What makes up a five-tool baseball player? Since its inception, major league baseball has been a game of numbers. Statistics and metrics are constantly being used and updated to evaluate player and team success.
Simply put, the five tools are areas that scouts use to analyze the abilities of players. Scouts and managers will always look at these five areas and rank players based on them. The five tools of baseball help teams determine the potential effectiveness of players.
The Skills Every Five Tool Baseball Player Need Are:
- Arm Strength
- Fielding Ability
- Hitting for average
- Hitting for power
If you rate high in all these skills, congratulations, you are well on your way to baseball fame. Not a five-tool player yet but looking to become one? Don’t worry, there are a lot of baseball training aids and tools that can help you become a better all-around player. Each area can be worked on individually until you are at the height of your game.
It should be noted that the five tools apply to position players, pitchers are measured on a different scale. Here is what you need to know about the five tools of baseball.
Speed is one of the most important skills to have in baseball both at-bat and in the field. Speedy runners can heavily influence the outcome of a game while on offense by scoring runs, stealing bases, and running a double or triple.
Speed is also important for fielders who need to stop as many runs as possible. Fielders often run great distances to make plays before the opposing team scores.
Team managers were recently asked what role speed plays in today’s game and Jeff Bannister of the Texas Rangers said, “There are two elements to speed. There is speed on the bases and speed on defense. I see it every day. It’s a really nice concept on television with Statcast — we can track guys now at a greater rate. I think the element of speed is crucial in the game, whether it’s on defense or offense.”
Arm strength is not important just for pitchers, position players need to have accurate and fast throws to tag runners out. Having a strong arm can make or break a player on the field. A strong throw could mean the difference between stopping a potential scoring run and allowing the game-winning run.
According to MLB.com, fielders often have greater velocity than pitchers on their throws because they often get a running start. Manny Machado, a third baseman, represents what ideal arm strength looks like on the field. The gold glove winner is known for throwing 80+ MPH rockets across the diamond to beat runners.
In every sport, you have probably heard the term defense wins championships and the same is true in baseball.
A strong defense is the backbone to success. Good fielding is a vital skill and should constantly be developed and worked on. Games can easily be thrown away with just a few bad plays from the defense. Being a good fielder is key to having a winning season.
Fielding and defense can be a difficult area to measure and rank. There are two ratings that will measure the ability of a fielder: range factor and zone rating. Range factor is the number of assists and putouts per 9 innings of a game. Zone rating is the number of plays a fielder makes divided by the number of hits in his zone.
Hitting for Average
This is one of the most valued assets for baseball players. Hitting for average means hitting the ball with power, making contact regularly, utilizing the entire field, and striking the ball on a line. All of which needs to be done consistently to be a star hitter. All great hitters go through slumps making hitting for average the toughest of the 5 areas to excel at.
Miguel “Miggy” Cabrera is the most recent recipient of the MLB Tripe Crown and is a prime example of what a great all-around hitter looks like. As of the 2020 season, Miguel Cabrera has a career batting average of .313, 487 career home runs, 1,729 RBIs, and is destined for the hall of fame.
Hitting for Power
Everyone loves a home run. They are entertaining to watch and really amp up the excitement of a game. Power hitting is an area that takes a lot of training to master but is a tool that can get you noticed fast.
Power hitters are stars in baseball, they get a lot of media coverage and are adored by fans and club owners alike. A well-rounded batter will also be a decent slugger which is why power-hitting training should not be neglected.
Power hitting can be measured by home runs, slugging percentage (SLG), or isolated power (ISO). ISO is a common metric for hitting power, it measures the raw power of a hitter in the number of extra bases per at-bat.
How to Improve at the Five Tools of Baseball
There are not a lot of players in today’s game who possesses all 5 of these tools. In the entire history of MLB, there are only a handful of players that could justifiably be considered five-tool baseball players. Some of the best 5 tool baseball players to have ever played include:
- Willie Mays
- Ken “The Kid” Griffey Jr.
- Barry Bonds
- Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez
- Ty Cobb
- Henry “Hank” Aaron
- Babe Ruth
All of these players are examples of what a five-tool player looks like.
Many players excel at several of the areas but fall short at just one or two of the tools. Position players that do rank well in all 5 areas are well on their way to baseball stardom and fame.
If you are looking for current five-tool MLB players, check out Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and Jose Ramirez.
Now that you are familiar with the five tools of baseball, you can measure your own rankings in each area.
Ranking your own game in each area gives you a baseline for what areas to work on. Some players may be born gifted in one or more of these areas, but no one ever played a great game without practice.
No matter where you stand in the rankings, your game can improve with practice, proper training tools, good coaching, and hard work.