Five Tool entered a brave new world. Well, it’s not a new world in the industry, but it is for us. Soon, Five Tool will unveil its first-ever state of Texas player rankings with the inaugural Five Tool 55 for the 2022 class. We’re excited. We’re excited because it’s another example of our expanding coverage of the game we love, and one we put countless hours into.
Yes, readers should expect rankings in the future, updates to these lists, and thorough coverage with a commitment to providing the best information we can. We’ve added to our team in a big way and when the calendar flips to 2022, players, coaches, scouts and fans will see an online version of Five Tool they’ve never seen before in addition to the industry-best social media coverage and commitment to providing teams with the best, most organized and most professional tournament experience. Sure, we’re biased, but we can’t wait for y’all to see what we’re working on.
In the meantime, we wanted to publish our first list coming out of an exciting summer season to give readers a great look at what’s to come. If you haven’t noticed, beginning in July we started providing written evaluation and scouting coverage from our events published at fivetool.org to supplement our fantastic work across multiple social media platforms. In fact, we published over 30,000 words about 15U, 16U, and 17U players ranging from the truly elite of the elite to the lesser-known standout players deserving of recognition and an opportunity to keep playing baseball at the next level.
We think it’s important to provide some background about the rankings process, how we arrived where we did, discuss some general questions… basically, we wanted to have a space to add some commentary to the list and process as opposed to just releasing it without any explanation.
WHO RANKS THE PLAYERS?
I’m (Dustin McComas) primarily responsible. This project is my baby and the 1-55 is numbered by me and every scouting breakdown is written by me. Well, not my actual baby because Jack, my 16-month old son, currently runs my life. But you get the point. For background: I was an associate scout/amateur consultant for five years (Pirates and Dodgers); I was invited to and attended the Pittsburgh Pirates Scout School; over the last few years, I’ve interviewed with several MLB teams for area scouting positions and was a finalist with the Seattle Mariners; during my time covering the Longhorns for Orangebloods.com, my coverage led to countless conversations with scouts, crosscheckers and scouting directors about players and helped serve as a source for information.
Drew Bishop, who also recently joined Five Tool in July after 13 years as the Director of Baseball Operations at the University of Texas, has a big hand in the process as well. Bishop was an integral part of recruiting at Texas and had an up-close view of the types of players who succeed and the types of players who don’t at the absolute highest level in college. Additionally, other Five Tool employees have input as well.
CAN YOU EXPLAIN YOUR PROCESS?
First, let’s get this out of the way: players who don’t participate in Five Tool events, an extremely small list, aren’t penalized. Frankly, as an evaluator it’s nice to get multiple looks at hitters because I believe it’s difficult to have a true feel for a position player until I watch him for the equivalent of a weekend series (three games). On the other hand, pitchers are easier to have a true feel for after one appearance.
So, yeah, let’s be honest: the more times a Five Tool evaluator sees you, the more data he has to shape an evaluation. But a player won’t move down a list because he doesn’t participate in many Five Tool events just like a player won’t move up a list primarily because he plays in a bunch of Five Tool events. You’ll see that in the list. Shameless plug: we REALLY hope all players put Five Tool events on their summer calendar, and we feel REALLY good about the experience, organization, coverage and competition those players will see.
A peek behind the curtain won’t reveal an Excel sheet we’ve devised with some sort of formula to spit out a list; for the MLB Draft nerds, I used that term with the most sincere affection because I am one, Five Tool is not a “computer model team,” although it would be pretty awesome to have all that data and capability.
At its core, this list is an attempt to represent the best players in the state of Texas. Not just the best prospects, the best performers, the best players currently without any recognition of future grades and projection. It’s all a blend. Ideally, when the 2022 MLB Draft arrives next summer, our list should, hopefully, match the thoughts of the professional industry and prospect status undoubtedly matters. However, there will be players we disagree with some of them on too, and you’d be surprised at how wide-ranging the evaluations are for top players.
That said, there are numerous examples each college baseball season of all-conference or All-American-type players who are among the best in the sport and don’t carry that same prospect status as others; those players are still really, really good and receive national recognition. Plus, it’s increasingly rare at the high school level to find a great prospect who also isn’t a great player; although there are certainly cases of current players who are better right now and are strong prospects, but lack that top end potential in skill, physicality and talent that other players possess who might not be performing as well. Development isn’t linear.
Personally, I aim to take a true scouting approach to this process. I believe in seeing players in person, and I’m confident that before the 2022 MLB Draft, Drew and I will have seen every single player in our Five Tool 55. Right now, since I started in July, I’m playing a little catch-up with in-person looks, but was fortunate to spend July on the road every weekend.
Fortunately, there are fantastic resources online, like the wealth of Five Tool social media videos (Jeff Kahn and his team are truly the best at what they do and cover an incredible amount of players) and YouTube coverage from things like Area Code tryouts and select and high school games. Plus, search a little and you can find online streams of events like the USA Baseball’s Prospect Development Pipeline League, Area Code and USA Baseball. Nothing beats seeing a player in person, but with the advancement in technology, film doesn’t lag as far behind as it used to and is a great tool.
Speaking of a true scouting process, that’s how we shape rankings: tools, skill, makeup, physical and mental traits, current ability, future ability and performance. While tools get the internal grades and discussion, performance absolutely matters. How scouts evaluate and write reports goes well beyond what they see, though. A good scout has a network of trusted sources available for background information about mostly makeup but also about performance and skill/talent. After all, scouts, like us, can’t be at every game a top player plays in.
Throughout this process of putting together the list, which basically occupied a month of work hours, we spoke with coaches and scouts to gather our own background information and also to get a pulse for how the professional industry views players and how the coaches who spend their entire summers with these kids and playing against them view the class. By no means is our list simply what scouts think. Again, you’d be surprised at how wide-ranging their current opinions are about players and the list of players with similar reports is incredibly small. But flying blind and ignoring the professional opinions is, to be blunt, silly.
I suppose this is a long way of saying a lot of factors go into a ranking but the process mirrors a professional one. You’d probably never guess my columns were lengthy at Orangebloods.com. Thank goodness I wasn’t restricted to a word count.
HEY, WHAT ACTUALLY IS THE LIST?
Oh, right. Sticking with the number that appears all over social media and the website, the numbered list is the Five Tool 55 for the 2022 class. Also included will be a list of players who just missed the cut and then another list of “follows” that are intriguing, talented players worthy of recognition and attention. They are all good baseball players.
I want to stress this as much as possible: being 55th on a list like this means the player is really, really good. The state of Texas is one of the top states for high school baseball talent every single year. There are players on the “just missed” or “follow” lists who have draft potential whether it’s out of high school or college and could be impact players in college. That makes them some of the best players in the entire country. I hope people keep that in mind.
HOW MANY TIMES WILL THE LIST BE UPDATED?
Tentatively, the plan is for an update after each “season,” which includes the summer, fall and high school. I say “tentatively” because these lists take a long time and I’ve only been riding in this saddle for two months. Obviously, fall looks are limited and many players play football or take a break. Personally, I’m a fan of multi-sport athletes because I think it teaches kids how to compete in a different arena, challenges them mentally, and affords them another opportunity to be a teammate. But I’m also a fan of being able to drive a couple of hours and see some really good players scrimmage a JUCO team on a cool fall night.
In the future, likely in December, we’ll unveil the 2023 version of the list after attending numerous fall events and gathering intel about rising juniors.
IS YOUR LIST PERFECT?
Goodness, no. It would be naïve of me, and extremely arrogant, to sit in my desk chair and type that this list is presented without flaw. We’re going to have misses. Everyone does, even the professionals. The Lone Star State is a big one. “Everything is bigger in Texas,” muttered the evaluator in his terrible Sam Elliott voice. There are a lot of really, really good players, which means there are going to be some that should have been ranked higher, some that should have been lower and some that weren’t included at all that should have been. It happens. Nature of the beast.
Each high school season in Texas at least one player pops up, catches helium, and becomes a draft guy; each season there is a college recruiting class that nabs a player extremely late in his senior season who ends up being a future all-conference player and draft pick. Again, development isn’t linear and perhaps baseball represents that better than any sport. The important thing is the list is presented with conviction.
Something I always tell myself in the summer: I don’t know what the player I’m watching has done recently. I don’t know if he’s been traveling like crazy and threw a lot of pitches not long ago. I don’t know if he went to the beach the day before. I don’t know if he swam in a pool for eight hours or worked a part-time job yesterday. I don’t know if he’s played another position and then pitched twice in the same tournament for two months straight. And what I see on July 7th might be different from what someone else saw June 17th. That’s okay. There should be an understanding that these guys are high school players and not finely tuned professionals.
WHY EVEN HAVE A LIST?
I might be asking myself this over the next few weeks if my email and/or Twitter direct message inbox fills with a lot of… let’s just call them differing opinions to put it nicely. The passion of select baseball parents is rivaled only by AAU basketball parents. Fortunately, I have some experience with the latter and grew up dealing with the former thanks to my dad being our select coach. Shout out to the Spring Sharks.
Why have a list? Lists are fun. They’re fun to look back at. They generate discussion, but that’s not why we publish them. Most importantly, lists serve as another tool for the baseball community, which includes coaches of all levels, scouts, players, and families. As you’ll see from now on, we’re taking the evaluation side of amateur baseball in Texas very seriously. Five Tool has invested in that and aims to be your go-to place for Texas amateur baseball and, eventually, beyond.
Look for Nos. 55-36 to be released later today with Nos. 35-16 tomorrow, Nos. 16-5 Thursday and finally Nos. 5-1 Sunday night along with “just missed” and follow lists.
Dustin McComas – Follow me on Twitter
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