How To Become A 5 Tool Prospect
A 5 tool prospect is a scout or coaches dream. An athlete who can hit for power, hit for average, play elite defense, steal bases and has a strong throwing arm. They can impact the game in many different ways. As a baseball player, your goal should be to develop these tools. In my humble opinion, traditional baseball training has done a disservice to the development of young baseball athletes. In this article we will discuss the importance of developing elite biomechanics, strength & conditioning, movement efficiency/enhancement and nutrition to become a 5 tool prospect.
Developing Elite Biomechanics
5 tool players generally have natural genetic talent, but that doesn't mean you cannot train to develop the same traits. You just need to take a look under the hood. Typically 5 tool players are born with good height, limb length, tendon strength, joint mobility, muscle mass, muscle fiber type, fast twitch central nervous system etc. This allows them to efficiently produce force through their kinetic chain and display elite biomechanics in running, hitting and throwing. Your training must incorporate sport specific exercises to train these elite biomechanics. For example, hip to shoulder separation, is a key component to both swing and throwing velocity, but 95% of coaches either don't teach it or teach it poorly. Triple extension of the ankle, knee and hip is vital to sprint speed and throwing velocity, but most baseball coaches wouldn't be able to tell you what it is, let alone train it. Before you go getting mad at your coach, know there job isn't to teach you how to move like an elite athlete. Their job is to win baseball games. It is your responsibility to research and understand the best way to perfect your craft. Understanding the biomechanics of an elite swing, high velocity throw, elite sprint acceleration etc. is a huge first step to becoming a 5 tool prospect. The best way to do this is communicating with a coach who is a specialist in this area. With social media this has become easier than ever. For example, take a side view video of your sprint form, swing, or throwing mechanics and send it to me through my DM's on Instagram (@stevenguadagni) and I will give you a quick free analysis.
Strength & Conditioning
Strength & Conditioning is finally becoming more acceptable in baseball. For the longest time it was considered taboo to lift heavy weights for fear of becoming too big, tight and bulky. Fortunately, I believe most coaches are starting to shake that misconception. Not to say that this can't happen if you are training the wrong way! Understand that training to become a 5 tool player requires an emphasis on training to develop explosive power. Baseball is a anaerobic sport. Anaerobic activities are short bursts of high intensity that last 8-12 seconds or less using the ATP-PC energy system. Basically, every play on a baseball field fits in this category. A possible exception might be an inside the park home run. That being said, your training emphasis needs to be focused on developing anaerobic, short burst explosiveness. I believe there is a time and place for a mesocycle consisting of strength endurance training, but that is for a whole other article. As an athlete your job is to to have a year round plan for strength & conditioning. This is by far one of the most important steps to become a 5 tool player. If you are not genetically an elite athlete you need to work to build it! If you don't have a strength & conditioning plan or if you want one of the best programs, look into The Five Tool Prospect Manual. It incorporates a year round periodized program utilizing Olympic lifts, heavy load training, plyometrics, medicine ball training, and anaerobic conditioning to develop the horsepower and explosiveness of a 5 tool player.
“Prior to the late 1980s the practice of resistance training to improve baseball performance was considered taboo for fear players would lose mobility and speed due to increased muscle volume. On the contrary, a significant relationship exists between increasing body mass indexes and offensive performances in Major League Baseball players following the year 1980. Of more importance to this study population, lean body mass, lower- and upper-body power, and strength are all positively associated with greater bat velocity (a major component of hitting success) in high school and collegiate baseball players. Additionally, lower body strength and body composition are associated with increased sprinting and jumping abilities in collegiate athletes. The use of periodized resistance training to increase strength, lean mass, and power therefore contributes to improved batting, throwing, and base running performance.” (1)
Movement Efficiency & Enhancement
As we have discussed efficiently transferring energy through the kinetic chain is vital to enhancing performance in all 5 tools. Building power in the weight room gives you the horsepower and can make up for a lot of movement deficiencies, but having the joint mobility and elasticity to tranfer power from the ground up is equally important to enhance performance and reduce the risk of injury. As an athlete, you need to know where your restrictions/lack of range of motion are in your body. Full body assessments from a professional give you a good baseline of where you are at. Next you need to determine if it is a strength, flexibility or mobility issue. A good movement assessment and correction coach should be able to determine where you are limited and give you a good plan to add to your strength & conditioning routine. Typically, we see restrictions in the ankle dorsiflexion, hip internal/external rotation, hip extension/flexion, trunk rotation, thoracic extension/rotation, shoulder internal/external rotation, horizontal shoulder abduction etc. Each athlete has unique restrictions that need to be addressed. Breaks in the kinetic chain from movement dysfunction significantly hamper your performance and cause overcompensation that leads to injury. If you don't know where your issues are get assessed today! Your performance and health will thank you. If you would like to be assessed by us at Topvelocity, I highly recommend attending a 2X Velocity Camp for a full evaluation and introduction to our training programs and philosophy.
“Your body is a simple mechanical system composed of “wet” biological tissues. It operates best when it is able to create ideal, stable positions before it generates freakish outputs of power. Most people are familiar with the maxim that functional movement begins in a wave of contraction from core to sleeve, from trunk to periphery, from axial skeleton to peripheral skeleton. This principle is a good example of the body operating best when all its circuits are closed -- spine stable and braced, hips stable, shoulders stable, feet straight, etc -- before movement is initiated. The problem is that the body is always able to generate force, even in poor positions. This is not unlike being able to get away with driving your car with no oil in the engine or with a flat tire. Sure, you can do it temporarily; it just gets expensive. Your body will always default to a “secondary” or “second order” system of stabilization, with a rounded back, internally rotated shoulders, collapsed knees and ankles, etc. This is what I mean by “open circuit” and “movement compensation”: When you compensate into a poor position because you’re missing range of motion or lacking motor control, stability and as an extension force and power, leak from the system at the open circuit site.” - Dr. Kelly Starrett
Nutrition is the final topic, but may be one of the biggest limiting factors for athletes. As we mentioned physical size has a huge correlation to performance. A larger muscle can potentially produce more force than a smaller muscle. Larger athletes tend to perform better offensively in baseball than smaller athletes. There is nothing you can do about your height, but developing more muscle mass (specifically hypertrophying fast twitch muscle fibers) is doable. The two most important things you need to do this is are a weight room and a good nutrition plan. If you are not eating right your recovery time will suffer, you won't build lean muscle mass and your performance will suffer. If you need a good nutrition program check out the Topvelocity Nutritional Program. It teaches you how to design your own meal plan through individualized calorie intake, macronutrient splits and gives you access to a nutrition coach. It's not uncommon for guys to gain 20-30 LBS in an offseason on this program. It is also great for athletes trying to lose body fat, build more lean muscle or maintain weight.
“Increases in force output with resistance training are a result of both neural and hypertrophic adaptations. A direct relationship exists between muscle cross sectional area and force production, however the ability to increase lean mass and force production decreases with training age. As such, nutritional interventions may be necessary to further augment resistance training adaptations. In particular, encouraging athletes to eat higher protein diets (1.8 – 2.2 g/kg) with more frequent protein feedings (4 – 5 feedings/day) in combination with an adequate energy intake is most likely to have the greatest contributions towards enhancing resistance training efforts.” (1)
1. Rossi, Fabrício Eduardo, et al. "The effects of a sports nutrition education intervention on nutritional status, sport nutrition knowledge, body composition, and performance during off season training in NCAA Division I baseball players." Journal of sports science & medicine 16.1 (2017): 60.