Prep Baseball Report

OK/MO/KS/CO/AR Rankings Explained

Andy Urban & Brandon Hall
OK/MO/KS Scouting Supervisor

How do you go about 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 Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri where I head up our process.

Every player our staff sees, and we feel we are able to put an evaluation on, will receive a player grade. Along with the player grade, a confidence rating is assigned.  Player grades are geared toward where they are now, with some thought as how they may develop in the future. The confidence rating is just a way for our staff to understand how firm the assigned grade is at this time. A senior typically has a much higher confidence rating than a freshman. A player our staff has seen twelve times will have a higher confidence rating than a player we see for the first time.

Once the players are graded, they are sorted in a spreadsheet.  This initial sorting covers a lot of the work that is done in the ranking process.  A player graded with an 8 will be higher on the list than a player with a 7. There are several players, at every graded level, that will have the same player grade.  For these players, our staff will discuss the order, moving players up and down within that graded area, based on potential, future development, and positional needs. Typically a starting pitcher will be ranked higher than a corner outfielder… a shortstop will be ranked ahead of a second basemen… keeping in mind their initial player grade was the same.

After the initial order is set, a select few on our staff will begin to dive into the rankings to make sure we like the order and the player grades. In this part of the process, we may break down the list by position to compare catchers vs. catchers and so on...  Subtle adjustments can happen, and at times we can catch a player that is in the wrong spot completely.  Once this list is approved, we are ready to publish. Typically, we cut the rankings off at a round number and we have certainly graded more players than we show on the rankings. If we have not seen a player enough in games and we have not seen them in a showcase setting at all, we will often wait to plug the player into the rankings until we have seen more. 

Some common missconseptions about rankings include:

"I went down in the rankings, so PBR must thing I got worse." This is almost never true. As we continue to update rankings we have knowledge of more and more players. It is a common occurace that players who have actually gotten better not only compared to the old them, but compared to previously ranked players as well, will sometimes see their name drop due to new players being added to the list above them. 

"I have better stats than a player ranked above me so I should be ranked higher." Both physical measurables and game stats play a role in rankings, but so do possition played, skill set, project, and fit at the next level. 

Do College Coaches Care About Player Rankings?

The answer is no in some ways and yes in others.  Let me explain.

Every college coach and program has their own way to evaluate and rate players.  Just like we are ranking players, every program is doing the same thing, in their own way, for their recruiting boards.  For this reason, they do not need someone else’s rankings.

College coaches do pay attention to rankings to see if their evaluation or player grade is different than that of another source. 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. Many programs may value different tools and that would create a different rank when comparing players. 

If a college program needs a catcher in the 2020 class, they may rank the catchers on their board higher than the staff of PBR.  The player grades may still be similar, but the need to complete a roster does affect player grades within a recruiting list.

College coaches will also use rankings’ lists to find new names and targets.  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 notes to determine if the player needs to become a target of theirs.

Bottom line… if a college program puts a player grade on a prospect and add him as a target, they will look for additional information on that player, but they really may not care if the player is ranked.  They may even see it as a benefit if the player remains unranked, giving them the upper hand in the early recruiting process.

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

When our rankings are released, we will occasionally be asked about specific players and how one is ranked ahead of another… While we try to stay away from comparing two players in a list of 200, some of the information can lead to questions. 

The response that seems to come out most is that player statistics (arm velocity, exit velocity, running times, pop times) are just a piece of the puzzle.  When we just take the statistics, and work to rank players, we may deny players that have a high feel for the game, or play defense at a pace above their statistics.  A player with an elite exit velocity deserves consideration, but our staff will continue see if the exit velocity translates into games.

As part of the ranking process, we would love to see players in a combine (pro-style workout) and in game situations. The more we see a player, the higher his confidence rating will be.  For players with similar grades, which take into account game situations, pro-style workouts, and future projection, the confidence interval can lead to Player A getting the nod over Player B.

Rankings are not an exact science, but on our end, they are not taken lightly.  I think most readers would be surprised by the number of emails, phone calls, and conversations that lead to one set of rankings.  We do not stake our reputation on the rankings being right.  I don’t know how you would ever decide if a ranking is right… We will stake our reputation on the ability to defend the rankings, knowing that each list is a living organism, of sorts, that will be updated and altered as more information on players is attained.