A powerful arm can be a game-changer.
A strong throw by an infielder can be the difference between a batter collecting a base hit on a slow roller or ball in the hole, or jogging back to the dugout after making an out. In the outfield, it’s the weapon that keeps runners from taking an extra base on a hit, tagging up on a fly ball or even thinking about it.
Yes, we all love fancy glove work, but the throw that comes after a spectacular defensive play is sometimes what we remember the most.
For our American League West notebook this week, our beat reporters identified the player on the clubs they cover with the best arm. Here is what the experts said:
Angels: Andrelton Simmons
Andrelton Simmons is perhaps the best defensive shortstop of his generation, and while his range is unparalleled, he also possesses incredible arm strength. He reached as high as 98 mph off the mound as a pitcher in junior college and has reached as high as 90 mph on infield throws after setting his feet.
Simmons simply makes throws from his position that no one else can make because of his arm strength. Mike Trout has improved his arm in center field with hard work and had five outfield assists last season, but he doesn't have the natural arm strength that Simmons has. -- Rhett Bollinger
Astros: Carlos Correa
Shortstop Carlos Correa has one of the strongest arms in the game, with relay throws tracked by Statcast at 90 mph or higher. In a game on May 31, 2018, against the Red Sox, he made a 96.3 mph throw to the plate that was, at the time, the hardest throw ever tracked by Statcast for an infielder.
In fact, it was Correa’s laser to the plate for an out in in the sixth inning of Game 2 of the 2019 AL Championship Series that loomed large in the Astros’ win over the Yankees. The throw, which came after José Altuve bobbled the ball, was clocked at 87 mph, just short of his "max effort" of 88.8 mph that he reached on his top 10% of his throws in '19. For reference, 88.8 mph was the second-highest average max effort by a Major League infielder last season. -- Brian McTaggart
Athletics: Ramón Laureano
Matt Chapman is known to fire rockets across the diamond to first baseman Matt Olson, but when it comes to the strongest arm on the A’s, look to Ramón Laureano. A quick YouTube search of Laureano’s name will instantly pull up dozens of incredible throws the center fielder has made over the past two seasons.
He already owns one of the greatest throws you’ll see this century, which took place on Aug. 11, 2018, in Angel Stadium, when he raced back 76 feet in 4.4 seconds on a deep fly by Justin Upton to make a catch on the run before quickly planting his feet and firing a perfect 321-foot throw -- clocked at 91.2 mph -- to first baseman Mark Canha for an unreal double play.
With so many opponents who have tested Laureano’s arm meeting the same fate, the opportunities for him to nab baserunners are slowly dwindling. But since his big league debut eight days before his epic throw in Anaheim, Laureano’s 19 outfield assists lead the Majors. -- Martín Gallegos
Mariners: J.P. Crawford
The Mariners knew J.P. Crawford possessed a good arm when they acquired him from the Phillies in December 2018, but just how strong was confirmed when the young shortstop pulled off one of the finest defensive plays in MLB in 2019 with a diving stop and tremendous off-balance throw to nail the Tigers’ Jeimer Candelario on a ground ball deep in the hole in a July 26 game at T-Mobile Park.
Crawford had made eight throwing errors in limited playing time in 2018 with the Phillies, but he worked hard on his footwork under the tutelage of veteran infield coach Perry Hill last season and was better able to unleash his arm strength in accurate fashion. The Mariners are also impressed with the throwing arm of rookie first baseman Evan White, but Crawford plays a position where that strength is more evident and gets the nod for now. -- Greg Johns
Rangers: Joey Gallo
Joey Gallo had eight assists last season for the Rangers, tied for ninth best in the AL. That may not seem like many, but remember Gallo missed more than half the season because of injuries and played only 63 games in the outfield. He also played left field and center because Nomar Mazara was in right. But, with Mazara since traded to the White Sox, the Rangers' plan is to move Gallo to right and take advantage of one of the most powerful throwing arms in the game.
Gallo had an average max-effort arm strength of 97.0 mph last season, third highest among outfielders with at least 10 max-effort throws, behind Tyler Naquin (98.6 mph) and Hunter Renfroe (98.2 mph). Gallo's hardest throw on an assist tracked last season was 97.3 mph, which nabbed Freddy Galvis at home in the top of the eighth in a game on May 3 against the Blue Jays. -- T.R. Sullivan