MLB Power Rankings: Vladimir Guerrero and the 12 Deadliest Outfield Arms
If there's one weapon every baseball team has, it's an outfielder with a cannon for an arm. Throughout baseball history, there have been players that, regardless of how fast a runner one might be, their arms were not to be tested.
It would be easy for me to pick one player and go on and on about how their arm is the best in MLB history, but doing so would be an injustice to all of the other cannons out there. Thus, I'm going to use this type of player to debut a new series.
This is the first of my Dirty Dozen spotlights, this time highlighting the 12 greatest outfield arms in baseball history!
No. 12: Andruw Jones
This man from the island of Curacao first burst onto the scene with the Atlanta Braves in 1996. He made his presence known and became a regular in 1997, finishing fifth in Rookie of the Year voting.
In 1998, he won the first of 10 consecutive Gold Gloves as he showcased not only great range, but an absolute rocket of a throwing arm with 20 outfield assists! To this day, that remains his career high.
I know that there are going to be some naysayers out there who will tell me that Andruw Jones shouldn't be on this list because after that one season, his assist numbers declined and were never that outstanding again. Still, he showcased enough arm strength to strike fear into the hearts of any baserunners thinking of taking an extra base after a catch. He was good for about eight to ten assists a season (if not more) when he was in his prime.
He may not be the same player he was ten years ago, but Jones continues to flash that cannon of his even as a reserve outfielder. Last season, as a member of the Chicago White Sox, he had a respectable eight assists while serving as the team's fourth outfielder. With a strong legacy behind him and slow resurgence underway, Andruw Jones is the right man to kick off this countdown!
No. 11: Kirby Puckett
At 5'9" and 220 pounds, Kirby Puckett certainly didn't look like a top outfielder. In fact, most unfamiliar with baseball history would probably take one look at him and immediately assume he was a backup player. How wrong they would be!
In 1984, his rookie season, Puckett showed that his small stature featured an arm full of thunder as he registered 16 outfield assists. The following year, he had a career high 19!
Over the course of 12 seasons (all with the Minnesota Twins), during which he won two World Series rings and six Gold Gloves, Puckett registered 142 career outfield assists. Unfortunately, despite showing no signs of slowing down physically, glaucoma forced him to retire in 1996. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2001, his first year of eligibility.
Tragically, Puckett's health deteriorated following his retirement from baseball and he succumbed to a stroke in 2006 at age 45. He makes this list not only for his arm strength, but for being a classy man on the field and easily the most beloved player in the history of the Minnesota Twins.
No. 10: Ellis Valentine
Many of you have probably never heard of Ellis Valentine, and I'm not surprised at all. He was only a starter for three of his ten seasons, and in general was a less than average player at the MLB level.
That being said, why am I including him on this list? Well, to be perfectly honest, because historians consider Ellis Valentine's throwing arm to be one of the best. Looking at his fielding numbers, I have to say that I agree with them.
In 1978, his one Gold Glove season, Valentine registered an astounding 24 assists! Who does that anymore? I'll tell you: not many! Thus, despite his relatively short career as a starter, Valentine is getting his due credit on this countdown.
No. 9: Carl Furillo
If you want an idea of how strong an arm Dodgers outfielder Carl Furillo had, look no further than his nickname.
Known as "the Reading Rifle," Furillo was the type of outfielder I mentioned at the start of this countdown. If you were on base and had a chance to tag up when he had the ball, you stayed put if you were smart. You just didn't test his arm.
In the prime of his career, Furillo consistently registered outfield assists in or close to the double digits. His career high came in 1951, when he had 24. Combined with impressive batting stats, he was considered an elite outfielder.
Injuries forced him out of the game in 1960, and he worked a number of odd jobs in retirement. In 1972, he published "The Boys of Summer," which chronicled his experiences winning the pennant in 1952 and 1953. He died of a heart attack in 1989, unhappy that baseball had seemingly forgotten all about him. Today, he gets his due respect with a spot on this list.
No. 8: Bob Meusel
Despite being a career .309 hitter and a legitimate offensive threat, Bob Meusel's talents at the plate were overshadowed by those of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig on the dangerous Yankees squads of the 1920s.
However, the man known as "Long Bob" stood out on the team thanks to his incredible skill at throwing out baserunners from the outfield. He had a career high 28 assists in 1921 and much like Carl Furillo, kept said totals in or around double digits.
Meusel's career was relatively short, only 11 seasons. Still, the fact remains that he had a dangerous weapon on the field and it served his team well. His career stats are modest and he isn't a Hall of Famer, but Long Bob Meusel's arm is one that cannot be ignored.
No. 7: Al Kaline
When someone mentions the Detroit Tigers, I automatically think of Al Kaline. Simply put, the man could do it all. He had power, could hit for average and most importantly, was great in the field and had a killer arm!
He only put up impressive assist numbers a few times, his career high being 23 in 1958. Other than that season and a few preceding it, the assist numbers are fairly modest. This can be attributed to him moving to the infield later in his career, but he still managed to have enough arm strength to throw out baserunners when called upon.
Kaline finished a 21 year career with 10 Gold Gloves and 170 outfield assists. Had he spent his entire career as an outfielder, I'd imagine that total to be much higher. Still, in his prime, the man could not be run on.
No. 6: Ichiro Suzuki
Much like the previously mentioned Kirby Puckett, one doesn't take a look at Ichiro Suzuki and automatically think, "elite outfielder."
Despite being of slight build at 5'11" and 170 pounds, Ichiro has astounded fans and analysts each of his 10 seasons with his skills at the plate and in the field. The man has won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves and for a relatively small outfielder, DANG can he throw!
His assist totals per season range from as low as five one year to twelve in another season. For a better idea of how dangerous Ichiro's arm is, I highly suggest that you watch the video I've provided!
No. 5: Vladimir Guerrero
I know that injuries have forced him into a DH role over the past two seasons, but that doesn't take away from the fact that Vladimir Guerrero has one of the strongest arms of the modern era.
Some years ago, I recall watching a pregame interview of Joe Torre, who was managing the New York Yankees at the time. The team was playing the then-Anaheim Angels, who had Guerrero in right field. A reporter asked Torre what his strategy for winning the game was, and Torre's response was simple: "Don't get beat by Guerrero."
Apart from his dangerous bat, I wouldn't be surprised if Torre was referring to Guerrero's unbelievable arm. In his prime, Vladimir Guerrero consistently averaged outfield assists in the double digits. Even when slowed down by injuries, he managed to put up respectable totals of seven or eight assists.
He has never won a Gold Glove or a World Series ring, but Guerrero's arm still is deserving of a spot in the Top Five on this countdown. Don't believe me? Just watch the video!
No. 4: Ken Griffey Jr.
As an outfielder, this man could hurt opposing teams in so many ways. He could dive, leap and even slide his way to stealing base hits from opposing hitters. In his prime, however, he also had a deadly weapon in his arm.
In a 10 season stretch that also saw him win 10 consecutive Gold Gloves (1990-1999), Griffey registered an astounding 96 outfield assists. His season high during that period was 15 in 1991.
Unfortunately, after that decade of dominance in the outfield, Griffey's fielding numbers dropped due to a variety of injuries. Towards the end of his career, he was considered an average outfielder with a less than average arm. Still, that doesn't mean one can ignore the fact that in the prime of his career, Junior was something special.
No. 3: Jesse Barfield
Like Ellis Valentine, Jesse Barfield was and still is known for having one of the strongest throwing arms in baseball history.
Over the course of a dozen seasons, his outfield assists were in the double digits 10 times! By the time injuries and ineffective play forced his retirement in 1992, he had 162 career assists. To give you an idea of how amazing that statistic is, Al Kaline had 170. And that was over 21 seasons!
Also, Barfield reached the 20 assists in a season mark three times in his career (1985-1986, 1989). Basically, comparing on arm strength alone, he was the Vladimir Guerrero of his time, although not nearly as dangerous with the bat. With his cannon arm as well as consistency in using it, Jesse Barfield is the perfect number three outfield arm to segue into our top two!
No. 2: Willie Mays
Now, I have to ask. Is it at all possible to spotlight the 12 greatest outfield arms of all time and not mention Willie Mays? Answer: absolutely not!
I'm not going to beat around the bush. In his prime, Mays was a phenomenal outfielder. He won 12 consecutive Gold Gloves, had great range and an incredible arm.
During the golden years of his career, the Say Hey Kid's assists were consistently in or close to double digits, his career high being 23 in 1955. Like his contemporary Al Kaline, he was shifted to first base later in his career. Still, he finished his 22 season tour in the major leagues with an incredible 195 outfield assists.
If those numbers don't scream "cannon for an arm," I'm honestly at a loss for words.
No. 1: Roberto Clemente
I don't know how else to put this, so I'm just going to flat out say it. You can go on and on about the arms of the Ichiros and Guerreros in the history of the game, but they'll never be on the same level as the arm of Roberto Clemente.
Let me put it this way. If the 11 outfielders I just talked about had rockets or cannons for arms, Roberto Clemente's arm was a nuclear missile. It was just plain unbelievable.
Over an 18 season career, Clemente registered an absolutely incredible 266 outfield assists. His career high occurred in 1961 when he had 27. Oddly enough, his career low of five occurred in 1972, his injury-plagued final season.
That very same year, his already Hall of Fame career was cut short as he was killed in a plane crash in Nicaragua. Had he survived and returned to the game, there's no telling just how much more amazing his career fielding statistics could have been. With his nuclear weapon of an arm and all around epic charisma, Roberto Clemente is a shoe-in for the top spot on this list.