Menu Close

How Many Players on a Baseball Team? (26, Here’s Why)

mlb team roster

Roster sizes vary for every professional team sport. Baseball is one of those sports that lies right in the middle of the pack. 

The team count not as quite as large as the NFL but is way more stacked than your standard NBA team.

The first thing you should be aware of is that there is an Active Roster and an Expanded Roster.

The Expanded Roster allows for teams to replace or swap players due to injury or emergency leave. This falls under the season roster-limit.

Another count that comes to mind is the number of players that are simultaneously allowed on the field.

I’ll break these numbers down for you but let me answer the question you came here for first.

How many players on a baseball team?

There are 26 players on a baseball team made up of 13 position players and 13 pitchers in the MLB. The 13 positional players normally consist of two catchers, six infielders, and five outfielders, which also includes designated hitters. The 13 pitchers are made up of five starters and 8 relievers and closers.

As you might have guessed, the 26 players make up the Active Roster list, or your players eligible to play on gameday.

The manager is given wiggle room on his roster to make sure he can replace players due to injury or strategically.

The strategic element comes into play when the game is tight.

For example, the starting pitcher might have worn out his welcome on the mound and a reliever is put in place. 

Meanwhile, the team might be trailing in runs, and the player on base can be swapped for a pinch-runner. 

One that can run faster and gives their team a better chance at scoring the tying run. 

These are two common strategic examples, but there can be other reasons as well.

Embed from Getty Images

It is essential that each team distinguishes their position players from their pitchers from their active roster.

Position players are not allowed to pitch under normal circumstances, but some exceptions are made.

The only time position players can convert to pitchers is if the game goes to extra innings, or the score differential is by 6 or more runs, either way.

Teams can also designate certain players as two-way players, allowing them to pitch in any situation.  

Note that two-way players are not counted towards the active 13-pitcher limit.

How many Players allowed on the field?

This question depends on whether the team is fielding or batting during the inning.

While Fielding

The maximum number of players allowed on the field is 9, made up of the pitcher, catcher, 1B, 2B, 3B, shortstop and three outfielders.

The remainder of the Active Roster are sitting in the dugout or warming up in the bullpen.

As a note, the only time a team is allowed 9 players on the field is while they are fielding (or on defense).

Embed from Getty Images

While At-Bat

While batting, the most players you can have on the field is based on interpretation. That number is either 4 or 5.

For the purists, your active offense can only have 3 runners on base and the batter. 

Some will consider the player on-deck to be the 5th, even though they’re on the sidelines. 

While they’re technically no longer in the dugout, there’s a possibility they’re never given a chance at bat for the inning. 

40-Man Roster (Expanded Roster)

The 40-man roster limit is made up of the 26-man roster, the 7-, 10-, and 15-day injured lists, medical emergency list, and the paternity leave list, as well as some Minor Leaguers.

If a team has filled their 40-man to capacity and want to call up another player, it is possible should certain criteria be met. 

That is, the team must remove a player from their existing 40-man squad by: 

Designating a player's contract for assignment

Trading a player

Releasing a player 

Transferring a player to the 60-day injured list

So long as a player is part of the Expanded Roster, they are protected against being selected by another organization during the offseason.

Any player that doesn’t crack the 26-man Active Roster is automatically assigned to the minor league affiliate.

There is a limit to how many years (usually 3) a player remains on the 40-man roster while continually playing for the minor league affiliate. 

After that time, they cannot be sent down to the minors without passing through waivers. 

Roster Exceptions

The 26-man Active Roster limit is in effect from Opening Day until August 31st and throughout the playoffs.

The Active Roster minimum briefly increases between September 1st until the end of regular season.  

During this short time window, the player count is set to 28, with a limit of 14 pitchers. 

For those wondering why, the purpose is to allow teams the extra needed help when battling in the standings for a playoff spot. 

Another exception the league made is on days where teams play doubleheaders. 

For this particular day, teams can carry an extra player on their Active Roster, known as the 27thman.

And the extra player is also in effect during the last month of the season as well.

So, when teams play a doubleheader during the last month, the allowable count increases 29 players (rather than 28 as mentioned above). 

Lastly, the players called up must be part of the 40-man Expanded Roster.

Final Thoughts

Asking about the no. of players on a baseball team can lead you down a rabbit hole.

I think the average person really wants to know either how many players are on the field at once or the full gameday roster. 

When you see players hiding in the dugout, while others are warming up in the bullpen, the count immediately sparks your curiosity. 

So, let’s crunch the numbers based on the evidence.

The defending team will field 9 players, divided into three categories:

Battery: Pitcher and catcher

Infield: First-, Second-, Third Baseman and Shortstop

Outfield: Right-, Center- and Left Fielder

The remainder are your 12 other pitchers and 5 additional position players. 

If you’re looking at the American League, one of those extra positional players is the designated hitter. 

In the National League, that position player is simply on stand-by. 

These positional players can serve as pinch-hitters, pinch-runners or replace an injured player from the starting rotation.

Meanwhile, the active pitchers are either reserve starters or relievers.  

The relievers usually come in to replace a struggling starter or to help in the latter innings of the game.

Baseball teams are a pretty large and tight squad.

Embed from Getty Images