players.