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February 25, 2014

Top Tools

Best Infield Defense/Infield Arm

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 | Best Speed/Makeup

Infield Defense

Top Infield Defense in the Minor Leagues: Francisco Lindor (Cleveland Indians)
Lindor was the runaway winner in discussions with the Baseball Prospectus team as well as industry talent evaluators. Lindor has a grace and silky-smooth way about him on the field that cannot be taught. His defensive instincts are so pure that he often appears to make his initial break before the crack of the bat, allowing him to complete spectacular plays on a routine basis. His range plays to both sides and his hands are among the softest in the game. Even after getting to the ball and fielding it cleanly, Lindor continues to impress with flawless transfers, a quick release and a plus arm. He is the complete defensive package at a premium defensive position.

Other Players Considered: Miguel Rojas (Los Angeles Dodgers), Christian Villanueva (Chicago Cubs)
With the graduation of Jose Iglesias and Adeiny Hechavarria to the majors, the minor leagues appeared to lack premium defensive talents in 2013. Miguel Rojas could well earn a big-league job in spite of his anemic bat, thanks to a strong defensive profile. Rojas is a smooth defender who makes his work with the glove look easy. Villanueva might not play the toughest defensive position on the infield, but that hasn’t stopped him from drawing ample praise from scouts. He has hands that can rival those of Francisco Lindor and he moves well for the position, making every play necessary at the hot corner. Another defender who was not discussed during the original debates but now merits consideration for his list is Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena, who was recently signed by the Dodgers. Arruebarruena earns rave reviews from international scouts for his defensive abilities, and he could be a serious player in these discussions next winter.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: The Rem... (02/25)
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Premium Article Top Tools: Best Speed/... (02/20)
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