A couple of years ago, I read an article that listed baseball’s true five tool players. For those who are unaware, this term signifies someone who is at least above average with the hit tool, power, speed, defense, and their throwing arm. It was interesting to see because the term “five tool player” is thrown out there all the time, yet people rarely discuss the players who would actually fit that description. So that leads me to the question: who are baseball’s modern-day five tool players? There are so many people who could make this list, but considering that it is an elite group, here are the five Major Leaguers that, in my opinion, are most deserving of such recognition:
1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels: How can one not call the best player in the MLB a true five tooler? While his arm is the most questionable of the five, one could reasonably call it above average without much dispute. The other four? All of them are elite. He’s a gold glove caliber defender out in center field, and uses incredible leaping ability to rob home runs. His speed doesn’t play out as much on the base paths as it used to, but that is only because he was moved from from the leadoff spot to the three hole over the past couple of years; nevertheless, it definitely plays well in the outfield on a nightly basis. In regards to his hit and power tools, he is a perennial .300, 30 home run hitter, and instills fear into every pitcher who has the displeasure of facing him. Trout is truly a stud in every sense of the word, and his God-given talent and dedication to the game allow him to be a member of this sensational class.
2. Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals: Those who say Trout is not the game’s best player tend to believe that title belongs to Harper, and with talent like his, it’s not hard to see why. While no one would mistake him for a burner, he definitely has very good speed that he takes great advantage of. One of the areas it helps is in right field, where he plays quality defense on a consistent basis – even though he is prone to an error every once in a while. As for his arm, one would be hard pressed to find many better throughout the game. Harper has an absolute canon that gives him the ability to throw out just about anyone from anywhere. Even though he is having a down year in regards to his average, he is still a very good contact hitter and can take the ball to any part of the park. Finally, his power is no doubt the best tool that he has: he has known how to hit a baseball a long way ever since he was a teenager, and every time he goes deep, it is basically a no doubter. Harper is a very special player, and should be recognized as one of the faces of baseball for a long time coming.
3. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros: From the moment he came up and rejuvenated the Astros last season, Correa established himself as a mainstay in this league due to the incredible gifts he displayed as a shortstop. While his defense could use some work, it is still very good for someone of his age. He also possesses a strong arm that makes the ball go from point A to point B as quickly as any defender in the game. Like Harper, Correa is not necessarily in baseball’s upper echelon of runners, but his speed does the job of allowing him to steal bases regularly enough to make pitchers think about it. He can hit the ball anywhere he wants, which speaks to his advanced contact approach at the plate, and can easily hit 25 home runs every year – something very rare among shortstops. While all of his tools are still developing, Correa is well ahead of the curve in every aspect of his game, and should only get better as time passes.
4. Mookie Betts, OF, Boston Red Sox: Most players who are under six feet and weigh less than two hundred pounds typically don’t get consideration as five tool players. Then again, Mookie Betts is not your typical undersized ball player. For someone who was a middle infielder for most of his minor league career, he has a fairly decent arm for a right fielder that might take some by surprise. The same could be said about his defense: for someone who hasn’t been playing the position for a long period of time, it is obvious that he is very good at it. Of course, having game-changing speed helps with that. Betts runs as well as anyone and uses that speed to his advantage, from covering ground in the outfield to stealing bases left and right. As a leadoff man, he is a great table setter, and his batting average has climbed over .300 as the year has progressed. While he is not incredibly strong, his bat speed permits him to drive the ball out of the park with regularity, going so far as to translate to five home runs in a two game span earlier this season. Betts is a sneaky candidate to make this list, but when one observes everything he is capable of, it becomes more obvious why he makes the cut.
5. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians: There are a wide variety of candidates – Corey Seager, Andrew McCutchen, Kris Bryant, Manny Machado, etc. – who were possibilities for the final spot on this list, but when push came to shove, it seemed as though Lindor was the best choice for the final spot. For starters, he has the arm necessary to play and stay at the shortstop position for the duration of his career. That is just one piece of the great defense he is capable of playing. Even though he is only in the second year of his career, many already view him as the best defensive shortstop in the majors, and rightfully so. Lindor also has phenomenal speed that creates havoc on the base paths, and can turn any single into a double. He has proven he can be a good hitter with a .300+ average, and can put 20 homers into the stands every year if he reaches his ceiling. Lindor has as much talent as anyone in Major League Baseball, and that is the reason he makes it as the last player on this list of current five tool players.
Cover photo from Ohio.com.