Fans in every city throughout the league know full well who the stars in baseball are. They're instantly recognizable with their gaudy stats, household names, and exorbitant contracts. As if immortals descended from Mount Olympus to thrill us with their power, grace, and athletic prowess, these men sell the jerseys and pack the stadiums.
Teams aren't just constructed of high-profile stars however. Players possessing a variety of skill sets are vital to a well-balanced team. Of course, a general manager would love to fill his 25-man roster with five-tool players at every position, but that's not realistic. All baseball players have their own unique strengths and weaknesses that they bring to the team, and the manager must strike the perfect balance in order to achieve success.
Enter the super-utility player. Often possessing a vast range of fundamental baseball talents, these ultra-versatile players help to bridge the gaps in the team and offer their manager increased roster flexibility, while also providing cover for injuries and the ability to make important personnel decisions as unique situations may dictate.
There are plenty of players who are athletic and coordinated enough to play a few different positions. These are professional baseball players after all. Many guys grew up playing in various spots throughout their youth, and since they usually aren't very far removed from those days, they can often recall the necessary skills to at least cover a position or two somewhat adequately.
Super-utility players are more than that though. They're not simply a guy you can move from third over to first, or a corner infielder with the ability to play left field if called upon. These ultra-versatile performers possess the skills necessary to play a multitude of positions, and often one of the more specialized, premium spots such as short-stop, center-field or even in a pinch, catcher.
Often, these super-utility players shine in this versatile role for only a limited time, as the best of them usually graduate to full-time status at a particular position at some point in their careers.
Over the last several years, we have seen a slew of fantastic super-utility guys who provided so much value to their teams, that management found it increasingly difficult to keep their names out of the lineup on an everyday basis.
Players such as Chone Figgins, Marco Scutaro, Mark DeRosa, Brandon Inge, and Mark Loretta have all excelled over the last decade in a super-utility role for their respective teams. Loretta is now retired, but the remaining guys have all gone on to varying degrees of success as regular players with mostly one clearly defined position.
Another type of versatile player, guys like Darin Erstad, Mark Kotsay, Nick Swisher, and Lance Berkman, have all bounced around the entire outfield, while also putting in time at first-base, before generally settling on one position after several seasons of the nomadic lifestyle.
Increasingly, those in the game have begun to appreciate the role that these unique players bring to their teams. We even witnessed one of these guys named to the National League All-Star team.
Let's examine a few of baseball's top super-utility players while they still hold that title, before they settle down in one position and we have an entirely new generation of versatile ball players emerge.