MLB Power Rankings: The 30 Most Impressive Physical Specimens of All Time

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistJune 13, 2011

MLB Power Rankings: The 30 Most Impressive Physical Specimens of All Time

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    Throughout the years, there have been some baseball player come along with truly incredible physical skills, and while baseball players are often viewed in a different light athletically as football players or basketball players, the sport has had its fair share of physical freaks.

    Whether it is a hulking power hitter, a guy with an unfathomable mix of power and speed, or an under sized player getting the most out of his small frame, there have been some impressive baseball players through the years.

    So here are the 30 most impressive physical specimens in baseball history, be it in the form of hulking strength, incredible tools, or undersized superstars.

Dave Kingman

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    Anyone nicknamed "King Kong" is obviously going to be a force at the plate, and Kingman was the definition of an all-or-nothing power hitter.

    At 6'6", Kingman was a big guy, and he used that size to help him launch 442 home runs in his 16-year career, while also striking out a whopping 1,816 times and posting a career average of just .236.

    Nonetheless, he was built to hit home runs, and he did just that.

Yogi Berra

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    Yogi Berra is regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history, thanks in large part to the impressive offensive numbers he was able to put up over his 19-year career.

    His 358 career home runs are impressive for a backstop, but they are even more impressive when you take into account the fact that Berra was only 5'7", easily the shortest player in the 300 home run club.

Billy Wagner

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    27 Apr 1998:  Pitcher Billy Wagner of the Houston Astros in action during a game against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium in Flushing, New York.  The Mets defeated the Astros 4-3. Mandatory Credit: David Seelig  /Allsport
    David Seelig/Getty Images

    Billy Wagner wrapped up an impressive career with one of the best seasons of his career at the age of 38 last season with the Atlanta Braves, and he currently sits fifth all-time in career saves with 422.

    At just 5'10", it is all the more impressive that Wagner was able to dominate hitters with a fastball that touched triple digits, as he was one of the premier stoppers of all-time.

Jon Rauch

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    SEATTLE, WA - APRIL 13:  Relief pitcher Jon Rauch #60 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on April 13, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    On the other end of the spectrum, albeit with far fewer career saves, is 6'11" right-hander Jon Rauch, once a top prospect with the White Sox as a starter, who has become one of the better work-horse relievers in baseball today.

    With 54 career saves, he is by no means an elite option, but his huge frame has held up well as he has made over 70 appearances in four different seasons, including a career-high 88 in 2007 as a member of the Washington Nationals.

Brian Jordan

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    30 Jun 1995: Outfielder Brian Jordan of the St. Louis Cardinals prepares to run toward first base during a game against the Chicago Cubs. The Cardinals won the game 3-1.
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Brian Jordan began his professional sports career splitting time between the St. Louis Cardinals minor league affiliates and the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL, where he was their starting strong safety in 1990 and 1991. He tallied five interceptions and four sacks during those two seasons, as he was no slouch on the gridiron.

    However, once he gave up football and focused solely on baseball, he became a fantastic hitter and a great right fielder as he had all the physical tools to excel in not one, but two sports.

    He ended his baseball career with a line of .282 BA, 184 HR, 821 RBI—not bad for a football player.

Julio Franco

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    SAN FRANCISCO - JULY 23: Julio Franco #14 of the Atlanta Braves stands ready at bat against the San Francisco Giants on July 23, 2007 at AT&T Park in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Julio Franco cracks the list for the simple fact that he was able to keep his body in good enough shape to be a solid contributor until he was almost 50 years old.

    At the age of 46, he appeared in 108 games for the Atlanta Braves and hit .275 BA, 9 HR, 42 RBI in what was his final season as a regular. He finally retired after the 2007 season at the age of 48, ending a 23-season career with an impressive .298 BA, 173 HR, 1194 RBI line.

Antonio Alfonseca

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    30 Jul 2000: Antonio Alfonseca #57 of the Florida Marlins winds back to pitch the ball during the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at the Pro Player Stadium in Miami, Florida. The Marlins defeated the Diamondbacks 4-3.Mandatory Credit: Eliot J. Schec
    Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

    Taking the idea of "physical specimen" in a slightly different direction, Antonio Alfonseca cracks the list thanks to a sixth digit on each of his hands and feet.

    He served as the Marlins closer for a short time, leading the National League in saves in 2000 when he recorded 45 despite a 4.24 ERA. His effectiveness during that time can be attributed to the good movement he got on his pitches thanks to his sixth "finger."

Glenallen Hill

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    Glenallen Hill may be best remembered for appearing in the Mitchell Report, and it certainly could have contributed to his power numbers, but as far as sheer appearance he was one of the most intimidating hitters in recent memory.

    He made a splash when the Cubs traded him to the Yankees at the deadline in 2000 and he proceeded to hit 16 home runs in 40 games in New York. He used a half-swing to hit some towering home runs, including one onto the rooftops across the street from Wrigley Field, as he was all power.

Mike Stanton

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    JUPITER, FL - MARCH 24: Mike Stanton #27 of the Florida Marlins watches as the ball he hit clears the left field fence for a three run home run against the Boston Red Sox in the fourth inning at Roger Dean Stadium on March 24, 2011 in Jupiter, Florida. (P
    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Mike Stanton is one of the game's brightest young power hitters, and he has already hit 38 home runs in 566 career at bats—all before he turns 22.

    At 6'5" and 235 pounds, Stanton is a presence in the batter's box, to say the least, and he has a rocket arm and good speed for his size to go along with his light-tower power. He could be the next 50-home-run hitter.

Rickey Henderson

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    OAKLAND, CA - CIRCA 1990:  Rickey Henderson #24 of the Oakland Athletics bats during an MLB game at Oakland-Alameda Coliseum circa 1990 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    The undeniable best lead-off hitter in baseball history, Rickey Henderson had speed to burn as he stole a ridiculous 1,406 bases during his career, including more than 100 steals in three different seasons, with a career-high 130 in 1982.

    However, he was far from just a slap-hitting speedster, as he also had terrific power with 297 home runs in his career; he was the rare speed-power threat that is a speed-first guy.

    A true athlete in every sense of the word, and as impactful a player as the league has seen.

Pat Venditte

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    While he has not reached the major leagues yet, Yankees' prospect and former Creighton University standout Pat Venditte is the rarest of rare in that he is an ambidextrous pitcher.

    Last season, as a reliever, he posted a 1.93 ERA and six saves in 74.2 innings of work at High Single-A, and he has proven that he is far from just a novelty.

    It will be interesting to see if and when he gets the chance to take his unique abilities to the big-league level.

Ivan Rodriguez

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    23 Sep 1997:  Catcher Ivan Rodriguez of the Texas Rangers in action during a game against the Oakland Athletics at UMAX Coliseum in Oakland, California.  The Rangers won the game 14-6. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule  /Allsport
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Ivan Rodriguez is putting the finishing touches on a Hall of Fame career that will see him go down as one of the greatest catchers in MLB history. And while most catchers inevitably find their way to another position in an effort to prolong their careers, Rodriguez has been a catcher his entire career.

    The record holder with 2,417 games played at the catchers position, all but nine games of his career, Rodriguez has held up like no other catcher in the history of the game, and that speaks volumes about his physical conditioning.

C.C. Sabathia

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    ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 04:  CC Sabathia #55 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on June 4, 2011 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California.  The Yankees won 3-2.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Generally a 6'7", 290-pound athlete can be found in the trenches for an NFL team, but in the case of the C.C. Sabathia he is among the best pitchers in all of baseball.

    Sabathia is a huge man—there is no other way to put it—and he has already had a fantastic career at the age of 30, with a career line of 164-92, 3.55 ERA, 1,862 Ks.

Willie Mays

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    An argument can be made that Willie Mays is the greatest player to ever play the game, and he was the definition of a five-tool player during his 22 seasons in the big leagues.

    At 5'10" and 170 pounds, he was not your prototypical home run hitter, but his 660 career home runs say otherwise. Throw in 338 steals and 12 Gold Gloves and it is clear that Mays was among the most physically gifted players in baseball history.

Frank Howard

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    At 6' 7" and 255 pounds, Frank Howard was among the most intimidating sluggers in baseball history, and he got the most out of his big frame as one of the top home run hitters of the 1960s.

    In 16 big league seasons, Howard launched 382 home runs, leading the league in that category twice, as he split most of his career between the Dodgers and the Senators.

Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown

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    Mordecai Brown is one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history and the best the Cubs have ever had in the history of their storied franchise. While his numbers are impressive alone, when you take into account what he overcame to post them they are that much more impressive.

    Not only was he undersized for a pitcher at just 5'10", but he pitched with just three fingers on his pitching hand. A farm-machinery accident caused him to lose most of the index finger and part of the pinky finger on his throwing hand, but he used that to his advantage and developed one of the best curveballs in baseball history en route to a 239-130 career record.

Gabe Kapler

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    Gabe Kapler was a serviceable outfielder throughout his 12-year career as a journeyman outfielder playing for six different teams. Although he has not officially retired, he is 35 years old and currently a free agent and his career could be over.

    During his time in the big leagues, he was widely regarded as the most muscular player in the league, as he was a bodybuilder in his time off the field. Generally being overly muscular is not viewed as a good thing in baseball, but Kapler made it work.

Mel Ott

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    Mel Ott made his major league debut at the age of 17 and was a regular by the age of 19.

    He went on to play 22 seasons for the Giants, during which time he established himself as one of the best home run hitters to ever play the game.

    He topped the 30 home run plateau eight times in his career and led the league in long balls six times on his way to 511 for his career. He did all of this despite the fact that he was only 5'9" and 170 pounds, far from what you would consider a prototypical power hitter.

J.R. Richard

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    Arguably the best pitcher in Astros franchise history, J.R. Richard was among the top pitchers of the 1970s, and from 1976-1979 he won 74 games and struck out a whopping 1,044 hitters.

    He used his strong 6'8" frame to generate power behind his 100 mile-per-hour fastball and equally ridiculous mid-90s slider. Richard was as intimidating a presence as there has ever been on the mound, and one of the most over looked pitchers in baseball history.

Dave Winfield

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    UNDATED:  Dave Winfield of the New York Yankees runs to first base. (Photo by V.J. Lovero/Getty Images)
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Dave Winfield was Bo Jackson before there was Bo Jackson.

    He was drafted to play basketball, baseball, and even hockey out of the University of Minnesota, and he is one of only a few players to never spend a day in the minor leagues.

    At 6' 6", 220 pounds, Winfield was built to be an athlete, and he not only recorded 465 career home runs, but also stole 223 bases during his career, as he could do it all thanks to his rare set of physical tools.

Tim Lincecum

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    SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 06:  Tim Lincecum #55 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Washington Nationals during an MLB game at AT&T Park on June 6, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    At 5' 11" and 165 pounds, there is absolutely no reason Tim Lincecum should be able to overpower hitters on the mound, but he has become one of the most dominant pitchers in the game in spite of his small stature.

    Thanks in part to his quirky over-the-top delivery, Lincecum has put together a career line of 61-31, 3.02 ERA, 1,000 Ks in 899.1 innings during his short big league career, and he should be one of the game's elite for the next several years.

Frank Thomas

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    A former tight end at Auburn University, Frank Thomas was incredibly athletic for his size, and he was far from just your everyday masher.

    He is the only player in big league history with seven straight seasons of .300 BA, 20 HR, 100 RBI, 100 runs, 100 walks as he was the complete package at the plate.

    At 6' 5", 240 pounds Thomas was not called the "Big Hurt" for nothing, and he goes down as one of the most feared sluggers to ever play the game.

Nolan Ryan

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    1991:  Pitcher Nolan Ryan of the Texas Rangers winds up for the pitch. Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart  /Allsport
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Any time a pitcher remains effective into his forties, and even late thirties now-a-days, it is impressive.

    But you never see a power pitcher last that long—that is, except for Nolan Ryan.

    Ryan used a fantastic training regimen to allow him to pitch in parts of four decades over 27 big league season, and he was as tough as they come.

    The all-time big league strikeout king, Ryan was a physical marvel, throwing the last of his seven no-hitters at the age of 44, and there will never be another power pitcher with as long a career as Ryan had.

Mickey Mantle

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    Mickey Mantle is one of the most prolific sluggers to ever play the game, but his physical tools go far beyond just being able to hit home runs.

    He is considered by most to be the greatest switch hitter of all-time, he stole 153 bases to go along with his 536 career home runs, and he has the fastest time ever recorded going from home to first at 3.1 second when hitting left handed.

    Few players have had the tremendous all-around talents that Mantle did, and the fact that he was able to play through serious injuries late in his career and still produce only makes him that much more impressive.

Pedro Martinez

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    BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 30:  Pedro Martinez #45 of the Boston Red Sox winds up for the pitch during the game against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on August 30, 2003  in Boston, Massachusetts. The Yankees won 10-7.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    At just 5' 11", and 170 pounds, Pedro Martinez certainly was not intimidating to look at, but once he took the mound he was larger than life.

    With an affinity for pitching on the inner half, a blazing fastball, and a fantastic arsenal of off-speed pitches, Martinez certainly made the most of his compact frame, and in his prime he was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball history.

    From 1997-2003, Martinez went 118-36, 2.20 ERA, 1,761 Ks in 1408 innings. He won three Cy Young Awards, one wins title, five ERA titles, and three strikeout titles. Absolutely ridiculous dominance in the heart of the Steroid Era.

Ted Kluszewski

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    The picture says it all, as Ted Kluszewski literally cut the sleeves off his jerseys because he found them to be restricting to his ridiculous arms.

    It doesn't get much more intimidating than that, and he backed it up with 279 home runs over his 15-year playing career. From 1953-1957, when he was healthy and in his prime, he hit 171 of those home runs, as he was one of the game's top sluggers for a short time.

Jim Abbott

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    1989:  Pitcher Jim Abbot #25 of the California Angels looks on in practice during the 1989 MLB season.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Jim Abbott is one of the more impressive stories in baseball history, as he went on to a successful career in the big leagues despite being born without a right hand.

    After dominating at the University of Michigan, Abbott was taken eighth overall in the 1988 draft by the California Angels. He made his big league debut in 1989, winning 12 games and finishing third in NL Rookie of the Year voting. He went on to win 87 games over his 10-year career and is one of the most inspirational stories in sports.

Mark McGwire

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    If there is one thing that steroids can do, it is make you an impressive physical specimen—and Mark McGwire was that and then some.

    With a neck like a tree trunk, and some of the biggest arms in baseball history, he didn't just hit home runs, he put on a show.

    He was already a big guy back in his days with the Oakland Athletics, as his 6'5" frame was that of a prototypical power hitter, but the 'roids just took it to another level all together.

Randy Johnson

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    13 Oct 1995:  Pitcher Randy Johnson of the Seattle Mariners throws the ball during a game against the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Ohio.  The Mariners won the game 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Jed Jacobsohn  /Allsport
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    With a 6'10" frame, it was as though Randy Johnson was releasing his high-90s fastball right on top of you. Throw in one of the best sliders in big league history, and it is clear why Johnson was so dominant during his 22-year career.

    He was even more intimidating earlier in his career, as a scraggly mullet made him scarier looking, and a complete lack of control made batters think twice before stepping into the box against him.

Bo Jackson

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    Bo Jackson is a true freak, and may very well be the most physically gifted athlete to ever set foot on a sporting arena of any sort.

    Drafted first overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jackson instead opted for a baseball career, and signed with the Royals who took him in the fourth round of the 1986 draft. He would make his debut later that season.

    The following season he was drafted again, this time by the Raiders, who allowed him to play both sports.

    After playing four seasons with the Raiders, and establishing himself as one of the most dangerous running backs in all of football, injuries forced Jackson to retire.

    He then shifted his focus to baseball full time, and went on to have a solid career overall.

    In eight big league seasons with the Royals, White Sox, and Angels, he hit 141 home runs, and was named to one All-Star team. With a jersey that fit him like Under Armour, there may have never been a more intimidating looking player to step foot in a batter's box.