August 08, 2005

Breaking Out the Tool Kit

A friend of mine recently posed an interesting question to me -- who are the worst five-tool players in baseball? To the uninformed, a five-tool player is one who can hit for average, hit for power, field, throw and run -- specifically to steal bases. The worst five-tool players, of course, are ones who have the ability to theoretically excel in all five aforementioned facets but in reality just kind of suck. As it turns out, my friend, lacking one of the most important "tools" of all (a good memory), was unable to recall the majority of the players he had chosen to fill out his list. As a way of proving that I'm a complete player, I'm going to finish it for him. Without further ado, I present the ten worst five-tool players in baseball:

10) Gerald Williams, Mets -- One of the two players that my friend recalls from his list, "Ice" has shown it all at times during his career. A career-high 21 jacks in 2000, 23 steals in 1997, a .305 average in '98. And you can't front on his arm either -- 8 outfield assists in '97. The problem is, he just hasn't really ever put together one great year, and through his 13 seasons entering 2005, he was a career .255 hitter.

9) Gabe Kapler, Red Sox -- Perhaps the most impressive physical specimen on this list, Kapler is built like a fitness-obsessed sasquatch. Honestly, the man is a beast. And in 2001, he was showing signs of putting it all together (17 homers, 23 steals), but he hit just 12 homers total in the three seasons that followed, and only recently returned to the big leagues after being exiled in Japan.

8) Terrence Long, Royals -- The first of a number of guys on this list who make me want to vomit because of their mediocrity, Long actually showed quite a bit of promise early in his career, most notably a .288, 18 HR, 80 rbi season in 2000. And though he's never stolen more than 9 bases in any of his big league seasons, he once stole as many as 32 in the minors. Plenty of promise, but he's basically gotten worse every year since 2000.

7) Michael Tucker, Giants -- Consistently infuriating in his ability to flash a little bit of power (never less than 12 or more than 15 homers in a full season) and a career-high of 23 steals. Statistically he's actually been a decent player, but someone always gives him way too many AB's every year, and for a guy who was built up to be as fast or faster than Kenny Lofton back in '97 when both played for the Braves, I expected a bit more out of Tucker than this.

6) Ricky Ledee, Dodgers -- Yet another brilliant hype-job by the Yankee Machine, Ledee was supposed to be all that when he first came up with the Yanks. Personally, I just remember being completely overwhelmed by his cheese 'stache -- he looked like that kid from your high school who had a half moustache by age 13 and refused to shave it even though it made grown men scream. Ledee has shown power and speed at times (career highs of 13 homers and 13 steals in 2000), but for the most part, he -- like Long and Tucker -- has just been a glorified role player.

5) Marlon Byrd, Nationals -- Yet another guy with good power and speed on paper, but unlike many other guys on this list, Byrd never really even reached anything resembling a peak. And somehow, he still managed to bottom. In over 150 AB's between Philly and Washington this year, he hit nary a single dinger. Now he's trying to rediscover his power stroke in the minors.

4) Travis Lee, Devil Rays -- Because we needed an infielder on this list (though most players discussed as "five-tool players" are outfielders because of the throwing factor), and because when you get right down to it Lee might be the biggest disappointment on this list so far. When he first came up he had great power, an unbelievable glove (which he still has), and some speed -- 17 steals in 1999. But like the rest of these guys, he's basically been on a slow decline throughout his career.

3) Gary Matthews Jr., Rangers -- The other player that my friend was able to recall from his list of rotten five-tool players, "Little Sarge" is in many ways the quintessential crummy five-tool player. Watch this guy for a game or two at a time and he will look awesome -- swiping bases, hitting bombs with a sweet lefty swing, running down balls in the gap -- but the simple fact is, something you can't quite pinpoint is missing. Entering 2005, he was a career .247 hitter.


2) Juan Encarnacion, Marlins -- Clearly the best player mentioned so far in terms of statistical production, Encarnacion has had some big years, most notably a 24 HR, 85-rbi, 21-steal campaign in 2002. And unlike some of the guys on this list who are really technically four-tool players because they can't throw, Encarnacion has a cannon. But I think there's a reason this guy is always getting traded or is the subject of trade rumors. Word has it he destroys bad pitching but is somewhat helpless against the league's better arms.

1) Corey Patterson, Cubs -- I, and needless to say, Corey are both shocked to see that it's come to this. His obvious flaws aside (inability to throw or hit for average -- and let's face it, the first things we look at with five-tool guys are homers and steals anyways), Patterson looked like a rising power and speed threat coming into this year. But after hitting 24 homers and swiping 32 bases in 2004 (along with 8 outfield assists, though that's probably more a function of disrespect from baserunners than anything else), he's been downright gruesome this year, putting 11 HR's and 12 steals on the board but hitting only .232 before earning perhaps the season's most stunning demotion to Triple-A. Word has it he may be back on the Cubbies soon, but I wonder if he'll ever be any better than he was at his early peak in 2004. My guess is, like basically every player on this list, we've already seen -- and been simultaneously teased, wowed and fooled by -- the best they have to offer.

9 Comments:

Blogger jimmyrad said...

I'll toss Richard Hidalgo in there. This guy was double digits in hr's and jacks all through the minors, and we all know about his arm. In 2000, he decided to play for a contract, jacking 44 and stealing 13 (6 CS) while hitting .303. To say this was a high-water mark would be an understatement. He parlayed it into a contract that made Houston look like idiots for the next 4 years. Thankfully, the Stros were able to unload the final 4-6 million they owed him in 2004 for David Weathers. The guy is basically a .230 hitter with a cannon arm and a little pop, but not nearly as much as people have led themselves to believe.

On another note, I love how frustrating Andruw Jones has been for us ATL fans because he was hyped as the "ultimate 5-tool" player. Yes, maybe he should have had this breakout year before, but his previous 30-100 years were nothing to shake a finger at.

10:07 AM, August 09, 2005  
Anonymous babe ruthless said...

I will tolerate a soul patch, mutton chops, and even a mullet on a ball player (especially if the mullet has been to the World Series). But, the cheese 'stache is horrendous. No amount of talent can excuse you for this hairy offense. And, if you are a failed five-tool, you best get out and buy yourself a new Gillette.

2:44 PM, August 09, 2005  
Blogger imasteezer said...

jose cruz jr!

3:53 PM, August 09, 2005  
Anonymous Hank said...

Have we forgotten Raúl Mondesí? He was supposed to have won an MVP or two by now...

3:42 AM, August 10, 2005  
Blogger The OCC said...

Hank -- I for one have not forgotten about Mondesi. In fact, the only reason he's not on this list is that putting him on would have forced the Braves fan in me to unleash a bitter tirade at Mondesi's play in 2005 which I thought it might be best to spare everyone from.

5:19 PM, August 10, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know that he's not playing anymore but you have to mention RYAN THOMPSON as one of the biggest busts!

1:07 PM, August 12, 2005  
Blogger jdg said...

Preston Wilson?

2:14 PM, August 12, 2005  
Blogger The OCC said...

Ryan Thompson is a good call. Once stole 18 bases in the minors (back in 1990) but never stole more than three in the majors. What a weird career. A much-hyped big time prospect who never got more than 334 AB's in a season.

Kind of sad that Preston Wilson is so awful now. I really liked him when he played for Florida. I would say Coors Field ruined him, but he was on the way down before going to Colorado.

2:44 PM, August 12, 2005  
Blogger jimmyrad said...

I'd say his knee ruined him before Colorado. He definitely focused more on the power when he got to Mile High, but I blame the injury. After the injury, he quickly regressed to the player that he used to be WITHOUT the upside anymore.

11:48 PM, August 12, 2005  

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