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February 20, 2014

Top Tools

Best Speed/Makeup

by Mark Anderson and BP Prospect Staff


Scouts spend countless hours watching and evaluating players, carefully considering the appropriate grade for each tool or each pitch a player offers. Throughout the course of the season and particularly throughout the course of ranking season, grades are tossed around with near reckless abandon. This player has plus power, and that player has a below-average fastball. This player offers above-average hit projection while that player buries hitters with a potential plus-plus curveball. It's easy to talk about the quality of an individual tool, but what does it all mean in the context of other players?

In the second edition of the annual Top Tools Series, the Baseball Prospectus Prospect Staff debated long and hard over how individual players’ tools stack up against those of their counterparts. Drawing upon our own eyewitness accounts and opinions from scouts across the league, the team debated and compiled the following ratings. The end result is a product that captures the oft-missing context of how individual player tools compare and who has the best of each tool in baseball.

Previous entries: Best Hit/Power

Speed

Top Speed in the Minor Leagues: Billy Hamilton (Cincinnati Reds)
Billy Hamilton is not just the fastest player in the minor leagues; he is the fastest player in baseball today, and he may be the fastest player in the history of the game. (He's certainly the fastest I've ever scouted.) Hamilton’s world-class speed is the stuff of which legends are made, and quite frankly there are no other elite runners in baseball who can keep up with him. While his instincts on the bases are not perfect, his speed is so tremendous that it usually doesn’t matter. He can steal a base when both the pitcher and catcher know he’s running. He can take extra bases when other players wouldn’t even consider the notion, and he can wreak havoc on the opposing team just by stepping into the batter’s box.

Other Players Considered: Byron Buxton (Minnesota Twins), Billy Burns (Oakland Athletics), D.J. Davis (Toronto Blue Jays), Terrance Gore (Kansas City Royals), Roman Quinn (Philadelphia Phillies)
Each player listed here rates at the top of the scouting scale for speed. Each is an elite runner, though not one of them could touch Hamilton in a foot race. D.J. Davis and Terrance Gore drew consistent praise from scouts for being a touch faster than the others considered, but that's splitting hairs. Both players have consistently shown sub-3.8 second times down the line. Byron Buxton and Billy Burns can turn it on nearly as much as Davis and Gore, but the reported times from scouts were just a tick slower. Roman Quinn may be the fastest among this group of non-Billy Hamilton runners, but his torn Achilles puts a cloud over how his speed will play when he returns to the diamond. If Quinn’s speed returns to pre-injury levels, then he would likely be the closest challenger to Hamilton, having posted 3.60-3.65 times from home to first in the past.

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Related Content:  Francisco Lindor,  Billy Hamilton,  Speed,  Tools,  Makeup

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Overthinking It: Last ... (02/20)
<< Previous Column
Top Tools: Best Hit/Po... (02/19)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Top Tools: Best Infiel... (02/25)
Next Article >>
Fantasy Article TTO Scoresheet Podcast... (02/21)

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