One question I often hear from recruits and their families has to do with the chances of playing professional baseball. There is a common misconception that if you don’t play for a top level Division I or Division II program, then professional scouts may not find you. Playing professional baseball is an opportunity that only a very small number of athletes are fortunate enough to achieve, and it’s never a guarantee, no matter where you go to school, whether it’s in the SEC or your local junior college.
Which means that if you’re good enough, professional scouts will find you (very unlike the college recruiting process)!
I wanted to see if the numbers proved that assertion.
I wanted to look more deeply at the numbers, so I compiled a list of all the current DIII and NAIA baseball programs to see how many players had been drafted from these schools since the year 2000. This doesn’t include the number of student-athletes who have been signed to a professional contract (these numbers only reflect the number of student-athletes picked in the MLB First-Year Player Draft.)
If you have ever doubted that there is good baseball played at all division levels, these figures should change your mind. I have included a link to the numbers here, but you can find some highlights below:
- Since the year 2000**, there have been 644 NAIA and DIII players drafted – 386 NAIA players and 258 DIII players. That is an average of 25.7 NAIA players and 17.2 DIII players every year.
- The top seven schools on the list are NAIA programs, including the University of British Columbia, the only Canadian school represented, with 16 players drafted.
- 16-time NAIA National Champion Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho leads the way with 62 players drafted since 2000. Oklahoma City University comes in second with 42 players drafted.
- The top DIII schools are Birmingham-Southern College, with 11 players drafted, and California Lutheran University and Chapman University, with 10 players drafted each.
- The top 10 states where small school players have been drafted from are California (79), Idaho (63), Oklahoma (52), Florida (38), Tennessee (38), Texas (30), Alabama (30), Illinois (29), Missouri (20), and Wisconsin (19).
** These numbers are just for current DIII and NAIA playing schools and does not include information for players who were drafted by NAIA or DIII schools that have since moved to DI or DII.
What this means for your recruiting journey
Whether you’re a senior who has yet to make your final decision or if you’re a junior or younger who is still figuring out what types of schools to consider, hopefully numbers like these will help you to understand that there is great competition at all division levels of college baseball. Jordan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals is a great example. He starred at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, a DIII school, where he was an All-American. The fact that he went somewhere where he could pitch and play right away was a big reason he became a 2nd Round pick in the 2007 MLB Draft. Yes, you have to have talent, but you also have to be able to showcase that talent. Jordan Zimmerman is one of 644 players who played in front of small crowds, in corn fields, in cities and deserts, with no TV networks and no big time apparel or equipment deals. He did what he needed to do in order to find the best fit for him.