Baseball as we know it is changing. More and more pitchers pump their fastballs into the upper 90s. Guys who can touch 100 mph aren’t the exception in big league bullpens – they’re quickly becoming the norm.
The move towards power arms isn’t reserved for pitchers alone. More and more defensive players assert their dominance on the game via their arms. Fans love it and base runners know it. Whether a seed from the outfield to nail a runner at home plate, a rocket from deep in the hole to nip a runner by a step or precision strike from behind the plate, a perfect throw can be a game-changer.
With triples on the wane across baseball, the play at the plate stands as the game’s most exciting moment. And who can we count on to deliver these throws with regularity? The nine guys listed below are a great place to start – baseball’s best arms.
Any question about Andrelton Simmon’s defensive chops were quickly put to rest in 2013. After his 2012 season was cut short by injury, Simmons put in a full slate of games and wowed fans at every turn. Leading the surprising Dutch team to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic served early notice that Simmons was a threat in all facets of the game.
Simmons is the perfect combination of arm strength, range, and release. The above jaw-dropping play shows all three in concert.
Nobody who watches Andrelton can question his inclusion in a list like this. Quite simply, the best defender in the game today.
Blame Yasiel Puig for the current superlative shortage in Southern California. Puig’s explosive introduction to the baseball world but all his tools on display – with the bat, on the bases, and of course in the field. While some of the mental errors and mistakes dogged his play, nobody will ever forget the eye-popping highlights he provided.
Salvador Perez is a monster behind the plate, receiving plaudits and a long-term contract from the Royals based on his incredible defensive reputation. Another player, like Andrelton Simmons, who missed time in 2012 due to injury, Perez put in a full season in 2013 and showed off all the same tools, proving his reputation was grounded in reality.
For good measure, throwing behind a runner just to let him know who’s boss.
No catcher managed more “runner kills” than Perez in 2013, testament to his uncommon strength and accuracy.
Gerardo Parra is one of the very best defensive outfielders in the league, thanks in no small part to his stellar throwing arm. The Diamondbacks have a real asset in Parra, one of the best at getting his body into position to make a quick and accurate throw.
Stop drilling, Gerardo: you struck oil.
While he might not have the range of some younger fly catchers, Bautista is surehanded and always plays balls aggressively with an eye to cutting down base runners. Some fans might overstate the value of an outfield arm but Jose Bautista brings fans out of their blue plastic seats with regularity.
Ian Desmond wasn’t top of mind when this group started coming together but Baseball America ranked him as the best infield arm in the National League in their “Best Tools” coaches poll and his highlights support that claim.
The Nationals shortstop is ready for a big payday, thanks to his improved bat and steady play in the infield. The above play shows the real value of a strong infield arm – the confidence to take his time and make sure because his arm strength is always there to bail him out.
Over the last three seasons, no outfielder has racked up the advanced defensive plaudits quite like Alex Gordon. Usually, strong-armed outfielders are reserved for right field, where their longer throws to third base represent a better use of their skills.
Since shifting from third base, Gordon shows that a good defender makes a difference no matter where he plays. Between cutting down runners stretching doubles or attempting to tag up on fly balls, no outfielder creates more outs or strikes more fear than Alex Gordon.
Who else but Manny Machado? The shortstop-turned-third baseman made enough dazzling plays in his first full season in the majors to last a lifetime. The throw you see before will feature in ballpark highlight reels for years to come.
He might not have the name recognition of the Gold Glove winners but let there be no doubt – Leonys Martin packs a cannon. The perfect marriage of positioning, accuracy, and straight-up gas.
As Martin establishes himself as the Rangers starting center fielder, more and more runners are going to learn valuable lessons when the ball is hit to Martin – Just. Stay. Put.