As we begin our rankings of the top 100 players in Major League Baseball, it’s time to discuss the stars who have fallen off our list.
With that in mind, we asked MLB experts to find one player who isn’t in this week’s top 100 players that they feel most strongly deserves to be there. From Negro League stars and Hall of Famers from the sport’s early days to new top players and post-season champions, here are nine players named.
the list: 100-51 | 50-26 (The next Wednesday) | 25-1 (next Thursday)
Negro league stars
The Negro Leagues were clearly under-represented in our Top 100, and three players certainly stood out as the grumbles: first baseman Buck Leonard, short-stop Bob Lloyd, and two-way player Paulette Rogan. When I asked for the opinion of Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, he was unequivocal: Rogan was the biggest loss ever. We marvel, rightly, at what Shohei Ohtani did in the amazing 2021 season in which he won the MVP award. Well, Rogan insulted me a century ago. And as much as Rogan’s brilliance talent was — a fast ball that earned him his title and led to a 2.65 ERA over 1,500 documented rounds, a bat cutting . The most amazing thing he did. After leaving the Army in 1920, Rogan played nine two-way elite seasons. The talent was unmistakable. Longevity was really special. – Jeff Bassan
They called Leonard Lou Gehrig of the Negro leagues, but as Hall of Famer Monte Irvin said, “If he had ever had a chance to play in the major leagues, they would have called Lou Gehrig White Buck Leonard.” Gehrig had more power, but Leonard equated him as a hitter and considered him the first superior defensive player. Leonard hit .345/ .450/ .589 in the Negro leagues, and his modified +181 streak is only third behind Josh Gibson (he was followed by Leonard in the Homestead Grays lineup, creating a double punch for rival Babe Ruth and Gehrig) and Oscar Charleston among the Negro League players.
Leonard reportedly hit .382 in exhibition games against top players, and when Jackie Robinson finally broke the color barrier, Bill Vick tried to sign Leonard, even though he was 40 years old. Leonard refused, worried that he was too old. The first three Negro Leaguers were inducted into the Hall of Fame by Satchel Paige in 1971 and then Gibson and Leonard – a respected and impressive star – in 1972. He is a top 100 player of all time. – David Schoenefeld
Smokey Joe Williams
Williams was at his best before the Negro Leagues were formed, but we have plenty of evidence of just how great he was, starting with contemporary comparisons with Hall of Famers like Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson. In the barnstorming games, Williams was said to have beaten the likes of Johnson, Pete Alexander, Chief Bender and Rob Markard head-to-head as he went 20-7 in such fairs. In both 1912 and 1915, the NL winner Williams closed in, and then in 1917, the NL champ hit the New York Giants and hit 20 hitters.
Tea Cup Thai Cup! “He was a definite winner in 30 Grand Slam matches,” Williams said.
Finally, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum says, “During the first half of its existence, Smokey Joe Williams played black baseball as much as Satchel Page was in the latter.” Williams is, at least, one of the 50 best players of all time. – Bradford Doolittle
Hall of Fame
He won Newbie of the Year (1991) and MVP (1994) awards while playing nine seasons in the Astrodome, a huge park where he didn’t hold the ball. Bagwell finished the OPS with .948, which is among the top 20 of all time, higher than David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez, among others. Bagwell is one of 13 players ever to hit the highest level in operations with at least 1,500 points and 1,500 points. He had two seasons 30-30. To some, Bagwell is considered one of the five greatest baseball players in baseball history. If so, he should be in the top 100. – Tim Kurkjian
Sisler, the first major man elected to the Hall of Fame by the American Baseball Writers Association in 1939, may be the best overall player in the history of the position. In 1920, Sisler collected 257 results in a season of 154 games, a modern-era record that held up until Ichiro Suzuki scored 262 in 2004. In 1922, Sisler safely scored in 41 consecutive games, a modern-day record that remained even Joe Dimaggio Records. 56 straight games in 1941. He led his league in stolen bases four times, and his defense was celebrated on his Hall of Fame board as follows: “He has been credited with being one of the best starters in the history of the game.” – Paul Hempikidis
It’s hard to imagine a seven-time winner in 20 games not making the top 100, especially when you consider that Jenkins has featured in three different decades. If that’s not the best of its time, I’m not sure what is. And that’s when wins mean something – like getting deeper into the games. Jenkins led the league in four full games, with at least 20 appearances in each of those seasons. He topped the full 30 in 1971, when he won Cy Young with 24 wins and 2.77 ERA. At the age of 35, he finished sixth in the Cy Young vote, and at the age of 39, he accumulated a respectable 3.15 ERA in 34 starts. – Jesse Rogers
He overshadowed Musina in an era that styled titans like Greg Maddox, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Roy Halladay and Randy Johnson. Musina has never won a Cy Young award, but he does take six places in the top five. He never led his team to the World Championship, but posted a 3.42 ERA in 139 post-season runs. He didn’t reach 300 wins, but he crossed the 200 innings 11 times in 18 years and kept his ERA below 4.00 a dozen times despite spending his entire career in the MLS loaded East hit-friendly soccer fields. He missed the bat, but he also showed excellent control. He was one of the best shooters of a turbulent era. – Alden Gonzalez
Five players out of the game
Since 2013, Mike Trout has been leading all-hitters in MLB with his 67 fWAR, which makes sense. However, the second player on that list is Mookie Betts – who somehow didn’t make it to our Top 100 despite Bryce Harper. Harper ranks eighth on this list at 38.9 fWAR. The gap between Betts and Harper in fWAR is larger than the gap between Harper and Yasmani Grandal.
Not only is Bates a dynamic modern hitter, he’s one of the best defensive players in baseball, a two-time World Series champion and a member of the 30-30 Club. If we live in a world where there are no trout, Bates is the standout player of the last decade. – John Lee
Even though I’m not that old yet, Jones was one of the most unique guys I’ve ever seen. His uncanny sense of capturing everything while playing on a shallow midfield made him one of the few memorable defensive players of the attacking era. The combination of that, declaring himself on the biggest stage with three post-season teammates in his 19-year season and playing at the iconic club of his time makes him an unforgettable player in my mind. It also didn’t hurt that I grew up in Florida while TBS made the Braves the most watchable team in the league. One point in my favor as an elder is that Jones’ son, Drew, may be the first overall pick in the draft this summer. – Kelly McDaniel