If you were to ask scouts or front-office members -- or just anyone affiliated with baseball -- what the most difficult tool is to grade for position players, you would almost assuredly hear the hit tool mentioned fairly early on, if not first. It's especially difficult in terms of projection for those in the scouting world, as so much more goes into it than grading some of the other skills you are looking for in a potential hitter.
"There are just so many variables that go into [grading the hit tool]," one AL West scout said. "You're not just judging the guy's swing path or how much he's going to swing and miss, you end up judging his ability to make adjustments, how often he's putting himself into hitter's counts and how many at-bats you're giving away. There are all sorts of variables.
"What makes it really hard though, is that you have to project just how much they're going to be willing to do that in the future. That's why so many people get the hit tool wrong, because you assume a patient hitter is going to stay patient when they reach the big leagues, or you assume that a 'hacker' is going to not be that way. You see lots of cases where things change awful quick, so guys with 45 hit tools can become above-average awful quickly, and guys you think might be 60 can drop like that."
With that as the backdrop, there are several prospects who look like they're going to hit for average in the future, with a few of those hitters looking like they could be among the leaders in their respective leagues. Here's a look at five hitters who could help your fantasy team's batting average in 2014, and five more who can help you in the not-so-distant future as well.
Best hit-tool prospects for 2014
1. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Current level: Triple-A Memphis
Hit tool grade: 70
Analysis: There will be some tough calls as to who belongs at the top of these scouting tool lists, but this wasn't one of them.