How To Decide Which Position To Play In Baseball
With nine total positions on a baseball field, choosing which position to play isn’t a simple process. When you start playing high school baseball, you should consciously consider which position suits your skills best. Ideally, you want to be in a position you enjoy, but you also want to play to your strengths and your team’s needs.
While high school is the time that you should be deciding which position to play, your choice is flexible. High school is the perfect time to experiment with different jobs on the field and work on your skills in a variety of ways. Don’t discredit the value that playing in different spots can give you as an overall player. Learning each position will help you better understand the sport, and a knowledgeable player is a good player.
Even if you end up playing mostly one specific position in high school, that can change when you transition to college baseball with a different team and new coaches. Pitcher, catcher, and shortstop are the most challenging positions on the field, so typically in high school, the best players will play in those roles. But when you join a college baseball team that already has plenty of shortstops and pitchers, you can easily settle into a new position and perform well in that role. Keep this in mind if you aspire to play in college and beyond.
You might find that in high school you settle into a position that suits you very well, such as first baseman or third baseman. This is also a possibility, so be open to it.
In this blog, we will first explain the process you should guide yourself through to choose a baseball position. Then, we will outline the main skills associated with each of the nine positions on the field.
How to Choose a Baseball Position: Evaluate Your Strengths and Weaknesses
In order to decide which position you should play in baseball, you must examine your strengths and weaknesses. Evaluate what you excel at and what you need to work on. Then make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Not just in your head--write it down!
Rank your ability in these critical skills:
- Throwing speed
- Throwing distance
- Catching ability
- Running speed
- Reaction time
Choose a position that makes sense for your skillset. If you have your mindset on playing a position your abilities don’t fully align with yet, play the one you’re best at during games. You can work on your weaknesses outside of game time. During practices, work with your coach to get better at your preferred position.
If you’re unsure which position your strengths will serve you best in, then try them all! Also, if you’re bored of the role you’re currently playing, try a new one! As we touched on earlier, you can gain useful knowledge about the game of baseball by playing in all corners of the field. If you can play decently in a bunch of positions, that’s valuable. Players who can excel in practically every position on the field are referred to as “utility players,” and coaches love having a utility player on their team.
Ultimately, communicate with your high school baseball coach about which positions you’re interested in and the skills you want to improve upon. Also, have an open mindset. If you have the mindset that you’re willing to play any position, you’ll be ready for the moment when your coach throws you in for center field when you usually play first base. Above all else, coaches appreciate team players. And being a team player who can jump into any position will help your self-development as a baseball player in the long run.
Through it, all, don’t forget to practice your hitting! Every baseball player benefits from being a skilled hitter.
The General Skills Needed to Succeed in Each Position
If you need a refresher, these are the nine positions on a baseball field:
Here is an outline of the talents necessary to succeed in each position in baseball. For every position, you don’t need to have a perfect performance in all of the skills relevant when you’re just starting. Being proficient in a few aspects of the role is important when you’re starting a new position, but you will learn as you go.
Relevant skills and traits for playing pitcher:
Throwing fast, hard, and with accuracy
Strength in the entire body
Mentally tough and able to handle high-pressure situations
If you think that pitching is the right job for you, you should have serious throwing talent. You need to be able to throw fast and hard balls that batters will have difficulty hitting. Having accuracy in your throw is also crucial. Throwing to the right place is what’s going to get you stikes and help your team.
In addition to throwing well (to say the least), a pitcher should have strength in their entire body. Having the stamina to pitch inning after inning is important. Also, pitching is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. Being on the pitcher’s mound can be a highly pressurized and frustrating situation, so having mental maturity and a strong focus are beneficial traits for someone playing pitcher.
If you’re a pitcher and you’re interested in improving your throwing mechanics and building up your strength, consider signing up for a custom coaching program with Ryan Weiss. Weiss is a starting MiLB pitcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. Baseball throwing programs can help to improve your pitching velocity, accuracy, and consistency.
Relevant skills and traits for playing catcher:
- Catching consistently
- Strong legs
- Exceptional throwing arm
If you enjoy being a leader, then a catcher is a good position for you! A catcher stands at the point of the baseball diamond and communicates with the pitcher and the rest of the team, so good leadership makes a great catcher.
Like the pitcher, being the catcher requires stamina in addition to strong legs. Catchers spend half of the game squatting and standing up over and over again, so you have to be ready for that kind of toll on your body. Besides being able to handle the physical demands of the role, you should also be quick on your feet, ready to chase after a popped foul ball or a pitch that hits the dirt.
Of course, being the catcher also means constantly throwing the ball back to the pitcher or slinging it across the diamond to catch a base-stealer. And aside from having exceptional catching skills, you will need to learn how to get used to the feel of the catcher’s mitt.
Relevant skills and traits for playing first base:
- Catching no matter what
- Fielding ground balls properly
- Stretching out to catch a ball
- Keeping a foot on the base
The first baseman sees a lot of action, so if you play in this role, you should have a determined focus and always be ready to move. Since so many balls are thrown to first base, your catching skills need to be strong and you should be able to field a bad throw. It also helps if you’re skilled at fielding ground balls and “short-hops,” which are throws that bounce just before getting to the first baseman.
Another good attribute is being able to stretch out to catch a ball. On top of that, having the ability to catch a throw while also planting your foot on the base is a key job requirement of a first baseman. However, a strong throwing arm isn’t really necessary for the first baseman because few balls are thrown from this base.
Relevant skills and traits for playing second base:
Field ground balls
Second basemen are similar to shortstops, so if you’re interested in working your way up to that role, second base may be the place to start. Second base sees a lot of action, whether it’s a base-stealer, a ground ball, or a player who hit the outfield charging into the base. Because of this, second basemen should acquire an aura of fearlessness and always be ready for whatever the next play brings.
Second basemen work best if they’re agile and have quick reflexes and fast feet. They should also be able to field ground balls. They deal with a lot of catching passes, but their throwing velocity doesn’t have to be the best on the team since it’s a short distance between them and all of the other bases.
Relevant skills and traits for playing shortstop:
- Quick reflexes
- Strong catching and throwing
- Field vision
- Game awareness
The shortstop is typically the most athletic person on the team, having the best combination of speed, throwing, and fielding capabilities. They hover between second and third base and act as the connector to the outfield. They must have a good focus and be ready to react quickly to each play. They should be the fastest-moving player on the field.
Shortstops have many jobs and they need to be able to do them swiftly--make a hard catch, tag a runner, touch a base, or toss the ball to another baseman. Since they have so many jobs, they should have excellent field vision and an understanding of other players’ movements.
Relevant skills and traits for playing third base:
- Good glove arm
- Quick reflexes
Third base is known as the “hot corner” because there are so many right-handed batters who hit hard to that section of the field. Because of this, quick reflexes are more important than being fast when it comes to the third baseman. The third baseman should have a good glove arm and the confidence to handle the hot corner. Out of all the bases, third has the least contact with the ball, but the third baseman needs to be prepared to handle the fastest balls hit into the field.
Balance is a beneficial trait for the third baseman because you often find yourself leaning and diving to catch the ball. A lot of bunts, ground balls, and foul balls travel toward third base, so having a good reaction to those situations as well would make you a good third baseman.
Relevant skills and traits for playing left field:
- Catchfly balls
- Throwing accuracy
- Speedy feet
- Depth perception
- Field balls that hit the wall
Outfielders are known to not see as much action as the infielders, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important! Playing in the outfield requires many difficult skills, like the ability to run fast, a powerful throwing arm, and depth perception. They must be able to accurately judge where a ball might travel once it’s hit off the bat at home plate. Then, their catching and throwing capabilities must be excellent. Good outfielders are the reason fly balls are considered outs.
When it comes to playing left field, the position leans more heavily on throwing accuracy rather than arm strength. This is because the distance between the left fielder and third base or home plate is less than it is for the center and right fielders. Out of all of the outfielder positions, the left fielder can afford to have the weakest throwing arm (by outfielder standards).
Additionally, like how the third baseman needs to be prepared for the hardest hits flying to their corner, as the left fielder, you need to be ready for those too.
Relevant skills and traits for playing center field:
- Arm strength
- Catchfly balls
- Speedy feet
- Depth perception
- Field balls that hit the wall
The center fielder is in charge of the outfield, so this is another position that would be a good fit for you if you possess leadership skills. They also have the most ground to cover, so they need to be quick on their feet and ready to catch fly balls and handle balls that hit the wall.
The center fielder also has to have incredible arm strength. They have the longest potential throw from the outfield back to home plate.
Relevant skills and traits for playing the right field:
- Field awareness
- Powerful throwing arm
- Catchfly balls
- Depth perception
In Little League, the right fielder is stereotypically the kid with the least talent who would rather pick daisies than catch the ball. They’re placed in the right field because the area sees the least action. When it comes to college baseball and pro levels, however, the right fielder typically has one of the strongest throwing arms on the field. When batters hit balls deep into the right field, they have a chance to run. The left fielder should have the arm strength to haul a ball to third base.
The right fielder sees less frequent action, but they should have patience and be focused. Patience and focus are important and sometimes difficult skills to teach yourself. You should also have good field awareness and be able to back up the first baseman if he misses a ball thrown his way.
Assess your strengths and weaknesses as a baseball player and pick a place to start! Remember that this is just a guide and that you don’t need to be perfect in all the necessary skills of a position to play it. Also, consider your body type. Sometimes your height and your build can contribute to your abilities in a certain position.
Communicate with your high school baseball coach about the positions you want to play. To improve your skills in your off-time, consider enrolling in coaching programs for training in mobility, conditioning, and throwing. Becoming a better overall player will give you the power to choose your preferred position.
Whatever position you choose or you’re assigned, play your best and use every opportunity to learn more about the game.
Be sure to check out Ryan Weiss's coaching program and his other training programs to elevate your game.