Making The Grade: Understanding How Baseball Players are Graded
Baseball is a game of tools. 5 of them to be exact. This is where the phrase “5 tool player” comes from and refers to such players as Bryce Harper or Mike Trout.
Ability to hit for Average
Ability to hit for Power
Movement or Life on the ball
Control and Command
Off-Speed(spin and break/action)
Make-Up and Athleticism
Each of these tools is graded out differently depending on a number of different factors but understand first and foremost that the tools are graded on a sliding scale and based on need of the individual coach/organization when it comes to making a team or projecting for the future.
The other item to understand is also that each position puts an emphasis on one tool over the other depending on position.For instance, a centerfielder is going to be graded much tougher on defense and speed then they are on hitting for power.Here is a list below of how each position is graded in order of importance in the scouting/coaching world.
1st Base: Hitting for Power, Hitting for Average, Defense, Arm Strength, Running Speed.
2nd Base: Defense, Hitting for Average, Arm Strength, Running Speed, Hitting for Power
SS: Defense, Arm Strength, Hitting for Average, Hitting for Power, Running Speed
3rd Base: Hitting for Power, Arm Strength, Defense, Hitting for Average, Running Speed
Catcher: Defense, Arm Strength, Hitting for Power, Hitting for Average, Running Speed
LF: Hitting for Power, Hitting for Average, Defense, Running Speed, Arm Strength
CF: Running Speed, Defense, Hitting for Average, Hitting for Power, Arm Strength
RF: Hitting for Power, Arm Strength, Hitting for Average, Defense, Running Speed
Pitcher: See above
Now the fun part: Why?
When putting together a team you will notice that the positions up the middle are defensive oriented because a majority of the balls hit will go in these directions so you have to be sure you are very good defensively up the middle at Catcher, SS/2nd Base and CF.
The corners of the field are much less concerned with defense except 1st base and so a team wants primarily offensive production out of those positions and do not need as much agility out of these guys. It is a trade-off. They do not need them to make outstanding diving plays all the time but they for sure want them to be able to hit a homerun or a double with runners on 1st and 2nd and two outs.
The speed guys are the table setters and the corner guys are the RBI guys. ALL of these positions are graded as well on mental make-up, attitude, work ethic and hustle. Nobody wants a clubhouse full of guys that only care about themselves or don’t have a good work ethic. That never goes well for a team long term.
Some of the positions tend to lend themselves better toward a player who also runs or throws a certain way. There are of course exceptions at all levels but here is an example below.
MOST 3rd basemen, although graded similarly to a RF have a great deal of whip and short arm action to make those quick throws on bunts, back hand plays, etc. whereas the RF will have a longer arm path that will get more carry out of a ball and back spin when trying to make a long throw to get a runner at 3rd base or home plate.
On the mound, these tools are subjective as well but generally follow that as velocity goes up, the other tools do not have to be quite so good and as velocity goes down, the command, control and mental make-up go up.Basically if you do not throw very hard, you have to be a better Pitcher in the truest sense of the word.I think all Pitcher’s should be adept at all 5 categories but I am just giving you the general overview of how it is seen in baseball today vs. what my personal opinions are.
Player vs. Prospect. This is one of the most misunderstood areas of baseball when it comes to youth, HS, College or the Pros. Many people do not understand why a guy gets labeled a prospect when he can barely hit the broad side of a barn but when the guy is 6’5” 210 lbs. as a 17 year old and throws low 90’s, the baseball business will give him a chance to learn some things. However, if a guy is All-State, All-American, etc. but is 5’10” 145 at 17 years old and only throws 77mph, this guys in MOST cases has hit his ceiling as a ball player and the further he goes up the ladder the harder it will be for him to compete successfully. There are exceptions to every rule but in baseball this is how scouting or trying to pick teams happens. The next time you are wondering why a guy who strikes out 200 times but hits 35 home runs a year and drives in 120 RBI a year keeps getting MLB job even though he can barely throw/run/catch a pop up…now you may have a better perspective.
Brandon Agamennone, a full-time Boston Red Sox scout, was also a Division 1 baseball player and a pro pitcher for 7 years. He understands fully the importance of injury prevention and recovery after having Tommy John surgery done by Dr. Andrews. The author of a book on pitching and a DVD for kids on the same subject, he has a passion to see the success of young baseball players today. He has also done college recruiting seminars for 19 years, and has owned a youth baseball company for 13 years.