fearsomefour is pretty close when he says: “Velo is all over the map in college.”
However, for a variety of reasons, “all over the map” does not equate to “random distribution”. HS pitchers who aspire to pitch in college should have a reasonable idea of where they fit in by the end of summer following their Junior year.
Important disclaimer: Although people often offer the fuzzy disclaimer that “velocity is overrated”, there are some very good reasons to know your best velocity at the end of Junior year, and to know a little about where that number points to on “the map” of college programs. For better or worse, coaches will use your top velocity to help them project whether you are likely to develop into a competitive pitcher at their college program level.
College-level is certainly not as simple as “D1” versus other levels and it’s even difficult to break programs down by conference. There are currently 297 D-1 college baseball programs spread over 30 conferences as listed by the NCAA.
Just to take one example, the Pac-12 conference, contains the NCAA’s top-ranked program in 2012 (UCLA) and the program ranked #200 (Utah). That’s quite a spread in rankings but the ave. HS velocity of pitchers who eventually appeared on a Pac-12 baseball roster in 2012 doesn’t vary greatly:
For eventual Pac-12 RHPs:
#1 UCLA ave = 91.5
#4 Arizona ave = 89.7
#6 Oregon ave = 86.7
#11 SStanford ave = 90.9
#27 Oregon St. ave = 91
#15 Arizona St. ave = 88.8
#55 U of Wash ave = 86
#59 Wash St. ave = 85.5
#99 USC ave = 89
#200 Utah ave = 87.8
Remember: These are ave. velocities of RHPs when they were in HS, before they found their way onto a Pac-12 baseball roster somewhere.
These numbers do say something important about the average expectations of Pac-12 coaches concerning who they will recruit into their programs. Unfair and short-sighted? Maybe, but it is very important to be aware of the expectations of people who may (or may not) be interested in your potential to play for them.
Perhaps a more revealing breakdown of “D-1 velocity” is to separate out small groups of programs based on their place in the NCAA rankings:
#26 Ole Miss
#27 Oregon St.
Ave HS velo of RHP pitchers who eventually appeared on the 2012 roster of one these programs was: ave = 90.5 +/- 2. (That means that about 70% of the RHPs in this group pitched in the range: 88.5 - 92.5 mph when they were in High School. Ave HS velo of LHPs who eventually played at these schools was: ave = 88.5 +/- 2.5 mph. (again, this means that 70% of LHPs for these programs were in the range 86 - 91 mph in High School.
#40 New Mexico St.
#55 U of Wash
Fairly substantial drop-off here: The ave HS velo of RHPs who eventually appeared on these rosters was: ave = 85.5 +/- 2.5. Thus, 70% of these RHPs were in the 83 - 88 mph range in HS. For the LHPs in these programs, the HS ave velo was: ave = 82.5 +/- 2.5, with 70% falling in the range of 80 - 85 mph. (The universal tolerance for lower velo from LHPs has been known forever–you will see this pattern repeated over and over).
#80 Wash St.
#83 Fresno St.
Very similar RHP numbers to the #40 - #55 programs: Ave HS velo for RHPs who eventually got a roster spot on one of these programs was: ave = 85.5 +/- 3.5 mph. So, the range of RHP High School velocities was a bit wider at this level, 82 - 89 mph, but the average expectation was still about 86 mph. Interestingly, the LHP HS velo numbers were a bit higher for this group, ave = 86 +/-3 mph.
#101 Loyola Marymount
#109 Sacramento St.
#119 U of San Francisco
#123 U of Portland
#131 St. Mary’s
Ave HS velo of RHPs who eventually played for these programs was: ave = 86.5 +/- 3 mph. Only 1 mph different than the averages fro the #40 - #55 group and the #75 - #88 group. Ave HS LHP velo = 85.5 +/- 5 mph.
#177 Santa Clara
#199 Seattle U.
#210 San Jose St.
Ave HS velo of RHPs who eventually played on these teams was: ave = 85 mph +/- 4 mph. For LHPs, ave = 82.5 +/- 4 mph. The std dev on these numbers leads to fairly wide ranges for the 70% groups: RHPs = 81 - 89 mph; LHPs = 78.5 - 86.5.
Let’s look at “the bottom of the barrel” of D-1 NCAA rankings:
#288 Youngstown St.
#295 Florida A&M
#296 Alabama A&M
There was not enough public data (i.e., Perfect Game velocities) to evaluate HS LHP velo for pitchers who eventually showed up on a roster for one of these programs. There was also not very much RHP data available for these pitchers, but enough to make a point. The ave High School velo of RHPs on these rosters was: ave = 81 +/- 4.5 mph. A pretty low average with a wide range. Thus, 70% of RHPs who pitched for these teams had HS velo in the range = 76.5 - 85.5 mph.
As has been pointed out elsewhere in this thread, it may not make much sense to include JCs in a comparison w/ most D1, D2, and D3 programs because academic ability (grades, SAT or ACT scores, etc) and economic factors may come strongly into play. It’s probably very safe to assume that there is significant overlap between the average HS velocity expectations for the top half of all D2 programs and many of the D1 programs. Also, may be safe to assume that there is overlap between expectations at top D3 programs and many good D2s and some of the D1s.
What it looks like to me is: Almost everybody who is capable of pitching in high school can probably find a “fit” for themselves in a college program somewhere at some level. However, this is not really saying enough…the big picture really requires a good college “fit” that depends on each of these important factors: Academics, economics, social factors, and your ability to pitch a baseball.