Last week we discussed hitters form a scouting perspective. Was the hit tool the most important? We all pretty much agreed that it was.But, what about pitchers? Is there a tool that is more important than the others?
Anthony pretty much nailed it. It's command. Plenty of guys succeed without velocity. Plenty succeed with a quantity, rather than quality, of off-speed offerings. Some uses sliders and other curve balls. Some use a change more often. Some don't even have an actual breaking ball. Mariano Rivera became the best inning-for-inning pitcher in history with one, literally, one pitch.
The tying factor, no matter how you go about it, is command. Being able to throw what you want, when you want, where you want. You might have a 102 MPH fastball, son, but if you leave it over the plate all the time, you'll get crushed, and if you let it drift outside, you'll be giving away free bases.
Part of the problem is that I don't really like the way pitching tools are evaluated. Outside of command, everything is repertoire-based - you'll never really hear someone referred to as a "five-tool pitcher." Maybe a "five-pitch pitcher," I suppose, but that's a lot less awe-inspiring.But yes, at the end of the day, I believe it's command. It's really rare for a pitcher to have poor command and still excel - particularly as a starter. There are guys who go against the grain here: Ricky Romero, Jonny Venters, Chris Perez, and Evan Meek have all been All-Stars in the last five years despite not being very good with their command. And there are also guys like Jeff Samardzija who "figure it out" a bit late. But those guys have uphill climbs to the majors, and certainly to having longevity within the majors.
Do I think command is important? Absolutely, however I think that there's a difference with hitters and pitchers in evaluations. Being able to hit is a requirement. Having deficits elsewhere is okay if you can hit. But, with pitchers, you have to have some velocity. How many pitchers have success with 20 or 30 grade velocity? Heck very few sustain success with 40 grade velocity? Remember that 90-91 is 50 grade velo.You have to have a pre-requisite of average velocity in the current state of the ML with average velocities going up nearly every year. Like with hitters, even with absurd power, you have to have some prerequisite in hitting to have success. I'm not saying that velocity is the hitting tool of pitching. I think it's just a different animal all in all. Where with an elite hitting tool, you can carve some success even if you're below average elsewhere. If you have an 85 MPH fastball, the examples of success are few and far between. But the number of failures with 95+ and no control/command are abundant. I think with pitching, you have to have more balance with pitching and one success with one elite tool won't carry you if the others are horrid.
Unless you throw a knuckleball...
A pro pitcher must have at least 3-5 plus tools in order to be somewhat effective in MLB. Where as a hitter can realistically only have 1-2 and be effective (power and hit tools)(defense and hit).This list might not be complete or some split out or combined but out of the 14 tools, any combination of the 3 plus tools probably need to come from Tier 1 but the rest need to be at least average or slightly below.
Tier 1:Command of FastballFastball velocity
Command of Secondary pitchSecondary movementMental toughness/fortitude
Tier 2:Defense on mound
Deception of motion
Command of Tertiary pitchTertiary movementCommand of Fourth pitchFourth movement