Yes, it is possible to be a very good baseball player without possessing blazing speed but speed is one of the key skills for most position players.
When a player has above average speed, he becomes very desirable at the next level. This is the only tool that plays both on offense and defense so it cuts both ways.
Lacking speed is usually going to be an issue unless you are able to hit 450 foot bombs and we park you over at first base or if you throw seeds at 95 plus we can put you on the bump.
Or, If you are a home run lefty hitting catcher with excellent defensive skills and a 90 plus arm, then speed is not very important and can be overlooked.
But for everyone else, speed is a big issue.
Position fielders that run a slow or average 60 yard dash at showcases are pretty much eliminated before they take their first ground ball or swing. Sad but true.
All middle infielders and outfielders need to be able to run fast. If you are a middle infielder or outfielder and running a 7.0 plus 60, there is no place for you at the next level.
Hardly a tryout or showcase event starts out without doing a timed 60 yard dash because it is so important in the evaluation process. Usually it is the first event at every tryout or legit showcase.
If a college coach is looking for a player he knows exactly what he does or does not want. If you run a 7.2 60, 99.9% of the time your name will be crossed off his list of prospects.
What is amazing is the amount of time players will spend in the batting cage preparing to hit at a tryout, but not be ready for the very first event which could eliminate them from contention.
If your 60 time is not on a par for your peer group at the next level you will be overlooked. Inadequate speed simply can not be overlooked for 6 of the 8 fielding positions.
For HS and college aged players, running a sub 7.0 60 is a first step. If your time is 7.0 or above, you will not be held in high regard and quite possibly you will be eliminated from consideration.
Genetics play the biggest role in determining how fast a player can be.
After that, its technique, science and lots of training.
When we are training a player to run faster there are a number of dynamics that need to be assessed and developed.
Shin to ground angles
Foot strike Patterns
Foot strike elapsed time
Cadence Rotation Time
The name of the game is to basically take more steps per minute than the guy next to you. When you’re running sprints concentrate on keeping your elbows at a loose 90 degree angle and pump your arms as fast as you can. If your arms are moving in a fast rotation, your legs will have a higher tendency to follow suit. The amount of steps per minute is your cadence.
The other factor in running speed is how long your strides are. Think about this for a second: If me and you are running at the exact same cadence, but my strides are longer; after a few steps I’ll already be ahead of you. That’s the significance of long strides. Stretching your stride length to the optimum length for you and your cadence rhythm is key to improving speed.
Ankles and Hips
This is where most players fall short. Most players spend little to no time developing ankle flexibility or strength and the same with the hips. Sprinters have an above average range of motion in their ankles and hips and they spend considerable amounts of time assessing and improving these 2 areas whereas most baseball players spend zero time developing dorsiflexion or hip flexor control. Our speed program starts with ankle flexibility and hip flexor control.
Due to their location, the hip flexors help lift the knee in front of the body towards the chest. They are also active eccentrically to store energy throughout hip extension and push-off before pulling the hip forward during swing phase, and into the flexed position. Because these muscles span all the way to the lumbar spine and the other hip flexors have many different pelvic attachments, they play a role in stabilizing the pelvis and lumbar spine during single leg stance and running. Therefore, it’s important that these muscles are strong, stable, and resistant to fatigue.
Upper Body Strength
Take a close look at world class sprinters and you will see upper body strength and definition. The upper body leads the way and is a primary factor in establishing sprint speed.