What is the hardest position in MLB?

When it comes to the hardest positions to play in Major League Baseball (MLB), there are several positions that could be considered the most challenging based on the skills required both physically and mentally. Determining the hardest position is ultimately subjective, but by looking at the key skills and demands required for each position, some clear frontrunners emerge.


The catcher position is often cited as one of the most difficult positions in baseball. Here are some of the key reasons why:

  • Physical demands – Catchers have to wear heavy protective gear (chest protector, shin guards, mask) in the heat for 9 innings. They are also more likely to suffer injuries from foul tips, errant balls, and collisions at home plate.
  • Game management – Catchers are essentially the on-field managers for the team’s pitchers. They study batters’ strengths/weaknesses and call pitches accordingly. They must also survey the field and put down signs for pitches and defensive positioning.
  • Throwing challenges – Catchers need to be able to make strong, accurate throws to all bases from their crouched position behind the plate. Throwing out attempted base stealers is a key defensive responsibility.
  • Blocking – Catchers must be able to block wayward pitches in the dirt to prevent wild pitches and passed balls.
  • Framing – Catchers must be able to subtly move their glove to make borderline strikes look like strikes (“framing” the pitch). This skill has become increasingly valued in modern baseball.
  • Speed/agility – While speed and agility may not seem integral for catchers, the position still requires athleticism to move and react defensively, including popping up to throw out runners.

The constant need for multitasking, unique physical strains, leadership, and specialized technical skills combine to make catcher one of the toughest positions in the sport. Catchers are involved in nearly every single play and must bring a rare blend of physical tools and intellect.


Shortstop is arguably the most demanding defensive position on the field. Here’s a look at why shortstop deserves consideration as the hardest position in baseball:

  • Range – Shortstops are expected to cover the most ground defensively. They must field balls deep in the hole between 3rd and short as well as up the middle behind 2nd base.
  • Arm strength – Shortstops require plus throwing arms to be able to make off-balance throws from deep in the hole and turn double plays with velocity and accuracy.
  • Quick reactions – Shortstops must explode quickly first step and get superb reads off the bat to react in time on hard-hit balls.
  • Soft hands – Shortstops handle more chances than any position, requiring soft, sure hands and quick transfers to control difficult hops and turn double plays.
  • Acrobatics – Shortstops sometimes must utilize athleticism and acrobatics to field wickedly tough hops and throw runners out from awkward positions.
  • Leadership – Shortstops often serve as on-field leaders and are deeply involved in coordinating infield defenses.

The combination of elite range, arm strength, quick reactions, soft hands, and leadership required makes shortstop a uniquely demanding position that exemplifies many of baseball’s toughest skills.

Center Field

While the corner outfield spots have become more offensive-focused positions in today’s game, center field remains one of the most challenging positions thanks to the range and defensive skills required:

  • Covering vast territory – Center fielders must have the speed and instincts to cover extensive ground in the outfield gaps and run down balls barreling into the alleys.
  • Getting good jumps – Since they have much more territory to cover, center fielders must be adept at getting quick breaks on balls to run down flies and take away potential extra-base hits.
  • Reading trajectories off the bat – Center fielders must be adept at immediately reading trajectories and angles off the bat to most efficiently track down balls.
  • Arm strength – Center fielders’ throws must be strong and on target to home plate and other bases to keep runners from taking extra bases.
  • Communication – Center fielders are typically in charge of outfield positioning and communication. They must be leaders who work well with corner outfielders.

With vast ground to cover, center fielders must bring an impressive mix of speed, instincts, jumps, smarts, leadership, and throwing accuracy to succeed at an exceptionally demanding position.

Starting Pitcher

Life as an MLB starting pitcher brings unique physical and mental challenges that make it a potential choice as the hardest position in baseball:

  • Durability for heavy workloads – Starters must be durable enough to pitch deep into games consistently every five days through a grueling 162-game season.
  • Stamina for 100+ pitch outings – Starters must maintain their stamina and stuff deep into games to keep pitching well when their team needs them to go deep into games.
  • Mastery of multiple quality pitches – Starters need at least three plus pitches – and ideally four or more – that they can command well to work through a lineup multiple times.
  • Mental focus and competitiveness – To succeed over long starts against MLB lineups, starters need intense focus, competitiveness, and short-term memory to escape jams.
  • Fielding skills – From sacrifice bunts to comebackers up the middle to covering first base, starters must handle a variety of fielding responsibilities.
  • Holding runners – Starters must vary their looks and release times to keep speedy runners from stealing bases and getting in scoring position.

With the need to be a pitching robot capable of excelling every fifth day despite tremendous workloads, starting pitching stands out as arguably the most demanding job in baseball from a physical and mental perspective.

First Base

First basemen face their own considerable challenges that make this an underrated difficult position to play:

  • Good hands/reflexes – First basemen handle throws from all over the infield, many low or in the dirt, requiring soft hands and quick reflexes on short hops.
  • Receiving throws – They must master footwork, positioning, flexibility, and focus to cleanly receive throws from any angle.
  • Digging out throws – First basemen must become adept at “digging” poor throws out of the dirt to save errors and secure outs.
  • Turning double plays – Turning smooth twin killings requires coordination with the other infielders under pressure.
  • Scooping throws – First basemen must be able to “scoop” difficult bounced throws in the infield to complete close plays.
  • Guarding the line – They need good footwork and flexibility to keep a foot anchored to the base while stretching for throws.
  • Range – Though not expected to cover as much ground as other infielders, first basemen must still have solid range to both sides.

When you combine the unique throwing challenges and nuanced defensive techniques required to play first base cleanly, it stands out as a misunderstood but very challenging position.

Second Base

Second base requires its own blend of difficult skills that combine to make this a very demanding position:

  • Fluid footwork – Second basemen must have agile footwork and range both up the middle and to cover the bag at second.
  • Turning double plays – They must quickly pivot, make strong throws, and avoid baserunners on quick twin killing turns.
  • Arm strength – Solid arm strength allows a second baseman to make longer, more accurate throws for double plays and on balls hit deep in the hole.
  • Up the middle range – Second basemen must cover a lot of ground on hard-hit balls up the middle between first and second base.
  • Charging bunts/dribblers – Second basemen must charge in quickly to field bunts and dribblers and deliver quick, accurate throws to first base.
  • Backhanding – Second basemen often must backhand grounders hit to their right and make off-balance throws to first base.

The need for multidirectional range paired with smooth hands and footwork makes second base a highly challenging position that tests nearly every fundamental infield skill.

Third Base

Third base is yet another infield position that brings its own unique set of difficult responsibilities:

  • Quick reflexes – Third basemen react to screaming one-hoppers down the line off the bats of power hitters.
  • Strong arm – Third base has the longest throw across the diamond to first base, requiring plus arm strength.
  • Charging bunts/dribblers – Like second basemen, third basemen must charge quickly and field bunts and dribblers cleanly.
  • Nabbing extra base knocks – Third basemen must prevent hits down the line from getting past them and turning into doubles/triples.
  • Setting up relays – They must properly set up relays on balls hit to the outfield to prevent runners from taking extra bases.
  • Dealing with foul balls – Third basemen must constantly be prepared to deal with sharply-hit foul balls.

With rockets coming at them from close range off the bats of power hitters, third basemen must react with lightning-quick reflexes while also possessing cannon arms – making this position uniquely challenging.


In the end, there is no definitive consensus on the single hardest position in baseball. Catcher, shortstop, center field, starting pitcher, and the infield positions each bring unique demands that require outstanding physical skills and mental focus.

But what is clear is that catcher, shortstop, and center field – positions up the middle of the diamond that must cover the most ground defensively and require the most well-rounded athleticism and acumen – have strong cases as the most difficult positions to play in MLB.

Catchers must manage the game, handle pitching staffs, block balls in the dirt, deter the running game, receive all types of pitches, and withstand collisions as the most battered players on the field.

Shortstops need an extraordinary blend of range, arm strength, quick reactions, soft hands, and leadership to cover the most ground and make the most plays defensively.

And center fielders must cover vast territory with speed and grace, track down balls in the gaps, and unleash pinpoint throws home to thwart rallies.

While the various infield positions, starting pitchers, and other roles each come with their respective challenges, catchers, shortstops, and center fielders are rightfully in the discussion for the title of the hardest position in baseball due to the sheer breadth of elite skills required to play these positions at the highest level.

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