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Willie Mays was the prototypical 5-tool player.

On Thursday, I was watching the Cubs-Phillies and one of the Cubs announcers said: “Jason Werth is a 5-tool player. There aren’t too many of these guys around.”

In baseball, a five-tool player is one who excels at hitting for average, hitting for power, baserunning skills and speed, throwing ability, and fielding abilities.

Truth be told, Werth’s career batting average (.267) is a little low to qualify him as a 5-tool player.

Who does qualify? I’ve made a list of candidates:

  • Carlos Beltran — Career average 28 HR, .283 avg., 30 SB. Beltran missed the first half of this season following knee surgery and is plum out of cartilage. It’s hard to imagine he’ll continue stealing bases.
  • Carl Crawford — Career average: 13 HR, .297 avg, 55 SB. He plays an above average LF and he’s on pace to have a career-year this season. His arm is above average, according to Fangraphs.
  • Josh Hamilton — Career average 32 HR., 303. avg., 10 SB. Hamilton is above average in right field but below average in center. He has a big arm
  • Matt Holliday — Career average 29 HR, .317 avg., 15 SB. Holliday has stolen as many as 28 bags in a season, but so far this season he’s only swiped 6. Moreover, while he’s always played a decent left field, no team has ever tried him in center field. One reason for that is his arm is below average.
  • Matt Kemp — Career average of 23 HR, 292 avg. and 29 SB. He plays a below-average CF, with a -20.1 career UZR. But he’s got an above-average arm.
  • Evan Longoria — Career average 32 HR, .282 avg., 13 SB. Longoria is an elite defender with a big arm. So far this season he’s hitting .300 and he’s already stolen 13 bases.
  • Hanley Ramirez — Career average 27 HR, .314 avg., 42 SB. Ramirez doesn’t have a reputation as a great fielder and he’s living up to that reputation this season, with 12 errors already and a -6.1 UZR. His career UZR is -35.8.
  • Alex Rios — Career average 17 HR, .283 avg., 24 SB. Plays an above-average CF and has a plus arm.
  • Scott Rolen — Over his career Rolen has averaged 27 HR, .284 avg. and 10 SB, but this year he has yet to steal a base. It’s a safe bet he’s lost that tool.
  • Grady Sizemore — Career average 25 HR, .272 avg., 26 SB. Sizemore’s career batting average is a little low, but he’s hit as high as .290. He plays fantastic defense in center field, but has a below average arm according to Fangraphs.
  • Troy Tulowitzki — Career average 24 HR, .286 avg., 12 SB. Tulo is still only 25 and last season hit .297 with 32 HR and 20 SB. Plus he plays outstanding defense and has a great arm.
  • Chase Utley — Career average 28 HR, .294 avg., 15 SB. Utley is arguably baseball’s best defensive 2B and an an elite baserunner (though not necessarily a big base-stealing threat). As a 2B, his arm strength is probably minimal.
  • David Wright — Career average 27 HR, 309 avg., 23 SB. Last year was a generally crappy year for Wright, but in 2007-2008 and so far this season he’s been very good at the plate and in the field, with a plus arm.

Conclusion: Rolen used to be a 5-tool player, but no longer is. Utley probably doesn’t steal enough bases, nor does he have a big enough arm. Rios is pretty close, though it’s a bit of a stretch to say he “excels” at hitting for power. Kemp’s defense isn’t good enough. Same goes for Ramirez. Sizemore’s arm is suspect and his batting average is a little low. Crawford doesn’t historically have great power, but he’s had plenty so far this season.

There are problems with all the guys on my list, but I suspect by the end of this season Longoria will have convinced us of his five-toolsiness. Ditto Crawford and Wright. And while injuries have plagued him, I’m sold on Tulo, too. If we want to stretch the definition a bit, we can probably lump Hamilton in there, though his defense only plays well in a corner outfield spot.

Yankees fans wondering about Derek Jeter — stop right there. He’s a great player, but even if you’re willing to concede that he’s a good defender (and I’m not), he’s certainly not a guy with a plus arm. So he’s out.

Guys who might qualify in the near future: Shin-Soo Choo, Andrew McCutchen, Colby Rasmus, Carlos Gonzalez, Justin Upton, Grady Sizemore.

Did I forget anyone?

41 Responses to “Who are baseball’s 5-tool players?”

  1. Abreu!! One of the most talent players to ever play the game and this page explains why he is clearly underated. The only guy i know who could hit the ball 500 feet, win a home run derby (2005), put up 30/30 season after 30/30 season, steal a bag, play rightfield with grace and strength and contend for a batting title along with one of the greatest eyes in baseball history if you dont believe he’s a 5 tool player by his numbers then you’ve never watched him play.

    • That’s a little bit of hyperbole, I think. Abreu had two 30/30 seasons. But it’s not a lack of power or speed that would keep me from including him on this list. It’s his generally sub par defense. Except for a couple seasons at the beginning of his career, Abreu’s defense was consistently below average. At least, that’s according to UZR.

  2. Elaine Kehoe says:

    How about Jacoby Ellsbury this year?

    • Ellsbury fits the bill, I think. When I wrote this post he had yet to establish himself as a guy who hits for power. But that’s changed in 2011.

  3. Ian Kinsler?

  4. Michael Young? (I’m a Rangers fan, sorry.)

  5. I thought Derek Jeter threw in the high 80′s to low 90′s?

  6. Rob Bumpus says:

    Check out Frisco kid named Kaden Dydalewicz.

    12 yrd old- Big arm and bat. 4-5 tool kid at 12.
    Hit 4 bombs last season as a 11yr old, and 2 of the 4 were Grand Slams.

    Plays on Dallas Patriots premier 12yr old team.

    Pitches mid 60′s and plays 3B, 2B, 1B.

  7. James Pearson says:

    michael saunders. He will probably be a 30/30 guy this year and the only tool in question is hitting for average. He will probably be a 270 or better hitter.

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