Tool twins: Top prospects mirror former phenoms

January 30th, 2018

Shohei Ohtani is a unique talent. He's the hardest-throwing pitcher in Japanese history, sitting in the upper 90s and topping out at upward of 102 mph with his fastball, and he also can wipe hitters out with his slider and splitter. As a position player, Ohtani's raw power and arm strength are top-of-the-scale tools to match his heater, and he also has well-above-average speed.

That portfolio explains why Ohtani is known as the Babe Ruth of Japan and ranks No. 1 on MLB Pipeline's new Top 100 Prospects list. After signing him for $2,315,000 -- about $200 million less than he would have cost had he not been subject to bonus pool restrictions -- the Angels plan on deploying him as both a starting pitcher and at least a semi-regular designated hitter. No big leaguer has attempted to pull double duty to that extent since Ruth smacked 40 homers and won 22 games for the 1918-19 Red Sox before getting sold to the Yankees and becoming a full-time outfielder.

:: Complete 2018 Top Prospects coverage ::

While there's barely a match for Ohtani's job description in the past century, we got to wondering how his tools compare to recent elite prospects (ranked among our Top 25). MLB Pipeline started including tools projections with its prospect reports in 2013, so who stacks up to Ohtani as a pitcher (on the 20-80 scouting scale, we give him an 80 fastball, 65 slider and splitter, 50 curveball and changeup, 50 control) and as a position player (50 bat, 70 power, 65 speed, 80 arm, 50 defense)?

In the last five years, there's no good parallel to Ohtani on the mound. No other pitcher had three well-above-average offerings, and the only two guys whose top three pitches added up to 210 like his (Dylan Bundy, 2013 preseason and midseason, 2013 preseason) both had plus control while Ohtani's is merely average. The best comparison from this decade is fellow Japanese star , who had a very similar repertoire and better control when he signed with the Rangers in 2012 (and wasn't eligible for our prospect lists because he wasn't subject to international bonus pools).

The only position prospect who comes within five points of Ohtani as a hitter, slugger and runner is (2014 preseason: 55 bat, 70 power, 60 speed, 60 arm, 60 defense). Both players came with some swing-and-miss concerns, though that didn't stop Springer from becoming a force for the reigning champions World Series champion Astros. Ohtani has clearly superior arm strength and Springer is a better defender, but that comparison is interesting -- as is considering a combination of Darvish and Springer wrapped up in one player.

Let's take a look at the best recent tools parallels for the rest of the game's 10 best prospects:

2. Ronald Acuna, OF, Braves (60 bat, 65 power, 70 speed, 60 arm, 60 defense)

, OF, Pirates (60 bat, 60 power, 70 speed, 60 arm, 65 defense)

With plus tools across the board, Acuna grades out almost identically to Gregory Polanco on our 2014 preseason Top 100 list. One big difference: at age 19, Acuna totaled 21 homers and 44 steals while climbing to Triple-A; Polanco scuffled in Rookie ball at the same stage of his career.

3. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Blue Jays (80 bat, 65 power, 45 speed, 55 arm, 45 defense)

Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals (75 bat, 60 power, 50 speed, 60 arm, 55 defense)

In our six years of grading prospects, Guerrero is the first one to get an 80 for his bat and a 145 for his combination of hitting ability and power. Only four players totaled a 135: (2015 preseason), ('15 preseason), ('15 preseason and midseason) and the late Oscar Taveras ('14 preseason and midseason). As the only hit-over-power guy in that group, Taveras is the best fit even if he was more athletic and an outfielder rather than an infielder. Guerrero could wind up in left field one day.

4. , OF, White Sox (60 bat, 70 power, 40 speed, 50 arm, 45 defense)

, OF, Cubs (60 bat, 65 power, 40 speed, 45 arm, 40 defense)

A former Cubs outfielder is reminiscent of a current one. Both Jimenez and Kyle Schwarber (2015 midseason) generate most of their value with their offense, but it's potentially special offense. Schwarber was a catcher in mid-'15, and he'd have received a 45 grade for his outfield defense.

5. , INF, Yankees (70 bat, 55 power, 50 speed, 60 arm, 55 defense)

7. Nick Senzel, 3B, Reds (70 bat, 55 power, 55 speed, 60 arm, 60 defense)

, SS, Dodgers (70 bat, 60 power, 40 speed, 60 arm, 50 defense)

Torres and Senzel are so close to each other that we'll handle them together. Torres has seen most of his action to date at shortstop, and it could be argued that he'd be a 60 defender like Senzel at third base. From their style of hitting and all-around tools, they're closest to (2017 preseason: 65 bat, 55 power, 55 speed, 50 arm, 60 defense). But we want to go with an infielder, so the choice is Corey Seager ('16 preseason) -- and we'll acknowledge that we were a little harsh on Seager as a runner.

6. , OF, Nationals (60 bat, 55 power, 75 speed, 70 arm, 70 defense)

, OF, Twins (65 bat, 55 power, 80 speed, 70 arm, 70 defense)

Robles is the best defensive player on the Top 100, also has some of the best hitting ability, speed and arm strength on the list, and his power continues to develop. That all-around brilliance is hard to match, which is why there's just one prospect of recent vintage who can come within five points of each of his grades: Byron Buxton (2016 preseason).

8. , SS, Padres (55 bat, 60 power, 50 speed, 60 arm, 55 defense)

, 3B, Astros (60 hit, 65 power, 50 speed, 55 arm, 50 defense)

Tatis is a very close match to our current No. 15 prospect, Rockies middle infielder Brendan Rodgers (60 bat, 55 power, 50 speed, 60 arm, 50 defense). His tools are closest to 's (2016 preseason: 55 bat, 60 power, 55 speed, 55 arm, 55 defense) but for an infielder-to-infielder comp, the choice is Alex Bregman ('16 midseason). We may have been light on Bregman's glove at shortstop, though Correa has pushed him to third base.

9. Forrest Whitley, RHP, Astros (65 fastball, 65 curveball, 55 slider, 55 changeup, 50 control)

, RHP, White Sox (65 fastball, 65 curveball, 55 changeup, 50 control)

Except for not having a slider at the time -- he since has added one -- Lucas Giolito (2017 preseason) is a perfect match. They're both big guys as well, with Whitley standing 6-foot-7 and Giolito 6-foot-6, and their ability to keep their large frames and deliveries in sync will go a long way toward determining how much success they have in the big leagues.

10. , RHP, White Sox (80 fastball, 65 slider, 50 changeup, 45 control)

, RHP, Pirates (75 fastball, 60 curveball, 50 changeup, 45 control)

There haven't been many pitching prospects like Kopech, who has a triple-digit fastball and a nasty slider. Most of the other pitchers with a high-octane heater and a well-above-average secondary pitch also had a better third offering and/or at least a full grade better control (Bundy, Cole, Giolito from 2014 midseason through '16 midseason, in '14 preseason and midseason). A better parallel is Tyler Glasnow ('15 preseason though '16 midseason) with slightly better stuff.