With no baseball season taking place due to the novel coronavirus, many players are left scrambling, wondering what’s next? For many players, especially those in high school, their final days playing ball could simply vanish.
But several companies are starting to create alternative means of being seen, and helping players get from one level to the next. That includes Rapsodo, which is creating a national player database that will showcase player data to the public.
While college coaches and MLB scouts won’t be able to see any players on the field for the foreseeable future, they could use this database to get a better understanding of a large pool of players on an analytical level.
“Of course, you are reading about how everything is shutting down and everyone always thinks about your own business,” said Art Chou, Rapsodo’s GM of North America. “But we started thinking about all the players and heard all the stories of the high school seniors who are missing their playoffs. The college guys who are missing their last years of eligibility.
“And that got us thinking, well part of the whole process of what we’re doing is helping people get to the next level. Helping players get to the next level. And how are they going to get discovered?”
The idea is fairly straightforward. Rapsodo already stores the data of every player who has been recorded on their technology in a private online cloud. Now, the company is reaching out and asking players if they would like to opt in to the database, so coaches and scouts would be able to see things like fastball velocity, spin rate and more.
If players opt out, that’s their decision, but if they opt in there’s no charge and only their best scores will be shown.
Rapsodo plans to release the database to the public the week of April 6. Any player with a Rapsodo player profile will be receiving an email this week from Rapsodo with instructions on how to opt in to the National Player Database.
“I actually got this idea because we were touring colleges for my son,” Chou said. “I heard a question about, ‘Do you guys use the superscore?’ And I didn’t know what the superscore was. And they said, ‘Yeah superscore is where you take the SAT and you take it three different times and we take the best (results) of each one.’
“I was like ahh, we should do that for this database.”
So if a player opts into the database, Rapsodo will then go through player data and make sure it’s clean and accurate. After that, only the best results will be averaged together and shown as a baseball version of the SAT superscore.
If a high school pitcher throws a fastball, curveball and changeup, the fastball velocity displayed would be the average of the three best velocities ever recorded for the player on Rapsodo. The same with spin rate and spin efficiency and everything else: the top spin rates a player has ever recorded on each of the pitches would be averaged together and presented.
“It gives you an idea of what the top potential is for each player,” Chou said.
While few coaches and scouts make decisions based on data exclusively, at all levels the analytical part of the game is becoming more important. Even coaches at the top programs in the country believe a Rapsodo public database would be useful, despite the fact that the Vanderbilts of the world don’t have difficulties landing elite talent.
“I think it’s a great idea by Rapsodo just to give some of these guys a chance,” said Vanderbilt associate head coach Scott Brown. “I think first and foremost it connects data with a visual, hopefully. A lot of times you get film and you don’t have any ballistic information. So now you’re getting the ballistic information and hopefully along with it you get some video. I think that’s the key component. You can get an idea of how the stuff is going to potentially play and if it’s something you’re looking for.
“In this time right now where there’s no evaluation … There are guys who probably have improved over the course of the last six months who were waiting for this time to demonstrate what their abilities are. This is kind of a unique avenue and one that could potentially create some leads going forward even after this whole pandemic subsides. It’s a pretty good idea.”
For players who don’t have data profiles currently with Rapsodo, the company wants to make it as easy as possible to register for an account and get to an academy partner so they can get their superscores uploaded and accessible. All of which would be free for players.
On Rapsodo’s website there will be a database that shows all the superscore data for the players who have opted in, with coaches and scouts able to filter and sort by different measures. Additionally, there will be a searchable map that shows academy partners that have a Rapsodo device, where players can register and upload their data.
Players who already have a superscore can go and try to improve their numbers. If they do, that’s great. If they don’t, the superscore methodology won’t harm them.
“It was really an unplanned part of business,” Chou said. “We’re all scrambling, we’re all trying to figure out ways to make things work, to have some longer term (plan), to let our businesses not get disrupted. But also I think we’re all looking for a way to keep things afloat.
“We need to all band together as an industry and help keep things afloat so when things do come back to normal, we’re all in that rising tide that lifts all boats.”