College postseason baseball is back, which inevitably means discussions about the number of pitches. This leads to discussions about overusing the pitcher, which in turn leads to the proclamation that shooters are better off getting out of high school than going to college to develop.
It’s a cycle that repeats year after year during the college post-season, with social media amplifying the message that going to college is not in the best of the bowler.
While overuse of the pitcher is a real problem, and there are certainly many notable cases of it, such declarative statements are not subject to scrutiny. Despite concerns about overuse, the best freshmen in Major League Baseball, especially the right-wingers, overwhelmingly went to college.
Since the start of the 2018 season, nine of the top 11 starters – and the first three overall – have been drafted as measured by the above FanGraphs win by substitution from four-year colleges. They are Jacob Degrom, Max Scherzer, Gerrit Cole, Aaron Nola, Shane Pepper, Walker Buehler, Lance Lane, Justin Verlander and Trevor Bauer.
Zach Wheeler and Charlie Morton, who dropped out of high school in 2009 and 2002, respectively, were the only freshmen inside the top 11 who did not attend college.
Of the last 22 Cy Young Awards, shooters who have gone to four-year colleges have won 16. This includes multi-time Cy Young winners Verlander, Scherzer, deGrom and Corey Kluber. The only Cy Young winners at the time who were not inducted outside of college were nearly all of them left – Clayton Kershaw (x3), Blake Snell and Robbie Ray. Rick Purcello is the only right-handed high school student to win a Cy Young award in that time frame.
There are a number of reasons why the best MLB starters are overwhelmingly college produce. American baseball explored some in 2018 and 2019.
The most common reason shooters cite themselves is that promotion in college better prepares them for what it takes to be top players in the major leagues. In short, you’re allowed to throw 120 pitches and go out through a lineup 3-4 times and have to deliver pitches late in games without their best, which lays a better foundation than being automatically trotted into a limited number of turns and pitches, like high school often Recruits have been in the palace for years.
For intelligence, Grayson Rodriguez, a potential No. 1 baseball player and 2018 out-of-high school trooper, has been allowed to complete seven innings just twice in 63 minor league games. He was only allowed to make more than 90 throws three times.
Corbin Burns, National League Cy Young Award winner and fourth-round winner of St. A full year younger than Rodriguez now.
“When I go back to the model of my college career, that was exactly what I needed to be a successful giant,” Scherzer told BA in 2019. This was the biggest thing.
“…I’ve never faced one or two times during the lineup. I’ve been facing guys three or four times and learning how to have to put in performances to make myself better. For the underagers, they never let you learn how to do that and it hurts.”
Durability, of course, is a key component of being a front-line starter. Again, despite concerns about overuse, bowlers who have gone to college make up the majority of roles as leaders in MLB. Of the 20 shooters who have thrown the most rounds since 2018, 11 went to four-year colleges, including captains Nola and Cole. Six were recruited out of high school, one (Patrick Corbin) from junior college and two (German Marquis and Luis Castillo) from international signers.
Cole offers a particularly unique perspective. After a first-round pick from high school who chose instead to go to UCLA, he told BA in 2019 that he didn’t feel he would have become the same bowler if he had signed straight from high school.
“Needing, professionalizing, developing routines, and being deliberate with those habits, a lot of those habits are learned in school,” Cole said at the time. And those habits can extend your career.
“Once you learn how to learn, and how to teach yourself things, you can apply that to any aspect, and why not be able to apply that to learning a new presentation or trying to stay healthy? I think these things generally benefit guys who are out of college because school students High school are not given that opportunity.”
This does not mean that overuse is not a real problem or that all shooters should go to college. Throwing 139 pitches over two consecutive days, as Oklahoma’s Trevor Martin did in Stillwater Regional last weekend, isn’t good for any pitcher, at any age. Getting into college is a personal decision, with individual circumstances for each player varying.
There are plenty of examples of successful new shooters who chose to drop out of high school, including Kershaw, Wheeler, Morton, Snell and Ray mentioned above, and outstanding youngsters Max Fried, Jack Flaherty, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, Joe Musgrove and the late Jose Fernandez, who was on track to be one of the greatest shooters of his era before he was killed in a boat accident at the age of 24. Adam Wainwright and Zack Greinke put on hats on long, decorated careers after being drafted outside the school field. Stars from the early 2000s such as the late Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Josh Beckett, Jake Bevy and Chris Carpenter also checked out of high school.
But the assertion that bowlers are unilaterally better off skipping college for development is a false assertion, and is quickly refuted even by a cursory glance at who the top bowlers in the major tournaments are.
Despite concerns about overuse or narratives circulating on social media, going to college doesn’t hamper the bowler’s ability to develop into a top-tier player in the league. It takes the right program and the right training crew, but in a balanced way, the best shooters in the major leagues are overwhelmingly out of college.
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