Just like a car engine that has multiple parts to make it run, each fielding or defensive position must work in harmony with the rest of the team to succeed.
In T-ball, you are just trying to get kids acclimated to handling a ball so the position they take up is not that important.
However, as they age into older leagues, you will find out that each position has unique responsibilities that impacts the outcome of a game.
In addition, not many players can play all positions. Some differentiating skills are:
- Strong arms
- Quick hands
- High baseball IQ
All these factors go into determining which position is best suited for your child.
Having said that, I am a firm believer in letting kids try all positions when they are younger.
If you see that your child is always being sent to the outfield, you can and should ask (nicely) your child’s team manager to mix in infield and outfield positions.
I am a firm believer that most baseball skills can be taught and developed so don’t let some daddy-ball manager to tell you otherwise.
Baseball Position Names and Position Numbers
There are nine primary positions that can be identified by their position number, name or abbreviation:
- Position #1, Pitcher (P)
- Position #2, Catcher (C)
- Position #3, 1st Base (1B)
- Position #4, 2nd Base (2B)
- Position #5, 3rd Base (3B)
- Position #6, Shortstop (SS)
- Position #7, Left Field (LF)
- Position #8, Center Field (CF)
- Position #9, Right Field (RF)
What is the purpose of using a position number (instead of using names or abbreviations)?
Before the invention of an electronic scoring app, all score-keeping was done by hand.
That meant a shorthand method needed to be developed to allow scorekeepers to quickly record a play.
Here is a sample of a hand written game sheet.
- A = This player’s defensive assignment is a first baseman (Position 3)
- B = “F9” means a fly-out to the right fielder (Position 9)
- C = 2 in a circle means there are two outs
- D = “4-3” means a grounder to the 2nd baseman who threw the ball to the first baseman to record an out (if it was a 4-3 Double Play, it would have been recorded as “4-3 DP”)
Today, I would say most games are scored using a smartphone. A common (free) app is the Game Changer by Dicks Sporting Goods which is the app used to score the LL 12U World Series games.
The app allows you to print out a scoresheet:
- A = Player’s defensive assignment (Shortstop or SS)
- B = “F8” means a fly-out to the center fielder (Position 8)
- C = 1 in a circle means there are one out
Why is shortstop assigned a position number 6 (instead of 5)?
If you have watched any MLB games, you probably have heard some of the following phrase:
- 5-4-3 triple play
- “6-4-3” double play (it means with a runner on first base, a grounder as fielded by a shortstop who fed the ball to 2nd baseman (who then threw the batter out at first)
Pitcher is assigned #1 because the ball rests in the pitcher’s hands at the start of each play.
There are three types of pitchers:
- Relief pitchers
The primary responsibility of a pitcher is to either strike out a batter or induce a grounder for out(s).
Other responsibilities including fielding bunts and ground balls (i.e. comebacker), covering first base when the first baseman has to field a ball.
Pitchers also act as a cutoff as well as backing up infielders.
As of 2021, the top five pitchers in the MLB are considered to be: Jacob deGrom (Mets), Gerrit Cole (Yankees), Trevor Bauer (Dodgers), Walker Buehler (Dodgers) and Yu darvish (Cubs). You can read more about each players from BaseballSpotlight.com
Considered to be the physically most demanding position, the catcher (position #2) works closely with the pitcher to get batters out.
Due to his unique viewpoint behind the home plate, he has a clear view of all players so he is like a general on a battlefield directing the play.
Using his protective equipment, the catcher is expected to block wild pitches, catching foul balls, throwing out base stealers as well as tagging out runners at home plate.
There aren’t too many talented catchers heading into 2021 but according to NBCsports.com, these catchers are considered to be one of the best in the trade: JT Realmuto (Phillies), Savador Perez (Royals), Wilson Contreras (Cubs), Will Smith (Dodgers) and Yasmani Grandal (White Sox)
First baseman (position #3) is on the receiving end of the majority of the throws from other infielders so he needs to have a solid glove skills as well as be able to handle poorly thrown balls.
This position is considered to be the least athletic position on the team (i.e. solid hitter with slow feet ended up as a first baseman or left/right fielder).
Top 5 first baseman are: Vladimir Guerrero Jr (Blue Jays), Matt Olson (Athletics), Paul Goldschmidt (Cardinals), Max Muncy (Dodgers) and Freddie Freeman (Braves). Read the top 25 first baseman rankings from BleacherReports.com
In baseball, second baseman and shortstop (two middle infielders) can make or break a team because these two players will handle the majority of batted balls staying infield.
I have seen tons of games lost where pitchers may be doing great but the second baseman commits lots of errors.
Standing between first and second base, a second baseman (position #4) is responsible for fielding ground balls and covering second base on steal attempts.
Out of all infielders, second baseman has the weakest arm (strength).
Top 5 second baseman are: DJ LeMahier (Yankees), Ozzie Albies (Braves), Brandon Lowe (Rays), Jeff McNeil (Mets) and Ketel Marte (Diamondbacks). Read the top 10 second baseman list from NBCsports.comhttps://www.nbcsports.com/boston/red-sox/2021-mlb-preview-ranking-top-10-second-basemen-league-0
Commonly referred to as the “hot corner”, third baseman (position #5) is situated closest to a batted ball so he needs a quick reaction time.
The position demands that he can knock down hard hit balls and make an accurate throw across the infield (127 feet on a 60×90 field).
Nolan Arenado (Cardinals), Rafael Devers (Red Sox), Manny Machado (Padres), Yoan Moncada (White Sox) and Austin Riley are considered to be top third basemen in 2021 (MLB 3B Nominees)
Shortstop (#6) is by far the most athletic player among infielders as he must be able to think fast and make quick and strong throws.
Although the outfielders have priority over fly balls, you will a shortstop chasing down pop fly balls (i.e. fly balls are usually caught by outfielders; pop flys are mostly caught by infielders).
Fracisco Tatis Jr (Padres), Francisco Lindor (Mets), Trevor Story (Rockies), Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox) and Corey Seager (Dodgers) are considered to be top 5 shortstops in the MLB (NBCsports.com)
Approximately 80% of the MLB players are right-handed dominant (i.e. right-handed batters).
Most hitters are “pull hitters” which means batted balls usually end up somewhere between left fielders (position #7) and center fielders.
According to BleacherReports.com, the top 5 left outfielders are: Christian Yelich (Brewers), Marcell Ozuna (Braves), Michael Brantley (Astros), Lourdes Guerriel Jr (Blue Jays) and Eloy Jimenez (White Sox).
Usually situated in-line with 2nd base, center fielder (position #8) is in charge of the outfield. He also has priority in catching balls over left or right fielders (but he needs to call for the ball)
Center fielder should be the fastest runner above left and right fielders.
Top five center fielders are: Mike Trout (Angels), Cody Bellinger (Dodgers), Adolis Garcia (Rangers), Byron Buxton (Twins) and Randal Grichuk (Blue Jays) (see fanrankings.com)
Right fielder (position #9) has the strongest arm. Since most batted baseballs are hit towards the center/left, a right fielder sees less fielding opportunities than other outfielders.
According to fanrankings.com, the top 5 right fielders are Mookie Betts (Dodgers), Ronald Acuna (Nationals), Juan Soto (Nationals), Bryce Harper (Phillies) and Aaron Judge (Yankees).
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a 4-3 double play?
- With a runner on first base, a ground ball is fielded by the second baseman( position #4). He steps on the second base to record an out then throws the ball to the first baseman (position #3) for the second out
- What is a 5-4-3 double play?
- With a runner on first base, a ground ball is fielded by the third baseman (position #5). He throws the ball to the second base man (position #4) for an out; the second baseman then throws the ball to the first baseman (position #3) for the second out
- What is a 6-4-3 double play?
- With a runner on first base, a ground ball is fielded by the shortstop (position #6). He feeds the ball to the second base man (position #4) for an out; the second baseman then throws the ball to the first baseman (position #3) for the second out
- What is a 4-6-3 double play?
- Identical to the 6-4-3 play except that the second baseman (position #4) fields and feeds the ball to the shortstop (position #6) who is covering the second base. With a runner on first base, a ground ball is fielded by the shortstop (position #6). He feeds the ball to the second base man (position #4) for an out; the second baseman then throws the ball to the first baseman (position #3) for the second out.
- What is a 1-unassisted double play?
- Very rare play where a defensive player gets two outs without any help from his teammates. One recent play was when Kendall Graveman (pitcher) was able to field a ground ball and tag out the runner on third base AND tag out advancing runner from 2nd base. This link is a compilation view of all unassisted double plays.
- What is a 1-unassisted triple play?
- SUPER rare play where a defensive player gets three outs all by himself (you can see the MLB compilation video here)
- What is a 3-6-3 double play?
- The first baseman throws to second, then runs back to cover his base before the second baseman returns the ball to him for the second out