The term five-tool player refers to a player who does certain things well on the field. He (1) hits for average, (2) hits for power, (3) has speed, (4) plays good defense and (5) has a good throwing arm.
Although a player who is good in all five areas is not necessarily better than a player who has very strong talents in two or three areas, nevertheless baseball fans and knowledgeable observers have often evaluated the rare five-tool players as all-time greats. Players who have been called five-tool players (or have been called equivalent language) include Alex Rodriguez, Buck Ewing, Willie Mays, Barry Larkin and Ryne Sandberg.
The term was first applied to Mays by contemporaries. Looking into the past, researcher Herm Krabbenhoft makes a case that he was not the first such player, as three players from the early decades of the 20th century - Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Honus Wagner - had a similar skill set.
- Herm Krabbenhoft: "Honus Wagner: Baseball's Prototypical Five-Tooler?", in Cecilia M. Tan, ed.: Steel City Stories, The National Pastime, SABR, 2018, pp. 11-14.