Who can we combine into the best 5-tool player?
By PATRICK ROWLEY
In major league baseball there is always talk of finding a “five-tool prospect”. A player who can hit for both average and power, excels fielding the ball as well as throwing it, and has the foot speed and baserunning skills to round out their game devoid of any flaws. Having a five-tool player on the roster is quite an asset for a manager. You don’t have to take their bat out of your lineup late for defensive help or pull them for a pinch hitter or runner in a big spot. You can pencil them into the lineup and largely forget about them for the duration of the game.
In short: Mike Trout.
Plenty of prospects have been billed as the next great five-tool player and have failed to materialize. However, the point of this article is not to identify the next super prospect, but to build one comparable to Trout using different aspects of current MLB players.
All stats entering May 20
Fielding: Harrison Bader
Much of our work is related to defensive performance, so we’ll start on the defensive side. The first component we are going to focus on is fielding, to show how well a fielder turns batted balls into outs. To evaluate this, I isolated the “Range and Positioning” component of Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), divided the total for each player by their innings played (minimum 750 innings since the start of 2018), and then multiplied that number by 1,000 to get Defensive Range and Positioning Runs Saved per 1,000 innings in the field.
After doing this there were four players with over 15 runs saved per 1,000 innings, but the only one who was over 20 per 1,000 was Harrison Bader (the other three were Kolten Wong, Matt Chapman, and Adam Duvall). Last season Bader was moved all over the outfield, splitting time in center with Tommy Pham and filling in at the corners on the other days. With Tommy Pham now in Tampa, Bader now has a firm hold on the starting centerfield job in St. Louis and continues to perform well.
Arm/Throwing: Ramón Laureano
Laureano had a memorable debut last August when he hit a walk-off single for his first career hit in his MLB debut. Less than a fortnight later Laureano showcased the strength of his arm for the first time with an incredible double play against the Angels on August 11 and since then his arm has easily been the strongest part of his game.
How strong is his arm? Since the start of 2018 Laureano is fifth in Outfield Arm Runs Saved with seven. The four players with more than Laureano since the start of 2018 have anywhere from 100-600 more innings in the field than he does.
Hitting for Average: Michael Brantley
Since the start of 2018 there are 141 batters who have had the requisite number of at-bats to qualify for a batting title. Among those, only Michael Brantley’s contact rate of 91% is greater than 90%. No one is better at putting the bat on the ball when they do take a swing. Brantley’s history as a great contact hitter isn’t exactly a secret as he has the 15th highest career batting average among active players, but he is off to an even better start this year.
At Sports Info Solutions we a metric called Defensive Independent Batting Statistic, or DIBS. DIBS looks at a player’s batted ball profiles (where the ball was hit, what type of batted ball it was, and how hard it was hit.) and calculates what the expected batting line of a player should be. Since the start of 2018 Michael Brantley has an expected batting average of .334, edging out reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich for the best mark among players with at least 500 plate appearances between the last two seasons.
Hitting for Power: Christian Yelich
Yelich was just beaten out by Michael Brantley for the hitting for average portion of this exercise, but he decisively takes the power component. DIBS has Yelich with the highest projected home run total over the last two seasons with 53.5, just ahead of Khris Davis (53.0).
When you look at expected slugging instead, Yelich has an even clearer advantage. His .626 is considerably ahead of Anthony Rendon’s .568 in second.
If you change the time filter to start from last year’s all-star break until now, then Yelich’s DIBS slugging percentage jumps up to .735. The guy has been mashing.
Baserunning: José Ramírez
José Ramírez is performing well below the excellent numbers he posted across 2017 and most of 2018, but luckily for Ramírez, speed doesn’t slump. Our Net Baserunning Runs Saved metrics creates an all-encompassing stat that measures all activity on the base paths that considers things such as avoidance of double plays and ability to take an extra base as well as just base stealing.
This metric is broken down into two main components: SB Gain which reflects the player’s frequency and success stealing bases and BR Gain which focuses on all other aspects of their baserunning. Since the start of 2018 Ramírez has a net gain of 62 bases between the two stats, 19 ahead of Billy Hamilton in second.
That huge lead is from being tied with Trea Turner and Jonathan Villar for first in SB Gained and first in BR Gained. Adalberto Mondesí is an interesting player to watch for with regard to this metric as he is within three of Billy Hamilton for second place since the start of 2018 and he wasn’t called up until June, but for now Ramírez is the gold standard on the bases.
He completes our tool set that makes the complete baseball player.