There are nine baseball positions in the field, each with its own job and responsibilities.
Since baseball is a team sport, every player needs to know the ins and outs of their position in order for the entire group to be a success.
If one player is out of position or not fulfilling the responsibilities of their role, it could cost you the game!
This article will look at all nine defensive positions, as well as the sometimes necessary designated hitter role. We’ll break down what each position does in the field and their various responsibilities.
This knowledge will help you on your own baseball team and to better understand the sport of baseball when you watch it on television.
Responsibilities of all baseball positions
No matter where you are on the field, there are a few basic responsibilities that every player needs to remember.
Many of these duties may seem obvious, but forgetting just one of them for even a moment could cause an error.
1. Stay ready
Baseball is sometimes criticized as a slow sport. Much of the action takes place between the pitcher, the catcher and the batter. If you’re in the field, you can go entire innings without the ball being hit in your direction.
Yet, you never know when the ball is coming your way. It’s crucial to get into your ready position on every pitch. It may feel tedious or even silly when the ball just isn’t being hit your way. This inactivity leads to boredom and loss of patience. You start to slack on your responsibilities in the field!
It’s when you stop preparing for each possible hit that the ball finds its way to your territory in the field. Since you aren’t in your ready position, you may be slower to react and get a jump on the ball. Missing by even inches could allow the hitter to score extra bases and cost your team the game.
2. Pay attention to how many outs and baserunners
How many runners are on base and the number of outs in the inning impacts what you should do during the play. If no one is on base, the throw is always to first. But, if you have a runner on first and third, the situation changes. You want to do your best to hold the runner at third and record at least one out.
If you lose count of the outs or forget there’s a runner on base, you could make a costly and embarrassing mistake. Again, this may seem like an easy thing to remember, but even Major League Baseball players have made the mistake of losing track of how many outs there are in a game.
Nothing is more embarrassing than jogging off the field because you think the inning is over, but there’s still one more out to go! This is why you’ll commonly see baseball players use their fingers to signal to others how many outs there are. It ensures that everyone is on the same page and knows where to make the play.
3. Always be moving
When the ball is hit, every player needs to be in motion. Even if the ball isn’t hit to your position, it doesn’t mean you aren’t involved in the play. One of the mistakes you’ll see is players staying put because the ball is on the other end of the field.
You never know what can happen during the play or where the ball or runners may end up. One bad throw and the ball may be headed to your territory. That’s why it’s good to always get into the best position possible.
For example, let’s say the batter bunts and there’s a runner on first. The catcher picks up the ball and tries to get the runner out at second. Even though this play is taking place in the infield, outfielders need to start moving in to back up the infielders.
If the catcher or second baseman makes an error, the center fielder needs to be right there to back up the throw and prevent the runner from taking any additional bases.
There is no better example of the “always be moving” mentality than the famous “Flip Play”.
Derek Jeter, a shortstop, came in all the way to the first base line to intercept a throw to the plate and flip it to the catcher. Without his intervention, the game would have been lost.
Even though he was out of his regular position, Jeter knew the importance of being where the action is.
Baseball positions by number
Position #1: Pitcher
The first defensive position, designated by the number 1 on the scorecard, is the pitcher. This is the most valuable defensive position. An all-star pitcher can completely lock down the other team’s offense and help guarantee the win. They have the opportunity to strike out batters without them getting the ball into the field.
Pitchers use an array of different grips on the ball to cause it to move in unexpected ways. This gives the player an assortment of pitches they can use to fool the batter. It becomes a bit like a chess match, with both the pitcher and the batter trying to outwit one another.
Ultimately, the pitcher’s job is to record as many outs as possible, while giving up as few runs as possible. If the ball is put into play, the pitcher may have to cover first base, home or field the ball themselves.
Pitchers also have to worry about runners stealing bases. If a runner is taking too big of a lead, it’s the pitcher’s duty to notice the behavior and throw over to the base to deter them from trying to steal.
Position #2: Catcher
The catcher is the protector of the plate. Their main responsibility is to work with the pitcher to decide what pitches to use and when. They are also responsible for throwing out runners attempting to steal and fielding balls directly in front of the plate.
Of all of the defensive positions, the catcher is the only one facing the outfield. This gives him a unique vantage point that no one else in the field has. He needs to use this perspective to call out details that other players may not be able to see. This is why catchers are often team captains; they need to be one of the most vocal people on the field!
Players in the number 2 position must be exceptionally tough and resilient. Guarding home plate means you’re the last line of defense to the other team scoring. When there’s a close play at home, it’s not unlikely for a collision to occur (although, recent rule changes have made this type of play more scarce for the safety of players).
You also have to be tough because you may be hit by tipped balls, wild pitches and other objects. That’s why catchers wear so much protective equipment! It is easily the most rugged position on the field.
Position #3: First baseman
Many plays, especially in the infield, will end at first base because it is the first bag that runners must reach to be safe. For this reason, first base records some of the most putouts of any position.
You don’t have to be particularly fast to perform well at this position because your primary responsibility is to cover first base. But, if the ball is hit directly to you, you may have to field it and race to the bag to beat the runner.
That said, a good amount of flexibility helps at first base, especially when you have to stretch to reach a bad throw. You also have to be phenomenal at scooping balls in the dirt when fielders under throw you.
Aside from covering the bag, first base will receive a good amount of ground balls and pop flys. When a left-handed batter is at the plate, there’s a good chance it’s going to the right side of the field to first base or second. So, this player needs to be an excellent fielder on top of all of these other duties.
Position #4: Second baseman
Second base is the primary fielder for the right side of the infield. Since the first baseman often has to cover the base, the second base player really needs to cover a wide territory and field most of the balls to this side.
Another responsibility is to cover second base, especially on double play attempts. It’s good for second base and shortstop to have solid communication. There may be scenarios where they have to negotiate who will cover the base in the middle of a play.
In other instances, the second baseman is responsible for backing up throws to first or second, assuming the shortstop is covering second.
If there are runners on, you may notice the second baseman moving behind the pitcher after each pitch. This is in case the catcher makes a bad throw back to the pitcher; the second baseman is right there to pick it up and prevent any stolen bases.
Position #5: Third baseman
The third base position (number 5 on your scorecard) is sometimes referred to as “the hot corner”. Since the field is shaped like a diamond, third base is one of the shortest distances from home plate. And, since third base is on the left side of the field, it’s in the hot zone for right-handed hitters.
This means that when righties connect with a ball hit towards third base, there’s a good chance it has some serious power behind it. Thus, a good third baseman needs to have excellent reflexes to ensure that these balls don’t get by and skip into the outfield.
Since third base and shortstop cover the same side of the field, they need to have good communication and know when to call one another off of certain balls hit to their side. Naturally, a third baseman must also cover the respective bag when there are runners on.
Position #6: Shortstop
The shortstop is one of the most exciting positions on the field. Not only do they receive a healthy dose of ground balls and hard liners hit in their direction, but they also have their hands full covering bases, backing up throws and communicating with other infielders.
Shortstop is another position that many other players look towards as a captain because they need to have a strong presence in the field. Since they don’t have their own base to cover on most plays, the shortstop plays sort of a “floating” role, going where they need to be in the infield.
Communication is vital for a shortstop. As a middle infielder, they will find themselves negotiating with the second baseman and third baseman on who will field the ball, cover the base, etc.
Shortstops also need to have a strong arm and the ability to field ground balls quickly and throw them accurately to first. These are vital tools for any infielder on this side of the field.
Position #7: Left fielder
Outfielders, like the left fielder, will see a lot of fly balls. The left fielder is one of the busier outfielders for the same reason that shortstop tends to see more action than second base. Hitters tend to hit the ball to the left more than the right because there are more right-handed hitters than lefties.
You need good communication, eyesight, fast legs and spatial awareness in left field. Communication will help you call for balls that other position players are also running towards and knowing when to break off because someone else is calling for it. Spatial awareness enables you to detect when you’re coming close to one of your teammates or the walls of the stadium.
Eyesight is arguably the most essential trait. It’s not easy to pick a fly ball out of the sky, track it down and make the catch, especially if you have to battle the sun. Then, all you need is the wheels to get to the ball in time.
It helps to have a powerful and accurate arm in left field. There may be times where runners are tagging up and you need to make a strong throw to get them out at home.
Position #8: Center fielder
The center fielder is the most important member of the outfield for a few reasons. First, this player controls the biggest part of the field of any defensive position. They need excellent speed to cover this expansive territory and the ability to make plays on the run.
It also helps to have a strong arm because you may be throwing the ball from the absolute deepest parts of the field.
Center field is also an essential part of your outfield because this player handles communication between the other fielders. You may see a center fielder telling when the left or right fielder needs to move position.
They need to routinely call out with these players to determine who is going to catch the ball and who is going to back up the play. In most conflicts, the center fielder will take the ball. However, it can depend on the position of the base runners.
For example, if there is a runner headed to third base and the ball is hit to the right side of the outfield, it’s better for the right fielder to take the ball. Their natural momentum is already moving towards third base, so they’ll be able to make a stronger and faster throw than the center fielder.
Position #9: Right fielder
The right fielder has all of the responsibilities of the left fielder, but resides on the other side of the field. So, you’ll see more action when left-handed batters are at the plate. Again, these hitters have a higher chance of pulling the ball to the right side of the field.
On infield hits, the right fielder will come in and back up plays on the right side of the field, usually behind first base. They are also responsible for knowing when to call off the center fielder and make the play in the outfield.
Again, you need speed, sharp eyes, good communication and awareness of your surroundings to survive in the outfield. You may also need a bit of acrobatics when it comes to making catches right at the outfield wall!
Position #10: Designated hitter *
The designated hitter is the only position that is not defensive. In fact, this player doesn’t even take the field. Instead, the designated hitter is a strictly offensive position. The designated hitter replaces the pitcher in the batting order to give them a rest between innings and put the bat in more capable hands.
While the responsibilities of a designated hitter are very minimal because there are no defensive duties, it is still a crucial role. The DH should be one of your team’s best hitters and can dramatically change the tide of the game with one swing of their bat!
* It’s worth mentioning that most leagues do not have the designated hitter position. Most of the time, the pitcher will hit in the batting order as normal.
That covers every defensive position in baseball and their corresponding position numbers. We also covered the designated hitter role.
Remember, no matter what position you play in the field, it’s vital that you’re always moving, paying attention and ready for the next play. These three critical steps will help you perform well at any position!