Height in the game of baseball may be one stat that flies under the radar. While fans and analysts may focus on outs, strikes, and RBI’s, a player’s height is something that affects their playing style to a major degree. A taller-than-average baseball player may hold certain advantages on the field. The following list is a compilation of the ten tallest major league baseball players currently playing the game.
NOTE: This is not an exhaustive list. Many players are 6’7 – I chose the ones I thought were the most interesting.
10. Michael Pineda — New York Yankees — 6’7”
Height becomes a major advantage to possess in most sports. If you’re taller, you’re probably going to have an easier time performing whatever task you’re supposed to do. On the baseball field, being tall definitely becomes advantageous when you’re on the pitching rubber. So it goes for our first Major League ball player on this list, Michael Pineda. Hailing from the Dominican Republic, this 6’7 hurler uses his tall frame to his advantage. When pitchers are taller than usual, they can get a better angle when striding towards home plate. The batter has to adjust to this strange angle and the ball’s downward trajectory. Pineda’s height has helped him in his career, supporting him in an All-Star game in his Rookie season.
9. Sean Marshall — Cincinnati Reds — 6’7”
Debuting in 2006 for the Chicago Cubs, Marshall is a lanky lefty whose height factors into his style of play. When Sean is on the mound, he throws more breaking pitches than he does fastballs. In 2011, out of all the pitches he threw throughout the year, three quarters of them were either curveballs or sliders. Think about that for a moment. Three out of every four pitches is off-speed. With his height advantage, the ball is much harder to hit when it’s curving at ridiculous angles. Not only is the batter adjusting his eyes to the strange height, they are also trying to hit a pitch that is travelling towards them at a sharper angle as compared to “normal” height pitchers. Marshall currently pitches for the Cincinnati Reds.
8. Adam Wainwright — St. Louis Cardinals — 6’7″
A decorated pitcher from top to bottom, Wainwright’s career has been filled with glorious moments of victory…and he’s only been in the league for nine years. He is also one of the only players to stay with one team for his whole career (so far). Winning the World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006, Adam has a great career win-loss record (111-61). Like Marshall, he has a great curveball. It has been reported that his curveball once dropped eight inches from mound to plate. He also deals a heavy amount of cutters, which only makes the batter’s job that much more difficult. Along with a World Series win, Wainwright also holds two Gold Glove Awards and has led the National League in wins in 2009 and 2013.
7. Aaron Harang — Atlanta Braves — 6’7″
While the previous player on this list has stayed with one team his whole career, Aaron Harang has done the complete opposite. Since his MLB debut for the Oakland Athletics in 2002, Harang has laced up the cleats for seven different teams, playing in both the American and National leagues. Aaron’s array of pitches consists of a four and two-seam fastball, as well as a slider, a changeup, and a curveball. Standing 6’7 on the mound, Harang towers over his opponents in the batter’s box. Currently pitching for the Atlanta Braves, Harang continues to strive for excellence on the mound.
6. Dellin Betances — New York Yankees — 6’8″
Betances is the first player in this list to break the 6’7 mark, standing six-feet, eight-inches tall. Drafted by the New York Yankees in 2007, it would be four years before Dellin saw a big league field. In 2011, he pitched in a game at the end of the season. Surprisingly, he was elected to be a part of the American League All-Star team for the 2014 season. While being only one inch taller than his predecessors on this list, one inch can make all the difference. Having a little more height means having a slightly longer stride toward home plate. Potentially, you have a more slanted angle when releasing the ball. Sometimes, one inch makes all the difference.
5. Chris Martin — Colorado Rockeis — 6’8″
Chris Martin’s story is one of persistence and a dream that never faded away. In short, Martin was a great player at a community college, but injured his shoulder. He began to work in a warehouse, stocking shelves. Being bored at work, Martin and a fellow co-worker began playing catch. When the co-worker told him he was throwing at least 80 mph, Martin tried out for a local league. Four years later, he sits in the Colorado Rockies bullpen. Being 6’8″ has definitely helped him get there. With a tall frame, and muscles (he weighs 220 pounds), Martin is a sure to take Major League baseball by storm.
4. Doug Fister — Washington Nationals — 6’8″
Born and raised in California, Fister was a multi-sport child in his early years. From baseball to basketball and soccer, Doug played his college ball at Merced College. Getting drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2006, Fister was on the rise. Three years later, in 2009, Doug made his first appearance in the Major Leagues. Fister’s pitching style commands many groundball outs. With a 6’8 frame, Doug hurls the cutter as well as the curveball and changeup. With his height, he can create an impressive angle on the ball, leading players to hit the ball into the ground. Most professional players who are taller than average develop injuries easier. Fister seems to contradict this stigma; he runs ten miles a day when he’s not pitching.
3. Logan Ondrusek — Cincinnati Reds — 6’8″
Towering over his opponents, 6’8″ Logan Ondrusek made his professional debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 2010. A strong right-handed pitcher, he throws a cutter and sinker. Most pitches are difficult to hit at the professional level, but a sinker has to be one of the worst. With his extended height, Ondrusek is able to release the ball at a higher point, giving the ball a much greater sinking motion. It doesn’t help batters that Logan throws the ball in a straight over-the-top motion. Hitters beware; this tall pitcher doesn’t mess around.
2. Johnny Hellweg — Milwaukee Brewers — 6’9″
Though the 6’7″ and 6’8″ players are scarce in the major leagues, the breed of 6’9″ players are truly rare. Enter Johnny Hellweg, a fresh faced pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers. Hellweg did not have the best of debuts with his team, giving up seven runs in under two innings of work. Even so, if Hellweg can work out the kinks, he could be a hot commodity. It’s not often you meet a player who is only three inches shy of seven feet tall. Hellweg possess an advantage in nearly every category, such as stride to home plate, angle of the ball, potential velocity of the ball, etc. A man of this stature should not go unnoticed or given up on so easily.
1. Chris Young — Seattle Mariners — 6’10”
We’ve reached the pinnacle of height on this list with Chris Young, a lofty right-handed pitcher currently playing for the Seattle Mariners. Making his debut in 2004, Young has amassed a 60-48 record with a 3.71 ERA and 816 strikeouts. Batting against a 6’7″ pitcher is difficult. Trying to hit against a 6’10” pitcher is nearly impossible. Due to simple physics, the pitcher has a higher vantage point when throwing the ball. This allows, potentially, for an easier time hitting the strike zone. The contradiction with Young is that he is described as a “control pitcher in a power pitcher’s body.” His fastball only averages in the mid-80s. His particular pitches and style induce numerous fly balls. Even though he doesn’t blaze the ball into the strike zone, Young is still a rarity in the game. It is hard to find players as tall, and as talented, as Chris Young.