A baseball player considered a 5 Tool Player is said to excel in all the major physical skills required in the game of baseball. These include hitting, power, fielding, throwing, and running.
College and pro scouts have a certain set of criteria they use when evaluating players centered around the 5 tools. By evaluating these skills individually and as a collective group, a scout can determine if they believe a player has the potential to succeed at the next level.
MLB scouts follow the 20-80 scouting scale, but college scouts will often use their own methods, both formal and informal when evaluating players. In this article, we will explore the 5 tools as it relates to college-level baseball players, and how to determine if a player has the skills necessary to complete at that level.
When evaluating a player’s hitting ability, scouts are going to look at both statistical and non-statistical factors. Examples of statistical factors can be things like batting average and on-base percentage. Non-statistical factors can be swing mechanics, mental approach at the plate, and baseball IQ.
To properly evaluate a player, a scout can’t rely on one single factor, they will need to see the player on a repetitive basis to fully understand a player’s hitting ability. Over the course of the evaluation, they will be looking for the following:
- Batting average relative to the competition
- On-base percentage relative to the competition
- Discipline at the plate and avoiding swinging at bad pitches
- Overall composure. Is the batter confident and in control?
- Ability to hit all types of pitches (fastballs, curveballs, sliders, changeups, etc.)
- Bunting and situational hitting ability
- Consistency in performance
One piece of advice is when college scouts are watching, they are not fixated on the result of every at-bat. Many players are discouraged when they have a poor performance in front of a scout, but the scouts are watching much more than the result of an at-bat. Keep in mind that baseball is a game of failure, and no matter the player, failure is inevitable. Scouts want to see how a player handles failure, and if they consistently have quality at-bats regardless of the result.
Power is less arbitrary than hitting when it comes to evaluating. Scouts use exit velocity as the main metric when evaluating a player’s power. Along with exit velocity, scouts will observe simply how far a player is regularly hitting the ball. They will consider statistics like slugging percentage (SLG) and isolated power (ISO). In a recent article we did a deep dive into exit velocity and what college and professional scouts are looking for.
Evaluating fielding can vary across different positions. Catcher, shortstop, and right field are very different positions and will be evaluated on completely different criteria. However, there are some intangibles that scouts will also look at including instincts, reaction, and situational understanding.
An example of situation awareness is throwing to the right base on a ball put in play. Does an outfielder make good decisions when deciding between splitting the runners or attempting to throw out the lead runner? Does an infielder have a good internal clock to know where runners are and if they have time to throw them out? For catchers, this could be their pitch-calling ability. Do they understand their pitcher and are they able to make decisions based on a hitter’s tendencies?
Range and quickness are two other factors that are heavily considered when evaluating fielding:
A player’s ability to cover an area defensively and consistently record outs on a batted ball to that area. For infielders, this is typically ground balls hit to their right and left. For outfielders, this is their ability to run down fly balls in any direction.
Quickness can be related to a few different areas of fielding. This can be a fielder’s footwork, glove work, and how quickly fielders get rid of the baseball to throw a runner out. These skills aren’t usually measured, but rather observed. Using a middle infielder, for example, a scout is going to watch how quickly they transition the ball from glove to throwing hand on a double play turn. They’ll look at how quickly they move to cover a bag on a throw from the catcher. They’ll also look at how quickly they field a ground ball and throw it to first.
Throwing is going to be another skill that is evaluated based on position. Scout will observe this in gameplay, but this can be measured in showcases and college camps. We covered arm strength in the articles below breaking down arm strength by position and level. These articles provide an in-depth look at the arm strength that scouts are looking for.
- Infield Arm Strength: What is a good velo at every level?
- Outfield Arm Strength: What is a good velo at every level?
- Catcher Pop Time: What is a good time at every level?
Scouts use two main metrics when evaluating a player’s speed; the 60-yard dash and home-to-first times. In a recent article, we took a deep dive into what a good 60-yard dash time is at every level and position.
College scouts are generally looking for 60-yard dash times below 7 seconds. This will vary between positions, but any player that has aspirations should have a goal of beating this time. Since speed can be quickly identified, it is often a great way to get on a scout’s radar.
Home-to-first times are measured in games when a player hits the ball to the time they touch first base. A time below 4 seconds is considered fast, and will definitely catch the attention of scouts. Aside from the measurable evaluations, scouts will also observe quickness and instincts during in-game situations. This could be defensively or on the base paths. Some players may not have a great 60-yard dash time but between their instincts and first step quickness, they might be great base stealers. Point being that raw speed is good, but only if it translates to the game.