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Marveling at Ramon Laureano’s incredible catch and throw

Best play of the year?

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

When it comes to Oakland A’s baseball, the gold standard of defense is set by third baseman Matt Chapman. He’s the best defender in the entire sport, and he makes plays we’ve never seen before. On Saturday, however, one of his rookie teammates stole the show.

We’d already had a glimpse of Ramon Laureano in center field. In his MLB debut a week prior, he made a couple of impressive catches and an eye-opening throw to nail a runner. The next day he threw out another runner, making him the first player in Oakland A’s history ever to notch an outfield assist in each of his first two career games. His 60-grade arm had long been billed as his top tool, unless his 60-grade speed was even better, and within just a couple days we’d seen both on display making a difference.

All of that was nothing compared with what he did on Saturday, though. With a runner on first base and one out, Justin Upton drilled a liner into the gap in left-center. It looked for all the world like an RBI double, but instead this happened.

That’s two of the best plays of the year, combined into one sequence. Laureano raced over to make an incredible catch, stopped, set himself, and uncorked one of the best throws you’ll ever see to double up the runner at first. Let’s take a closer look!

If Laureano had only caught the ball, it would have been one of the better grabs we’ve seen an Oakland outfielder make this season. Statcast put it at a 42% chance of being caught based on the ball’s trajectory and the 76 feet he sprinted to get there, calling it a 4-star catch on their 5-star rating system. Even that probably sells it short, since it’s giving no extra credit for the fact that he caught it on his feet without diving. Staying upright proved to be critically important to this particular play, since it allowed him to do even more damage with his throw.

And my goodness, that throw. Statcast pegged it at 321 feet, in the air, directly into the waiting glove of his first baseman. Here’s another angle to help illustrate how far it went, while traveling 91.2 mph.

And another.

His teammates were as shocked as anybody.

Notice Dallas Braden in the background of that last one, looking like we all felt.

Here’s the best reaction of the night, though. Nick Martini demonstrates the perfect balance of amazement, joy, and disbelief, all while a young Angels fan behind him recounts all the decisions in his life that led him to become a fan of the wrong team.

Some perspective behind the throw.

Of course, any A’s fan will immediately be reminded of the throw Yoenis Cespedes made in this same Anaheim stadium back in 2014. That one was preceded by a defensive miscue that goaded the runner into hunting for an extra base, but it still went down as one of the best throws we’ve ever seen and might end up as the iconic highlight of Cespedes’ dynamic career. Laureano’s was every bit as impressive, and possibly even slightly better.

After three seasons of being one of the worst defensive teams in baseball, the 2018 A’s have turned things around in a hurry. They have the best 3B, the best 1B, and solid gloves filling in the other positions. Now it’s starting to look like they’ve found not just an acceptable option for CF, but maybe a downright stud.