The all-five-tool team: Do you agree?
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Babe Ruth seemed to be born to play baseball. Most know that before becoming the power hitter he will always be remembered for, he also starred as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, leading the league with a 1.75 ERA in 1916. Yet for all his home runs, Ruth could never claim to be something many young baseball players dream of blossoming into: a five-tool player.
Ty Cobb lacked the power and Lou Gehrig, Ruth, Jimmy Foxx and Ted Williams weren’t known for their arms, speed or defense. It really wasn’t until one city was blessed with 3 players at one position in the 1950′s that the world truly got a glimpse at five-tool baseball talent. Duke Snider, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays all became stars with the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Yankees and New York Giants in the 1950′s. All three had no glaring weaknesses and – from a positional player stand point – could do everything well.
In baseball the word tool began as a scouting term, used to grade potential major leaguers in five key areas for success in the game. A five tool player will hit for average, hit for power, possess good speed, a strong throwing arm and play quality defense. One can lose a tool or gain one throughout their career, but the more tools one harnesses the more complete a position player they will become. With that in mind, I humbly submit my nominations for the current all five-tool team:
C: Buster Posey: Generally, the term five-tool catcher is an oxymoron. Catchers are generally asked to provide quality defense, and any offensive contributions are considered a bonus. On top of that, they tend to veer closer to the tortoise than the hare on the speed scale. A few years ago Russell Martin could have staked a claim to be a rare legitimate five-tool catcher, but now we’re left to delve through the best of the four tool ones. A converted college shortstop, Posey has turned into an excellent receiver with a cannon for an arm. The reigning NL Rookie of the Year also boasts impressive hitting and power tools for the position. However, his lack of speed prevents him from becoming truly complete.
Runner up (s): Carlos Santana and Brian McCann both offer prodigious power and slightly below average speed (which is well-above average for the position), but lack defensive prowess. Yadier Molina is a tremendous defensive catcher with an unparalleled arm behind the dish, but grades only average in other tools.
1B: Albert Pujols – In perhaps the easiest call, the game’s best player, is also it’s most complete first sacker. Sir Albert’s power and hitting ability is well documented, but he also boasts rare speed for the position and a tremendous glove. His arm is easily his weakest tool, especially after slightly tearing a tendon in his throwing shoulder.
Runner up: Joey Votto bested Pujols for MVP in 2010, but trails Albert in defensive value, along with a much shorter track record in the other tool departments.
2B: Dustin Pedroia – If potential were all that mattered, Ian Kinsler and Ricky Weeks would be vying for this title. However, Pedroia has conistently been above average in all five tools throughout his career. He’s never had a power/speed combo season like Kinsler’s 30-30 2009, but he’s also never come close to plummeting to Kinsler’s .253 average that year.
Runner up: Like Pedroia, Brandon Phillips has shown consistent above average tools despite being labeled with the dreaded bust label after initially struggling with the Cleveland Indians. He enjoyed 3 straight 20-20 seasons from 2007-2009, but his defense and average – though solid – fall short of Pedroia’s level.
SS: Troy Tulowitzki – The days where you could go into your fantasy draft counting on an array of options at SS may be gone, but Tulowitzki is proving that there still remains at least one complete option, albeit an injury prone one. In a healthy year, one can usually count on around 30 HR’s and 15 SB’s with a .300 average to go with a strong arm and quality defense.
Runner Up: If defense weren’t a tool Hanley Ramirez would be the choice for SS. However, other than Tulowitzki, it’s difficult to find a truly versatile option to best Hanley’s impressive speed/power combo.
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