Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Five One-Tool Players

Everyone knows the five-tool players: Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Bryce Harper. These guys are the big name superstars, the household names. Most other players are productive despite lacking a tool or two. David Ortiz can't field, Jose Altuve doesn't have a big arm, but they can still impact the game in many ways. Most one-dimensional players will wash out in the minor leagues. Cody Johnson was known for his prodigious power, but he couldn't do much else. Willians Astudillo may be the best contact hitter on the planet, but he's still toiling in Double-A. However, in very rare occasions, some players can make it to the major leagues riding on one skill alone. These 5 players below each have the ability to do one thing extraordinarily well, and somehow, its carried them into a major-league career.

Contact: INF T.J. Rivera, New York Mets
The long shot of all long shots, T.J. Rivera signed as an undrafted free agent out of little Troy University. Without any physical projection, Rivera was never considered much of a prospect. Not rated a tremendous defensive player, he has nonetheless held his own just enough to let his ultimate carrying tool, his bat, to carry him to the majors. Rivera has hit everywhere he's gone: a career .324 in the minors, .307 in 3 seasons of Puerto Rican winter ball, and now .344 in his first 61 at bats in the majors. He doesn't provide much pop, but he can spray line drives around the field and produce. And production is all that matters at the major league level.


Power: "1B'" Chris Carter, Milwaukee Brewers
Probably one of the worst defensive players in the National League and league leader in strikeouts, Carter has overcome overwhelming odds and is currently in his seventh major league season. It does help that he has prodigious right-handed power, and can hit the ball a long, long, way. With a simple cut through the zone, Carter can send flyballs 450+ feet for monstrous home runs. Certainly makes up for the 11 errors at first, 188 strikeouts, and -2.0 baserunning score on FanGraphs.

Speed: OF Terrance Gore, Kansas City Royals
Used solely as a pinch runner in the playoffs, Gore provides no value to the Royals outside of his baserunning. Despite his speed, the Royals do not deploy him in the outfield during close games, nor let him hit considering his .563 OPS in AA. He does however, possess a single elite tool, and so far in his regular-season major league career has never been caught stealing. This one tool alone provides extreme value to Ned Yost and the Royals coaching staff late in important games, and it is the one skill that absolutely cannot be taught. He was once clocked at 22 mph when stealing second base:

Glove: 2B Christian Colon, Kansas City Royals
A progressive small ball team, the Royals are the employers of another specialist, this time nifty defender Christian Colon. Originally drafted as a shortstop out of college, Colon lacked the arm or foot speed to stick at that position, and his bat never developed. Nonetheless, his plus glovework has taken him to the big stage. In just 247 innings at second base, Colon has compiled a 3.5 UZR, good for a 14.5 UZR/150 over the course of a full season. Its a shame however, that he likely won't get a shot to reach that potential due to his woeful .229/.288/.285 slash line.

Arm: C Christian Bethancourt, San Diego Padres
Bethancourt has long been considered one of the top catching prospects in the game despite a light bat and below-average receiving and blocking skills. Scouts have doubted his inability to block pitches and frame. But if a catcher can't hit or field, how can he be a top prospect? Because those skills are teachable, and Bethancourt's one natural tool, his arm, is definitely elite. An absolute rifle, Bethancourt has been clocked at 96 mph on the mound and has a career 35% caught stealing rate. Rumor has it the Padres will trade him this offseason with hot prospect Austin Hedges coming up soon, but whichever organization ends up with him will have a potential-laden raw talent to develop. Here he is showcasing both his horrendous blocking but using his cannon arm to recover:

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