Major League Baseball (MLB) is a professional sports league that has been captivating fans for many years.
With 30 teams and a rigorous schedule, the MLB offers an incredible level of competition and excitement to its spectators.
As a result, the number of active players involved in the league is often a topic of interest for many enthusiasts and statisticians.
In general, there are 750 active players during the MLB season, with 25 players on each of the 30 teams.
However, the rosters of these teams tend to have a larger pool of players, which can climb up to a thousand, as they choose who will be active in the Depth Chart.
The league’s structure allows for roster changes and fluctuations during the season, accounting for injuries, trades, and other factors influencing the final lineup.
Current MLB Players
There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball, and each team has a 26-man roster during the regular season, from Opening Day through August 31st.
During this time, teams are limited to carrying 13 pitchers. From September 1st through the end of the regular season, all clubs must carry 28 players, with a limit of 14 pitchers.
When considering the 26-man roster for each of the 30 teams, a total of 780 active players are within Major League Baseball during the regular season.
In Major League Baseball, players are divided into different positions on the field.
Here is a brief breakdown of the general positions held by players in the MLB:
- Pitchers (P): Responsible for pitching the ball to the batter. There are two main categories of pitchers: starting pitchers and relief pitchers. As mentioned earlier, teams are limited to carrying 13 pitchers during the majority of the regular season, and 14 pitchers from September 1st onwards.
- Catchers (C): Positioned behind the home plate, catchers receive the pitches thrown by the pitcher and play a crucial role in directing the team’s defensive strategy.
- Infielders: Infielders include the first baseman (1B), second baseman (2B), third baseman (3B), and shortstop (SS). Their primary role is to field ground balls, catch pop-ups, and make defensive plays within the infield.
- Outfielders: Outfielders cover the left field (LF), center field (CF), and right field (RF) areas of the ballpark. Their main responsibilities are to field fly balls, prevent runners from advancing, and back up infielders on certain plays.
There isn’t a fixed number of players allocated to each position on an MLB team; it varies depending on a team’s strategy and its players’ abilities.
However, each team must have at least one player listed at each position, ensuring that they have adequate field coverage and depth during games.
Changes in Number of Players Over Time
Since the inception of Major League Baseball in 1876, the number of players has grown significantly.
At its earliest stage, there were far fewer players than there are today, with only a few hundred participating in the National League during its early years.
As of June 1, 2023, there have been a total of 20,365 Major League ballplayers in history.
Through various periods, there have been fluctuations in the percentage of players who are pitchers. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, this percentage began rising from the low 40 percent range to 53.4% in 2016.
This suggests an increase in specialization within the sport, with more than half of all MLB players being pitchers in recent years.
Expansion of MLB Teams
The expansion of Major League Baseball teams has also contributed to the growth in the number of players. At its founding, MLB consisted of two leagues: the National League (NL) and the American League (AL).
The NL was founded in 1876, and the AL was founded in 19013 Since their merger in 1903, numerous teams have been added to the league, increasing the demand for players and providing more opportunities for professional baseball players.
As the league expanded, more rookies made their debut each season. In 2021 alone, there were 212 rookies, with 105 debuting in the American League and 107 debuting in the National League.
The growth and expansion of Major League Baseball over its long history have created opportunities for thousands of players, continuously increasing the total number of MLB players, both past and present.
Minor League Players
Number of Players
Minor League Baseball (MiLB) serves as a crucial stepping stone for players looking to reach the major leagues.
With 30 MLB franchises, each organization reportedly has 4 full-season affiliated minor league teams, adding up to a total of 120 teams. During the offseason, each organization may have as many as 40 players on its MLB roster, 38 on its Triple-A roster, 37 on its Double-A roster, and 35 on every other roster.
Therefore, roughly 7,470 players are involved in MiLB at any given time.
Path to the MLB
Aspiring players looking to make it to the MLB generally follow a specific path through the minor leagues.
The journey often begins with players being drafted by an MLB organization, or signing as international free agents.
Once signed, they are assigned to one of the organization’s minor league teams.
- Rookie League: Newly drafted or signed players typically start in the Rookie League. Here, they gain their first exposure to professional baseball and acclimate to the level of play.
- Single-A: After gaining experience in the Rookie League, players can advance to Single-A, where they continue to develop their skills against better competition. Single-A is split into three levels: Low-A, High-A, and Advanced-A, with Advanced-A being the highest.
- Double-A: The next step is Double-A baseball, which is considered a significant milestone in a player’s development. The level of competition is notably higher, featuring many top prospects from other organizations.
- Triple-A: The final level before reaching the MLB is Triple-A, where players face seasoned veterans mixed with other top prospects. Performance in Triple-A is crucial, as it determines if a player is ready for promotion to the big leagues.
As they advance through the levels of Minor League Baseball, players face increasingly tougher competition while continually honing their skills.
Ultimately, the goal is to receive a call-up from the MLB organization for which they play and join the roster of the major league team.
Players from Outside the United States
Major League Baseball (MLB) has seen a significant increase in international players over the years, showcasing the sport’s global appeal.
On 2022 Opening Day rosters and inactive lists, there were a total of 275 players representing 21 different countries and territories outside the 50 United States.
The MLB consists of close to 1,100 players, with more than 70% hailing from the United States.
However, the international presence in the league is noticeable, with countries like the Dominican Republic leading the way for non-US players.
Teams such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, and Oakland Athletics boast considerable diversity, with players from seven different countries and territories outside the U.S. Other teams like the Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins, and Tampa Bay Rays also have notable international representation, with players from five different countries or territories.
These numbers emphasize the growing reach of baseball globally, attracting talent from across the world and enhancing the MLB’s status as the premier league for the sport.
James is a big time NBA Golden State follower, who makes sure to catch games when he's in the area. He likes to follow International Soccer, with an interest in small town soccer club, Blackburn Rovers located in the North on the UK.