An outfielder heaving the ball from close to the warning track to throw out a runner attempting to tag up. An infielder using his range to retrieve a ball deep in the hole, then still completing a perfect toss to first base. A catcher popping up and making a precise fling to second base to throw out a baserunner.
These moments are among the most exciting defensive plays in baseball -- and they each require a strong throwing arm to make happen. In the National League West, there are players all over the diamond who possess above-average arm strength and showcase it on a consistent basis.
This week, we highlight the player on each NL West team with the best throwing arm, as chosen by each team’s MLB.com beat reporter. These players have all wowed us with their throws, and they’re sure to do so again in the future.
D-backs: Nick Ahmed
Both Ketel Marte and Starling Marte have excellent throwing arms, but Nick Ahmed ranks ahead of them. Ahmed has won the last two NL Gold Glove Awards at shortstop, and not just because his range allows him to get to balls others can’t, but also because he has a strong enough arm to throw from deep in the hole or while off-balance fielding a ball up the middle.
Ahmed uses an over-the-top motion that allows him to deliver an accurate throw to first without any tailing or sinking motion. -- Steve Gilbert
Dodgers: Cody Bellinger
Again, it’s splitting hairs between Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts. Both possess power arms combined with pinpoint accuracy, another reason why both won Gold Glove Awards in 2019. For what it’s worth, FanGraphs’ outfield arm runs saved gives Bellinger the nod, 6-5, in '19, so we'll let that be the tiebreaker.
One of last season's biggest highlights for Bellinger came on May 27, 2019, when he threw out Carlos Gómez, who was tagging from second, at third to end the eighth inning and save a run against the Mets. That said, Betts’ 305-foot throw from the warning track on the fly to nail Tampa Bay’s Avisaíl García at third base on Sept. 23, 2019, was a thing of beauty and had Yasiel Puig written all over it. -- Ken Gurnick
Giants: Austin Slater
Despite making only 68 appearances in the Majors last year, Austin Slater led all Giants players in average arm strength (92.4 mph) on max-effort throws, according to Statcast. He showed off his cannon-like arm during a memorable play at Seattle on July 24, 2018, when he uncorked a 228-foot, 99.6-mph throw to nail the Mariners' Kyle Seager at the plate. It marked the hardest outfield throw by a Giants player since Statcast tracking started in 2015.
Slater is expected to take on a super-utility role with the Giants this year and had been taking grounders at all four infield spots in addition to continuing his usual work in the outfield. -- Maria Guardado
Padres: Francisco Mejía
Fernando Tatis Jr. regularly unleashes 90 mph rockets from shortstop. Jake Cronenworth does, too, as part of the skill set that might make him a valuable two-way player. But the best throwing arm among Padres defenders belongs to catcher Francisco Mejía.
In 2019, Mejía averaged 88.6 mph on his caught-stealing attempts -- the highest mark in the Majors and a downright incredible number for a catcher coming out of his crouch. Mejía is still working to cut down a bit on his exchange. (Despite leading MLB in velocity, his average pop time of 1.95 seconds is tied for ninth in the Majors.) But at age 24, Mejía has room to grow, and his throwing arm should develop into a serious weapon. -- AJ Cassavell
Rockies: Nolan Arenado
Last week's poll was for best glove, and seven-time NL Gold Glove Award-winning third baseman Nolan Arenado was the easy choice. Well, the arm is connected to the glove, in a baseball sense. The barehanded throws on the charge, the leaping tosses from foul territory and even the pegs from the seat of his pants, Arenado does it all with strength and accuracy. -- Thomas Harding