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February 20, 2014

Top Tools

Best Speed/Makeup

by Mark Anderson and BP Prospect Staff

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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.

Top Major League Speed: Michael Bourn (Cleveland Indians)

All-Time Tool: Vince Coleman

How to Identify It: One need not be a seasoned talent evaluator in order to identify speed on the baseball diamond. The aesthetic physicality of this tool is visible to the naked and untrained eye, the utility of which can be felt on both sides of the ball. The problem—or rather, the challenge—for evaluators is that there are differing shades of tool intensity. Billy Hamilton and Byron Buxton are both extremely fast, but anyone with eyes and/or a stopwatch knows Hamilton is the faster of the two. A majority of that set-in-stone determination has been derived via the following grading system:

Grade

Home-To-First Time [LHH]

Home-To-First Time [RHH]

80: elite

3.9 seconds

4.0 seconds

70: plus-plus

4.0 seconds

4.1 seconds

60: plus

4.1 seconds

4.2 seconds

50: average

4.2 seconds

4.3 seconds

40: below avg.

4.3 seconds

4.4 seconds

30: well below avg.

4.4 seconds

4.5 seconds

20: poor

4.5 seconds

4.6 seconds

So, you’ve obtained a stopwatch and trained your finger to initiate the start button at the hitter’s point of contact and again when his foot hits the first base bag. You’re ready to sit with scouts behind the plate and slap run grades on players, right? Unfortunately, it’s slightly more nuanced than that.

First, the situation in which the time is gathered is important. Did the runner get out of the box well, or did the follow-through from his swing cause him to stay in the box a split-second longer than normal? (Think Adrian Beltre’s back-knee exploits.) The type of batted ball has great importance in contextualizing the time measured. If the ball is hit on a rope directly to an infielder, most runners choose not to bust it down the line, knowing their fate is all but sealed. On other occasions, runners begin the quest down the line at full speed but will pull up two or three steps from the bag when the first baseman receives the ball from the fielder. With this in mind, we want to gather times when runners run through the bag at their top speed. As such, groundballs to the left side and/or double-play balls typically provide the best medium by which to accurately judge this tool. When a batter attempts to bunt for a base hit, the recorded time is referred to as a jailbreak and is an embellishment of the player’s true speed down the line. In a perfect world, multiple home-to-first times will be compiled before placing a speed grade on a player.

In addition, not all athletes are created equal. Some runners can access their top speed much more quickly than others, and players with bodies of the long and lean variety—such as Jason Heyward—will register home-to-second or first-to-third times that are much more impressive than their home-to-first times would indicate, causing the baseline grade to tick up. A player’s instincts on the basepaths also play a role when grading the run tool. An average runner’s grade may play up if he displays an uncanny ability to read pitchers or take the extra base when the opportunity presents itself.

Projection of the run tool depends on multiple factors. If a young player lacks explosive strength throughout his core and leg muscles but has good running mechanics and decent speed, scouts may project him to be a better runner with professional instruction and a professional workout regimen aimed at addressing this deficiency. Conversely, if a scout notices the necessary strength but bad running mechanics, such as extraneous hip movement or landing on the heels of the feet, he may feel that the runner will tick up in a professionally coached environment. More often than not, however, scouts project speed to diminish with age and physical maturity. A plus runner who has physical projection as an amateur may only be an average runner—or perhaps slightly below—when his body matures, depending on the type of bulk his body puts on. Assuming more physical development leads to better offensive capability, this tradeoff is preferred. On the whole, offensive prowess is exponentially more important than foot speed in today’s game, though up-the-middle profiles still place some emphasis on the tool. —Ethan Purser

Makeup

Top Makeup in the Minor Leagues: Francisco Lindor (Cleveland Indians)
Within scouting circles, Lindor receives praise for any number of things: most notably his defensive wizardry and plus arm, but also for his plus hit tool and incredible instincts for the game. What often seems to slide under the radar is Lindor’s exceptional makeup. It can be argued that his work ethic is second to none in the minor leagues, which allows scouts to be aggressive in projecting his tool development. When combined with his on-field attitude, generally unflappable nature, and overall confidence, Lindor owns the very definition of what excellent makeup signifies in a professional baseball player.

Other Players Considered: Albert Almora (Chicago Cubs), Dylan Bundy (Baltimore Orioles), Reese McGuire (Pittsburgh Pirates)
While Lindor stands out as the epitome of quality makeup in the minor leagues, many other players can lay claim to owning strong makeup tools. Many of the game’s best organizational players have makeup that would make star prospects and talent evaluators swoon. Among the best prospects in the game, Almora, Bundy, and McGuire offer makeup that is universally lauded by scouts, coaches, and teammates alike. Each player demonstrates the work ethic, confidence, leadership, and on-field demeanor that defines positive makeup in the scouting industry.

Top Major League Makeup: Derek Jeter (New York Yankees)

All-Time Tool: Jackie Robinson

How to Identify It: Of all the difficult tasks scouts are handed, identifying the makeup that will allow a player to maximize his natural ability is easily the most daunting. Pegging an individual’s personality can be challenging enough without being asked to do so with modest exposure to the player. Good makeup doesn’t necessarily mean a player is a good guy, though that can hint at the overall makeup. Off-field concerns will certainly surface when appropriate, and they will factor into the overall evaluation of a player’s makeup, but the real focus is the clubhouse and on-field makeup.

How a player interacts with his coaches and teammates is one aspect that must be considered. A player with good makeup has positive relationships with most of his teammates and demonstrates the appropriate respect for his coaches. But it is of paramount importance to consider how a player approaches the game and how he prepares himself during the offseason, during the season, and on game days. Quality makeup may be observed with a player who diligently focuses and prepares for each game, puts the work in between games to maintain his conditioning, and does everything necessary during the winter to become better.

Identifying the makeup necessary to fulfill a major league future represents a mystery that may never be solved. Players with perceived high-end makeup will fail to reach their ceilings and players with aloof natures and apparent carelessness may go on to become superstars. There is no magic formula for identifying or developing the type of makeup required in today’s game, and having a true understanding of a player can come only through getting to know the player closely, which isn't always practical with a scout’s busy schedule. As a result, expanding the ability to identify and understand what makeup means and how it impacts a player’s development has the potential to be one of the next great frontiers in baseball.

Article discussed and debated by the Baseball Prospectus Prospect Staff. Constructed and delivered by Mark Anderson.

Mark Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mark's other articles. You can contact Mark by clicking here

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

63 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

roarke

Terrance Gore of the Kansas City Twins?

Feb 20, 2014 05:36 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Fixed.

Feb 20, 2014 05:40 AM
 
roarke

It always seems a bit rude when commenters mention typos and I hesitated to point it out. Is there a less-public way of making these things known to you?

Feb 20, 2014 05:42 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

You could email me, but comments are okay.

Feb 20, 2014 05:44 AM
 
joseconsuervo

Does anyone know Hamilton's home to first time? I looked all day yesterday and couldn't seem to find it anywhere.

Feb 20, 2014 05:46 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Depends. I have several sub 3.5 times for Hamilton on jailbreak bunts; several sub 3.8s on full swings. Both sides.

Feb 20, 2014 06:19 AM
 
shakyhands

I know it doesn't exist, but if you stick to 1 grade per .1 time, that would be 110 grade speed.

Feb 20, 2014 06:27 AM
rating: 15
 
joseconsuervo

That is absurd in the most awesome way.

Feb 20, 2014 06:31 AM
rating: 1
 
Dave from Pittsburgh

I wonder what scouts would have rated Jackies makeup in 1946?

Feb 20, 2014 05:57 AM
rating: 9
 
Matt Trueblood

Well, scouts were mostly racist then, so here's guessing not so well. Even a fair evaluator could have wondered about it. Jackie turned out to have the perfect temperament for what he faced, but he had (if this is a real thing, and I think it is) risk in his makeup tool. We saw the ceiling; I do think, having read about him extensively, that his personality also offered an ugly floor.

Feb 20, 2014 06:01 AM
rating: 3
 
delatopia

To me, "ugly floor" based on makeup would be the Patriots' Aaron Hernandez, accused killer, whose draft reports from several teams were marked DND. Admittedly I haven't read Jules Tygiel's book "Baseball's Greatest Experiment" in a couple of decades, but "ugly"?

Feb 20, 2014 13:36 PM
rating: 0
 
Lindemann
(852)

Pretty sure scouts from the Dodgers rated it an 80 or so, particularly in the other-cheek-turning department.

Feb 20, 2014 11:36 AM
rating: 3
 
JHGrimm

No, Francisco Lindor's tools aren't all physical; he knows when to take it soft and let loose James Brown guide the night.

Feb 20, 2014 06:24 AM
rating: 0
 
Brian Kopec

I've always found "makeup" to be the most fascinating tool as well as the least discussed.

Question for the experts...can you name anyone with a 20/30 tool for makeup who became a star? Going way way way way back, perhaps Babe Ruth? Ed Delahanty? Hack Wilson?

Feb 20, 2014 07:09 AM
rating: 1
 
BirdlandPGH

Manny Ramirez?

Feb 20, 2014 07:54 AM
rating: 2
 
SC

Worked endlessly in the batting cage and by all accounts was a fun guy in the clubhouse. Manny had a 7 grade makeup.

Feb 20, 2014 08:50 AM
rating: 5
 
richardkr34

Barry Bonds?

Feb 20, 2014 07:57 AM
rating: 1
 
bubba3m

Jose Canseco?

Feb 20, 2014 08:45 AM
rating: 1
 
Dodger300

Kevin Brown?

Feb 20, 2014 08:45 AM
rating: 1
 
dianagram

Dick Allen

Feb 20, 2014 09:21 AM
rating: 1
 
Brian Kopec

Most or all of these guys being mentioned are plus makeup. Say what you want about Barry Bonds...dude worked hard at being a great baseball player. Same with Manny Ramirez, who from what I've read spent countless hours in the weight room and cage. Probably plus makeup is a prerequisite today since competitive advantages are so slim. Maybe not so much in the past.

To me, "makeup" has little or nothing to do with being a jerk to fans or media. It's about #want and having the work ethic to drive yourself to reach your potential.

Feb 20, 2014 10:03 AM
rating: 8
 
maphal

Rube Waddell was known to leave the mound to chase fire engines, so I don't know how that would apply to makeup.

Feb 20, 2014 10:35 AM
rating: 3
 
Brian Kopec

Might or might not impact his makeup. But if you put a watch on his time from mound to engine, that might impact his speed.

Feb 20, 2014 11:30 AM
rating: 1
 
David Coonce

It is interesting to note this, however. Rube Waddell was, as you can probably guess based on his nickname, mentally handicapped. I do not know or care to guess if any current major leaguer is mentally handicapped. There are certainly those with major behavioral problems (Milton Bradley and Elijah Dukes come immediately behind, Josh Lueke as well) that would indicate some serious infantilism in their makeup, but I have no idea how a player like Waddell was evaluated in that regard in that era, or if it was even thought about.

Feb 28, 2014 06:15 AM
rating: 0
 
Chomsky
(103)

Dave Kingman

Feb 20, 2014 12:34 PM
rating: 1
 
Brian Kopec

That's a good one.

Feb 20, 2014 16:14 PM
rating: 0
 
TwinsfanTravis

Lenny Dykstra... According to Moneyball

Feb 20, 2014 16:36 PM
rating: 1
 
NYYanks826

Albert Belle?

Feb 20, 2014 18:52 PM
rating: 2
 
quackman

Hal Chase comes to mind.

Feb 21, 2014 11:09 AM
rating: 0
 
apbadogs

Is it just me or are there a TON of potential huge impact shortstops on the doorstep of MLB?

Feb 20, 2014 07:33 AM
rating: 0
 
sdinsmor
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

did you just start studying prospects, like, today?

Feb 20, 2014 07:55 AM
rating: -29
 
richardkr34

Doc Ellis didn't get the nod for all-time best makeup? Consider my subscription canceled.

Feb 20, 2014 07:47 AM
rating: 4
 
lopkhan00

For any other fans of Dock: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vUhSYLRw14

Also there is a dockumentary that was recently screened at Sundance to positive reviews:

No No: A Dockumentary

Feb 20, 2014 11:26 AM
rating: 0
 
RoyallyBland

Was Jarrod Dyson considered for top major league speed? How does he compare to Bourn?

Feb 20, 2014 08:09 AM
rating: 0
 
EricJ

I had always heard Robinson Cano had terrible makeup in the minors. Can anyone confirm that?

Feb 20, 2014 08:29 AM
rating: 1
 
ScottyAllen
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

I think it's hilarious someone actually thinks Michael Bourn is faster than Mike Trout, who recorded the fastest time home to first from a RHB at the major league level. Elite caliber scouting there BP. Even if you made the argument he had great range in the OF (which Bourn doesn't) he still wouldn't be faster than Peter Bourjos or Jarrod Dyson.

Feb 20, 2014 08:35 AM
rating: -13
 
SC

It's hilarious that you're so confident in a trivial difference in their home to first times (Bourn at 3.85, Trout at 3.82, a difference far more likely to be in the timer than the player) makes Trout faster that you feel the need to degrade professional scouts.

Feb 20, 2014 08:53 AM
rating: 10
 
newsense

Both Bonds and Ramirez were jerks but they both worked very hard to improve their game, PEDS aside. So not such bad makeup?

I would give Manny a 20 for hair-style :)

Feb 20, 2014 08:44 AM
rating: 2
 
godfather

switch hitter who went to first 3.1 lefty and 3.5 righty...some guy named mantle, whose makeup was legendary

Feb 20, 2014 09:09 AM
rating: 1
 
GrinnellSteve

I'm curious how Micah Johnson rates for speed. Elite fast? Or just likes to run a lot? Thanks.

Feb 20, 2014 09:14 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Mark Anderson
BP staff

I've got Johnson as more of a 7 runner that runs a lot and runs hard. He didn't really come up much in this conversation.

Feb 20, 2014 09:25 AM
 
GrinnellSteve

Thanks. To paraphrase Meatloaf, "7 out of 8 ain't bad."

Feb 20, 2014 09:42 AM
rating: 0
 
jfranco77

Is Jurickson Profar considered a major leaguer and thus not eligible for best minor league makeup?

Feb 20, 2014 10:15 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Mark Anderson
BP staff

Profar was considered a Major Leaguer, otherwise he would have been in consideration for Best Makeup in the minor leagues.

Feb 20, 2014 10:40 AM
 
John Douglass

I'm pretty surprised to not see Correa on the makeup list. Was he in the discussion?

Feb 20, 2014 10:26 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Mark Anderson
BP staff

Correa's name did come up though the support wasn't as overwhelming for him as it was the other names listed. There's a pretty easy case to make for him here, though.

Feb 20, 2014 10:40 AM
 
richardkr34

What counts most towards makeup: #rig, #want, #sparkle, or #wet?

Feb 20, 2014 10:44 AM
rating: -1
 
SC

Actually, ability to speak in complete sentences counts far more than hashtagging.

Feb 20, 2014 12:03 PM
rating: 0
 
richardkr34

"Actually, ability to speak[...]"

Good advice, William Strunk.

Feb 21, 2014 10:16 AM
rating: -1
 
the4seamer

I'm pretty sure Rickey Henderson should have been commented on for All Time speed, with Vince a close 2nd. Other than that great write-up. Im curious to see how Roman Quinn comes back from this injury. Poor guy was just getting over one injury when this happened. We shall see later this summer.

Feb 20, 2014 11:02 AM
rating: 1
 
Llarry

Vince Coleman is an All-Time Tool? Yeah, I'll buy that...

In other news, the more detailed description of Makeup does make the interesting point that a guy can be a jerk, but as long as it doesn't interfere with (and possibly enhances) his ability to commit to the game, he can still grade highly. Ty Cobb springs to mind...

Feb 20, 2014 11:18 AM
rating: 1
 
MFBabyFeets
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Best makeup in the majors Jete, best all time Jackie Robinson. That's all you got. No one else considered for top 5 and no comments. You could have skipped that part.

Feb 20, 2014 11:33 AM
rating: -10
 
bigdonut

Is 20 makeup even possible at the major league level? Would the player have to be ARod aloof, hustle like Bonds in his late 30s, probably have a substance abuse problem, and openly feud with the managers/coaches? Or can it be less than that?

Feb 20, 2014 12:59 PM
rating: 1
 
mdangelfan

Just because they stole the most bases doesn't make them the fastest player ever. Ignoring guys who weren't real players like Herb Washington, I think Willie Wilson may have been faster than Rickey or Vince.

And all-time might go back to Mickey Mantle.

Feb 20, 2014 13:17 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Along those lines, Bo Jackson wasn't a top of the scale base stealer, but given his straight-line speed, its hard to fathom many players being faster than him. He ran a 4.12 40 in the NFL combine, which is still the fastest time ever recorded (hand-timed).

Feb 20, 2014 14:01 PM
 
Brian Kopec

You could probably put Bo Jackson down for any of the tools and not be wrong.

My vote for foat (fastest of all time) is Alan Wiggins.

Feb 20, 2014 16:15 PM
rating: 2
 
Hodiggity2001

100% agree on the Jackson comment. Disgusting athlete, and a damn shame. I think Jerome Walton had the best makeup though.

Feb 20, 2014 18:33 PM
rating: 0
 
curto

Best makeup ever: Julio Mosquera

Feb 20, 2014 13:42 PM
rating: 3
 
Kinanik

My uncle covered the Boise Hawks, and he says that Dan Vogelbach is one of the best clubhouse guys he's seen come through. Mature, natural leader, all that.

Speaking of makeup though: do scouts tend to rate players on the 20-80 scale? Or is it a fuzzier 'good makeup, bad makeup' scale?

Feb 20, 2014 13:48 PM
rating: 0
 
Luke in MN

Anyone in the minors who might make mlb on makeup as their only plus tool? I always think of nick punto as a rampaging force of makeup.

Feb 21, 2014 04:51 AM
rating: 2
 
jfranco77

Brandon Inge once added 10 wins with his makeup alone, according to folklore.

Feb 21, 2014 07:46 AM
rating: 1
 
jonjacoby

I think the 2011 Nationals had the best Makeup: http://img.gawkerassets.com/img/18656kibhx41pjpg/ku-xlarge.jpg

Feb 21, 2014 09:12 AM
rating: 0
 
Brock Dahlke

20 Makeup? Jesus Montero?

Feb 22, 2014 23:25 PM
rating: 0
 
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