What does it mean when a player is said to be a five tool prospect? Baseball players are rated by how skilled they are in five areas. Scouts look at these skills as a guide to determining a player’s potential for success. Every aspiring baseball player needs to appreciate that there’s more to becoming a star besides just hitting and fielding.
You need to hit and field, but there are other important skills as well. These talents make up the five tool set that will set you apart from just an average player. Here is a description of each of the five baseball skills that make for a five tool player, plus everything you need to know to improve each of these important skills.
What are the Five Tool Baseball Skills?
The five tool baseball skills can be broken down in single-word references.
A player who is highly skilled in all five of these areas earns the label of being a 5-tool prospect. Here is a breakdown of each of the five tool baseball skills and ways in which you can develop them.
The Five Tool Baseball Skills
Speed in baseball is more than just how fast you can run from one place to another. Sure, part of the speed tool is how fast you are, but it involves more than that. Speed in baseball incorporates quickness and agility into the equation.
Foot speed is valuable at nearly every position, but reaction speed is also valuable. If you’re playing shortstop, speed is used to get to a sharply batted ball. Outfielders use their speed to track down fly balls.
The great base stealers are usually fast runners. However, there is also the element of reaction speed. While speed as one of the five tool baseball skills essentially begins with foot speed, it also includes these other aspects of quickness such as reaction speed.
You will encounter coaches with stopwatches, recording how fast you get from the batter’s box to first base. But, since speed in baseball encompasses various types of quickness, here are some drills to work on this tool.
- Sprints – You can never run too many sprints. The only way to get faster is to practice being fast. Running sprints will help develop base running speed, defensive speed, including reaction quickness.
- Agility drills – There are various agility drills that help improve your quickness. While eye reaction time is a difficult skill to learn, agility moves can help speed up your body’s physical reaction speed.
- Exercises – While powerful legs do not always equate to raw speed, leg strength does help. There are also exercises and techniques for developing speed; however, baseball players need to keep in mind the need for flexibility when training with weights to build speed.
Not every player is going to be physically capable of hitting for power. However, everyone has witnessed players of small stature who seem to have an uncanny ability to hit for power. Power is one of the five tool baseball skills that scouts look for.
Ironically, bat speed is one of the components of hitting for power. Power doesn’t always come from bulging biceps. In fact, muscle mass can actually reduce power when it comes to hitting a baseball. The best power hitters generate remarkable bat speed.
If you dig into the physics of striking a pitched baseball, you’ll understand why bat speed equates to increased power. This is why smaller players are often able to hit with power. To develop the power component of your five tool baseball skills, practice hitting drills and perform exercises that improve your bat speed.
The contact part of a five tool baseball player also involves an element of hitting. While making contact is important, making solid contact is what sets an average hitter apart from a great one. Now, when we speak of average hitting, keep in mind what constitutes a good hitter.
Successfully getting a base hit in pro baseball roughly three out of every 10 plate appearances, is deemed a success. Batting averages for lower levels or higher. But, four hits in 10 at bats is outstanding at any level.
There really isn’t any magical way to improve your contact rate in baseball. You must spend time in the batting cage and taking batting practice. You can work on eye and hand coordination to improve your swing by hitting a stationary target. However, the tried and true strategy for improving your contact rate as a baseball hitter is to hit baseballs.
Once again, having what is tabbed a good glove takes practice. Nearly all sports have skills that benefit from repetitive practice. However, none seem to mandate such rigid adherence to consistent repetition as baseball skills do.
As with hitting, fielding a baseball is a learned skill that can only be perfected through of repetition. There are invaluable techniques that every player should work on first. Leg position, backbend, and glove position are a few essential techniques every good fielder employs.
Infielders take ground ball after ground ball to improve their fielding. Outfielders do the same, shagging hundreds of fly balls during practices. Fielding is like many baseball skills, it is graded by statistics.
Errors and miscues reduce your fielding percentage. To improve your five tool rating as a fielder, you are going to have to practice the art of field a baseball. You and a partner can smack groundballs or flies to one another for hours.
Serious players even get access to a pitching machine, setting it to throw one ground ball after another. Field the ball, flip it into a five-gallon bucket, and get ready for the next opportunity.
When we talk about arm as it applies to baseball, we don’t mean the size of bulging bicep. In fact, the best arms in baseball are often lean and long. Flexibility is a key to not only longevity in baseball, but the ability to throw the ball with force.
A baseball player with a strong arm is going to have strong shoulder muscles. They are going to have flexible, yet powerful wrists. Wrist action is critical to pitching a baseball, but it also equates to having a strong arm from any of the fielding positions.
Stronger arm muscles will help you throw a baseball faster and farther. However, you need to keep your arm flexible to avoid injury. Proper warm up is critical, which is why you see players warm up before games and between innings.
You can lift weights and do other types of band exercises to increase strength and develop a stronger baseball throw. Working on throws from your position is also critical to improving accuracy. Outfielders tagged with a strong arm work on throws from the outfield, and the same applies to other position players, but you need to hit your target.
If you’re a pitcher, your primary tool will be your arm, so take care of it properly. All baseball players benefit from a strong arm, some positions more than others. Work on throwing the baseball properly, always warm up properly and stay flexible.
Being the fastest player on the field, one who has the slickest glove, the quickest bat and drives the ball for power might not be practical. However, developing each of these five important baseball skills should be every player’s ultimate goal.
The fact is, excelling at a couple skills and having above average talent in other areas will earn you the title of a five tool star. Work on every aspect of your game, but focus on those areas where you may be weaker. If you put in the effort, you could be labeled the next a five tool superstar.