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Weekly MiLB Discussion: The Hit Tool

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When it comes to scouting, you have a scale for each tool, but are all tools created equal.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Brooks

A few weeks ago in a discussion about Tyler White, Anthony said the following


"The longer I follow prospects, the more I believe that nothing counts until there's evidence of a hit tool. The rest is cherries and sprinkles."

Essentially, do you agree? Are all tools created equal? Is the hit tool the most important?

Brian

The hit tool is the most important...for a position player, that is.

I would say that's the rule. There are plenty of exceptions, but that's the rule. Obviously there are positions where you have to prioritize (catcher) or at least heavily consider (shortstop, centerfield) the defensive tools as well. But I think, at the end of the day, there are a lot of athletic guys, and you can teach athletic guys to field grounders and throw and steal. But you can't just teach hitting. Hitting a round ball with a round bat, squarely, is the hardest thing to do in sports, after all. Some guys can do it, and others simply can't no matter how much coaching they have. The very best hitters fail 65-70% of the time, but a 30-35% success rate is only acceptable for hitting and catchers throwing out base stealers because those are very difficult things to do.

Tyler White will never be elite at anything other than hitting (and that's not to say that he's definitely going to be an elite hitter), but he can be taught and trained enough to where he at least won't be a negative in areas like fielding first base, to where he won't run into stupid outs on the base paths and so forth. But a guy that can't hit just...can't hit. If he's a super-elite catcher or shortstop, maybe he can have a Big League job for a while, but only as a place holder until the team finds something better.

Give me the hit tool. I'll figure out the rest.

Blake

I am really starting to only see hit tool, which is why guys like White, Moran, Aplin and Heineman aren't sexy picks but will make decent MLB players.


Of the tools, hit tool is the one necessary to stick in the bigs, which seems obvious but it really is the major indicator of this.  I believe hit tool combined with BABIP, BB% and K% is the only way to look at it.

It baffles me thought when guys like Wallace, who are such good hitters struggle to stick in the majors.  Of course looking at his numbers in fangraphs he really struggled with the strikeouts which should have been more of a warning sign.  

This is another reason why I don't care much about DDJ being gone and playing for the Rangers, he is doing better than I ever expected him too but at a high BABIP of .339 to only have a .254 batting average, striking out at 22.4% which is in line with the minors so I expect to go up.  He is a decent player and 4/5th OF, more of a pinch runner type to me and still is.  There is no room on this team for him, I do wish we could have gotten some trade value out of him but there may have been no interest.

Going back to a player like White or Moran, once they establish themselves in the MLB with that hit tool, you can work on things to increase power more than you can to teach a guy bat control or strike zone judgement.  Prospect evaluations are hard enough so having the hit tool as a baseline is essential to work off, then you start adding other tools to tell you the overall value of a guy.

Anthony

It feels a little weird to agree with myself, but that's what I'm going to do. More and more often, it becomes clear to me that without a hit tool, all the speed in the world, all the defense in the world, all the arm strength in the world, and certainly all the power in the world is meaningless.


Sure, you can cite the occasional Billy Hamilton - a guy who puts in a few years at the major league level because he has a tool that's so elite that you can't ignore it. But those guys - who hit .280 over their minor league career and still manage to spend significant time in the majors - aren't common.

On the pitching side, control is that one tool. A great arsenal of pitches, fastball velocity, breaking balls... none of it matters if you can't control it.

Brooks

And Anthony will lead us into a discussion for next week...