From Bernard Gilkey to Yoenis Cespedes: Met five-tool seasons

Bernard GilkeyWe all know what a five tool MLB player is, one who is proficient at hitting for power and average, at fielding and throwing, and speed. It’s a term scouts started using decades ago, to describe an elite, complete ballplayer, and such players are pretty rare. I am going to try to determine which Mets produced at five tool ability over the course of a season.

There are two hard parameters I am going to use, for BA .290 or above, and for power SLG of .475 or above. The other three parameters will be more elastic. Now for the analysis of players who had a season of five tool baseball for the Mets, listed chronologically.

Bernard Gilkey‘s 1996 season was clearly that of a five tool player. His BA was .317, his SLG was .583, and he pounded 30 homers. His fielding average was .982, ranking third among left fielders that season, and he recorded an impressive 18 assists to lead the league’s outfielders. His 17 SB was a good total. But stolen bases are not the only way speed comes in to play. His speed is shown in his impressive putout total of 309 to lead left fielders. A player needs to run pretty well to haul in so many fly balls.

Oddly enough there was a second Met to put up five tool numbers in 1996, center fielder Lance Johnson. He was a hit machine, rapping out a .333 BA. His SLG was .479, although that figure was reached in unusual fashion. He hit only nine home runs that year, but he made up for it in in doubles (31) and triples (21), giving him 61 extra base hits on the year. Johnson was a burner on the base paths, recording 50 steals that year. Baseball Reference rates him fourth in defensive WAR for center fielders that year, he had nine assists to finish second among center fielders, and he was first in putouts with 392. Despite being relatively small and not a home run hitter, Johnson produced at a five tool rate in 1996.

Jose Reyes is still a fine contributor to the Mets, but in his prime he was a tremendous player. His 2006 season was a five tool season. His BA was .300 and his SLG was .487. He had 19 homers that year, along with 30 doubles and 17 triples. Reyes is still pretty fast but he was elite in that regard in his younger days, he had 64 steals in 2006. He also still has a decent arm today, but he had a rifle arm back in 2006. Reyes had been a little shaky on fielding his first few years but he improved greatly in 2006, Baseball Reference rated him as finishing fifth among shortstops in Total Zone runs that year, which shows high level defensive production at a premium position.

Third baseman David Wright had several seasons in which he was a five tool player, 2007 was his best. He batted .325 and slugged .546 with 30 homers. He stole 34 bases that season and was caught only five times. Wright won the NL gold glove in 2007.

Yoenis Cespedes came to the Mets at the trade deadline in 2015, and was a big factor in the Mets pennant run that year. Taking his total production with the Mets and Tigers, it was a five tool season for him. His BA for the season was .291, and his SLG figure was .542 with 35 home runs. The left fielder won a gold glove in 2015 as an American Leaguer, again due to his split season. He only had seven stolen bases, but we’ve all seen Cespedes run, and when he is motoring he shows elite speed.

There were other Mets who came close but did not quite meet these standards. Tommie Agee, Darryl Strawberry and Carlos Beltran fell short, just barely, on batting average. Edgardo Alfonzo had some great years for the Mets, but foot speed was not his strong suit.

The fact that this last group of players, and many others such as Mike Piazza, Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez, John Olerud and others were not five tool players should not diminish their significance. A player as great as Ted Williams, for example, was really just a two tool outfielder. But if you have off the charts power and batting average like he did you are going to be a great one.

6 comments for “From Bernard Gilkey to Yoenis Cespedes: Met five-tool seasons

  1. joe
    February 1, 2017 at 9:13 am

    Mazzilli’s 79 season was very close.
    Hit: AVG 303 OBP.395 SLG.449 OPS .844
    15HR 34SB

    • John Fox
      February 1, 2017 at 1:31 pm

      yes Joe, it was close. i don’t think he had a really good arm though, thats a reason he was shifted from outfield to first base.

      • joe
        February 1, 2017 at 3:07 pm

        But, he could cover a lot of ground out there.

  2. February 1, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    I’m not a big fan of having two hard requirements and three others be whatever. It seems the hard categories exist only to exclude certain people, specifically 1987 Strawberry and 2008 Beltran.

    • John Fox
      February 1, 2017 at 3:23 pm

      I would have rather had all hard limits, but with some categories thats hard. For speed, you could go with stolen bases, but that would be wrong as I point out with a player like Cespedes who is fast but does not steal. Are there accurate running speed records that go back for years?
      Throwing also is hard, some times guys with great outfield arms do not get many assists because players don’t run on them.
      Believe it or not I came up with the hard limits before I looked at any stats, i was pretty sure Strawberry would qualify before I saw his stats, which are great, as i say in the article

  3. Eraff
    February 1, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    Run and Run Bases, Hit, Hit For Power, Throw, Field…. if you’re restricting the speed aspect to Base Stealing, you’re missing the mark—especially in this era when middle order guys don;t generally run.

    Hit…Hit for power is also more combined…at the very least, you might consider OBP and Isolated Power…or just OPS

    I’m believe Straw was straight out 5 Tools every time he stepped on the field in the prime parts of his career.

    Is there a 6th Tool?—ability to anchor a Lineup???—Reggie, Straw, Yo…etc

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