Baseball Most Important Positions Ranked
Although every player on the diamond must be at peak performance and working together to win games, almost indisputably, the most important defensive position in baseball is the pitcher. This list ranks the baseball positions, from lowest to highest, in order of traditional importance to a team’s defense. However, keep in mind that these rankings are somewhat subjective and mostly reflect the amount of action these defenders tend to see in any given baseball game.
What Are the Most Important Positions in Baseball?
The most important positions in baseball, ranked from most to least important, are:
The most important defensive position on any baseball team is the pitcher. This would be true even if all other deciding factors were wiped away, and the only metric remaining was who comes in contact with the ball most. Each play begins with the pitcher, and the pitcher touches the baseball on every single defensive play. Batters, and thus the entire defense, react to whatever happens after a pitcher releases the ball. A good pitcher can make a game, and a poorly-performing pitcher can break one.
The catcher of a baseball team plays many indispensable roles for the defense: they control the tempo of the game, act as a leader and coach to their teammates, and are the last line of defense simply by their positioning behind home plate. Catchers are the second-most important players on a defense for all these reasons, but also because they must possess a deep knowledge of the game to be effective in their roles. Catchers are critical to a team’s defensive strategy, pitch-calling, and much more. Finally, other than the pitcher, they are the position on the field that most often comes in contact with the ball.
3. First Baseman
Each time a baseball is hit, the batter’s first stop is at first base. This means that first basemen see a lot of action throughout a baseball game and are required to participate in most of the outs made by the defense. Successful first basemen have reliable gloves and an ability not to let any ground balls get past them into right field. First base is one of the most important positions on a baseball team’s defense. A first baseman with a poor glove means exponentially more runners on base and more possibilities for the opposing team to score.
Shortstops and catchers often work together to lead the infield, remaining in constant communication when there are runners on base. The shortstop also ties together the infield and outfield, as often, this position is the one communicating with and receiving relay throws from the outfielders. Shortstops are often the best all-around players in the infield, as they need to possess strong arms, quick gloves, and leadership qualities.
5. Center Fielder
Center fielders often play an overlooked but critical position on a team’s defense. One of the primary jobs of this position is to back up multiple other positions, a baseball job no one notices until it is done incorrectly. Center fielders are constantly on the run, providing backup for left and right field and for the shortstop and second baseman. This means they need to be quick, possess an ability to cover a lot of ground, and have the strongest arm in the outfield. Without a doubt, center fielders are the most important position in the outfield.
6. Third Baseman
Usually, the third baseman has the strongest and most accurate arm of the team’s infielders. Third basemen not only have the longest distance to consistently throw, but any errors on their end can also end up being the most detrimental to the team due to their proximity to home plate. The only reason third basemen do not rank higher on this list is because of the relatively limited amount of action they see in a typical baseball game and because they have less area to cover and duties to juggle than most of the other infielders.
7. Second Baseman
Speed is one of the most important qualities in a second baseman. Although second base is arguably the least important position in the infield, many balls still come to this part of the infield, and it is the second baseman’s job to make sure they don’t pass him into the outfield. However, this player’s arm is usually less strong than the shortstop or third baseman’s, as most of the time, he is throwing directly to first base. Second basemen play an important role in keeping the ball in the infield and attempting to tag or throw out baserunners.
8. Left Fielder
Left fielders may not rank too highly on this list, but similarly to right fielders, when the ball comes their way, it is extremely important that they field it correctly and throw the ball back into the infield accurately. Left fielders are also responsible for backing up the third baseman. The left fielder’s successful follow-up on anything that gets past third base can many times be a matter of saving their team multiple runs.
9. Right Fielder
The right fielder is typically one of the weakest overall fielders on a baseball team, as right field is usually the rarest place for the ball to be hit. However, though this position may not always see a lot of action, it is critical that they are able to perform when the ball is hit their way. Right fielders usually have an extremely long distance to throw if a ball does reach them, so having a strong arm is of the essence for players of this position.