by Arnald Swift
Since evaluations are used instead of tryouts in recreation baseball programs, it’s important to have a way to accurately assess player abilities to aid in your selections during the league draft.
In general, as a coach I found the evaluation process to be one of the toughest issues to deal with because it involves emotions, given any existing relationship you have with players and/or their parents.
But to do this right and fairly, cast your personal feelings aside and ensure that the actual evaluation process for the players is the same for everybody.
To do that, what I suggest is to have all drills done using pitching machines so things are extremely constant.
Regardless, have every player start in the same spot (position) for infield and outfield evaluations.
For the hitting evaluation have them hit off the same machine, using the same balls thrown at the same speed, with each player getting the same number of pitches to hit.
For pitching (if applicable) and throwing evaluations you would ideally have some kind of stationary target at which they can aim/throw. Any screen that will stop the ball will work for throwing assessments, while your pitching target should have a strike zone that can record balls and strikes or pitch placement (the Pitchers Pocket is perfect for this).
When it comes to baserunning, again, keep everything the same, with each player going from home to first, or home to second, and/or first to third.
Now it’s time to discuss the role of the evaluator/coach, which, of course, is the hard part. If your league doesn’t pass out an assessment form make one in spreadsheet-style, with columns to rate each skill. You will assign a numerical value, using a scale of 1 to 5 or 1 to 10, for each skill on which a judgment must be made.
For example, if infield evaluations are done with the player at shortstop have them field a ground ball in the hole and throw it to first base three times, then rate that player on their fielding ability, throwing accuracy and arm strength based on their combined three tries. Using a 1 to 10 scale, which allows for more margin of separation between similar players than a 1 to 5 range, the points assigned on those three skills will add up to a total fielding score spanning anywhere from 3 to 30. Also, brief notations can be made, like “natural shortstop,” “threw to right of target” or “not an infielder,” in a comments section.
A skill like baserunning can have an exact number (in seconds) used, since a time can be recorded using a watch or smartphone. But otherwise your scale scores for each skill will give players a total grade, which can be quickly sorted to rank them by their overall performance. Any spreadsheet will also allow you to sort, and thus compare, players by a particular skill.
Whether you enter evaluation data in real time, or have a printout and enter the values into a file on a computer later, a spreadsheet makes organizing the player evaluations a cinch…and the information contained in one will make your drafting decisions informed.