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How to build a 5-tool Superman? Next up: Fielding

@_dadler and @mattkellyMLB and @SlangsOnSports and @HarriganMLB and @AndrewSimonMLB
April 29, 2020

Scouts have long graded position players on five tools that are central to success in the game: hitting, hitting for power, running, fielding and throwing. The so-called “five-tool player” is a special breed, as those who truly rate above average in each category are extremely rare. This week, MLB.com is

Scouts have long graded position players on five tools that are central to success in the game: hitting, hitting for power, running, fielding and throwing. The so-called “five-tool player” is a special breed, as those who truly rate above average in each category are extremely rare.

This week, MLB.com is tasking five reporters with building the ultimate five-tool Superman, by picking the best examples of each tool from the talented pool of current big leaguers. One important stipulation: Each player could only be selected for one of the five tools.

Part I: Hit tool
Part II: Power tool
Part III: Run tool

Up next: Fielding tool

Each of the five tools brings plenty of excitement, but there might be nothing more thrilling than watching an elite defender make magic happen in the field.

And because of baseball’s positional diversity, such prowess can take many different forms and include a variety of separate skills. There are the acrobatic middle infielders, the quick-reacting third basemen and the smooth, gliding center fielders, to name a few.

A good arm is certainly part of the defensive package -- at some spots more than others -- but it’s also a separate tool. So the primary focus here is on other attributes, including range, sure-handedness and the sort of instinctual ability to make plays.

Here are the five Gold Glove-worthy picks:

Victor Robles, CF, Nationals
Key stat: 23 Outs Above Average in 2019

Robles entered the 2019 season as baseball's No. 4 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and his defense was a huge reason why. He received the most votes from front office executives for MLB Pipeline’s All-Defense Team following the 2018 season.

After short MLB stints in 2017 and '18, Robles and his superb glove arrived to stay last year. He had 23 Outs Above Average (OAA), the most of any player at any position. He made 36 catches on plays rated as 3 or more stars (75% catch probability or lower), most in the Majors. And on the sport’s biggest stage, in the World Series, he made a 5-star catch in Game 4. It was the only 5-star catch of this past year’s World Series, and one of just three in the entire 2019 postseason.

-- Sarah Langs

Previous picks: Jeff McNeil (hit), Gary Sánchez (power), Tim Locastro (run)

Kevin Kiermaier, CF, Rays
Key stat: +3.8 feet average jump in 2019

It’s a shame Kiermaier has had trouble staying healthy, because watching him patrol center field is one of baseball’s great delights. With quick reflexes and impressive burst, he covers so much ground that a two-man outfield alignment featuring Kiermaier and Manuel Margot doesn’t seem all that far-fetched.

A three-time Gold Glove Award winner and one-time Platinum Glove Award recipient, Kiermaier consistently converts routine plays and often makes amazing defensive feats seem effortless. In 2019, his average jump was the best in the Majors at 3.8 feet above average, and he ranked second among all outfielders with 17 Outs Above Average despite missing 33 games. Over the past four seasons, Kiermaier has registered 49 OAA, with the fourth-most Defensive Runs Saved (73) in all of MLB.

-- Thomas Harrigan

Previous picks: Michael Brantley (hit), Nelson Cruz (power), Trea Turner (run)

Harrison Bader, CF, Cardinals
Key stat: 74.5% success rate on 2+ star plays (0-90% catch probability)

Bader is incredibly fast, placing in the 98th percentile or higher of MLB players in average sprint speed in each of his first three seasons. He has the reflexes, ranking third last year in average jump -- or ground covered right after the pitch is released on balls hit his way. And perhaps best of all, he has superb instincts and the ability to finish off spectacular plays. Bader has not only been the most reliable at converting all plays outside the cans of corn since he entered the league, he’s also finished either first or second in success rate on 4- and 5-star plays (50% catch probability or lower) in each of the past two campaigns. The man seemingly tracks everything down.

Bader’s bat has made him a lineup liability at times, but that’s not an issue here. His legs, reflexes and instincts (and don’t forget about his arm, too) will help my superplayer man nearly any position on the diamond.

-- Matt Kelly

Previous picks: Mookie Betts (hit), Joey Gallo (power), Christian Yelich (run)

Matt Chapman, 3B, A’s
Key stat: +14 Outs Above Average in 2019

Chapman was top-10 last season in Statcast's defense metric, Outs Above Average, with 14. That top 10 is a who's who of MLB's defensive elites: Robles, Javy Báez, Kiermaier, Nolan Arenado, Andrelton Simmons, Nick Ahmed, Trevor Story, Chapman and Lorenzo Cain. If you like Defensive Runs Saved, well, he ranked No. 1 out of all fielders last season, with 34 DRS.

But this pick is even for more than the numbers. With Chapman, defense has never looked so cool. Watching Chapman play the infield is relaxing. He makes every play, and he makes it smoothly. There's a reason the road to a Platinum Glove now goes through him and Arenado.

-- David Adler

Previous picks: DJ LeMahieu (hit), Aaron Judge (power), Ronald Acuña Jr. (run)

Andrelton Simmons, SS, Angels
Key stat: 193 Defensive Runs Saved since 2012

There was no way this list could exclude the guy whose DRS total over his career is 66% higher than the closest competitor (Jason Heyward) in that time. Simmons’ 12 DRS in 2019 were the lowest of his career, but that’s due in large part to an ankle sprain that limited him to 103 games.

The four-time Gold Glove Award winner makes a difficult position seem easy -- he might not be The Wizard, but he frequently looks like one. Simmons is particularly adept at erasing hits up the middle. In the three seasons for which there is Statcast's Outs Above Average (OAA) data for infielders, Simmons leads the group with 28 OAA going to his left. He’s also brilliant coming in on the ball (15 OAA). And have you seen him fearlessly race back into the outfield for a pop fly? That’s the guy you want at a crucial spot on the field.

-- Andrew Simon

Previous picks: Anthony Rendon (hit), Mike Trout (power), Byron Buxton (run)

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Sarah Langs is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @SlangsOnSports.

Thomas Harrigan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @HarriganMLB.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.