The 30/30, Five-Tool Player: Myth or Real Deal?

Earlier, John posted a question of "Who is the top prospect of the Minnesota Twins?" that included outfielder Aaron Hicks and his possible "six tools." 

The first thing to pop into my head is "Man, I hate 5-tool players"  Recently, I've come to grow uninfatuated with any player that projects as "30/30"  This whole idea of a player being able to hit for power and speed and that making him amongst the best in the game is just not an idea I agree with any more. 

Here are a few reasons why:

The rarely actually become 30/30 players

Since 1901 there have been 54 seasons of 30/30 baseball.  You probably find this to be unfair as the game has changed quite a bit since 1901.  But still consider that even if you narrowed that down to the last 30 years, that's barely more than 1 per season.  Does that make a 30/30 player special and rare?  Certainly.  Does it mean that I want to bank on a prospect becoming a 30/30 player?  Absolutely not.

Take for instance some power/speed prospects from 2005:

Delmon Young - Former can do anything prospect has a career high in homers and stolen bases of 14.  Still under 25 years of age, but 30/30 seems a bit much and 20/20 could be pushing it too.  Has 32 stolen bases in 562 games.

Rickie Weeks - A 16/25 season in 2007.  A 23/7 season this year.  Low batting averages and inconsistent play doomed his career for awhile.  Will he ever steal 20+ bases again?

Hanley Ramirez - To be fair, here's an example of what can go right.  Had a 29/51 season at age 23.  A 33/35 season the next year.  And a 24/27 season last year.  Hard to tell if he'll ever come close to stealing 51 again as he did in his first two years.   

Lastings Milledge - BA had him top 11 two years in a row.  30 HR power may seem out of his reach, but a future 20/20 player maybe?  The speedster has yet to make an impact on the big stage.

Jeremy Hermida - Twice stole 20 bases in the minors.  Power would develop later on to think possibly quick player with good power.  Hasn't done much in the majors.

Chris Nelson - "Bat is further along than BJ Uptons at the same time" according to an NL scout back then. 

Felix Pie - "He's got five tools and all of them have a chance to be above-average. The sky is the limit."
       --Sarasota manager Todd Claus

Brian Anderson - "He's Jeremy Reed with a lot more power potential. He made the White Sox realize that Reed was expendable."
       --NL scout

I'm not saying that Anderson had everything it takes to be a 30/30 player, but if you're Jeremy Reed with more power potential, that gives you like 4 or 5 tools from a scouts perspective.

Almonst unnoticed and ranked 98th: Ian Kinsler.

I know that prospects fall to meet expectations all of the time.  But there's something about the "toolsy" prospect that I just don't like any more.  The first reason is that they rarely live up to the hype.  Let's move on to reason #2.

You can only be a "30/30" player for so long

Before age 30, Sammy Sosa stole 217 bases and had two 30/30 seasons.  Over his next 1107 games he would steal 17 bases.  Meanwhile he hit 336 home runs.  It is all too common to see a "30/30" player abandon the speed for the long ball. 

Darryl Strawberry and Jose Conseco are other examples of this.

It's not just age.  Ichiro has played the majority of his major league career in his 30's.  But the beefier you get, the less you steal.  And you can be hard pressed to find a player that will abandon the long ball for the stolen base. 

It's not entirely impossible to maintain speed an power past age 30:

Bobby Bonds managed a 25/34 season at age 33, but he would only play 131 games after that. 

Barry Bonds may be the ultimate reason why so many people strive to see another "5-tool, 30/30 player"  He had 5 30/30 seasons, 1 40/40 season, and 10 seasons of 20/20 or better.  The ultimate athlete.  Alex Rodriguez is another rare member of the 40/40 club, but was he just trying to show off?  He hasn't stolen 30 bases in a season since, perhaps knowing that the stolen base record simply isn't as coveted. 

Vlad Guerrerro is another.

But many player also succumb to injury or other reasons why they just can't do 30/30 again, even if they have the tools.

Grady Sizemore went for 33/38 in 2008.  He hasn't been the same the last two seasons.  Jimmy Rollins went for 30/41 in 2007, one of the ultimately great all-around seasons.  But he has been inconsistent ever since, and hit just 36 homers in his last 350 games.  Ian Kinsler is dangerously close to following this path this year after his 30/30 season last year.  Carlos Beltran too.

The 30/30 player isn't always a star.

Might seem weird, but hitting that plateau doesn't even make you a star always. 

Howard Johnson had three 30/30 seasons and averaged 31/32 from 1987-1991.  He's a two-time All-Star. 

Eric Davis had a 27/80 season and a 37/50 season, averaging 21/30 from 1986-1996.  He's also a two-time All-Star. 

Preston Wilson himself is in the 30/30 club. 

Bobby Bonds is perhaps the ultimate 30/30 player next to Barry, averaging 28/39 over an 11 year period, and he never sniffed the Hall of Fame. 

Other players are good but never reached that level of great: Bobby Abreu, Brandon Phillips, Shawn Green, Jose Cruz, and Raul Mondesi

Even Dale Murphy had a 30/30 season and two MVP trophies and couldn't get into the Hall of Fame. 

Which also begs the question:

Is a 30/30 player a winner?

It's funny when you mention "What do these names have in common" what the first thought would be:

Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Larry Walker, Vladimir Guerrero.

It's not "They're all 30/30 players!"  It's "They're great player who never won a world series!" 

In fact, off the top of my head Bags went to 1, Bonds went to 1, and the other 3 went to none.  That's over how many seasons? 

Other 30/30 players just seem like bad players and detriments to their team, i.e. Soriano. 

This concludes my analysis on the "5-tool player"  These are the reasons I prefer prospects who simly seem to be "power hitters" or "speedsters"  If you can hit for power, I hope you can also draw some walks.  If you can hit for speed, I hope you have a high OBP.  I don't need a guy that can do both and frankly I think we can get too wrapped up in that with prospects. 

What are your thoughts?

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