The 25 Greatest MLB Players to Play in the College World Series
The College World Series is a historic event that is taking place at legendary Rosenblatt Stadium for the last time this season.
It is an event that has seen a former president. George H.W. Bush played in the first two CWS in 1947-48 for Yale.
It has also seen several major league coaches take the field in its history, such as Ron Gardenhire, Terry Francona (the 1980 CWS MVP for Arizona), and Eric Wedge.
But most importantly, it has seen its fair share of major league players showcase their talents.
With the amount of baseball players who jump to the pros straight from high school, and the ones who are not lucky enough to make it to Omaha, this is a truly prestigious list. You also have to consider how many greats came from another country.
Tracking down all of these names and trying to organize them was no easy feat. So, feel free to tell me how you would change it, or any blatant omissions I made.
I tried to take into account longevity and overall MLB production. There were a few instances in which I took into account potential in placing the player.
I was all ready to go with a list of 50, only to realize how watered down the list was. Making the CWS and the pros is certainly not common.
Without further ado, here is my attempt at ranking the top 25 major league players who played in the CWS.
Honorable Mention: Deion Sanders (Florida State, 1987)
MLB Career Numbers: Nine seasons, .263, 558 H, 39 HR, 168 RBI, 186 SB
Sanders wasn't the world's greatest baseball player.
But he deserves to make this list as an honorary member because of his prolific football career.
Anyone who makes it to the CWS then wins two Super Bowls is pretty talented.
Besides, I'm not going to turn down an opportunity to start off a list with some Neon Deion.
25. John Franco, Closer (St. John's, 1980)
MLB Career (1984-2005): 21 seasons, 90-87, 424 Sv, 2.89 ERA, 975 K
A four-time NL All-Star, Franco makes the list largely due to his longevity.
It seemed like this guy played forever.
Franco led the NL in saves in 1988, 1990 and 1994.
He then helped lead the Mets to the 2000 World Series, picking up the team's only win in the series.
I feel that Franco should also get some bonus for helping St. John's make the CWS. It was actually the school's sixth and final appearance.
A fifth round draft pick of the Dodgers, Franco played for the Reds, Mets and Astros.
24. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF (Oregon State, 2005)
MLB Career (2007-Present): Four seasons, .295, 395 H, 20 HR, 128 RBI, 131 SB
Ellsbury makes this list purely for his potential.
But some potential that is.
He already has a World Series ring and has led the AL in steals twice. Bonus points for also having recorded a steal of home plate.
His success in the pros makes up for the fact that his Beavers won back-to-back national titles after Ellsbury left.
I also like that he released his own wine, dubbed ZinfandEllsbury. All the proceeds are donated to charity.
Ellsbury has been sidelined for most of 2010 with a rib injury suffered in a collision with Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre.
Ellsbury was the 23rd pick in the 2005 draft.
23. Troy Glaus, 3B/1B (UCLA, 1997)
MLB Career (1998-Present): 13 seasons, .257, 1343 H, 317 HR, 932 RBI
A member of the Angels' 2002 World Series-winning squad. Glaus hit .385 with three homers and eight RBI in that series.
The four-time All-Star has shown steady power throughout his career, including leading the AL with 47 dingers in 2000.
Glaus in currently enjoying a solid season with the Braves. He is leading the NL in RBI with 53 (third in the majors).
Glaus was the third pick in the 1997 draft.
22. Jason Varitek, C (Georgia Tech, 1994)
MLB Career (1997-Present): 14 seasons, .259, 1252 H, 182 HR, 717 RBI
Varitek may not have the best stats around, but he makes the list for his leadership qualities.
Varitek was a stalwart on both Boston World Series wins in the past decade.
He has hit 11 home runs in 63 postseason games, including four against the rival Yankees.
Varitek's role is greatly diminished these days, but he will always be remembered for helping bring the glory back to Beantown.
Varitek was selected 14th by the Mariners in the 1994 draft.
21. Chris Chambliss, 1B (UCLA, 1969)
MLB Career (1971-88): 17 seasons, .279, 2109 H, 185 HR, 972 RBI
Chambliss was known as a clutch hitter throughout his career.
In 1976, Chambliss was selected to his only All-Star team and also finished fifth in the MVP race. That year, he hit the walk-off home run to send the Yankees to their first World Series in since 1964.
Chambliss won two championships with the Yankees.
He was selected first in the 1970 draft by the Indians. He won the Rookie of the Year in 1971.
20. Steve Rogers, SP (Tulsa, 1969)
MLB Career (1973-85): 13 seasons, 158-152, 3.17 ERA, 1621 K
Rogers carried Tulsa to the 1969 CWS Championship Game, where they lost to Arizona State.
In the Majors, Rogers was shunned to a career in Montreal, where he only made one playoff appearance. He was considered by many to be the greatest pitcher in the franchise's history (Pedro Martinez only pitched four years there). In that one playoff appearance, he out-dueled Phillies ace Steve Carlton twice.
A five-time All-Star, Rogers did quite well considering the circumstances. He finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting three times in a four-year stretch, beginning in 1980.
Although his record doesn't show it, Rogers had a solid ERA throughout his career. He led the league with a 2.40 ERA in 1982.
Rogers was selected fourth by the Expos in 1971.
19. Frank Viola, SP (St. John's, 1980)
MLB Career (1982-96): 15 seasons, 176-150, 3.73 ERA, 1844 K
Viola is famous in college baseball circles for his Regional showdown with Ron Darling of Yale. The two squared off for 11 innings of scoreless baseball. Darling finally gave up his first hit and the only run of the game in the 12th inning.
In the Majors, Viola had a steady career. A three-time All-Star, Viola won the Cy Young in 1988 with the Twins, going 24-7 with a 2.64 ERA. He also won 20 games in 1990 with the Mets.
Viola went 2-1 with a 3.72 ERA in helping lead the Twins to the 1987 World Series Championship.
Viola was a second-round pick in 1981.
18. Robin Ventura, 3B (Oklahoma State, 1986-87)
MLB Career (1989-2004): 16 seasons, .267, 1885 H, 294 HR, 1182 RBI
Ventura led Oklahoma State to the CWS Championship Game in 1987, losing to Stanford 9-5. In Omaha, Ventura extended his record hit streak to 58 games, a record that still stands today (FIU's Garrett Wittels currently stands at 56 games heading into next season).
A fixture with the White Sox for most of his career, Ventura didn't get a real taste of the playoffs until he went to the Mets in 1999. He immediately made a trip to the NLCS (finishing sixth in the MVP voting) that year, followed by a trip to the World Series the next, losing to the Yankees.
Ventura went to the Yankees two years later, making the second of two All-Star appearances, only to lose in the ALDS.
Ventura won six Golden Gloves in his career. He was selected 10th in the 1988 draft.
17. Ryan Braun, LF/3B (Miami 2003-04)
MLB Career (2007-Present): Four seasons, .307, 601 H, 113 HR, 362 RBI, 60 SB
Braun is a stud. If he keeps his pace up, he will go down as one of the greats.
Of course, nothing is a given in sports, which is why I don't feel he can go much higher on this list as of right now.
If he keeps it up, there's no telling how high he could go.
He won the Rookie of the Year and has two All-Star appearances under his belt. Braun led the league in hits with 203 last season.
Braun was selected fifth in the 2005 draft.
16. Tim Hudson, SP (Auburn, 1997)
MLB Career (1999-Present): 12 seasons, 155-80, 3.44 ERA, 1443 K
Hudson was a member of the talented Moneyball A's teams that just couldn't find their way out of the ALDS in the early 2000s.
Hudson has been pretty steady throughout his career up until last season was cut short by injury.
He led the league in wins with 20 in 2000, finishing second in the Cy Young voting. He also has two All-Star appearances on his resume.
Hudson is currently maintaining the best ERA of his career in a resurgent season with the Braves (2.34).
He was selected in the sixth round in 1997.
15. Lance Berkman, OF (Rice, 1997)
MLB Career (1999-Present): 12 seasons, .297, 1620 H, 319 HR, 1069 RBI
Berkman has had a very strong career with the Houston Astros, although trade rumors indicate he might be switching teams for the first time in his career.
Berkman has five All-Star appearances and four top-five MVP finishes to his credit.
In Berkman's only World Series appearance, a sweep at the hands of the White Sox, he hit .385 with six RBI.
He was selected 16th in the 1997 draft.
14. Nomar Garciaparra, SS (Georgia Tech, 1994)
MLB Career (1996-2009): 14 seasons, .313, 1747 H, 229 HR, 936 RBI
Garciaparra was a force with the Red Sox early in his career.
He led the league in batting average in 1999 and 2000 (.357 and .372).
Garciaparra won the Rookie of the Year in 1997. He was selected to six All-Star Games and finished second in the MVP race in 1998.
Garciaparra unfortunately left Boston before the Red Sox broke the curse. In the playoffs, Garciaparra batted .321 with seven homers in 32 games.
13. Jason Giambi, 1B (Long Beach State, 1991)
MLB Career (1995-Present): 16 seasons, .282, 1833 H, 411 HR, 1340 RBI
Sure, Giambi admitted to taking steroids during his career. Even so, he has put up some pretty good numbers over a long career. You can't really take that away from him.
He was one of the most dominant players in the game in the middle of his career. Whether you want to attribute that to steroids is your call. I'm just giving you the facts.
Giambi won the AL MVP in 2000 with this line: .333, 43 HR, 137 RBI, .476 OBP (league-leading). He finished second the following year. This was in the midst of five straight All-Star appearances.
Giambi's only downfall was his teams' playoff success. But he was there often. He was in the playoffs every year of the last decade, except '04 and '08 (Oakland, NYY, Colorado). His World Series appearance with the Yankees in 2003 was the only time he made it out of the first round, though.
Giambi was selected in the second round of the 1992 draft.
12. Fred Lynn, CF (USC, 1971-73)
MLB Career (1974-90): 17 seasons, .283, 1960 H, 306 HR, 1111 RBI
Lynn won three straight national championships at USC (the Trojans also won the 1970 national title).
That success immediately carried over to the big leagues. In his first full season, Lynn won the AL MVP, Rookie of the Year and carried the Red Sox to the World Series, only to lose in seven games.
That was also the first of nine straight All-Star appearances. Lynn also won four Gold Gloves over this period.
But he was only able to make the playoffs one other time, in 1982, his second season as an Angel.
Lynn was drafted in the second round of the 1973 draft.
11. Will Clark, 1B (Miss St., 1985)
MLB Career (1986-2000): 15 seasons, .303, 2176 H, 284 HR, 1205 RBI
Clark had success throughout his career in the Majors.
That success started off with a bang, as Clark hit a home run off Nolan Ryan in his first career at-bat.
He appeared in the World Series in 1989 with the Giants. To bookend his career, he went to the NLCS with St. Louis in 2000. He also has a few playoff trips with the Rangers sprinkled in the middle.
Clark was credited by many for why pitcher's hold their gloves over their mouths when discussing strategy on the mound. In the 1989 NLCS, Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux was discussing how to pitch to Clark, who already had a home run in the game. Clark read his lips and blasted the pitch for a grand slam.
Clark made six All-Star appearances in seven years early in his career. He also finished in the top five of the MVP voting four out of five years after his rookie season, placing second in 1989.
Clark was selected second in the 1985 draft.
10. Albert Belle, LF (LSU, 1986-87)
MLB Career (1989-2000): 12 seasons, .295, 1726 H, 381 HR, 1239 RBI
Albert Belle was a force at the plate in the mid-90s.
He was one of five people to hit 30 home runs and 100 RBI in eight straight seasons (Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig and Albert Pujols).
In 1995, he was the first player to hit 50 doubles and 50 home runs in a season. He finished second in the MVP voting that season. He finished third in 1994 and 1996.
Belle made five straight All-Star appearances in the mid '90s.
Belle's Indians team lost to Atlanta in the 1995 World Series. Belle only had four hits in the series, two of them were home runs. He only hit .230 in four career playoff series to go along with six homers and 14 RBI.
Belle was drafted in the second round of the 1987 draft.
9. Barry Larkin, SS (Michigan, 1983-84)
MLB Career (1986-2004): 19 seasons, .295, 2340 H, 198 HR, 960 RBI
Larkin was one of the best hitting shortstops ever.
Playing his entire career in Cincinnati, he won the NL MVP in 1995. He was named to 12 All-Star Games in his career.
Larkin only made two playoff trips in his career, but he made both of them count. Larkin won the 1990 World Series and went to the NLCS in 1995.
If only Larkin got more of an opportunity in the postseason, he could furthered his legend. Larkin batted .338 with five doubles, two triples and eight steals in the playoffs.
Larkin was selected fourth in the 1985 draft.
8. Todd Helton, 1B (Tennessee, 1995)
MLB Career (1997-Present): 14 seasons, .326, 327 HR, 2185 H, 1214 RBI
Helton is one of the greatest hitters of our generation. Sure, he probably gets a boost to some of his stats by playing in Colorado his entire career. But you can't take away that pure hitting ability he possesses.
Helton was considered one of the guys to have a chance to break .400 in a season. Of course, he never did it, but he did lead the Majors at .372 in 2000. He also led the league in hits (216), RBI (147), doubles (59) and slugging (.698) that year.
Helton made five straight All-Star appearances in the middle of his career.
In 2007. Helton's first playoff appearance was a magical one. He was part of the Rockies squad that won 21 of 22 en route to the franchise's only World Series appearance. He helped carry the Rockies to their third playoff appearance two years later.
Helton was selected 8th in the 1995 draft.
7. Jeff Kent, 2B (California, 1988)
MLB Career (1992-2008): 17 seasons, .290, 2461 H, 377 HR, 1518 RBI
Jeff Kent played the majority of his career at second base, and is the all-time leader in home runs at the position.
Upon being traded to San Francisco in 1997, Kent had nine straight seasons of 20+ home runs and 90+ RBI (only once did he not knock in at least 100). He is the only second baseman to accomplish this feat.
Kent went to the 2002 World Series with San Francisco. He hit three home runs in the seven-game defeat. In 49 career playoff games, Kent hit .276 with nine home runs and 23 RBI.
He was selected in the 20th round of the 1989 draft by Toronto.
6. Mike Mussina, P (Stanford, 1990)
MLB Career (1991-2008): 18 seasons, 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 2813 SO
As you can see, not many pitchers made this list. You might be surprised to see Moose this high, but he is one of the most underrated pitchers of his time.
He was consistently one of the best pitchers in the game throughout his career. Consider this: In his second season, in 1992, he won 18 games. In his last season, in 2008, he won 20 games (the first time in his career).
Mussina was constantly in the playoffs during his career, although he was never able to win a ring. He made two World Series appearances with the Yankees and five ALCS appearances between Baltimore and New York. He went 7-8 with a 3.42 ERA in 16 postseason series.
Mussina made five All-Star appearances in his career. He finished in the top six of the Cy Young voting nine times in his career, finishing second once. He also won seven Gold Gloves.
Mussina was selected 20th in the 1990 draft.
5. Barry Bonds, LF (Arizona State, 1983-84)
MLB Career (1986-2007): 22 seasons, .298, 2227 H, 762 HR, 1996 RBI
Barry Bonds may have been the greatest hitter to ever live. But he allegedly used steroids. This is a list of greatest players to play in the College World Series. To preserve the sanctity of college athletes and the game, I decided to keep anyone who fell under this category out of the top three as punishment.
In the CWS, Bonds had a hit in eight straight at-bats.
Bonds won an astounding seven MVPs in his career. He is the all-time leader in home runs (762) and walks (2558).
Bonds was an absolute monster late in his career with the Giants. It almost got to the point that if you didn't walk him, he would hit a home run.
But Bonds only made one World Series appearance in his career, in 2002. He hit .471 with four home runs in that series.
But he was largely a disappointment in the rest of his playoff career. Bonds hit .245 with nine home runs and 24 RBI in 48 games.
He was great, but do you feel comfortable putting him any higher?
Bonds was selected sixth in the 1985 draft by Pittsburgh.
4. Roger Clemens, P (Texas, 1983)
MLB Career (1984-2007): 24 seasons, 354-184, 3.12 ERA, 4672 K
The same rules apply to Clemens as they did to Bonds.
It was hard to decide between the two, but I ultimately went with Clemens' team success as the tiebreaker.
Clemens won the 1983 CWS as a Longhorn.
He made six World Series appearances with three different teams in his career (Boston, NYY, Houston), winning two with the Yankees. Clemens never lost a decision in a World Series game, going 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA.
Clemens won seven Cy Young Awards in his career. He also won an MVP.
He was great, and if he and Bonds were not tainted they would probably be atop this list. What are your thoughts on this?
Clemens was selected 19th by Boston in the 1983 draft.
3. Paul Molitor, 3B/2B (Minnesota, 1977)
MLB Career (1978-1998): 21 seasons, .306, 3319 H, 234 HR, 1307 RBI
A first-ballot Hall of Famer, Molitor scores big points for his versatility. He took the field at some point for every position other than catcher and pitcher.
Molitor made seven All-Star games in his career. He only finished top five in the MVP voting twice, though. He led the league in hits and runs three times apiece.
Molitor made the World Series once with Milwaukee and once with Minnesota, winning the latter. He was named MVP of the 1993 World Series, hitting .500 with two home runs and eight RBI.
Molitor was selected third in 1977.
2. Dave Winfield, RF (Minnesota, 1973)
MLB Career (1973-1995): 22 seasons, .283, 3110 H, 465 HR, 1833 RBI
A first-ballot Hall of Famer, Winfield was one of the greatest athletes to play the sport. Many say that he could have played any sport. He was named the third-best all-around athlete of any sport by ESPN in 2004.
He played both basketball and baseball at Minnesota. In fact, Winfield was named CWS MVP in 1973 as a pitcher. He struck out 19 batters in two appearances. His team didn't even make it past the semifinals.
Winfield made 12 straight All-Star appearances in his career. He won seven Gold Gloves and finished in the top five of the MVP voting three times.
Winfield only made the playoffs twice in his career, but he reached the World Series each time. He lost in 1981 with the Yankees, but won in 1992 with Toronto. He hit .208 with two home runs in the playoffs.
Winfield was selected fourth in the 1973 draft by the Padres. He played for six teams in his career.
1. Mike Schmidt, 3B (Ohio, 1970)
MLB Career (1972-89): 18 seasons, .267, 548 HR, 2234 H, 548 HR, 1595 RBI
A first-ballot Hall of Famer, Schmidt is considered by many to be the greatest third baseman to ever play the game.
Schmidt carried the Bobcats to their only CWS appearance in 1970.
Schmidt led the league in home runs eight times in his career. He made 12 All-Star appearances and was named NL MVP three times. He also won 10 Gold Gloves.
Schmidt's home run numbers probably would have been higher too, if he played in a smaller ballpark at some point in his career.
Schmidt made two World Series appearances in his career, winning in 1980. He hit .380 with two home runs and seven RBI in the series, winning the MVP.
Schmidt was selected in the second round of the 1971 draft.