The lore of the arm strength, particularly that of outfielders where you can watch the ball carry hundreds of feet, can be legendary. The feats of Roberto Clemente immediately jump to mind. But at least for me, you also envision throws from guys like Bo Jackson, Jose Guillen, and Vladimir Guerrero. If you’ve been a fan of the Cincinnati Reds over the last few years then you probably have plenty of memories of Aristides Aquino firing lasers out of his right arm to various infielders, too.

Baseball Savant has recently added a new category of stat tracking called the Arm Strength Leaderboard. It’s not perfect, as they note, because players don’t need to let it fly on every throw. So they used the average of a given percentage of their “top throws” (the percentage varies by position) to find the numbers they are using.

It will not surprise you to hear that Aristides Aquino is among the leaders in the outfield. In fact, he ranks second behind Ronald Acuna Jr. Aquino’s overall average on the top 10% of his throws is 96.6 MPH. His max throw came in at 101.6 MPH, which ranked 6th among outfielders with at least 50 throws (we can’t go any lower than this).

Player Throws Max Overall
Aristides Aquino 170 101.6 96.6
Tyler Naquin 79 95.6 91.4
Stuart Fairchild 64 92.5 88.0
Jake Fraley 133 92.1 87.9
Tommy Pham 238 93.5 87.3
Nick Senzel 276 96.1 86.7
TJ Friedl 182 91.3 85.4
Albert Almora Jr. 167 85.8 82.2

The average throw from left field according to Baseball Savant is 87.3 MPH. In center it’s exactly 90 MPH, and in right field it’s 90.5 MPH. That information kind of goes well with how we view outfielders as needing strong arms in both center and in right field, while guys without big arms tend to find their way into left.

Both Aristides Aquino and Tyler Naquin come out with above-average arms. What is interesting is that it’s Nick Senzel with the second best “max” throw, but his average throw is near the bottom and well below-average. Like many defensive statistics, the “overall” may not be telling us the entire story and we may need more context here as well as a larger sample size of throws.

It’s not just the outfielders that are known for their arm strength. Plenty of shortstops and third basemen have laser-rocket arms, too. The first time I saw a guy on the infield make a throw that I knew was different was Shawon Dunston. Even an elementary school-aged me saw that his arm was just different than just about anyone else I was watching on tv at the time.

Cincinnati’s infielders had one player really stand out with his arm – Jose Barrero. Everyone else was below-average in their “overall” score.

Player Max Overall 2B 3B SS
Jose Barrero 93.0 89.6 89.6
Matt Reynolds 86.6 83.7 79.3 84.9
Jonathan India 84.8 80.8 80.8
Alejo Lopez 85.0 80.4 79.1
Kyle Farmer 87.5 80.3 77.0 80.9
Brandon Drury 82.5 79.5 79.4
Donovan Solano 79.3 78.7
Mike Moustakas 86.7 78.2
MLB Avg: 2B: 81.0 MPH | 3B: 85.7 MPH | SS: 85.9 MPH

Barrero has long been known for his arm, so it’s no surprise that he shows up atop the Reds leaderboard here. Among all shortstops his 89.6 MPH “overall” ranks 5th out of the 71 players to register at least 50 throws from the position on the season.

38 Responses

  1. LDS

    So, if arm strength were the determining factor for a 40-man slot, Aquino & Barrero would be home free. Now if only they could hit. And Senzel looks better suited to 3rd (or 2nd) based on his arm. Moustakas? Maybe the old baseball players home.

    • LDS

      Sadly, that could be said of far too many on this year’s roster.

      • ryan

        I remember well people ripping Dave Kingman for “only” hitting .230

      • JayTheRed

        I am so tired of people saying if only he could hit .230 Come on.. .230 is terrible. Major League players who are the worst should be hitting around .230. The art of getting hits has gone down so much overall in baseball it is sickening. I would be ok with him hitting .250 with 20+ home runs.

        Over the past 20 to 30 years our standards for what we expect major league players to produce has dropped so much. I am hoping to see an increase in batting average with the shift limitations implemented for next season.

      • Doug Gray

        It’s not going to happen. Defenses are better, even without extreme shifting, and pitching is at a point where if your average reliever were transported to 1987 they’d burn him at the stake for being a witch. Unless they move the mound back or eliminate the slider, the batting average so many want to see is never, ever coming back.

      • Indy Red Man

        “The art of getting hits has gone down so much overall in baseball it is sickening”

        Its not that easy. Everyone is throwing 96+ and shifts and spray charts.
        Look at it like tennis. In the age of Bjorn Borg, Boris Becker, Agassi, etc. there were long volleys, but then the players kept getting bigger/stronger and the serves were so fast that they changed the game. For the worst I might add in both instances

        Just the other night Will Smith for LA lines one to right-center with 2 outs in the 9th, but the CFer was shifted that way and was waiting on it. Easy hit 25 years ago

      • Jim Walker

        A couple of days ago I stumbled upon a podcast featuring an interview with Theo Epstein in which he talked at length about the situation with pitcher dominance.

        Doug’s comments essentially echo what Epstein said in that interview.

        TE said pitching is now a science based on “missing bats and dominance”. Pitcher’s know what they need to do and how to do based on science. Because pitching is “inherently proactive” in a way hitting can never be. further rule changes may be necessary to reset the balance.

        First up for him seemed to be cutting the number of pitchers on the roster from 13 back to at most 12 and possibly even 11. He said this would be a process requiring several years to implement since it would fundamentally change how clubs drafted and developed pitchers along with how pitchers trained themselves physically.

        However, Epstein also believes the “pitch timer” (the new official name for the pitch clock) will have an immediate impact because pitchers are not going to be able to make the same level of “maximum effort” on every pitch in an inning that they can now once the limited time for recovery between pitches comes into play.

        Here is a link to the podcast:

        One final note…. Epstein said he hopes to someday become a part of an ownership group in MLB. I held my hand up for the Reds fans and said “Here, here!”

      • Reaganspad

        Do you think Doug’s comments echo Theo, or that TE is a daily RedlegNation consumer and just summarized in his podcast what he learns at RLN?

  2. DataDumpster

    Interesting article even though the eyeball test was pretty much on the mark for Barrero and Aquino being outstanding and everyone else average or below. Didn’t see enough of Naquin, I guess as he was overlooked, and the commentary on Senzel and perhaps others should be useful to management. It’s amazing how just about everything done on the field is measured nowadays but aside from the shifts, its hard to see how that has been produced better managers. With that advantage eliminated next year, it is interesting how recent games like the near perfect small ball and defensive play from underdogs San Diego and the Phillies have been the story thus far in the playoffs. The old school management and “feel of the game” situational play from Brian Snitker and the Braves reigned last year.
    What a pleasure to watch playoff baseball, I got a trial $17.50 offer from Sling to get the TBS, FS1 and ESPN feeds this year (which I will cancel at the end of the month when rates double with little else worth watching on that service).

  3. Melvin

    Interesting. Looks like, except for Aquino, we have a roster full of left fielders in the outfield. That’s not a good thing. Defense still matters. The infield generally doesn’t look great either for the most part. Weak defense and not being fundamentally sound is also playing a big part in losing. Not just the offense. Great article.

    • BK

      I encourage clicking on the link and seeing the players in a larger context. Here’s some raw data on Friedl, Fraley, Fairchild, and Senzel (the numbers are the percentile against other MLB players):

      Aquino: Arm: 99%, Sprint Speed: 87%
      Friedl: Arm: 53%, Sprint Speed: 72%
      Fraley: Arm: 71%, Sprint Speed: 69%
      Fairchild: Arm: 70%, Sprint Speed: 91%
      Senzel: Arm: 63%, Sprint Speed: 85%

      I was surprised to see that all of our OFs have average to above average arms and speed. I would argue that none of them are limited to LF.

      • Melvin

        Well just by looking at them play they appear that way to me. I’m sure I’ve missed a lot but I don’t recall any of them having a chance to throw anyone out when playing CF or RF. Really I don’t remember seeing it when they play LF. At least not often. I know there are other factors besides arm strength. There is definitely a LARGE gap between that group and Aquino and we know who has a history of throwing runners out. According to those stats you mentioned AA must be super human. lol

      • BK

        It really is too bad that AA doesn’t have the hitting skills. His power, arm, and running are all plus. Also, his fielding improved this year. Unfortunately, hitting is a pretty important skill in baseball and absolutely critical as a corner OF.

      • Melvin

        Yeah BK. I know. He frustrates me too. Call it ridiculous faith but I still think there is a button or two to push so as to bring out all that talent that I just KNOW is there. Unfortunately I don’t know that the Reds can find those buttons. Maybe another team and coaches can which is what I’m afraid of as a Reds fan. haha The potential is scary.

      • BK

        I’ll try to allay your fear … AA will turn 29 during the first month of next season. Athletically, he’s at his peak, and it’s not about unlocking his athleticism; it’s an issue with skill. At AAA, he crushes the ball. He owns a career OPS of 1.018 at AAA going back to 2019. His AAA numbers are far better than his results at lower levels indicating he made an adjustment that helped out big-time prior to the 2019 season.

        Also, I made this point a couple of days ago. He’s had scores of different coaching across his 12 seasons as a pro. The Reds bring in multiple extra coaches each spring. He’s played internationally. The hitting coaches at each level aren’t the only ones who can teach hitting either. He’s also had the opportunity to work with hitting gurus in the offseason. The likelihood that coaching is the problem is remote.

      • Melvin

        Yep BK. I’d keep on trying though. Something’s missing. We may never know. Still have a gut feeling. I really can’t blame anyone who doesn’t have the same feeling.

  4. MK

    Not all throws are maximum effort. In outfield Is it a throw on a bases empty single, or a throw trying to cut down a runner going first to third. In the infield is the catcher running or Billy Hamilton?

    • BK

      Statcast attempts to account for this. For an outfielder, they take the average of each player’s top 10% of throws and use a minimum of 50 throws to qualify. The criteria differ by position.

  5. MBS

    That’s a fun article, thanks. Is India’s throw speed more of a product of where he’s playing, and the type of throws he needs to make? He has an 84.8 on the books which is still under a 3B’s average, but not too far off. I wonder if his arm would play up at 3B with the different throws. If not maybe that’s the reason he was moved to 2B.

  6. Rednat

    this is in response to Doug’s comment above. what are the chances of them either moving the mound back or making certain pitches illegal? I really believe we are headed into a major dead ball era in baseball and the league knows it. the pitching and defense is just light years ahead of the offense right now. the games can be unwatchable sometimes and i do feel more has to be done than just banning the infield shift and making the bases larger and i feel the league would be open to the idea

    I know the argument against this is scoring is “up this year”. but I feel it was skewed by a lot of blowouts and the new trend of letting position players pitch even when the game gets slightly out of hand( i hate this trend).

    • Melvin

      I believe they had a similar problem in the late 60s and they lowered the mound.

  7. old-school

    MLB trade rumors has a long piece on the Reds off-season and a good read. The potential low budget names of FA outfielders and catchers and back end starters are an interesting list as well as forecasts of non-tenders and potential AAA assignments to underachievers( Barrero).

    Run it back with Tucker or Casali as back up catcher and Duvall as a righty bat in the OF? I’m good with that.

    Id bring Casali back as backup catcher in 2023 and MLB manager 2024. Multiple reports the Reds like a backup vet catcher like Romine( or casali/tucker) to mentor the young arms.

    • BK

      Thanks for point out this article. It’s a good read. The one area I differ on is the outfield–I’d like the Reds to look for a good LH outfielder. Fraley is a platoon player who either Fairchild or Senzel can partner with. To me, Friedl is more of our 4th OF. Outside the OF and Votto, the rest of the team is RH. We need a LH hitter to balance the lineup.

      WRT Barrero, sending him to AAA would be the obvious move, except there’s a good chance the Reds will want both ELDC and McLain at AAA. That doesn’t leave a lot of playing time at SS. It will be interesting to see how the SS situation gets sorted out.

      • Jim Walker

        If Fairchild’s 110 MLB PA in 2022 are an accurate gauge, he is wasted potential as a platoon player. He was at 100+ OPS+ from both sides of the plate. He was also the Reds best defensive OF not named Aquino.

        Maybe he rotates positions depending on who the Reds can come up with to platoon with Fraley, i.e. plays where Fraley would play when Fraley is out and a different OF position when Fraley is in; but, unless they come up with 2 clearly everyday better OF players, Fairchild should be an everyday guy.

        Then again given Fairchild’s past history with the Reds, maybe he is the guy who gets flipped for a reliever because somebody else actually wants him 😉

      • BK

        Jim, I completely agree. I believe Fairchild has earned an extended look. In addition to the fact that he hit both LHP and RHP well, I see the best combination of arm, speed, and fielding in him.

        In my perfect world, the Reds would sign Benintendi and start the year with an outfield of LF – Benintendi, CF – Fairchild, RF – Fraley/Senzel platoon, and Friedl would be the 4th/5th outfielder.

        2023 is about “sorting.” With Siani and Hopkins at AAA, plus the ability to transition an infielder to the OF if needed, I think this would be a good way to start the year.

    • Jim Walker

      Curt is the guy. There was clearly a lot of contract gaming going on when he ended up getting non-tendered after the 2020 season.

      The top pitchers had all worked better with CC than with Barnhart. He had a 123 OPS+ in 2020 (93 PAs) and a career OPS+ of 92 versus Barnhart a 75 OPS+ in 2020 (110 PAs) and a career OPS+ of 85. But Barnhart had a remaining sunken cost of about $5m even if the option on 2022 was bought out. Casali had zero.

      Maybe a trade to move Barnhart on cash favorable terms fell through unlike a year later? Maybe they floated Barnhart on waivers like they did Miley a year later; but, nobody bit? Maybe ownership stuck its nose into the situation?

      Regardless, at the deadline, Reds were probably trying to get Casali to sign a split deal like Farmer eventually did to keep him on ice at Louisville until they could work the roster around in the spring or early in the season. When he didn’t; Farmer got a call and took the deal little realizing than instead of looking for a job, he was eventually going to become a cult hero as an MLB shortstop.

    • LDS

      @Jim, you’ve been making the case for Fairchild for a while now and I’m beginning to be a believer. FraleY? I don’t think anyone is that convincing. Unless the Reds spend this off season, unlikely it seems, I’d hang on to AA, Fairchild, and Friedl, shopping Fraley & Senzel for whatever they’d bring. In my view, the Reds need to move away from one dimensional platoon players. As some here have noted, I still think there’s something in Aquino. Where it’s at, I don’t know. But his age concerns me less than it does others, though I prefer a youth movement. After all, he’s approaching the age where Bell will play him regardless of his productivity.

      • Indy Red Man

        I think you’re off base on Fraley, but time will tell. He was very productive after he came back from injury and he had a pretty interesting half season with the Ms in 2021. Atleast 20+ HR power as a platoon player and they’re banning the shift which probably adds 15% value to every decent lefty hitter

      • LDS

        That may turn out to be the case. However, at this point, he’s a career .149 hitter against LH’ers, has lousy defensive metrics, and apparently no better than an average arm. Against RH’ers, he’s only .246 with a sub .800 OPS. Maybe you wind up being right, but the current analytics suggest otherwise. But that is true of most of the roster. So, it goes.

      • Jim Walker

        It is not like Fairchild should be such a huge surprise. He was the #38 overall choice in the 2017 draft, technically the 2nd choice of the 2nd round. However, if 2017 were used as the midpoint of a 5 year span looking at the draft, 38th overall would have been a 1st rounder in the other 4 years. Recall that Jesse Winker was a 1st rounder at #49 overall in 2012 and has done well enough in MLB.

        Some guy named Doug Gray had Fairchild as high as #7 in his Reds Minor Leagues (2019 post season) prospect list. He was ahead of Jose Siri (#8) on that list. Folks would recognize all 6 of the names above him on that list as guys that played for the Reds this year and except for the star crossed Jose Barrero, were seen as being solid contributors to potential core players (until struck by injury in several cases).

        Doug did drop Fairchild to #8 in the 2020 mid season list in favor of Austin Hendrick, the Reds #1 2020 pick (#12 overall); but still….

        Go on and have a look at the list. Scroll down to find 2019.

        Fairchild posted a seasonal OPS+ of 116 (110 combined PAs with 3 teams). During his time with the Reds, his OPS/OPS+ was .897/141 in 99PAs. He looks to be an above average defensive OF and baserunner. As long as he continues like he has so far for the Reds, I am going to keep reminding folks not to be so busy and caught up looking for (potentially) greener grass on the other side of the hill.

      • BK

        @LDS, go click on the link above in this article. An Arm rated in the 71st percentile is demonstrably better than average. If you look at his fielding metrics, he was 2 outs below average this year and one out above average last year. For his career, -1 OAA, which makes him an average fielder.

      • LDS

        @BK, baseball reference shows his defensive metrics substantially below average as in -6 DRS in 51 games with .976 fielding pct and 1 assist. If that’s average, baseball quality as really declined. By contrast, Fairchild in 34 games is +5 with 1.000 fielding pct. And Aquino, who will likely be gone, is +13 in 78 games, with 12 assists. Fraley isn’t average by these numbers, even on the Reds.

      • Indy Red Man

        Fraley came back end of July and hit .295 (173 at-bats) the rest of the way with 7 doubles, 11 HRs, and 22 walks (.381 obp). I’m not disregarding that with the lack of power/offense on this team. According to ESPN he had 1.7 war for Seattle in 2021 in half a season which was almost the exact same number of at-bats he had this year. Idk? Thats middle of the lineup with this bunch until proven otherwise.

      • LDS

        @indy, that’s the great thing about “analytics”, it can support whatever argument anyone chooses to make. For example, Fraley has a .06 WAR while Fairchild has a .7 in 148 fewer plate appearances. Aquino has a 1.4 on 29 more PAs. Of course, using OPS+ , Fairchild is the leader at 141, while Fraley comes in 4th at 118. Aquino using OPS+ disappears down at 63. Got to love analytics, meaningless though most of them are. Lies, dm’d lies, and statistics.

      • Melvin

        Yeah. haha It seems there’s always a stat somewhere to use to prove one’s point.

  8. Jim Walker

    And a little bit of Friday 40 man roster culling via Charlie Goldsmith (@Charlie_G) on Twitter:

    Michael Papierski has been claimed by the Tigers. He got a shot as the Reds starter in the middle of the season, and he hit .143 with Cincinnati. He spent most of the year in Triple-A.