There are 162 games in an MLB season. There are so many things that can happen over the course of a baseball season including injuries to key players. When these injuries occur, a team has to have a capable backup to fill in for the injured player. A baseball player who can fill in at multiple roles can be extremely valuable to a team when several players get injured throughout the season. A utility player has to be an incredible athlete to fill in at various positions, and he has several key responsibilities that add value to the team.
Obviously a utility player has to possess a lot of pure talent to be able to play several positions on the baseball diamond. For example, the shortstop must have speed, strength, and defensive prowess. He has to have a wide fielding range and arm strength to get the ball to first base. Since most utility players are athletic, many of them can play shortstop.
The utility player might play shortstop for several games, and if he is productive, he could be asked to move to third base when the everyday shortstop returns. People refer to third base as the “hot corner” since a lot of balls get hit there. Third base is also relatively close to the batter compared to other infield positions, especially if the batter is a right-handed hitter. For this reason, the third baseman must have excellent reflexes. Third base is further from first base than the other infield positions, so the third baseman must have the arm strength to make the long throw from third base to first base repeatedly over the course of a game.
Teams have a limited roster space and have started filling more of that space with relief pitchers over the years, so utility players are becoming more valuable. Some baseball players make their name in the league by playing multiple positions. Marco Scutaro has played for nine different teams, the last three of which were the Boston Red Sox, Colorado Rockies, and San Francisco Giants. He’s fielded at every position in the infield and even done some outfielding. Players like Scutaro give baseball coaches and managers a lot of flexibility since they know their utility player is someone they can count on to play any position at any moment.
Their names may not be in the headlines every day, but utility players deserve a lot of credit for a team’s success. There’s just no way a team can make it through a full season without losing a few starters along the way. Utility players can fill in at a moment’s notice and are called upon when a starter is injured or needs a rest. Their value is immense, and youth baseball players should look up to them as role models and examples of athletes who took their games to another level by developing the skills to play multiple positions.
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