Bat speed, mechanics, power and quick reactions make for a top-notch hitter.
Hitting ability is among the most difficult tools to scout
because of the need to judge how a hitter will do at the college/pro level by watching them hit against amateur pitching.
So the scouting process will look at the mechanics and make-up of the hitter, and
the ability to anticipate and react, as much as the measurable results.
Note: When scouting for younger age teams, rather than look for what skills are already in place, couaches are encouraged to look for the raw talent, the teachable player who will take suggestions positively and be willing to work at it.
Here are the abilities a hitter should have...
METAL VS. WOOD
The aluminum bat has a greater hitting surface, and because they are lighter they can be swung with much greater bat speed, driving the ball on average 18% farther than with wooden bats. A 400 foot drive with a wood bat will travel 470 feet with aluminum. Many hitters who are home run hitters swinging aluminum become warning track hitters with a wood bat. Scouts understand this when they judge distance. But they also know that there will be or might be an adjustment period. Most hitters find they have a tough time getting used to not driving the ball they way they used to in college or high school baseball. So you might want to get used to a wooden bat - and show the scouts you know the difference.
The ability to swing the bat quickly, smoothly. This is important for handling breaking pitches and to hit for power. More and more, radar guns are being used as a tool to measure batspeed. A player with a quick bat can wait on the pitches longer, and therefore have a better chance of hitting the ball harder. With good batspeed, the other skills are easier... Hit the Ball Hard / with Power
This is one of the more desirable traits for any hitter, unfortunately it is often the most poorly projected tool at the major league level. In order to hit for power, a hitter needs outstanding batspeed. Batspeed is what makes the ball travel and all outstanding hitters have it. Also, scouts will pay close attention to the batter's hands when he strides. If a player drops or raises his hands when the pitch is being delivered, he increases his chances of not hitting the ball hard. The hands should go back, but the less unnecessary movement, the better. A hitter with major league power will regularly hit the ball over the fence in batting practice and should be able to drive the ball over 400 feet. (See the note below about Metal versus Wood.) Turn on a Major League Fastball
A hitter should be able to turn on a good fastball on the inside part of the pate. If he can't, he has little chance of becoming a good hitter, because pitchers must - and will - throw inside to be successful at higher levels. The harder the pitcher is throwing, the more mechanically correct the hitter needs to be to hit. Hit Breaking Pitches
A hitter must be able to hit breaking pitches or he will not last at senior levels. Once word gets out about a hitter's inability to hit the breaking pitches, he will see nothing else. (Remember Michael Jordan's attempt to become a baseball player?)
Make Adjustments at the Plate
When a pitcher changes delivery or location or speed, a poor hitter may lunge, not keep his hands back, develop a hitch or have a pronounced uppercut. The quicker a hitter can adjust to the pitcher, the easier it will be to restablish his power swing. The more patient a hitter is, the more dangerous he becomes.
Knowledge of the Strike Zone
This is a factor in all the skills above. A player will not become a good hitter by swinging at pitches outside the strike zone. A good knowledge of the strike zone means reading the pitch, having a consistent stance at the plate, understanding the umpire.
Hit to All Fields
WebBall gets many 'ask the coach' questions about pull hitting and inside-out swings and which is better. The reality is that a good hitter will go with the pitch and drive it hard to any and all fields. This relies in part on the quick hips and hands, but also good arm extension, and proper follow-though. Switch Hitting?
Many respondents to a past WebBall Nose 2 Nose survey felt that switch hitters were more likely to be drafted. That is only true if the talent from either side of the plate is equal to 'pure' RH and LH batters. When evaluating hitters scouts focus on tools, not statistics. Statistics may be good for evaluating a weaknesses. A hitter with a high strikeout and low walk total is swinging at too many bad pitches, for instance, and unless that's corrected he'll never hit at a consistent level. But while used to find a weakness, the stats will not help scouts find your strengths. That's done by observation.