Subjective pitching question: Is it better to develop early or later?

What makes me ask is I watched ESPN 30 for 30 “Little Big Men” last night for the first time. If you have not seen it, it’s a must watch.

So you see all these kids who are pitching studs at 11,12, 13 years old. Similar to the kid in Little Big Men. Just blowing it past everyone. Low to Mid 70’s fastball, etc. Maybe it’s me but it seems like these kids seem to cap out as they get older? They don’t often become the stud high school senior pitcher. How many LL World Series pitchers do you know of who made it big in College or MLB? After all, these “are” the kids who are either going into 8th, maybe 9th grade as they can turn 13 after May1st and still play LLWS.

Does it seem like it’s the late bloomers or kids that come out of nowhere who are the ones who turn into the best pitchers in their mid/late teens in High School and into College?


LL changed their league age a couple years ago and this years class of LLWS players will be the last that can be 13 during the LLWS playing period. It was changed to match calendar year (Dec 31) a couple years ago and then because of the amount of complaints they had during the first year they moved it back to Aug 31. The upcoming class of League Age 12 players is a huge one because it has 16 months worth of kids instead of 12. My son was caught up in this and is “losing” an eligible playing year (he went from league age 7 to age 9 when they made the change).

As for your question, as a HS coach in the past we certainly saw our fair share of flame throwers in LL not make the pitching staff on our squad. Not that is was every case, but there were many who came to us as freshman and sophomores that were still throwing the same speed as they were in LL Majors (12u) With increased distance to 60’ 6" their flame throwing 70 mph FB was like hitting batting practice.

If a kid can learn to pitch by throwing strikes during his youth baseball playing years that is far better in development for latter stages than if they are just throwing heat. Many of the kids that throw heat do so pretty wildly. Last year we had 2 arms that were crazy hot (mid 80s as sophomores) but they could not command their pitches and were rarely consistent at throwing strikes. Free passes in HS are a killer. Were they pitchers on the squad? Nope. They became outfielders.

It would be the perfect thing to have a kid that can throw close to 70 at 12 and throw strikes and by the time he is a Junior in HS he is throwing 85+. Nice development curve! Many times, sad to say, that is not the case.

Look at that girl Mo’ne Davis (spelling…???) that was the rage at the LLWS a couple years ago. She just played in a Perfect Game Inner City series in August and she was still only throwing 70 mph. She had 3 years to get faster (she is now a Junior) and even as a Sophomore she would not be a pitcher on our JV squad throwing 70 mph from 60’ 6"

It is not a question as to develop early or late, but to try and put a program together to keep developing. Keep getting more speed and more command as the years from youth to HS move along.

I’ll just leave this here, kind of relates to your question, good article that I agree with. But more over LLWS is a shell of actual baseball and to think a 12 I mean 13 year old can’t handle the full game of baseball is foolish. No lead offs, pitchers have nothing to worry about beside throwing gas and hitting their spots, they don’t have to hold a runner or slide step because their full ridiculous wind up would put the runner 3/4 to second by the time they delivered the pitch. LL really needs to adjust their rules to be more in line with the actual game of baseball, and adjust field dimensions to what most travel ball kids are playing on at that age.

Pitching workload from the ages of 9 to 16 may play into this. The big 9-12 year-olds throwing heat may pitch 1500-3000 pitches/year, or even more. The little kids who have talent but not as much velocity are typically going to be throwing less than 1000 pitches per year.

With less wear and tear on the arm, the kid who was smaller and less often pitched may be at an advantage, when, at age 17, two fully mature kids of similar height/weight/build both attempt to push their pitching craft to their respective limits.

Another interesting thing is that if you’re 4’ 10" at 12 years old, your’re probably not going to be overwhelming batters with velocity, so you’re going to develop the other tools of pitching to be competitive (location, movement, deception).

My son is 12 1/2, 4’ 10" and is statistically among the top 2 or 3 pitchers on every team he’s on, yet he is only pitching 800-1000 pitches per year (includes both spring rec league and higher level summer play). I’m already seeing other top pitchers getting arm troubles, one by one . . .

Probably best college-wise if you peaked when you’re 16 or 17. If you’re a sophomore or junior and you’re slinging 90+, you’ll get a metric buttload of D1 offers, as well as attention from pro scouts.

I would say later. Have seen too many LL flamethrowers flame out. One won our LL championship twice at age 11 and 12, throwing gas and wicked curve balls. At 13 he had Tommy John surgery. He is now a mediocre small-high-school pitcher throwing high 70s, and just had a second surgery. Another was a 5’8" gorilla at LL age 12, throwing 70+. Today he is a 5’9" high school outfielder.

For successful transition to playing ball after HS, later is the answer. Most don’t pitch after HS anyway, so I’d say as long as you had your time in the sun at some point in your playing days, it was a successful baseball experience that will last a lifetime.

Kids mature and develop at different rates. My development was early and although I capped out my arm strength as a Sophomore,I was by no means slow and I was smart enough to get the most out of it and play through a very successful HS and American Legion career having pitched in State Championships and Zone Regional Finals. I just could never crack 90. Now I just help people meet their potential.

Whatever your game is or whenever your game is–own it.