The best tools in baseball
The top tools of the game
So which players have the best tools? Who is the best hitter and the best fielder? Who has the best fastball and the best curveball?
We break it down, with some input from the players themselves.
Hitting: Albert Pujols, Cardinals
"There's only one (Pujols)," says White Sox slugger Adam Dunn. "There are not a lot of guys who hit for high average and a ton of power. He's the exception to the rule. He's got it all. He's big, he's got a short swing and he can hit everything."
Honorable mention: Ichiro Suzuki (Mariners), Joey Votto (Reds), Josh Hamilton (Rangers)
Hitting for power: Adam Dunn, White Sox
As for the secret behind his power, Dunn isn't sure, but says his size (6-6, 287) and bat size (34.5 ounces, whereas most use 32 or 33 ounce bats) are contributing factors.
"I'm not a real technical hitter, so I don't know why," he says. "Other than my size and, I guess, leverage, I don't know where it comes from. Some people are better at some things than others. My game is obviously not the speed game."
Honorable mention: Albert Pujols (Cardinals), Josh Hamilton (Rangers), Prince Fielder (Brewers).
Defense: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
Tulowitzki earned his first Gold Glove and second Fielding Bible Award in 2010, saving the Rockies 16 runs. The 6-3 shortstop has followed in the footsteps of guys like Cal Ripken, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, proving big men can field the position.
"For me, being a big shortstop, I have to do a lot of footwork stuff," Tulowitzki says. "Most of the guys I'm in competition with are speedy guys that have good first steps and their main thing is defense. For me, I have to make sure my footwork is just as quick as theirs, which isn't the easiest thing."
Honorable mention: Evan Longoria (Rays), Michael Bourn (Astros), Chase Utley (Phillies).
Throwing arm: Shin-Soo Choo, Indians
Among Choo's talents is a strong left arm that he uses to gun down runners on the basepaths. Choo threw out 11 baserunners in 2009, and then gunned down 14 more last season. The Indians are baffled that runners keep testing their star right fielder, but they're not complaining. As for Choo, he's only aiming to get better.
"Hitting is important, but defense I think changes baseball," he says. "You make a good play throwing out runners, and games change. I want to adjust this year. Last year I had a couple times where I tried to throw out runners and threw it too high. I don't want to miss this year."
Honorable mention: Ichiro Suzuki (Mariners), Josh Hamilton (Rangers), Jeff Francoeur (Royals).
Base stealing: Juan Pierre, White Sox
Pierre is the active leader in stolen bases (527), has led the NL in steals twice, and the AL once (with a career-high 68 last season at age 32).
Manager Ozzie Guillen loves having a disruptive force like Pierre leading off, and hopes the speedster will get on base often for the big boppers behind him in the lineup.
Honorable mention: Carl Crawford (Red Sox), Michael Bourn (Astros).
Fastball: Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies
San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey agrees, saying "Jimenez has a fastball that jumps, plus he's like 10 feet tall it seems like, with arms and legs coming at you."
Posey compares Jimenez's deception to that of Giants closer Brian Wilson. "It's a guy that hides the ball well, and you don't see the ball in his hand before he releases it. So there's some deception in there and all of a sudden it feels like it's on you."
Honorable mention: Aroldis Chapman (Reds), Justin Verlander (Tigers).
Changeup: Tim Lincecum, Giants
What makes Lincecum's changeup so tough? "The deception," says Posey. "It looks like his fastball coming out. He does a really good job with his arm speed, and the bottom of it falls out of it when it gets to home plate."
"Lincecum has a delivery where hitters want to jump to the ball a little bit," explains Chicago Cubs pitching coach Mark Riggins. "When you're a fast delivery guy and it's coming hard, the hitter's coming after you a little bit. ... Lincecum's is just super-fast and the ball just comes out soft. The hitters think it's a fastball, and they don't recognize it."
Honorable mention: Felix Hernandez (Mariners), CC Sabathia (Yankees).
Curveball: C.J. Wilson, Rangers
Wilson was a success in his first season as a starter in 2010 in part because of a nasty breaking pitch that was part-curve, part-slider, part-nasty.
"I don't know what C.J. Wilson calls his," says Posey. "I don't know if it's a curve ball or he calls it a slider, but whatever it is it goes down pretty hard. I thought he had a pretty good one, as far as the curveball goes.
"The guys that have the best curveballs, the spin on it is really tight. So it still kinda has that fastball look to it. The ones that are good come out straight and go down, they don't go up and come down."
Honorable mention: Adam Wainwright (Cardinals), Chad Billingsley (Dodgers), Roy Halladay (Phillies).
Slider: Carlos Marmol, Cubs
"The hitters in the league fear his slider," Riggins says. "He can throw it for strikes, he can throw it for balls. At some points he can throw his slider for more strikes than his fastball."
Riggins says Marmol can throw his slider in different ways -- sometimes it has more downward bite, sometimes it has more of a frisbee action -- but says Marmol doesn't do it on purpose. If that talent can be harnessed, as Riggins says Darryl Kile and David Cone could do, Marmol could be even more dangerous.
Honorable mention: Ryan Dempster (Cubs), Zack Greinke (Brewers), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers).
Cutter: Mariano Rivera, Yankees
His cutter looks like a fastball, yet darts away from right-handers -- and into lefties -- at the last possible moment. The movement is so hard and so late that hitters can't square it up, even when they know it's coming.
"Coming out of the hand, generally it takes about 13-15 feet for the hitter to actually start focusing on that pitch," says Riggins. "You have the focusing part, the recognition part, and then once it gets down to the plate area, that's the decision of whether I'm swinging or not.
"Mariano's (movement) is so late, you've already committed to swing, and they just can't hold up on it."
Honorable mention: Jon Lester (Red Sox), Roy Halladay (Phillies).