What Is a Position Player in Baseball?

Mastering the Field: Understanding the Role and Importance of Position Players in Baseball
Written by Mark Bailey
Last updated on

A position player in baseball refers to any player who takes the field defensively at one of the nine specific positions other than pitcher, including infielders, outfielders, and the catcher.

  • Position players are a critical part of baseball, playing both offense and defense.
  • There are nine positions on defense in baseball: pitcher, catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, third base, right field, left field, and center field.
  • Position players must be great athletes and teammates to be successful. They require hand-eye coordination and communication to excel on defense.
  • On offense, position players need hand-eye coordination for hitting and running the bases.
  • On defense, they each have separate tasks, such as infielders focusing on ground balls and outfielders focusing on fly balls.

Overview of baseball positions

There are nine positions on defense in a baseball game: pitcher, catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, third base, right field, left field, and center field. 

The pitcher and catcher work as a duo together. The catcher relays signs to the pitchers before the pitcher delivers the ball to the catcher. 

The first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, and third baseman make up the infield. The infielders are usually the most skilled defenders on the team. These guys usually see ground balls, while the outfield sees fly balls. 

Meanwhile, the right field, center field, and left field make up the outfield. Outfielders play in the grass to catch any deep balls. Infielders play in the dirt part of the field.

Importance of position players

As many great coaches have said before, defense wins championships. This statement is true in just about every sport there is. 

Position players are expected to play stellar defense. They do so through communication and execution. While position players also hit, their main priority is defense. 

Defense in baseball isn’t always the easiest thing. Plays and concepts are constantly being put into place during a baseball game. Without the right amount of communication between all position players, failure is inevitable. 

Position players must be great athletes, but even more importantly, they must be great teammates. It is critical to ensure all position players are always on the same page.

Characteristics of a good position player

A good position player has a skill set that is deep and specific. To begin, position players must have extreme hand-eye coordination. Once you get into the higher levels of baseball, the game gets faster and faster. In order to keep up, position players have to be at the top of their game. 

Infielders are great athletes with immense quickness and superb hand-eye coordination. Outfielders are great communicators and have a tremendous ability to track down fly balls. 

On the offensive side, hand-eye coordination comes into play again. Hitting a baseball is one of, if not the hardest, things to do in all sports. In this case, hand-eye coordination is a must. 

Some skill sets vary between different types of position players. Outfielders must be good sprinters since their playing area covers a wide area. Infielders are compacted into a smaller area with more defenders. The outfield has fewer defenders with a bigger area to cover. 

Bo Jackson was a prime example of the perfect position player. He mastered his position on defense in the outfield. He was able to track down any fly ball hit towards him. He also possessed an extremely strong arm that could make the longest throws possible. Bo was a great hitter who also mastered the offensive side of the game. It isn’t common to find a position player who masters both sides of the ball.

Role of position players in the offense

Position players make up the batting lineup on offense. As there are nine position players, there are also nine spots in the batting lineup. Each position player hits as well as plays defense. 

The batting lineup is set up strategically by each team’s coach. The first batter is usually one who is fast and can run the bases well. This guy is usually able to put the ball into play at a consistent rate. 

The players hitting second and third are typically two of your best hitters on the team. These guys will have the most plate appearances from the rest of the team. 

The fourth hitter in the lineup is usually the player with the most power. Power means home runs. Once you get past the fourth spot, the rest is more of a personal preference based on how each player is. 

Position players are supposed to hit the ball but also have other duties. At times, they might be required to lay down a bunt in order to move a runner over. 

Position players must also be able to run the bases. They don’t need to be extremely fast, but they can’t be slow! 

Role of position players in defense

Position players’ main role is to play exceptional defense. With nine positions on defense, each team needs nine guys they can depend on. 

Each defensive position comes with its own unique responsibilities. Pitchers and catchers are not as incorporated into what is going on behind them. They work together as one in order to be successful. 

Infielders are focused on ground balls and sending out play calls. Coaches will signal a play call for a formation or something similar to the infielders. The infielders must relay this call to the outfield. 

Outfielders are focused on fly balls as well as their communication with one another. Since there is a much bigger area to cover, these three players must have a strong bond. Communication and talent are the ingredients for a great outfield.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are position players allowed to pitch?

Yes, position players are allowed to pitch in a game. However, this rarely happens and is seen only on certain occasions. If the game is a blowout, you might see a team put a position player into pitch. This is to limit the load on their pitching staff since the game’s result is pretty much decided already.

What is the most important position player in baseball?

An argument can be made for all nine positions being the most important of them all. Each one has a unique duty. Some positions are similar, but none are identical. 

You might say the pitcher is the most important. Some might say the shortstop is the most important. Others might say the center fielder is the most important. 

However, all position players carry an equal amount of importance and responsibility. One player does not make the team in baseball.


Position players are a huge part of the game of baseball. They make up both the offensive and defensive sides of the game. These guys are usually the most talented ones on the team. 

It is hard enough to be successful on one side of the ball. These players are successful on both sides and have earned their spots. 

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