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Pitchers aren’t the only guys lighting up the radar gun these days. Many infielders and other position players in Major League Baseball can sling it across the diamond at high velocities.
Some of the best infielders at the Major League level can reach velocities as high as the mid 90’s. Their arm strength is what allows some of the best infielders in the game to make plays that others with less arm strength can’t.
Read on to learn more about how infielders at the major league and other levels utilize their arm strength on defense.
Statcast is a technology that was introduced in all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums in 2015. This program tracks things such as exit velocity, spin rate, home run distance, pitch location, and much more during every Major League game.
This is also how throwing velocities for defensive players are tracked in a category called “Arm Strength”. As of 2020, the MLB does not share that data for infielders and outfielders publically, but when watching any Major League game, a fan is likely to see a reference to a player’s arm strength and the throwing velocity on a particular play via statcast.
Take this throw from Chicago Cubs shortstop Javier Baez ( video below), for example. It reaches a speed of 94.8 miles per hour and a max throwing distance of 104.5 feet. 94 miles per hour is nothing to write home about on the mound, but considering that infielders typically have a much quicker release than pitchers, this velocity is exceptional.
Infielders with Cannons
To give you some perspective, here are two of MLB’s top arm talents when it comes to infielders and their average velocities according to MLB.com:
Fernando Tatis Jr. (average 91.1 mph, top 94)
Tatis Jr. made a name for himself this year with his bat and flashy play, but don’t look past his defensive ability and natural arm strength. In 2019, his average velocity of 91.1 miles per hour led the league. He consistently throws the ball across the infield in the 90 mile per hour range.
Javier Baez (average 88.3 mp, top 94.8)
While his average may be lower than Tatis Jr.’s, he is perfectly capable of reaching even higher velocities. Baez has often rotated between shortstop and second base which may have skewed his average as second base does not require as many max effort throws as a shortstop.
Outfielders Have Cannons Too
As opposed to infielders, outfielders are capable of reaching even higher velocities than infielders and even some pitchers on their throws. This is likely due to the nature of the position. Outfielders make much longer throws and have the ability to gain more momentum toward their throwing target than infielders do.
Whether the ball makes it to the outfield in the air or on the ground, outfielders have more time to get themselves in a position to work through the ball and put themselves in a good position that lines them up to their target. Some of the best outfielders can sometimes reach 100 miles per hour on their throws. This video below consists of a compilation of outfield throws that reached 95+ mph in 2018.
MLB.com lists Ramon Laureano (average 94.8, top 100.1) and Cody Bellinger (101.1 top) as two outfielders with some of the best arms in the league.
Showcasing the Arm
Younger players rarely have the opportunity to play in stadiums where statcast tracks their every move. With teams putting more stock than ever into quantitative data in their scouting, the lower levels have had to find ways to allow younger players to showcase their arm strength to scouts and college recruiters. Here is how this is done:
In a showcase for infielders, a coach typically hits around five ground balls (two basic ground balls, one to the forehand, one to the backhand, and a slow roller) to a player standing in the shortstop position. This allows him to showcase his hands, footwork, and overall mechanics when it comes to fielding ground balls. It also allows him to show off his arm strength as a radar gun is often set up behind the first baseman to track the throwing velocity on each throw.
It is important to note that scouts do not like to see infielders sacrifice form and quickness for arm strength in this type of showcase. The player who fields the ball and takes two or three running steps toward first base to get more momentum is not giving the coach an accurate depiction of how hard he will be able to throw the ball across the infield in a game situation.
Although this video does not show the final slow roller at the end, it is a good video to watch to show the process of how infielders showcase their arms.
In a showcase for outfielders, a coach typically hits about four balls (two fly balls and two ground balls) to a player standing in right field. The player throws the first two to third base and the second two to home plate. A radar gun is often placed between first and second base to track the velocity of the throw.
While the player’s form in catching the ball is important, scouts most often use this showcase drill to evaluate the outfielder’s arm strength.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the average infield velocity at each level?
Gobigrecruiting.com has outlined some average throwing velocities — as well as some other interesting measurables — for infielders on its website. Take a look at this resource to learn more about how fast defensive players typically throw at each level.
Can a player who lacks arm strength be effective in the infield?
Yes. He just has to make up for his lack of arm strength in other ways. Most infielders with sub par arms do this with a quick release or a quick transfer from the glove to the throwing hand.
When will MLB begin sharing Statcast numbers on Arm Strength?
The answer to this is unknown, but hopefully they do it sooner rather than later. They already share arm strength measurables for catchers, so it is likely to assume that infielders and outfielders will follow sometime in the near future.