These are the best arms in the AL Central

May 29th, 2020

In baseball, the little things matter.

Or, maybe a better way to say it is that fleeting, split-second moments can make or break a team on any given day. Defense plays into this theory a dozen times during a game.

Take for example the pin-point accuracy of a throw that can be the difference between a win and a loss. Or that extra "oomph" an outfielder can provide when trying to cut a runner down at third or the plate, which can loom large over the course of a full season. The same goes for a baserunner's awareness of an outfielder's arm, which often dictates how daring he is on the bases.

This week's American League Central notebook focuses on just that -- the best throwing arm on each team. Beat reporters identified a mix of catchers and outfielders as the best of the bunch. Let's examine:

Maybe his arm strength isn’t as well-known as former teammate Yasiel Puig or even someone like Aaron Judge of the Yankees, but Naquin’s arm shouldn’t be overlooked. Of all outfielders who had at least 10 max-effort throws last year, Naquin’s 98.6 mph average of max-effort arm strength ranked the highest. Before he tore his ACL while attempting to avoid the outfield wall in St. Petersburg last August, Naquin hit 100.9 mph on his fastest recorded throw, one of just 18 throws from the outfield across MLB that were clocked at or above 100 mph last season. The top 13 players in assists across the Majors last year all played at least 123 games except Naquin, who played just 83. In those 83 contests, he recorded 11 assists, which ranked fifth among all outfielders. -- Mandy Bell

The assignment is Best Throwing Arm for a non-pitcher, which is not an easy call with regard to the Royals.

Outfielder Alex Gordon, drafted as a third baseman and still possessing an infielder’s arm, is tied with Gerardo Parra for the most outfield assists [98] since 2010 -- you don’t post a number like that with just average arm strength or lack of accuracy. Gordon has been clocked at 92.8 mph on throws from the outfield leaving his hand. But during his pitching debut last summer in a blowout loss, Gordon’s heater was clocked in the low 80s.

“I thought I was hitting 88,” he said, “so when I looked up and saw it was 81, it was kind of depressing.”

Shortstop Adalberto Mondesi has all the tools, including a rocket arm.

“You don’t see it on every throw,” former Royals third base coach Mike Jirschele once said, “because he doesn’t need it on every throw. But when he is deep in the hole, you see that velocity.”

But the pick here is All-Star catcher Perez, who showed off his arm in his MLB debut in 2011 in St. Petersburg when he nearly scored a catcher’s hat trick -- he picked off a runner at third base, picked off another runner at first base and nearly picked another runner at second base.

Perez’s velocity on throws to second has ranged in average from 82-85 mph since the start of Statcast in 2015. His pop time has mostly ranked among league leaders at around 1.95 seconds [former manager Ned Yost always thought that number should have been lower].

Of course, it will be interesting to see how Perez’s arm reacts once baseball resumes, as he is coming off March 2019 Tommy John surgery. Manager Mike Matheny and catching coach Pedro Grifol said during Spring Training that Perez’s velocity was excellent. Teammates also said this spring that Perez’s velocity looked as prominent as it did 2-3 years before his surgery. -- Jeffrey Flanagan

Rogers built his status as a catching prospect in no small part on his strong right arm. He has thrown out 49 percent of would-be basestealers over five pro seasons, made the highlight reels by picking off a runner at first base last August at Comerica Park, then picked off White Sox speedster Adam Engel at third in September. Among the Major League catchers he followed growing up was Yadier Molina, so it makes sense.

“That pickoff at first base, that happened like lightning,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He has such a quick release, as advertised. It’s pretty fun to watch. He’ll be a weapon other teams will definitely have to watch out for.”

Rogers was ranked by MLB Pipeline as baseball’s top defensive catching prospect in 2018, and his 65 arm rating on the 20-80 scouting scale led all position players on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Tigers Prospects list. -- Jason Beck

Just ask Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez and the Red Sox how they feel about Rosario's throwing arm. Rosario has thrown out 48 baserunners from the outfield since his Major League debut in 2015, and the most notable recent example came at Fenway Park last Sept. 5, when he perfectly played a carom off the Green Monster in the bottom of the ninth inning and fired a one-hop strike to the plate to retire Devers, the potential tying run, for the game's final out. Part of that has to do with Rosario's exemplary throwing arm, but much of it also has to do with his fearlessness and aggression in all aspects of his game.

"He’s not scared of anything," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said that night. "There's a lot of things happening at once, but when those moments come up, Eddie is looking for greatness. It doesn’t mean that you’re always going to get the job done. No one does. No one does that, but he’s prepared to do anything he has to do in those moments."

There isn't an arm strength leaderboard readily available via Statcast at the moment, but Rosario immediately lit up the traditional statistics in his rookie season, when his 16 outfield assists in a partial season ranked him second in the AL. More recently, his nine assists in '18 ranked fifth. What advanced numbers are available paint Rosario's right arm in a favorable light, too. In a May 2019 article on The Athletic, Mark Simon used the outfield arm runs saved metric from Sports Info Solutions to rank Rosario's outfield arm fourth in the Majors behind Ramón Laureano, Puig and Judge. -- Do-Hyoung Park

White Sox:
García played 120 games in the outfield for the White Sox during the 2019 season, and even without the coronavirus pandemic postponing the start of the 2020 campaign, he probably wouldn’t have reached that number with more of a focus on a move to second base. But García, whose first position was shortstop, proved to have a strong and accurate arm with a Major League-best 14 outfield assists in ’19. The White Sox don’t have a classic power-arm position player on the roster, although shortstop Tim Anderson and third baseman Yoán Moncada both feature strong arms. Outfielder Micker Adolfo might have the biggest arm of those players close to big league ready, but he is yet to see any Major League time. -- Scott Merkin