Every kid who’s ever played baseball has dreamed of making it big and becoming a pro.
Even for older players, a spot on an MLB roster is a main goal and something they aspire to achieve, no matter if they play pro ball in the Minors or are on a college or high school team.
However, there are only so many spots available on the highest level of the game.
MLB teams have a limited number of roster spots and that number is determined by the league rulebook.
However, the number of players on a team still has to be large enough to provide teams some security and cover during a long baseball season.
This is particularly important considering that MLB teams play almost a daily basis, sometimes even twice a day.
Below, you’ll learn how many baseball players are on a team and how a baseball roster is constructed.
So, let’s dive in!
How Many Baseball Players Are On A Team?
According to the current league rules, the active roster of an MLB club has 26 players. This number includes players that are in the uniform, in the dugout, and ready to play.
Teams will carry this number of players, 26, from the Opening Day of the season until August 31 and during the postseason.
Players on the Injured list don’t count towards this number.
In certain cases, there may be some additional players from the full 40-man roster, but more on that later.
For the better part of the league history, the number of active roster spots was limited to 25.
It was only in 2020 that the league raised this number to 26, although the implementation of this rule was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the 26-player limit remains in effect, and there is no indication that it will be changed in the future.
What is a 40-Man Roster?
The 40-man roster includes every player on the 26-man roster, but also every other player who has a Major League contract with the team.
Players from this extended roster may, in some situations, be called up to join the active team, but are not available to play right away, as those on the active roster.
In most cases, they spend the better part of the season playing for the Minor League affiliate of the MLB team.
Plus, unlike with the active roster, players who are on the 10 or 15-day Injured List still can keep their place among the 40 spots.
The exception is players who are on the 60-day injured list and they don’t count towards the 40-man limit.
Team players who are not on the 40-man roster are eligible to sign for other teams in the Rule 5 draft if they meet service qualifications.
The 27th Man
When a team has a scheduled doubleheader or has to play two games on the same day for any other reason, they’re allowed to expand their active 26-man roster by one additional player.
The 27th player added to the active gameday roster must be recalled from the existing 40-man roster and can remain active only for the day when the doubleheader is played.
If the player is called up when the team is completing a previously suspended game on a day they have another matchup scheduled, they can play only in the regularly scheduled game.
Still, the player will earn one day of MLB service for that day and return to the Minor League when the doubleheader is completed.
Once back in the Minors, the player must spend there at least 10 days before being called up again for the Major League game.
This rule is in effect until August 31.
28-Man Active Roster
Late in the season, starting with September 1, teams are allowed to further expand their active rosters with two additional players.
This brings the total size of the roster between September 1 and playoffs to 28 players. The additional players must previously be on the extended 40-man roster.
Once this period has been initiated, teams are allowed to call up the 29th player under the same rules applying to the 27th player during the previous part of the season.
The main reason for this rule is to allow them to rest their star players and starters late in the season when there are often plenty of meaningless games.
There’s a reason why this period is commonly called “dog days” of the season.
At this point, players usually have more than 100 games behind them and the toll on their bodies adds up and makes them more susceptible to injuries.
The Roster in the Postseason
Once the postseason starts, the active rosters revert to the original number of 26 players.
However, unlike in the regular season, any player on the team is eligible to be on the 26-man roster.
This includes players on the Injury List and those on the 40-man roster.
Even the players from the Restricted List can take part unless they’re suspended for using illegal substances.
Any player not in the groups mention above, can also be added, but only after petitioning with the Commissioner’s Office.
For each round of the playoffs, MLB clubs submit a new roster and are allowed to use the same players or replace them with different ones.
If a player gets injured, he can be replaced but becomes ineligible for the remainder of the series and the next playoff round.
A pitcher can only be replaced with a pitcher and a position player with a position player.
How Many Players On A Baseball Team Are On The Field?
Of course, while the active baseball roster counts 26 players, not all of them are on the field at the same time.
Depending on the game circumstances, there may be between 10 and 13 players on the field, actively taking part in the game.
The team that’s on defense, will have 9 players on the field.
Those nine players include a pitcher, and eight position players (including the catcher), deployed on the field according to the manager’s strategy.
On the other hand, for the team on the offense, most players aren’t physically on the field.
Instead, they’re waiting for their turn at the home plate.
On offense, there will always be one batter at the home plate, and potentially some runners on the bases if they managed to get a hit or a walk.
The number of baserunners on the field can vary from none to three.
Baseball Roster Overview
Constructing a 26-man roster is a complex job that requires a lot of careful planning and strategic work from the front office and managers.
During a 162-game season anything can happen, including injures, suspensions, and trades, and the roster has to be deep and versatile enough to get the team through all of this.
Every player on the roster has a role to play, and even bench players can often provide significant contributions and decide the team’s destiny.
In addition, they open possibilities for managers to use different lineups and adjust their game according to the opponent.
Below are the basic components of a baseball team roster and the primary roles the players are assigned to.
The starting lineup for each team in a game features 9 or 10 players. The 10th player is a Designated Hitter, which the team may or may not choose to use.
For a long time, the DH was only allowed in the American League, but starting with the 2022 season, National League will also feature Designated Hitters.
Other than DH, the starting lineup includes the following position.
Note that each position has an assigned number, commonly used to make a scoreboard simpler.
- Pitcher – 1
- Catcher – 2
- First base – 3
- Second base – 4
- Third base – 5
- Shortstop – 6
- Left field – 7
- Center field – 8
- Right field – 9
Starting Pitching Rotation
The pitching rotation for most MLB teams involves 5 starting pitchers.
This basically means that each starting pitcher will play once every five days, give or take a day or two.
With the exception of playoffs, starting pitchers who aren’t scheduled to play commonly do not appear in any other role for their team.
Often, they won’t even be in the stadium with the team.
Depending on how the game develops, a starting pitcher will usually pitch between 5 and 7 innings, taking the pressure off the bullpen.
The bullpen is commonly where most young pitchers start their journey in the league and, also, where plenty of older pitcher shift to near the end of their careers.
According to the new league rules, a team can carry 13 pitchers during the regular season.
The only exception is between September 1 and the start of the postseason when 28-man rosters may feature 14 pitchers.
With 5 pitchers designated as starters, this means that most MLB teams will be 7 – 9 pitchers in the bullpen.
Even though most pitchers are in the bullpen because they can’t cut it as starters, they still play a major role for a baseball team.
This is especially the case with closers who commonly pitch the final 1 or 2 innings and whose role is to secure a final few outs and bring the game home for the team.
Also, the bullpen provides managers with an opportunity to find specific matchups for batters on the opposing team.
Starting Position Players
In most MLB teams, starting position players will play every gem, barring an injury or a need for rest.
Sometimes the rest is necessary to prevent injuries and catch a breather before the rest of a season.
The group of position players who accrue most of the starts typically includes 9-10 players, with 7 or 8 of them starting the highest percentage of the games.
Of course, like in all sports, the more versatile the position player is, the more valuable he’s to the manager.
It’s up to the manager to balance out players who are better at either offense or defense for a team to be successful.
Commonly, the catcher, shortstop, and center fielders need to be particularly strong defensive performers and can be forgiven if they don’t bat so well.
On the other hand, the strongest hitters who may lack defensive qualities are typically placed in the corner outfield.
Depending on how many players a manager assigns to the bullpen, a team can feature 2-4 bench players.
In most cases, these are position players who are able to cover a couple of different positions.
Even though they don’t have a starting status, bench players can still bring a lot of value to the team.
Of course, they provide cover in the case one of the starters can continue a game for whatever reason.
But, in addition, they’re also often used as pinch runners or pinch hitters.
The manager may bring in a particularly fast player as a pinch runner for a lower player or a left-handed pinch hitter to face a lefty pitcher and replace a starter who’s struggling against that pitcher.
Quality bench players provide more space for a manager to strategize and change the game flow.
Occasionally, bench players may even get a chance to start games.
As you can see, how many baseball players are on a team depends on several factors.
The core group of active players consists of 26 men, but not all of them are going to appear in every game.
The length, number of games, and the condensed schedule of the baseball season make it necessary to have that many players on the active roster.
Plus more waiting in the wings and looking for their chance while playing in the Minors as a part of the 40-man roster.
Of course, the main reason for the roster being so big is to provide cover in case of injuries, suspensions, or simply poor form.
However, all the players on the roster also bring more excitement into the game as their number expands the possibilities to use different tactics and adjust the game plan to various opponents.