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The Top 10 Greatest Living Baseball Players

Publish Date: 06/23/2024
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

Willie Mays was the greatest living baseball player until his recent death. So today, let’s take a look at who will assume the role.

Criteria

The criteria has a lot to do with stats, revolutionizing the game and having an overall impact on baseball. Steroids cause a massive concern when rating these guys, but for the sake of this article, we will ignore that; I know it’s tough to do, but guys like Bonds, Clemens, etc… had proved greatness before the questions of steroids arose. If you want to have some fun check out our all-time steroid team!

10) Roger Clemens

Roger Clemens won seven Cy Young Awards – including one tied with an American League MVP award – over many seasons with four different teams, earning 354 wins and third-most strikeouts of all-time in 162 wins after Boston Red Sox executive Dan Duquette famously referenced Clemens being “in the twilight of his career”. While some critics may criticize Clemens’ use of steroids or personal attributes both on and off the field, one cannot deny his place among living players and all-time pitchers alike.

Video: Roger Clemens Career Highlights

Roger Clemens Career Highlights

9) Greg Maddux

Greg Maddux may look like an accountant, but he was a dominant pitcher during his career: few pitchers with 355 career MLB wins and 3,371 strikeouts who look anything like him. With his incredible control, Maddux rarely made mistakes during four consecutive Cy Young Awards with both the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves – winning nine top-five MLB pitcher awards despite only eight All-Star Game appearances!

Video: Legend Series: Greg Maddux Highlights

Legend Series: Greg Maddux Highlights

8) Carl Yastrzemski

Ted Williams’ replacement in left field, Yaz, not unlike Ted, was an 18-time All-Star with over 3,000 hits and over 450 homers; unlike Ted, however, Yaz was also an incredible defensive outfielder. Although Yaz did not reach Williams’s sustained heights (to be fair, few do), Yaz earned three first-team All-MLB appearances along with one second-team one (including winning the Triple Crown in 1967 and being one of few baseball players who could hit the ball in 1968!).

7) George Brett

George Brett stands as the greatest Kansas City Royal in history, boasting over 3,000 hits during his career and ranking among the top five players for Wins Above Replacement on five different occasions – both impressive feats that often get overlooked at third base by more notable hitters such as Brooks Robinson or two other guys who will come up later. Although often overshadowed at third base by other contemporaries like Brooks Robinson, George Brett still managed to accumulate over 3000 hits during his time on the diamond and was even among five of this list during that same period!

Video: George Brett Highlights

George Brett Highlights

6) Rickey Henderson

Bill James famously noted that Rickey Henderson could easily split into two Hall-of-Famer candidates, according to Bill James’ words. As Bill noted, Rickey Henderson possessed one of the most diverse offensive skill sets of any era. In addition to leading stolen base records, he led in home runs from the leadoff position more often than any player ever, cleared 3,000  while leading the league in walks four times and scored more runs than anyone ever before him; that record being what Henderson took pride in most, with stolen bases seen as means towards an end goal; scientific approaches indicate he is telling us the truth! Henderson is considered by most the greatest leadoff hitter ever.

Video: Rickey Henderson Highlights

Rickey Henderson Highlights

5) Albert Pujols

He earned three MVP awards, though he likely deserved even more. He was selected nine times as first-team All-MLB and boasted over 3,000 hits while closing in on 700 homers. Despite all his critics criticizing his time with the Angels, he still received MVP votes thirteen years after losing it to Mike Trout! Talk about longevity!

4) Mike Schmidt

Schmidt may well be considered the greatest third baseman ever; he made twelve top-five MLB WAR finishes and six top-two appearances throughout his career despite competing against some of baseball’s finest like Brett, Boggs, Robinson (along with Graig Nettles, Buddy Bell and Paul Molitor) among many others. Additionally, Schmidt achieved phenomenal defensive ability, earning 10 Gold Gloves as a defensive third baseman; in his 548 home runs, he made him an unparalleled athlete.

3) Johnny Bench

Bench’s revolutionary catching methods were integral to Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine throughout the 1970s, earning ten consecutive Gold Gloves as an honor. His strong arm and durable build made him an effective defender at home plate while his at-bats proved equally potent; he notched an astounding 389 home runs and 1,376 RBIs that remain franchise records in Cincinnati today. Bench is the greatest catcher in baseball history!

Video: Johnny Bench Highlights

Johnny Bench Highlights

2) Ken Griffey Jr

Though Griffey may have seen his performance decrease slightly in his later years with the Cincinnati Reds, his peak years remain intact. A thirteen-time All-Star and five-time All-MLB outfielder who achieved over 630 homers and 10 Gold Gloves remains true of Griffey’s earlier days in baseball, he was special, and he made the Seattle Mariners must-watch TV. Without the injury issues, he may have ended up in our number one spot.

1) Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds may have created plenty of controversy during his long and distinguished baseball career; nevertheless, his resume as a player remains impressive: seven MVP awards; fifteen seasons among MLB WAR’s top five performers and 15 years as one of three best outfielders in baseball are testaments to that fact. Oft forgotten in light of his dominant recent seasons is the fact that he holds eight Gold Gloves.

Barry Bonds held one of the greatest batting eyes in baseball history, posting four consecutive seasons with an on-base percentage above.500 (with one season reaching.609) to create the greatest four-year stretch ever in baseball history and 762 career homers; no player would have become as despised as Barry Bonds with mere average talent or results; his brilliance demanded attention, be it positive or negative.

Video: Barry Bonds Highlights: Pure Greatness

Barry Bonds Highlights: Pure Greatness

Honorable Mentions

Wade Boggs

Wade Boggs was an exceptional third baseman whose statistics more closely reflected those of a player from the 1880s than of today, possessing a high average and on-base percentage hitter who amassed over 3,000 hits while providing tremendous defense at third. On seven separate occasions, he was named best third baseman by Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement ratings.

Mike Trout

At thirty-three years old, Mike Trout already boasts three MVP awards and has already been #1 in WAR four times (and top five four more), earning eight first-team All-MLB selections over his ten full MLB seasons – which already makes him worthy of this list and perhaps top three contender status! While injuries have limited his performance thus far, with an outside chance at 500 homers and 3000 hits in his career.

Alex Rodriguez

For as controversial of a figure as Rodríguez was and remains, his credentials are unquestionable. He cleared 3,000 hits and nearly reached 700 home runs (he retired at 696), and for as strong as his time as third baseman of the New York Yankees was, Rodríguez had his finest seasons as the sport’s best two-way player, patrolling shortstop for the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers. On eight occasions, between the two positions, Rodríguez was the best player at his position in the sport; on a staggering twelve occasions, he was a top-five player in the entirety of Major League Baseball for most of his career.

Cal Ripken

Though Ripken is best known today for his consecutive games played streak, he also revolutionized the shortstop position by shifting from being reserved for smaller, undersized players with little pop to being more suitable for 6’4″ guys like himself. Ripken amassed over 3,000 hits and 400 homers while serving most of his career as an above-average defensive shortstop and making nineteen All-Star Games (second most on this list) while earning two MVP awards – though many believe he deserved more! On six separate occasions, he was recognized by MLB for being named top shortstop, with two other occasions receiving second-team honors both times!

Nolan Ryan

Due to his unpredictable pitching style, Ryan may have gone from overrated during his career to underrated afterwards. While never winning a Cy Young award himself, Ryan proved an example of consistency by appearing eight times on All-MLB teams (four on both first and second teams) over four different decades – having productive seasons each time out!

Steve Carlton

Welcome, St. Louis Cardinal fans! Although Steve Carlton began his career with the Cardinals and was influential there, his legacy is most closely associated with the Philadelphia Phillies, where he won four Cy Young Awards and most of his 329 career games. A 10-time All-Star like Perry (five first-team and one second-team All-MLB selections), but with much higher peak performance peaks like sub-2 ERA pitching on 27 games won by the Phillies team that finished 59-97 in one season!

Randy Johnson

Randy Johnson emerged as a truly star pitcher only during the season he turned thirty, winning five Cy Young Awards over time with both Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks (where he won four consecutive Cy Young awards).

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