Ranking the greatest position players in baseball history: Nos. 20-1

theScore

Throughout the month of January, a cast of editors from theScore will share their rankings of the greatest teams, performances, pitchers, and position players in baseball history. This list focuses on the greatest position players:

100-81 | 80-61 | 60-41 | 40-21 | 20-1

Voter list:

  • James Bisson, National Sports Editor
  • Brandon Wile, Senior MLB Editor
  • Jonah Birenbaum, MLB News Editor
  • Michael Bradburn, MLB News Editor
  • Jason Wilson, MLB News Editor
  • Bryan Mcwilliam, MLB News Editor
  • Simon Sharkey-Gotlieb, MLB News Editor
  • Dylan Perego, News Editor
  • Josh Wegman, News Editor

20. Ken Griffey Jr., OF

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.284 1662 630 1836 184 .907

The smile. The backward cap. A swing as smooth as butter. If you grew up in the '90s, Ken Griffey Jr. was the player you wanted to be. He was the face of the sport, inspiring a generation of baseball fans and turning the moribund Mariners into winners. While he lost a step later on and ultimately fell short of the home-run record, he's more than worthy of top-20 status. In 2016, he sailed into Cooperstown with a record 99.32 percent of the vote. -- Sharkey-Gotlieb

19. Jimmie Foxx, 1B

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.325 1751 534 1922 87 1.038

Foxx will go down as one of the greatest hitters in history. From 1929-1940, the right-handed-hitting infielder had 12 consecutive seasons in which he hit at least 30 home runs and drove in 100-plus RBIs. He blasted at least 40 homers in five seasons, and, during his three MVP seasons, drove in 163, 169, and 175 runs. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1951, he ranks 19th on the all-time home run list and ninth on the RBI list. -- Wile

18. Joe Morgan, 2B

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.271 1650 268 1133 689 .819

Morgan is considered one of the greatest second baseman in MLB history, as his mix of hitting ability, defensive prowess, and speed helped revolutionize the position. As one of the most important pieces on one of the greatest teams ever, he took home back-to-back MVP awards from 1975-76 - something only one other middle infielder has done (Ernie Banks, 1958-59). His five consecutive Gold Glove Awards and No. 11 ranking on the all-time stolen bases list place him among the greatest all-around players ever. -- Perego

17. Honus Wagner, SS

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.328 1739 101 1732 723 .858

As Ty Cobb laid waste to the American League, Wagner cruised through early-1900s National League pitching. Like his contemporaries, home runs weren't a major part of his game, but "the Flying Dutchman" stroked his fair share of extra-base hits and stole plenty of bases. He hit when few others did - the "Dead Ball Era" - batting .352 over his first 10 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. -- Wilson

16. Mike Schmidt, 3B

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.267 1506 548 1595 174 .908

Schmidt's numbers are analogous to those of a modern power hitter. He didn't always hit for a high average, and he struck out at a high clip, but he annihilated the ball when he made contact, leading the NL in home runs in eight of his 18 seasons. The three-time NL MVP spent his entire career with the Phillies, winning a World Series in 1980, which was also a high point in his offensive production. -- Wilson

15. Albert Pujols, 1B

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.305 1723 614 1918 110 .947

Here's the best way to sum up Pujols' consistency as a hitter: For the first 10 years of his career, he never hit below .300, fewer than 30 homers, or fewer than 100 RBIs. Though his ability to get on base has diminished since he joined the Angels, he continues to be a run producer. He sits seventh all-time in home runs and 10th in RBIs and climbing. -- Wegman

14. Mike Trout, OF

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.306 692 201 569 165 .976

Important ranking lesson: If you're going to put a 26-year-old inside the top 15 players in the history of his sport, you better have a good reason. Here's ours: Trout is the greatest player of this generation, and it isn't close. He already has a pair of MVP awards, three other top-four finishes, and enough WAR to rank seventh among active players. Even if he's an average player over the final 12 years of his career, he should coast into the Hall of Fame. Here's predicting he does a little better than that. -- Bisson

13. Frank Robinson, OF

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.294 1829 586 1812 204 .926

Robinson put together one of the best seasons of all time in 1966, leading the league in average (.316), OBP (.410), slugging (.637), homers (49), RBIs (122), and runs (122), and taking home not only regular-season MVP honors, but also World Series MVP. He led the league in OPS four times, and won another World Series in 1970. -- Wegman

12. Rickey Henderson, OF

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.279 2295 297 1115 1406 .820

Rickey Henderson would tell you that Rickey Henderson is the greatest player of all time (and he would say it exactly like that). He isn't ... but he's not far off. Henderson blazed his way into baseball history by becoming the only player to steal 130 bases in a season; his 1,406 career total will likely never be surpassed. He also leads all of baseball in runs scored (2,295) - a byproduct of his incredible leadoff skills, speed, and durability. He won a steals title at age 39, and played until he was 44. -- Bisson

11. Mickey Mantle, OF

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.298 1676 536 1509 153 .977

The greatest switch hitter of all time. The greatest offensive threat to play center field. A Yankee through and through. Mantle was all of those and more. Not only could he crush the baseball a country mile, but he also hit for average (over .300 10 times) and was a proven winner (seven World Series titles). Oh, and there's the 20 All-Star appearances, three MVPs, and Triple Crown. Mantle's No. 7 was retired by the Yankees in 1969 and he was part of MLB's All-Century Team. He passed away in 1995. -- Mcwilliam

10. Stan Musial, OF/1B

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.331 1949 475 1951 78 .976

Want to know how to get a nickname like "the Man"? Hit as well as this guy did. Musial's Baseball-Reference page is awash in bold and italicized stats. He won three MVP titles, finished atop the league in OPS on seven occasions, won six batting titles, and led the league in doubles and triples four different times. Even with a one-year military stint, he ranks second all-time in total bases, seventh in RBIs, and 12th in OPS. Incredible. -- Bisson

9. Alex Rodriguez, SS/3B

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.295 2021 696 2086 329 .930

A-Rod hit 50 or more homers three times and had five more seasons with at least 40. He was the perfect hybrid of power and speed. The money he made, and the fact that he played the bulk of his career with the Yankees, made him public enemy No. 1 for many fans. But if anyone was going to command top dollar, it had to be the best right-handed hitter of his generation. -- Wilson

8. Rogers Hornsby, 2B

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.358 1579 301 1584 135 1.010

Like Musial, Hornsby's Baseball-Reference page is littered with bold lettering indicating his league-leading stats. He won six consecutive slash-line titles, leading the league in batting average, OBP, and slugging from 1920-25. Incredibly, he hit .397/.467/.666 over that span. Oh, and he did so as a second baseman. Mercy. -- Wegman

7. Lou Gehrig, 1B

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.340 1888 493 1995 102 1.080

Perhaps the most telling example of how good of a hitter Gehrig truly was came in his final season in 1939. ALS (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig's disease) had completely robbed him of his strength. He had just four hits - all singles - in 33 plate appearances, but struck out just one time. Even while the terminal disease was literally killing his muscles, he possessed an uncanny ability to put the bat on the ball. -- Wegman

6. Ty Cobb, OF

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.366 2244 117 1944 897 .945

You don't have to like how Cobb played the game, but you have to respect the numbers he put up. The Georgia Peach is the most prolific hitter in the history of the game, leading all players with a .366 career batting average. And that's not all. Cobb led the AL in OPS 10 times, won six stolen-base titles, and paced the AL in RBIs on four occasions. He also ranks fourth on the all-time list in Baseball-Reference WAR. -- Bisson

5. Hank Aaron, OF

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.305 2174 755 2297 240 .928

April 8, 1974, will forever go down as one of the greatest days in sports history. It was on this day, at Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium, that "Hammerin" Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, crushing an Al Downing offering over the fence. Aaron's record stood until 2007, when Barry Bonds broke it, but that moment will be everlasting. Aaron's 755 home runs spanned 23 seasons, which also included 2,297 RBIs and 6,865 total bases. The Hall of Famer is still going strong, too, albeit as senior vice president of the Atlanta Braves. -- Mcwilliam

4. Ted Williams, OF

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.344 1798 521 1839 24 1.116

Williams was good at everything. A decorated military veteran, award-winning fisherman, and one hell of a baseball player. After finishing second in MVP voting in back-to-back seasons - including a year when he hit .406/.553/.735 with 37 homers - "Teddy Ballgame" left baseball to serve in the military. Three years later, he returned to the majors and won the 1946 MVP. Across 19 seasons, he was a 19-time All-Star, two-time Triple Crown winner, six-time AL batting champion, four-time AL home run and RBI leader, and holds the MLB record with a career .482 on-base percentage. -- Wile

3. Willie Mays, OF

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.302 2062 660 1903 338 .941

The perfect balance of fearsome slugger and ace defender, "the Say Hey Kid" won only two NL MVP awards despite leading the league in OPS+ six times. He hit 50 home runs twice and won a Gold Glove in 12 consecutive seasons. Mays also made one of the most memorable defensive plays in World Series history, catching a deep fly ball that plopped in just over his shoulder. It was immortalized simply as "the Catch." -- Wilson

2. Barry Bonds, OF

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.298 2227 762 1996 514 1.051

No player's Baseball-Reference page beggars belief more than that of Barry Bonds, the polarizing superstar whose links to PEDs cannot obscure the fact that he is, outside of perhaps Babe Ruth, the greatest ballplayer who ever lived. More god than man for much of his 22-year career - which, it should be noted, ended after his age-42 season only because he was blackballed - Bonds is history's all-time home run king (and single-season home run champ), second only to Ruth in WAR, and earned a record seven MVP awards - the last four coming in successive years, comprising a peak that defies comprehension. From 2001 to 2004, he hit .349/.559/.809 (256 OPS+) while averaging 52 homers and 189 walks - 71 of them intentional - per year. That he doesn't yet have a plaque at Cooperstown is criminal. -- Birenbaum

1. Babe Ruth, OF

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.342 2174 714 2214 123 1.164

The greatest to ever play the game, Ruth's career seems like a work of fiction. One of a handful to successfully serve as a two-way player, he won 94 games and posted a 2.28 ERA and 1.16 WHIP across 1,221 1/3 innings as a pitcher. But his ability with the bat was even more impressive. From 1919-1934, he averaged 43 homers, 131 RBIs, and a .347/.482/.708 slash line. Ruth ranks third on the all-time home run list, second on the RBI list, and first in WAR. He also won seven World Series titles. -- Wile

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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Ranking the greatest position players in baseball history: Nos. 20-1
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