In every generation, there are also underrated MLB players who fly below the radar and don’t get the credit they deserve.
Frankly, baseball history is filled with players who had unique skills or put the team over themselves, leaving them without the accolades they should have received. That’s why we wanted to help rectify the situation by coming up with a list of the most underrated baseball players of all time.
Underrated MLB players of all-time
Compared to some of the most overrated MLB players in baseball history, it’s a little tougher to pinpoint the most underrated MLB players.
After all, if it was easy to pick them out, they wouldn’t be so underappreciated. That’s why we’re happy to do the leg work and come up with a list of the 20 most underrated players in baseball history.
There’s no way that Dave Parker gets the credit he deserves as someone who was an MVP and won back-to-back batting titles. It’s shocking to know that someone with that resume never received more than 24% of the votes while on the Hall of Fame ballot. Parker was one of the most balanced and versatile outfielders of his era.
He won three Gold Gloves and three Silver Slugger awards in addition to his battling titles. Parker was also named an all-star seven times and helped two different teams win the World Series. Even his career totals of 339 home runs and a .290 average deserve more respect than he’s received.
For the most part, baseball fans only know the name Tommy John because of the surgery that’s named after him. But he was a good pitcher both before and after he had the surgery that bears his name.
John was a four-time all-star, three of those selections coming post-surgery. He finished his quarter-century-long career with 288 wins and over 2,200 strikeouts. Keep in mind that he did all of that following a surgery that came with no assurances. If more fans only knew about his accomplishments rather than just the surgery.
Jay Bell is one of many players who can be considered underrated because not enough fans and critics give strong defensive players enough credit. He wasn’t a natural talent, although he used his intelligence and instincts to become one of the best shortstops in baseball throughout the 90s.
If it wasn’t for Ozzie Smith, he would have won more than just one Gold Glove and would be remembered far more than he is.
Jose Oquendo was far ahead of his time when it came to being a versatile utility player who could play just about anywhere on the diamond. Those players are still undervalued today, and they were overlooked even more during Oquendo’s era.
As a second baseman, he has one of the highest fielding percentages in MLB history. But those defensive skills transferred to just about every other position, making him invaluable.
Granted, he was only a .256 hitter with 14 career home runs. But there are plenty of reasons why former St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog referred to Oquendo as “the secret weapon.”
How is it possible that a 10-time all-star like Steve Garvey isn’t enshrined in Cooperstown?
Despite playing 19 seasons and being MVP in 1974, Garvey has been consistently overlooked by both voters and the Veterans Committee. His 272 career home runs don’t stack up too well against other top-flight first basemen in baseball history. But Garvey also has a .294 career average and won four straight Gold Gloves during his prime.
With his 10 all-star selections on top of that, his absence from Cooperstown is proof that he remains an underrated player.
Lou Whitaker had a long and fruitful career that is often overlooked. He spent his entire career with the Tigers, playing in Detroit from 1977 to 1995. All 19 of his seasons in the majors were spent playing alongside Alan Trammell, making them the longest-running double-play tandem in MLB history.
In addition to his longevity, Whitaker was Rookie of the Year in 1978, a five-time all-star, a three-time Gold Glove winner, and a four-time Silver Slugger. He may not be an obvious omission from the Hall of Fame, but there are only about 50 players in MLB history with a better WAR than Whitaker, and most of the second basemen on that list are in the Hall of Fame.
Dave Concepcion is usually one of the most overlooked players on the Reds during the days of the Big Red Machine. He spent his entire career in Cincinnati from 1970 to 1988, earning nine all-star selections and five Gold Gloves along the way.
The shortstop was also a two-time Silver Slugger winner. His best seasons came in the years that the Reds won back-to-back championships in 1975 and 1976 and were among the most dominant teams in baseball before and after those titles.
Of course, it’s easy to forget about Concepcion on a team that also featured Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, George Foster, Johnny Bench, and others. But the Reds may not have been the same without Concepcion, which is why he’s among the most underrated players in MLB history.
Shoeless Joe Jackson
The infamous Black Sox Scandal will forever be Shoeless Joe Jackson’s claim to fame. Frankly, that’s the way it should be and it should be more than enough to keep him out of the Hall of Fame.
But most people don’t know just how good Jackson was as a player. He had a career average of .356, amassing 1,772 hits, including 54 home runs. In fact, he holds the career batting average record for two different franchises and ended his career with a .940 OPS, which most players in today’s game would love to emulate.
Anybody who can pitch 19 seasons in the majors and have a 3.30 ERA should be in serious consideration for the Hall of Fame.
Unfortunately, Luis Tiant hasn’t been awarded passage to Cooperstown just yet. The Cuban was often overlooked during his career as well, only making the All-Star Team three times. He wasn’t even an all-star in one of the two years that he led the American League in ERA. As a four-time 20-game winner, Tiant doesn’t get nearly as much acclaim as he should.
Jim Edmonds was far from the most talented player of his generation, but he got everything he could out of the talent he had. The fans in St. Louis called him “Jimmy Ballgame” because he played the game the right way and always found ways to help his team win games.
Most of the time, Edmonds did that with his glove, as he was a fearless center fielder with the ability to track down balls. He won eight Gold Gloves, including six in a row during his time with the Cardinals.
He was also a four-time all-star who fell just short of 400 home runs and 1,200 RBIs in his career. Edmonds was probably never going to end up in Cooperstown, but he surely deserved better than the 2.5% of the vote that he got in his only year on the ballot.
Omar Vizquel might be the poster boy for how little the Hall of Fame values defense, which is why he’s among the most underrated MLB players of all time. He played over a decade in the big leagues, winning 11 Gold Gloves, including nine in a row at one point.
Vizquel is also the all-time leader in double plays turned among shortstops. He once had a season with just three errors, which is also a record among shortstops. Vizquel also has the highest field percentage of any player who played at least 1,000 games at shortstop.
Even late in his career, Vizquel was among the best defensive shortstops in the majors. Meanwhile, few remember him for being an adequate hitter, batting .272 in his career and coming up 133 hits shy of the 3,000-hit plateau. Yet, his Hall of Fame support has declined in recent years with voters being unappreciative of Vizquel’s defensive brilliance.
Unfortunately, Kevin Brown is mostly remembered for being the first MLB player to sign a contract worth nine figures and never being able to live up to that contract. But if you take the money he made out of the equation, Brown was better than most people realize because they get too wrapped up in his shortcomings.
He has a no-hitter on his resume and was also a six-time all-star. Brown also led the National League in ERA twice during his career, including once after he signed that mega contract. It wasn’t all bad for a pitcher who won over 200 games and finished his career with a more than respectable 3.28 ERA.
Those who remember Rick Reuschel tend to focus more on his physical appearance as an overweight pitcher rather than what he did on the mound. He was vastly underrated in the way that he kept hitters off balance by changing speeds with his pitches.
Reuschel pitched well enough to earn over 200 wins and three all-star selections during his career. He even fielded his position well enough to win two Gold Gloves. Also, Reuschel pitched for 20 seasons in the majors, and that longevity is just as impressive as his career 3.37 ERA across a career that long.
It’s crazy to think that Jeff Reardon is nowhere near the Hall of Fame after the type of career he had. Toward the end of his career, Reardon spent a little time as MLB’s all-time save leader despite Lee Smith passing him before the end of his career. He may not have been overly dominant with a 3.16 career ERA.
But Reardon did save at least 20 games in seven straight seasons at one point. Despite only going to the All-Star Game four times and leading the National League in saves once, Reardon amassed 367 career saves, which still puts him just outside the top 10 on the all-time list
In between three stints in Cleveland, Kenny Lofton bounced around a lot during his career, rarely spending more than one season with the same team. Perhaps that’s why he’s easy to overlook, as only Cleveland fans got to know him. But Lofton was a phenomenal athlete who actually went to the University of Arizona on a basketball scholarship.
He possessed the speed to cover ground in the outfield and also steal 622 bases in his career. Lofton was also a .299 career hitter who was always playing on winning teams. He went to the postseason 11 times, which is why he’s the all-time leader in postseason stolen bases.
At minimum, Lofton should have bee a borderline Hall of Famer, although he was off the ballot after just two seasons, which is a disgrace for a six-time all-star, four-time Gold Glove winner, and a player who led the American League in stolen bases in five straight seasons.
Most fans only remember John Olerud as the first baseman who wore a helmet while playing the field. However, he should be equally remembered for his play on the field, making him one of the most underappreciated MLB players.
Olerud spent the early part of his career in Toronto, becoming a key piece of the Blue Jays winning back-to-back World Series. In fact, he won the American League batting title in 1993, the year of Toronto’s second World Series win.
Olerud was one of the great contact hitters of his generation, batting .295 in his career, even if he didn’t have the ideal power of a first baseman. Of course, his defense is also a reason why Olerud should be remembered as a great player. He only won three Gold Gloves, all coming later in his career. But he was also a part of one of the best defensive infields of all time during his time with the Mets in the late 90s.
Scott Rolen’s struggle to get into the Hall of Fame is disappointing to see and proof that he’s one of the most underrated MLB players of his generation. The fact that he’s been consistently overlooked is a testament to how undervalued defense is in the eyes of Hall of Fame voters.
Rolen won eight Gold Gloves during his career, including five in a row during his prime, making him one of the best defensive third basemen of all time. Rolen was also Rookie of the Year and amassed more than 2,000 hits in his career while being named an all-star seven times. Between those offensive numbers and his defensive prowess, Rolen should be held in higher esteem.
Most baseball fans know about Honus Wagner’s famously expensive baseball card but they don’t know that much about him as a player. He wasn’t much of a power hitter, amassing just 101 home runs over a career that spanned two decades.
But Wagner excelled at just about everything else. In the span of 12 years, he won eight batting titles, including a stretch of four in a row from 1906 to 1909. He also led the National League in RBIs five times and stolen bases.
Even Ty Cobb, who’s often regarded as one of the greatest pure hitters of all time, described Wagner as “maybe the greatest star ever to take the diamond.” Wagner was also a great defensive shortstop, which is another aspect of his career that gets forgotten amidst the focus on his expensive baseball card.
Roberto Clemente is often remembered for his humanitarian work and the tragic circumstances surrounding his death. Somehow, it’s occasionally forgotten that Clemente was also one of the all-time greats. He was a 12-time Gold Glove winner, a 15-time all-star, and a four-time batting champ.
Clemente won MVP honors in 1966 and helped the Pirates win two World Series, earning World Series MVP in 1971. That sounds like a player who should be in contention for the Mount Rushmore of baseball. Somewhat poetically, he finished his career with exactly 3,000 hits. He would have accomplished even more on the field if he hadn’t died unexpectedly and should be remembered a little more for his brilliant career rather than his tragic death.
The fact that Keith Hernandez isn’t in the Hall of Fame is enough to make him one of the most underrated players in baseball history. It’s also another testament to the Hall of Fame undervaluing good defense. Hernandez is largely considered the best defensive first baseman to ever play the game, revolutionizing the position by playing off the base and covering a lot of ground.
He also won 11 consecutive Gold Gloves during his career. On top of that, he was a great leader throughout his career, especially on the two teams that he helped lead to a World Series title.
We’re also talking about a five-time all-star, a batting champ, and a former MVP who finished his career with over 2,000 hits and a .296 career average. It makes no sense that a player with that resume isn’t in the Hall of Fame.