B/R's MLB Staff Builds the Ultimate Five-Tool Superstar for 2020May 8, 2020
B/R's MLB Staff Builds the Ultimate Five-Tool Superstar for 2020
Normally, we are but humble observers of Major League Baseball.
But today, we're mad scientists with one goal and one goal only: to build the MLB superstar to end all MLB superstars.
Just as the NBA team used specific attributes from existing players to assemble an ideal basketball star, we did the same in putting together the perfect five-tool ballplayer. As in, a player whose hitting, power, speed, fielding and arm strength would allow him to stand head and shoulders above his peers.
Our methodology was simple:
- We chose five representatives for each tool
- We assigned a dollar value ranging from $1 to $5 for each of their talents
- We allowed ourselves an overall budget of $15
- We used our imaginations
Allow us to begin by further explaining the tools and our choices to represent them.
Tools and Player Pool
Baseball fans ought to know what the "five tools" are, but we'll elaborate just in case.
Traditionally, this refers to the ability to hit for average. But because on-base percentage has overtaken batting average as the defining metric for hitting talent, we broadened our definition accordingly.
In so many words, a good hit tool involves taking balls, attacking strikes and making consistent and good contact.
The Pool: Mike Trout ($5), Christian Yelich ($4), Alex Bregman ($3), Anthony Rendon ($2), Juan Soto ($1)
This one is more self-explanatory, though a player's home run total isn't necessarily the best indicator of his power. We were more interested in power in its raw form, as translated through loud contact.
The Pool: Aaron Judge ($5), Giancarlo Stanton ($4), Joey Gallo ($3), Pete Alonso ($2), Nelson Cruz ($1)
This one is also self-explanatory, though there's more to it than sheer speed. A player's instincts on the basepaths matter, too.
The Pool: Byron Buxton ($5), Trea Turner ($4), Ronald Acuna Jr. ($3), Adalberto Mondesi ($2), Mallex Smith ($1)
Setting aside what he can do with his arm, this tool covers a player's ability to field his position by way of his athleticism and instincts.
This one was trickier, but we ultimately prioritized guys who have either proved themselves as both elite and versatile defenders or who could theoretically be standout defenders at multiple positions.
The Pool: Cody Bellinger ($5), Javier Baez ($4), Mookie Betts ($3), Andrelton Simmons ($2), Lorenzo Cain ($1)
Arm strength isn't the most important tool for position players, but it's definitely a good thing to have. The only catch is that we excluded catchers in lieu of infielders and outfielders.
The Pool: Matt Chapman ($5), Ramon Laureano ($4), Victor Robles ($3), Bryce Harper ($2), Carlos Correa ($1)
Zachary D. Rymer's Pick: Alex Bregman ($3)
This pick is sure to be controversial. Alex Bregman is, after all, a Houston Astro, and therefore subject to taunts about the club's banging scheme in 2017 and its maybe-buzzer scheme in 2019.
Nevertheless, Bregman is a 26-year-old whose on-base percentage has gotten better every year, culminating in a .423 mark in 2019. He achieved that with a ratio of walks (119) to strikeouts (83) that was by far the best among qualified hitters, and nobody can actually prove it was with the help of buzzers.
Out of the other options, Mike Trout, Christian Yelich and Juan Soto strike out a bit too much, and Anthony Rendon doesn't take his walks as often as a truly elite hitter should.
Joel Reuter's Pick: Christian Yelich ($4)
Christian Yelich has won back-to-back National League batting titles since joining the Milwaukee Brewers, and he's a .301 career hitter over seven MLB seasons. That said, the hit tool category is about more than just batting average, and Yelich also possesses a well-balanced approach and elite contact skills.
The 28-year-old led the NL with a .429 on-base percentage in 2019, posting a 13.8 percent walk rate against a 20.3 percent strikeout rate while slugging a career-high 44 home runs. He has as complete an offensive game as any player in baseball.
Throw in the fact that he's arguably the most clutch player in baseball and this is $4 well spent.
Zachary D. Rymer's Pick: Joey Gallo ($3)
There's no wrong pick here, but it says a lot that Joey Gallo is known for having more home runs (110) than singles (105) for his career.
A guy doesn't pull off a feat like that by flipping weakly hit balls over the nearest fence. Out of all qualified hitters since 2015, Gallo owns the second-lowest rate of ground balls (28.9 percent) and the highest average exit velocity (99.8 mph) on fly balls and line drives.
Are Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton actually more powerful than Gallo? It's at best a maybe. And if they are, it's not by enough to justify the extra expense.
Joel Reuter's Pick: Nelson Cruz ($1)
At the age of 38, Nelson Cruz slugged 41 home runs in his first season with the Minnesota Twins. That represented business as usual for a player who has averaged 41 home runs and 105 RBI over the past six seasons. His 244 long balls during that span lead all of baseball.
Looking under the hood, he ranked in the 99th percentile in both exit velocity and hard-hit percentage last year, so there's no reason to believe he's slowing down even as he approaches his 40th birthday.
Other players may have more raw power and flashier personas, but no one has been more consistent when it comes to hitting the ball over the fence. This is $1 well spent.
Zachary D. Rymer's Pick: Adalberto Mondesi ($2)
Byron Buxton and Trea Turner are the best choices here. Their average sprint speeds of 30.6 and 30.3 feet per second rank first and second, respectively, among qualified runners since 2015.
Not far below them on that list, however, is Mondesi with an average sprint speed of 30.0 feet per second. That's actually better than Ronald Acuna Jr. (29.5), so taking Mondesi is a chance to land some actual value in lieu of name recognition.
It doesn't hurt that Mondesi has also proved he can put his speed to good use. He's been successful in 84.3 percent (75 of 89) of his stolen base attempts over the last two seasons.
Joel Reuter's Pick: Trea Turner ($4)
Trea Turner ranked second in the majors in sprint speed last year, and he has been one of the biggest running threats in the game since swiping 33 bags in 73 games as a rookie in 2016.
While his 157 steals over the last four seasons rank third in the majors, his 84.9 percent success rate during that span is ahead of both Billy Hamilton (173 SB, 82.4 percent) and Jonathan Villar (160 SB, 80.0 percent), so a case can be made that he's the best base-stealer in the game today.
When he's healthy, Turner is capable of changing the entire complexion of a game simply by reaching base.
Zachary D. Rymer's Pick: Javier Baez ($4)
Let's address the elephant in the room real quick: There isn't a truly right answer for this category, as what makes a great fielder is both vague and dependent on the position.
That said, there isn't a more fun player to watch on defense than Javier Baez. The guy is literally a human highlight reel, which comes down to his superb combination of clairvoyant anticipation, smooth actions and outstanding athleticism.
Per his 19 outs above average, Baez was the best infielder in baseball last season. And while he hasn't proved himself in the outfield, he almost certainly would get the job done if the Chicago Cubs gave him the chance.
Joel Reuter's Pick: Cody Bellinger ($5)
There are flashier defenders than Cody Bellinger.
However, the fact that he spent the bulk of his time in the minors as a first baseman, only to develop into a Gold Glove outfielder on the fly in the majors, speaks volumes about his overall defensive acumen.
The 24-year-old posted brilliant defensive metrics in right field (911.1 innings, 20 DRS) while also grading out as an above-average option at first base (230 innings, 4 DRS) and in center field (170.2 innings, 3 DRS). He had 10 outfield assists and made just four errors all season while shuffling around the diamond.
Zachary D. Rymer's Pick: Victor Robles ($3)
Videos like this one make it seem like Matt Chapman has the best arm in MLB. Then there are videos like this one, which make it look like the best arm actually belongs to his teammate, Ramon Laureano.
To his credit, though, Victor Robles actually saved more runs with his arm than anyone else last year. A stat like that isn't necessarily indicative of pure arm strength, but he also registered some of the hardest throws measured by Statcast.
Though he wasn't an option, Kansas City Royals outfielder Brett Phillips at least deserves a shoutout. He's known for having a legit 80-grade arm, and what few numbers there are back that up.
Joel Reuter's Pick: Carlos Correa ($1)
Carlos Correa was clocked at 97 mph in fielding drills at the Perfect Game showcase as a prep prospect leading up to the 2012 draft.
During the 2018 season, he had a relay throw on a play at the plate clocked at 96.3 mph, which was the hardest infielder throw ever tracked by Statcast, according to David Adler of MLB.com.
That elite arm strength has helped him rack up 34 DRS during his five seasons in the majors despite grading out below average from a range standpoint (minus-14.4 UZR, minus-5.3 UZR/150). Simply put, there are very few non-pitchers who can throw a baseball harder than Correa in the game today.
Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.