Across all 50 states, children play little league baseball and practice the game in hopes of one day making it to the majors. While the odds of actually becoming a big leaguer are slim, there have been nearly 20,000 total players in MLB history — representing all 50 states. Fans are always proud of the players that their state produces, but only one can be the most highly touted in that state’s history.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from Baseball Reference to determine the best baseball player from every state. We took into account statistics like WAR, as well as accolades like MVPs and All-Star selections, for MLB players. As many of these players moved from state to state growing up, we considered players to be from the state in which they were born. Players whose careers began before the World Series Era, which started in 1903, were not considered.
Each state has produced a dozen or more major leaguers. Alaska has produced the fewest pro baseball players among states, with 12. That should come as no surprise since the MLB predates the state by more than 50 years, not to mention the fact that it has a small population and fewer days where it is warm enough to go outside and play baseball compared to other states. California has by far the highest total, with over 2,300.
This list could look very differently soon. Some young players are already well on their way to becoming their state’s best. For instance, Cody Bellinger has played just three seasons and has already made two All-Star teams, won a Gold Glove, and was named 2019 NL MVP. A different Arizonan was named the state’s best player, largely because his major league career is more than a decade longer than Bellinger’s, and he racked up four All-Star nods and helped his team win a World Series. Bellinger seems poised for long-term success, but he will need more time to establish himself as Arizona’s best ever baseball player. At just 24-years-old, however, he has plenty of time to do so. These are the youngest athletes to dominate their sport.
“Greatness” is difficult to quantify, so we took into account not just statistics, but accolades, Hall of Fame status, and legacy too. There were several players who certainly had the statistics to make a claim as the greatest in their state’s history, but for a variety of reasons, were kept out of the Hall of Fame. Pete Rose received a lifetime ban from baseball for gambling on the MLB, while several others have had their reputations tarnished for their links to steroid use. These are the scandals that rocked the sports world.