The Difference Between a College and Professional Baseball Player
When comparing a college baseball player to a professional player you will learn that there is not a huge difference. A college player’s ability may be just as good as the pro, but it is the little things that separate the two. In baseball, little things that can make a HUGE difference.
When it comes to pitching the biggest differences I see are: fastball command, velocity, and the ability to throw a secondary pitch for a strike. When talking about fastball command it doesn’t necessarily mean that the pitcher hits exactly where the glove is every single time. It means when the pitcher misses his spot with his fastball they are good misses. If a catcher sets up low and away, they either miss low, away, or low and away. So in more simple terms, they don’t miss over the heart of the plate. They miss to a spot where they can’t get hurt which is why we call it “a good miss.” The second thing I notice is velocity. I believe that the average professional baseball player (minor leagues) throws harder than the average D-1 baseball player. The majority of the guys I have played with in pro ball have been 90+ MPH. The average velocity I played with or against in college baseball was in the upper 80’s. I’ve never been a huge velocity guy myself, but I do believe the harder you throw the more mistakes you can get away with. The last thing I noticed from the pitching standpoint is the ability to throw a secondary pitch for a strike. Most pitchers in professional baseball can throw a secondary pitch for a strike. A lot of times you see a guy in college with a great fastball and a great secondary pitch, but he can’t throw his secondary pitch for a strike. If you can’t throw a secondary pitch for a strike, you are a one pitch guy. While there are still plenty of one pitch guys in pro ball, a lot of the time these guys won’t have long careers. Take a look at Aroldis Chapman, the hardest throwing human on the planet, even he throws a slider. So when it comes to pitching the little things that separate college players and pro players are: fastball command, velocity, and the ability to throw a secondary pitch for a strike.
When looking at hitters the biggest differences I see are: the ability to hit mistake fastballs, having approaches, and situational hitting. One thing I noticed right away even in rookie ball is that any pro hitter can turn on a good fastball when it’s not located. I saw guys that were throwing 95+ MPH getting their fastballs turned on like it was nothing. This was because the fastball was up in the zone or out over the plate. Hitters get paid to hit fastballs and it doesn’t matter how hard it is, when it’s not located they don’t miss very often. The next thing I noticed is pro hitters have a better approach. Hitters in professional baseball have a game plan when they come up to the plate. Some hitters might swing away at the first fastball they see while others might work the count till they get an offside pitch; whatever it may be pro hitters have an approach for each at-bat. The last thing is that pro guys are better at situational hitting. They are obsessed with RBI’s just like pitchers are obsessed with strikeouts. Hitters in professional baseball know what to do to move a runner over or to get a guy in. With a runner on 3rd, less than 2 outs, and infield back they know a fly ball or a ground out gets the job done. So instead of swinging out of their shoes to hit a three run dinger, they put a ball on the ground up the middle or drive a fly ball to the outfield. They simplify the game and don’t try to do too much. By doing little things like having an approach, hitting a mistake, and hitting to the situation a pro hitter sets himself a notch above the college player.
The biggest difference between a college and professional baseball player isn’t necessarily their ability, but rather the little things they do or focus on in a game. By focusing on the things like fastball command and situational hitting baseball players can literally take their game to the next level. Its the little things that can really improve a players game and when it comes down to it…the little things win ballgames.
-Jason Van Skike