My question is is prompted by an evaluation we just got from coaches at a top D2 program -- one that regularly is a contender for championship of its very tough conference and also for the D2 regionals and world series. It sort of crystalized for me how he's seen. I imagine there might be other players in the same boat. So a discussion would be nice.
In one way, it was a very strong evaluation. They rated the kid excellent in all categories and said many encouraging things about his showing in front of them. But they also gave him some things to work on. The overall implicit message seemed to be that the main thing he was lacking from their perspective is sufficient muscle mass, basically. They mentioned building up his arm and core strength a couple of different times at both the beginning and the end of the evaluation.
Being a pretty small guy, he gets this kind of thing a lot. Last year, for example, when the kid still weighed a whopping 125 lbs, a scout wrote on his evaluation -- and this is almost an exact quote -- "love your speed and athleticism, but 125 is too small. GET BIGGER!!" He worked really hard the past year to try and get bigger. He managed to add 20 lbs of what seems mostly muscle, since he is still only 4% body fat. So now he is a massive 145 lb specimen. Not exactly intimidating.
Which brings me to my question. Since the main thing that seems to be holding him back is not his level of skill, but his physical development/maturity -- well, besides the fact that his been spooked by a series of injuries, as you may recall, but let's set that aside for the purposes of this conversation -- we're looking at avenues that will put less of a premium on his having to be an awesome physical specimen from the moment he first steps on the field. We're mostly focused on D3 now. We have gotten the sense from a couple of conversations with coaches at highly competitive D3, who consistently compete for championships, that they are more open to developing kids physically than the D2 and D1 coaches are. One such coach compared the kid to his current starting CF, said he came in looking physically about like my son, with a very similar skill set, but turned into much more of a physical specimen under their coaching and tutelage and is now one of the top D3 outfielders in the country. He said he could see my son developing in the same way. That was encouraging.
The other real possibility is a JuCo. I've heard it said that JuCo option is a good option for kids with highly developed skills, but who need to develop physically, who might still want to keep D1 and/or D2 dreams alive. The one JuCo coach we've had extended dealings with seemed to echo that sentiment pretty strongly, but I don't know first hand if it really holds in general. Does it?
I'm not entirely sure, as a parent, how to think about the choice between a D3 and a JuCo for a kid whose skills get rated very highly, but whose main cited deficit is physical maturity.
On the one hand, it seems to me that if he can develop more muscle mass, my son has gotten the consistent message that he does have a very high upside. Plus he does have a relentless hunger and an outstanding work ethic. (of which several evaluators have also taken notice) And probably he won't always be so mass challenged. That kind of argues for giving the JC route a try and taking a shot at a big time D1 or D2 program once he does fill out and physically mature.
On the other hand, the parent in me who sees beyond baseball and sees baseball as just a temporary thing in his life, really wants him to have a true college experience, with all the benefits that entails, without putting all of his eggs in the baseball basket. That seems to argue for the D3 route.
Of course, it's ultimately his decision and his life. I know that. But I have to admit that in my secret heart of hearts I've actually always been pulling for the highly competitive D3 option. He gets to play college baseball at what is still a very high level, even if not the highest. He gets a great college experience. And if he really does take off physically while playing competitive college baseball at the D3 level and reach his full upside potential, who knows what can happen? I know D3 would give him far less of a chance of playing beyond college, but I assume the chances wouldn't be completely non-existent -- although I have the impression (which might be wrong) that's its mostly top notch D3 pitchers who get the chance to keep playing beyond college.
Anyway, it seems like there's not really all that much downside and only upside to the highly competitive D3 route. I do suspect that playing D3, even at the highest level, pretty much closes off the possibility of eventually playing D1. (and that's what's getting in his way of really feeling completely comfortable with this option). And that, I admit, is a loss. But given his current physique, I think it was never all that likely anyway. We pursued it, to the extent we did, because some schools seemed intrigued enough by his skills to give him a look over. (Didn't work out. Maybe if injuries hadn't gotten in the way, the skill might have overcome the bulk issue. But who knows? That's water under the bridge, in any case.)
What do you think?