What Scouts Look For
Evaluating Arm Strength
by Ed Herrmann
Arm strength grades are very subjective to the scout doing the evaluating. Two different scouts
from the same organization may evaluate an arm at the same time but conclude two different grades.
It gets fuzzy sometimes trying to grade an arm that is on the verge of being at the next highest
grade, but is not quite there yet. For example, you see a fielder make a strong throw, but
there is just enough "pop" missing in the throw that you give a below-average grade instead
of an average grade, but the scout next to you decides to give it an average grade. This
happens in real life. (If you want to get your throws as strong as possible, you should play
long-toss as often as possible, as far as possible. You do not need to throw more than 10
balls at your maximum distance when playing catch to add, and preserve, arm strength.)
It is important that you try to show-off your arm as much as possible when you are playing in a game,
because you never know who is watching. In infield practice, before a game, show-off your talents
in case you do not get any plays during the game that allow you to "air it out." Scouts always try
to see batting practice and infield/outfield before a game to help them evaluate defensive skills
and arm strength, so BE READY.
Scouts grade arms visually; in general, radar guns are not used to measure arm strength in the
infield or outfield. But if you do not have a radar gun, average-grade velocities throwing
from shortstop to first usually around 85 mph and higher. And, I have seen a Major League
outfielder with an above-average arm (when he was a minor leaguer) throw a ball 91 mph from
behind the mound to home plate.
What Scouts Do Look For When Evaluating INFIELDERS
- True, raw arm strength is best evaluated when having to make a throw
from a back-hand fielding position. This position does not allow the fielder
to gain much, if any, momentum to throw across the infield. Infielders usually
have to plant their back foot and throw to have a chance of throwing out a
base runner, and this type of throw will display how strong an infielder's
arm actually is.
- Average Arm Strength Is graded when a thrown ball can get across
the infield ON A LINE with some "pop" on the throw.
- Above-Average Arm Strength Is graded when the throw stays on line and really carries across the infield - like a laser beam. Derek Jeter, Miguel Tejada, Rey Ordonez, Alex Rodriguez and Chipper Jones are all examples of Major League infielders with great arms
- Below-Average Arm Strength Is graded when throws are "soft", but they get across the infield to make most of the plays. Below average arms can look and "play" average if the player can get rid of the ball with quickness. Mike Bordick, does not have an average arm, but he makes the plays because he gets the ball in-and-out of his glove so quickly; Mike is considered an above-average defensive shortstop, by Major League standards.
- Very Below-Average Arm Strength Is given when the arm is barely acceptable at the Major League level. There are very few of these arms in the Major Leagues, and they are usually at first or second base. Players with very below-average arms should focus on their foot and glove work to speed up their release times; quick throws can be as effective as strong throws,
OUTFIELD Arm Strength
- Scouts look at how the ball carries to the infield. Does the ball stay up in the air with good back spin, or does in sink and cut, taking the throw off course. Outfielders should always be able to get a 4 seam grip on the ball to help their throws stay true.
- Scouts watch to see how quickly an outfielder can catch and throw the ball. There is a rhythm to throwing; the footwork of the outfielder should be in-synch with his arm so he does not have to slow down to throw.
- Scouts will also look at the distance an outfielder can throw on as true a line as possible. In other words, a "rainbow" throw is not as strong as one on a straight line, or with only a slight arc.
- Above-Average Arm Strength Is graded when the throw can get to its target ON THE LINE with POWER. Maybe the throw has to bounce, but it is a long-hop that stays on-line to its target. Bernie Williams, Ken Griffey Jr. and Andrew Jones all have great arms. Great arms are rarely challenged by base runners when the game is on the line.
- Average Arm Strength Is graded when the ball can get to its target ON THE LINE with average velocity.
- Below-Average Arm Strength Grades are for softer throws that may arrive in one or two bounces, but they lose velocity along the way. Below-Average arms are occasionally said to be "playable" if they have enough carry and are accurate.
- Very Below-Average Arms Are seldom seen in Major League outfields, and they are usually in left field if they are present. These throws lack distance and velocity, but have enough carry to play if the outfielder can get some momentum for his throws.
Arm strength grades are important to baseball because it may determine where you best fit defensively on a Major League playing field. You can improve your arm strength, or at least maintain what you have, with long-toss. There are players in the Majors with below-average arms, but they are able to compensate with a quick release and accuracy.
This is a series of articles put together by former Major League catcher Ed Herrmann, compiled from professional scouts and players.
About Ed Herrmann:
His career would span 11 years, a period during which he played for five organizations. He made his major league debut with the White Sox in 1967, concluding his career with the Montreal Expos in 1978. He was a lifetime .240 hitter, enjoying his best season in 1970, when he batted .283 with 19 homers, 52 RBI and a .505 slugging percentage for the White Sox. In 1971, over the course of 101 games, Herrmann posted a .995 fielding percentage.
- Kansas City Royals Baseball Scout
- President of the SD Chapter for the Major League Baseball Players Alumni
- San Diego Mesa College Baseball coach
- Manager/Coach SD County Crush scouting team
- High School Baseball Athlete Tutor