5 players with best hit tool in the AL East

April 24th, 2020

Hall of Famer Wade Boggs arguably had the best hit tool in Major League Baseball history. The left-handed-hitting Boggs won five American League batting titles with the Red Sox by hitting the ball all over the place. There was the base hit to left field and that hard-hitting double to right-center. It seemed he like he was able to collect hundreds of hits by driving the ball to center field. By the time his career ended after the 1999 season, Boggs had a .328 career average with an on-base percentage of .415.

This week, we asked our AL East beat writers to pick a player on their club with the best hit tool, which means a person with the best bat-to-ball skill.

Blue Jays: Third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Guerrero was given an 80 hit grade as a prospect by MLB Pipeline, the highest possible grade. The 21-year-old is known for his prodigious power, especially after his 91-homer performance at the 2019 Home Run Derby, but Guerrero was a pure hitter before he grew into a slugger. His rookie season came with the expected challenges and lessons, but Guerrero walked more than he struck out in the Minor Leagues, so there’s every reason to believe that his elite bat-to-ball skills will still translate into the bigs. Lifting the ball in the air is key for Guerrero, but few hitters in baseball have the potential to rival his hit tool long term. -- Keegan Matheson

Orioles: Infielder Hanser Alberto
When we talk about hit tool, we are talking pure bat-to-ball skills. Nobody on the Orioles exemplifies those more than Alberto, whose extreme reliance on making contact makes him something of a throwback in the modern game. A three-time batting champion in the Dominican Summer League and Winter League, Alberto was still an unknown quantity before he challenged for the American League crown last summer. He finished eighth in the AL with a .305 average, to go along with 12 homers and a .751 OPS, despite largely eschewing walks and extra-base hits. How did he do it? By relentlessly putting the ball in play. Alberto whiffed just 50 times in 550 plate appearances -- his 9.1 percent strikeout rate was the lowest among qualified hitters across MLB. -- Joe Trezza

Rays: Shortstop Wander Franco
The Rays have a lot of good hitters at the Major League level, but it’s difficult to argue that Franco, the No. 1 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline, isn’t the best pure hitter in the entire organization, even at such a young age. Franco, who was 18 years old last season, was the youngest regular in both Class A Bowling Green and Class A Advanced Charlotte. Despite that, Franco hit .327 between the two levels and finished with more extra-base hits (43) and walks (56) than strikeouts (35). He also ranked second in the Minors with a whiff rate of just seven percent, meaning that he doesn’t have much of a weakness at the plate. Not to mention that Franco is also a switch-hitter, making him immune to tough pitcher matchups. The 19-year-old was given an 80-grade hit tool by MLB Pipeline, and it’s only a matter of time before he brings his talents to the big league level. -- Juan Toribio

Red Sox: Shortstop Xander Bogaerts
On a Red Sox team that also includes Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez, this wasn’t an easy choice. But Bogaerts has the most fluid swing on the team and one of the prettiest for a right-handed hitter in baseball. While Bogaerts has a natural stroke to the opposite field, he has learned to use Fenway Park to his advantage by pulling pitches for extra bases when he’s ahead in the count. Bogaerts can spray the ball from foul line to foul line, and he had 52 doubles last season to go along with 190 hits and a .309 average. The Red Sox have used him in the middle of the order the last couple of years to utilize his production, but he has the type of bat control that would also make him an ideal table-setter. -- Ian Browne

Yankees: Infielder DJ LeMahieu
With his throwback approach and team-first attitude, LeMahieu could have earned a place on any of the Yankees’ World Series clubs. The 2016 National League batting champion (.348) with the Rockies, LeMahieu quickly won over Yankees fans by turning in a special season from wire to wire, setting career highs in runs (109), hits (197), home runs (26), slugging percentage (.518), extra-base hits (61) and multihit games (61).

Pitchers hated facing a man that teammate Gary Sánchez nicknamed “The Machine,” as LeMahieu led the Majors with a .389 average with runners in scoring position. LeMahieu’s .327 overall average was the highest by a Yankee since Derek Jeter’s .334 in 2009. His most recent at-bat came with the Yankees down to their final two outs against the Astros in the AL Championship Series -- a 10-pitch battle that ended with a game-tying two-run homer. -- Bryan Hoch