Youth Roster Selection

Our spring league player evaluations are only about 4 weeks away, so I thought this would be a great time to bring this up.

Often I see first time coaches or even experienced coaches (shame on them) go into a youth league draft with no plan. They have a list of names they would like to get on their team based on the 1or 2 swings, grounders, throws, and pitches they witnessed at the tryout. Their short list will have evaporated in most cases by the end of the second round of the draft and you can see on their faces that they are just tossing darts at a wall blindfolded. They rationalize their lack of prep by convincing themselves, it’s just a youth league, or it’s just for fun. While the remainder of the coaches steal their lunch money in the subsequent rounds.

My basic plan:
I have the names broken out by position I feel they are most suited for and a best case secondary position.
I try to draft the first 4-5 rounds in this order:
P
P/SS Best available remaining Pitcher or SS depending on how long it will be until my next pick.
I may have to grab a C earlier if other coaches start picking them before me.
C
P/2B
P/C
As I make my picks, I’m slotting my batting order based on what the kids have done in the past. I try to fill the key defensive positions while keeping in mind the critical need for pitching and ability to hit the ball. I try to get the best mix of bat on the ball and defensive talent. If I can fill my top 3-4 batting slots by the 6th round, I’ve done pretty well.

Each team needs pitching for sure, but you can’t afford to have weakness at the middle infield or have a huge drop off between your 1st and 2nd catcher. In most youth leagues, all players will have to sit out one or two innings. How ugly are you willing to let things get during those innings?

Usually at this point, the pickings are pretty slim so I switch over to my master player list. I have every player listed in order by overall skill / aptitude by position. I cross them off the list as they are selected. I’m looking for best available player at the most critical remaining unfilled defensive position at this point. Be careful to get kids who can handle flyballs well. Surprisingly, many great middle infielders have difficulty chasing down flyballs because they have never really had to in the past. Their abilities to throw with accuracy and get to ground balls has pigeon-holed them to infield positions and many have never played the outfield! It can certainly be taught easily enough, but another downfall to town league ball is field availability and minimal practice time. It may take a while to develop their flyball skills and you need competent ball shaggers for the beginning of the season.

I’d be interested in hearing how some of you approach little league or senior little league age drafts.

If I can get into the 50/50 W/L range it’s good enough to make post-season and I’m satisfied I’ve accomplished the goal of a town league where everyone who tries out makes a team. If we can win a game or two in the playoffs, all the better. In the end, it’s more about how much progress you have made with each of the kids and how much their confidence has improved than it is about winning all the time. They have experienced enough wins to keep it fun and experienced enough losses to be humble. The teams at each end of the spectrum are unlucky, in my opinion, because they have missed out on some important life experiences. Losing with dignity for the teams that win all the time and the joy of victory is missed by the bottom teams.

I think the goal of youth leagues should be team parity. Often it’s not accomplished with the typical drafts, and that’s a shame.

COACHPAUL SAID
My basic plan:
I have the names broken out by position I feel they are most suited for and a best case secondary position.
I try to draft the first 4-5 rounds in this order:
P
P/SS Best available remaining Pitcher or SS depending on how long it will be until my next pick.
I may have to grab a C earlier if other coaches start picking them before me.
C
P/2B
P/C
As I make my picks, I’m slotting my batting order based on what the kids have done in the past. I try to fill the key defensive positions while keeping in mind the critical need for pitching and ability to hit the ball. I try to get the best mix of bat on the ball and defensive talent. If I can fill my top 3-4 batting slots by the 6th round, I’ve done pretty well. [/quote]

Just curious to know what age kids you are coaching. One of the issues I see in league is coaches placing kids in positions based on conceptions of who should play where before the first practice. My son played league through age 10 and went to travel. Although I don’t coach (& have no desire to do so) my son always played more desirable positions and batted towards the top of the lineup due to talent. Last year he played in league at age 13 due to no school ball. He then played travel ball when season ended and school ball was over. In league at every age group the kids were put into positions and rarely moved. At the younger ages so much can change from year to year in terms of ability but the positions rarely change due to preconceived notions about where kids are suited to play. I believe it causes frustration for the parents and kids to never be given an opportunity (even in practice) to “show what they can do” in positions they believe they are suited. A friend drafted my son last year with an early pick with the intention of him playing SS/P; furthermore he had penciled in the lineup prior to the first practice and nothing changed through the end of the season. Even though he had a couple of other kids who played SS only one got the opportunity to play & that when my son pitched. The irony is my son plays 3B in travel and would prefer to play there. We had a kid on our team with a great arm with some pitching experience and had begun taking lessons to improve mechanics. Despite mine and his fathers suggestions our coach would never give him a look, he played and pitched in the fall and looked much better than a couple of our pitchers. Other kids and their parents believed they were better than a kid playing a desired position, lots of grumbling. Looking back over the years the only league coach that really gave all the kids a shot was at 9 years old. The team he drafted didn’t have a tremendous amount of talent. At the first team meeting he had each kid sign whether they were available to pitch and/or catch and desired position. He gave each and every kid multiple opportunities to show what they could do in practice. In the end he got the kids in the best position for the team and resulted in less grumbling from the parents. My son ended up as a pitcher and utility infielder that particular year; team ended up with second best record out of 12 teams. We had a couple of pitchers that I truly believe would have never gotten a shot and kids playing positions they would never have gotten to play on other teams. Just a longwinded way of saying in youth ball kids should get a chance to try their desired position and not be “pigeonholed”. At the end of the day and before the first game you may be right and your lineup card may be as you envisioned when drafted. On the other hand, you might have missed a good pitcher and had a quality infielder in right or left field?

CoachPau:
I agree about the goal should be parity and it usually not being achieved using the common draft system. It is too bad. A team going 20-0 or 0-20 doesnt teach either team about how to deal with things or behave, I agree with that as well.
I have never had to do a baseball draft as a coach, for football we would grab the best available RB available where we were drafting in the first round. Then we would get looks and chuckles when we drafted over the next 8-10 rounds. We would focus on kids we had dialed in as Olineman and D players. Almost always our drafts would go RB, Center, MLB, OL, OL, Safety, OL, DE.
A bunch of other teams would end up with a team with a QB, 4 RBs, 2 WRs and nothing else. Their lines couldnt block and they were slow and bad on D. A lot of times we dont even draft a kid that has played QB before. Youth sports is different that the game we watch on tv. Guys who burn their first pick on a QB would kill me, why draft him there? So he can hand off 30 times a game? Our teams almost always finish 1 or 2 in the league every year. You gotta draft (and coach) for how the game is really played not what you see on Sportscenter.
Samething with baseball. I see guys draft hitting, hitting, hitting. But they end up with teams with zero defence and little pitching. As the season progresses and pitching and defence on other teams gets better the teams that draft just bats go down in a series of 17-12 losses. In football I want to start with a RB, a Center and a MLB. In baseball I want to start with a P, a Catcher and a middle infielder. Youth sports are the same in this respect. Grab your “go to guy” first, then the guy who is gonna keep the whole thing flowing (center in football, catcher in baseball) then its all about defence in my opinion.

I’ve coached ages 5-15 over the past 20 years.

If you see enough kids you can tell how they attack the ball on defense how quickly after the ball is hit are they moving into a desireable position to make the play, how much ground do they cover between contact and catch, how quickly do they transition from control of the ball to release? Is their momentum moving toward the target?

Most parents’ simplistic view is, Johnny never misses ground balls, why isn’t he playing infield? See above. If Johnny sits back on the ball makes the catch and is slow to deliver the ball, no matter how many times he hits the first baseman in the chest with the ball, he will never play infield (except in practice) until all of that is addressed. Truth be told, parents can have more impact on a kid’s development than a coach could ever dream to. You, as a parent, have much more opportunity with him.

I don’t pigeon-hole kids into one position, regardless of how I draft them. The way our league is set up with substitution rules, only two innings per game do you hope to have your best defense on the field. The rest of the game is trying kids out in different positions based on what they have shown you in practice.

I also agree that it’s important that kids like the positions they play, but if they are not currently suited to that position it will eat away at their confidence and desire to play. Also, if they hope to continue playing beyond little league or senior little league on teams where not everyone makes it, they will have to learn to love positions they are suited to play, give it up, play another sport, or transition to equipment manager or a coaching position.

For the drafting topic, fearsome and I appear to see eye-to-eye, you have to start somewhere and make certain assumptions that may prove true or false the more you work with the kids. As the year goes along, I’ll update my book on as many of the kids in the league or system that I’m able to in order to get a better idea of my team for next year.

After day one of team practice, I’m constantly evaluating kids at various positions. Everyone should know how to play each position in the myriad situations if only to improve how well they play their primary position. If a kid knows how to play 2B and is playing right field, he can find the relay man faster on balls hit to the gap or down the line, etc.

While writing this topic it got me thinking of another thing that bothers me about merry-go-round defensive coaches. Again, coaches that play every kid in every position in a game so no parents complain about why their child is not playing X position. These jokers should not be invited back to coach. I have literally seen kids rotate numerically through the diamond after each inning. Talk about taking the easy way out! Also, some kids will get killed if they have a line drive hit at them while playing 3B. If you coach like that, you are rolling the dice with your kids’ safety.

That reminds me of another thread I want to start…

Coach Paul:
You bring up some good points in terms of evaluating kids given very short try out times. A lot of guys go into the draft with the idea of building some sort of dream team for hitting or pitching, usually hitting. The idea that offense wins out in baseball (or almost any other sport) just usually isent true regardless of level. Being able to judge a kids mentality (does he charge the ball? or, in football, does he drive his block or just make contact and stop) is as much the key as anything.
The idea (you still do see this in youth baseball) that the “big kid” should be catching is funny to me. A bad coach will try to hide Jr. there because he cant move…of course with youth pitchers being shotgun with their accuracy they end up giving up endless bases per game with pass balls ect. because the big kid cant move to block them. I would much rather work with a big kid on getting quicker and play him in the outfield, work on routes to balls and keeping the ball in front of him and getting his throw back in off quickly.
Most of the teams we play in football relagate the big kids to the lines, why? Because this is what they see on tv. The difference is the big guys on tv are athletic freaks that can run a 5 second or so 40 at 320 lbs. A “big kid” is usually just out of shape and slow. You can certainly coach a slow kid up and find a spot for him, but, putting him a spot where there is a kid 5 feet away from him that he has to engage and defeat every play is a terrible mistake. We usually end up with one of the slower kids, sometimes the slowest kid, running the ball, spliting time with our #1 RB. Our line is usually smaller than the other teams, but, they are fast have good technique and have pride in what they are doing…so, they dominate and push the big kids all over the field. My point? Coaches put kids, regardless of sport, in situations that they are going to have a very hard time succeeding in. Then, because of lack of coaching, physical limitations of the kids, bad scheme or whatever, the kids fail, we all get to hear the coach yelling at them about how they dont want it enough. I alternate between angry and kind of bummed when I hear this. Im not saying I didnt do the same when I started, because I did. You have to learn and pay attention to what is really happening. It is amazing how few coaches actually explain why they have the kids doing something. Taking the extra few minutes to explain why you do it and making sure they understand…world of difference.
The substitution thing makes it tough. I have seen a youth team were the only right handed fielder was playing first base. Strange things sometimes.
Trying to hide the big kid who can move at catcher or on the oline put him in a situation where he almost cannot do well. Believe me he wants to…all kids do. So, be openminded, coach him up and find a spot where he has a chance to do well and contribute. I agree with everything your saying CoachPaul.

I like long double posts when someone is agreeing with me :smiley:

Not a big fan of double posts that disagree :evil:

Lots of good cross-sport similarities in how to select a team. How the kid moves is very telling of his athleticism. I could do a reasonably fair quick selection after just watching kids run on and off the ball field without seeing them do anything baseball related. Think about it. I bet you could, too. I’m not advocating it as a practice, but even that is better than a lot of what I see from other coaches.

I’ve literally seen evaluation forms of other coaches with check pluses in the box on a kid sitting back waiting on grounders as long as he caught them. And I’ve seen coaches put minuses in the box for kids who charged the ball, had great form, got down on the ball, and a bad hop off the heel of the glove. What are these guys looking at? :?:

[quote=“CoachPaul”]I’ve coached ages 5-15 over the past 20 years.

If you see enough kids you can tell how they attack the ball on defense how quickly after the ball is hit are they moving into a desireable position to make the play, how much ground do they cover between contact and catch, how quickly do they transition from control of the ball to release? Is their momentum moving toward the target? [quote]

Will agree with you there. Not sure how draft is in other places but here no tryout. All coaches know is what they’ve seen in years past. Have seen some kids especially in younger age groups improve a lot in a years time.

[quote=“CoachPaul”]Most parents’ simplistic view is, Johnny never misses ground balls, why isn’t he playing infield? See above. If Johnny sits back on the ball makes the catch and is slow to deliver the ball, no matter how many times he hits the first baseman in the chest with the ball, he will never play infield (except in practice) until all of that is addressed. Truth be told, parents can have more impact on a kid’s development than a coach could ever dream to. You, as a parent, have much more opportunity with him. [quote]

Fair enough if communicated. Again from what I’ve seen in our league many of the coaches never give the kids a look even in practice. The one coach who did had much less resentment on team as parents got to see for themselves how Little Johnny stacked up against the other kids in a position.

[quote=“CoachPaul”]After day one of team practice, I’m constantly evaluating kids at various positions. Everyone should know how to play each position in the myriad situations if only to improve how well they play their primary position. If a kid knows how to play 2B and is playing right field, he can find the relay man faster on balls hit to the gap or down the line, etc. [quote]

Sounds fair. In our experience in league we only had one coach do as you describe

[quote=“CoachPaul”]While writing this topic it got me thinking of another thing that bothers me about merry-go-round defensive coaches. Again, coaches that play every kid in every position in a game so no parents complain about why their child is not playing X position. These jokers should not be invited back to coach. I have literally seen kids rotate numerically through the diamond after each inning. Talk about taking the easy way out! Also, some kids will get killed if they have a line drive hit at them while playing 3B. If you coach like that, you are rolling the dice with your kids’ safety. [quote]

Agree 100%. Practice is the time to give them a shot.

Guess my prospective comes from the parents side and hearing them grumble about kid never getting a chance. The coach that allowed all to try in practice seemed to quiet the noise as parents got to see for themselves how their kid played in position compared to others; best player for position played in games. Unfortunately what we’ve run up on are coaches who’ve had lineup cards made before first practice. I believe this is a disservice to all the kids including my own who never compete for their job.

Some good stuff and ideas throughout!

Definitely some good food for thought. Many parents don’t hang around for practice and they are on their phones during the games, picking their heads up just long enough to criticize a coach or umpire.

I got to admit being impressed with the thought process and effort you guys are putting into youth team selections. What kind of populations are you drawing from? I coached ten years or so, ages 8 to 19. During the early years I was coaching in a mixed suburban/rural community. Some of the kids came from white collar and some from the farm.

Our “draft” or selection process was well, more like a back room gentleman’s agreement. Us coaches knew each other well, strengths and weaknesses. We got to together at the bank in the conference room and it went kinda like this. Okay who had Johnny last year? Who’s turn is it this year? That out of the way, we’d put all the kids in one of three category’s: top tier, middle class, and bottom feeders. Everybody got a few of each. Special requests were taken care of.

Alright, make the best of what you got. See you on the field. Honestly, some of the kids were valuable not because of how they could play the game but because of what their family brought to the logistics of the team. And conversely, there were kids that I knew were going to not be reliable or a distraction to the team but had good skills…they never played on a team I coached.

Maybe that all comes under the heading of “fine tuning” a selection process or maybe that is like comparing a Ford Escort to a Toyota Avalon. They both get the job done but in two completely different ways.

Can’t believe no one has mentioned the all important " hot mom" intangible.

:lol:

The hot mom factor comes into effect only in your final few picks. If Johnny can’t play to save his life and you can’t bear to watch, at least you can look to the stands. The code you scribble in the upper corner of the application is ‘My LF’. Which, of course, stands for my left fielder.

The hot mom factor comes into effect only in your final few picks. If Johnny can’t play to save his life and you can’t bear to watch, at least you can look to the stands. The code you scribble in the upper corner of the application is ‘My LF’. Which, of course, stands for my left fielder.

Ah the HMF. When all other things are equal…

Hmmm. My LF, eh? if you push those two words together, it almost looks like…nevermind :oops: