College Coaching Confidential: What Are Players In The Transfer Portal Looking For Most Often?


Image credit: (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)

At the American Baseball Coaches Association convention earlier this month, Baseball America surveyed coaches around the sport on a variety of topics to get the pulse of the profession ahead of the season. The coaches surveyed work at a wide variety of programs, from blue bloods to low majors and everything in between.

The survey started out with a few straightforward questions, which you can find here.

Now, the survey continues to get harder. Today’s question is, what are players in the transfer portal looking for most often? This was a multiple-choice question, with the options name, image and likeness money, playing time, a better chance of winning, improved draft positioning or other. I asked coaches to consider just the players they dealt with most often, not what they thought the average portal player was seeking.

Many of these answers are interconnected and there’s no one thing players are looking for. Each transfer is different and entered the portal for individual reasons. But we can still draw generalizations.

NIL money21.7%
Playing time17.3%
Draft positioning30.4%

The most common answer was improving draft positioning, with NIL money coming in second. That may come as a surprise to many fans who believe NIL money has taken over the sport. But the money available to baseball players is not at the same level as football or basketball players. That isn’t to say that some baseball players aren’t earning a pretty good amount of money through NIL, but its prevalence and impact are often overstated.

Even among the coaches who answered NIL money, many times when I followed up by asking, “Do you have NIL money to offer?”, the answer was no. That doesn’t mean players aren’t looking for NIL money when they’re in the portal, but it does mean they have to consider other factors.

According to our panel of coaches, the biggest factor is the search to improve draft status. While players can be drafted from anywhere, they know a player who has proven himself against a higher level of competition will often be looked at differently by scouts. And improved draft status can lead to more moneymoney that is often greater than the amount that a player could make through NIL. So, transferring to a school that will help a player move up the draft board can still provide the biggest financial impact.

While most coaches selected NIL money or draft positioning, a few went outside the main answers. A couple said players are searching for a big-school atmosphere or the brightest opportunity.

One coach cut through all the noise and got straight to the heart of the matter.

“They’re looking for validation,” he said. “They’re looking for someone to tell them they’re good.”

It was easily the most philosophical answer of the whole survey and maybe the most truthful.

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