Someone with even the most superficial baseball knowledge will be able to tell you that, at any given moment, there are nine players on a baseball field. Ever since baseball was incepted back in 1845, this is one rule that has stayed the same.
However, with time and game evolvement, it became evident that teams cannot operate without substitute players. As a result, a team’s roster needed to have more than just nine players.
So, the question is – how many players are on a baseball team?
A professional baseball team, depending upon the league it is playing in, can have anywhere between 22 and 26 players on its roster. Moreover, from 2021 onwards, Major League Baseball teams will be able to expand their rosters to 28 players after every 1st of September. As far as amateur baseball goes, different levels allow for different number of players.
How Many Players Does an MLB Team have?
At the top level of baseball, the authorities have placed strict restrictions on the team rosters –and the MLB is no exception.
An MLB team is allowed to have 26 active players, with the addition of a 27th player for doubleheaders. Moreover, from 2021, teams will be able to increase their roster to 28 players from the 1st of September of each season until the end of the regular season. For the postseason, the teams will have to revert to a roster of 26.
Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 season had some special stipulations with regards to the roster. The initial plan was to have 30 players for the first two weeks, 28 players for the fortnight after that, and 26 players for the rest of the season.
However, after the number of players went down from 30 to 28, the league decided to stick to that number for the remainder of the season without making any further reductions. Moreover, each team carried a three-man taxi squad to provide for any illnesses or injuries.
These players were all part of a 60-player pool designated by each time as its pool of eligible players for the season. These 60 players included the full 40-player roster, as well as other players or additional prospects that were not under an MLB contract.
It is important to remember that players listed under the Restricted List, Paternity List, and Injured List are considered separate to the active roster, and therefore are not considered in the active roster restrictions. However, the players on these lists are a part of the 60- and 40-player pools.
40-Man vs. Active Roster:
In pretty much every professional sport, teams have a single roster for a full season, and are bound by per-game limits. NFL (National Football League) teams, for instance, have a roster of 53 players, out of which 45 are active in any given game.
Similarly, the NHL (National Hockey League) has a 23-player roster, out of which 20 players are active during games. NBA (National Basketball Association) teams, meanwhile, have a roster of 15 players, out of which 13 can be active during games.
The MLB, however, is slightly different in this regard. Alongside having a 26-player roster for each game, each team has a second, 40-player roster. This second roster consists of the active 26 players, as well as 14 additional under-contract players who can step-in in case of illnesses, injuries, or poor performances.
This means that, if a player is on the active 26-player roster, they must also be on larger, 40-player roster. In addition to providing cover for injuries, illnesses, or poor performance, the 40-player roster allows teams to keep hold of their best minor league baseball players.
According to MLB rules, a player must be placed on the 40-player roster within a certain period of their signing. A player signed at age 18 or below must be placed on the 40-player roster within five years; a player signed at age 19 or above needs to be on the roster within the next four years. If these stipulations are not followed, the players are considered to be free agents and can therefore be drafted by a different team during the offseason.
Prior to the 2020 MLB season, teams were allowed to expand their active roster to the full 40 players after every 1st of September. However, from 2021 onwards, this rule has been toned down a little, and teams will only be allowed to expand their roster to 28 players after the 1st of September until the remainder of the season.
How Many Players Does a Minor League Baseball Team Have?
Just like the Major League Baseball, the minor league teams are also limited by the number of players they can have on their roster. The minor league roster rules have overlapped with the MLB rules for the better part of a century.
In every full-season league, teams are allowed to have 25 active players on their rosters, and a total of 35 players for Class-A Advanced and Class-A leagues. For short-season leagues, the active roster limit is 35 players. Major League Players participating in the minor leagues as part of rehab tasks do not count towards the roster limit for minor leagues.
Independent teams (teams not affiliated with the MLB in any way) have smaller roster, primarily due to budget constraints. The Atlantic League has a 25-player roster limit – the same as a full-season minor league – mainly due to the fact that it has the same, 140-match schedule.
Meanwhile, within leagues that have fewer games on their schedules, the American Association team permits a 23-player roster, the Frontier League has a 24-player limit, and teams in the Pecos League can carry no more than 22 active players.
In addition, all these leagues (with the exception of the Atlantic) pose restrictions in terms of player experience.
Our Final Thoughts:
To sum up, the game of baseball has evolved tremendously over the decades. These days, it is not possible for a team to be successful with only nine quality players. For this reason, the MLB allows teams to have a considerably higher number of active players than just the nine that need to be on the field at any given moment.