Q&A: – Tools

Thomas asked: – Mack, good luck on the new site. Count me in as a subscriber.  Could you try and make me understand what makes a baseball prospect? It seems every so-called expert has their own definition.

 Mack: – Wow.

You’re not going to like this answer, but the fact is everybody looks upon this sport differently; however, there are some basics.

All of us that rank prospects begin the process with the 5-tool system. If you’re a “5-tool player”, chances are you are going somewhere. Baseball tools are:

1. Hitting for average
2. Hitting for power
3. Base running skills and speed
4. Throwing ability
5. Fielding abilities

Baseball managers, coaches, and trainers can make every ballplayer better, but only God can give you the raw ability to excel above others in the five categories listed above. Everybody starts out the same way. You’re born and your Dad puts a bat in your hand. Well’ there’s a little more to it than that, but the process of learning how to play the game begins in your back yard and continues in the fields, alley ways, and sand lots throughout the area you grew up in. At some point the game gets organized. You might be part of a Cub Scout team, or a church league, but whatever it is, things start to get a little more defined. People that played the game before you tell you how to hold a bat, where your weight should be distributed, how to run the bases, and how to play the field. These “coaches” are the first people around you to recognize if you do this better than the kids around you.

In my neighborhood, in Ozone Park, New York, everyone gathered at the P.S. 62 schoolyard and the two oldest kids had the task of choosing who would be on their team. Trust me, if you were one of the top three kids taken in this “street draft”, you may possess the “tools” needed to play this game at levels above your peers. If you’re chosen last, your name is probably Jimmy Armet.

Next comes youth leagues, Pony leagues, and eventually, high school. For many, this might be the first time someone actually tries to develop your skills above your natural ability. It’s hard to explain the maturing process. I had a friend named Tommy Leecock, who was a great center fielder (he was always chosen first in the schoolyard), until one day he threw out a runner at third base with a bullet. Tommy was switched to pitcher and did well for our high school team.

Those “in the know” pushed the better natural athletes to be “middle players”… catcher, pitcher, shortstop, second base, and center field. The slow guys play either right field or first base. The rest of us played left or third. Your tools are exposed at this point in your “career”. Now it depends on how hard you will work to develop them and how good the people around you are to help you accomplish these tasks. We always talk about it “being in your blood”. Trust me, the tie-breaker is always a son of a former major league baseball player. You just know that kid was trained correctly from the get-go.

By now, you, and everyone around you recognizes if you possess excellent skills in one of the five tools listed above. You also have played enough to develop some degree of “stats” Being the best on your high school team can get you a date, but being the best in the city you live in gets you the scholarship.

There’s a lot more to this process, which I’ll continue at a later date.

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