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February 28, 2014

Top Tools

Best Outfield Defense/Outfield 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 | Best Infield Defense/Infield Arm

Outfield Defense

Top Outfield Defense in the Minor Leagues: Kevin Kiermaier (Tampa Bay Rays)
Though Kiermaier wasn’t the unanimous winner in this category, his defense earned universal praise across the scouting community. On the back of plus-plus speed, Kiermaier shows off tremendous instincts for the position. His reads off the bat are lightning quick and his routes are nearly impeccable, allowing him to get to balls deep in the gaps as well as those in front of him and over his head. He doesn’t consistently struggle with movements in any direction and profiles as one of the best outfield defenders in the majors. He should be a true difference maker with the glove, even if his role consists of coming off the bench.

Others Considered: Albert Almora (Chicago Cubs), Jackie Bradley (Boston Red Sox)
Jackie Bradley earned heaps of praise from scouts and was nearly considered the co-winner with Kiermaier. Bradley’s speed doesn’t play as big a role as Kiermaier’s, with Bradley playing the part of an average runner who relies more on instinct and effort to make plays in center field. In spite of that, Bradley is considered one of the best outfield defenders in the game and a likely Gold Glove candidate at his peak. Though Almora has plus defensive projections, he rates a solid step behind the likes of Kiermaier and Bradley, simply because his speed may prevent him from sustaining a plus profile in center field. A fringe-average runner, Almora has exceptional reads and routes that allow him to make plays in center, but there are lingering questions about whether he can maintain his current defensive ratings as he matures and settles into a big-league role.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: The Pi... (02/28)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Top Tools: Best Infiel... (02/25)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Top Tools: Best Catche... (03/03)
Next Article >>
LABR Recap (03/03)

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