The Most Underrated MLB Players of All Time

A shortstop leaps for a baseball.

The Baseball Hall of Fame was established in 1936 to honor the very best players in MLB, America’s oldest organized sport. All MLB players dream of earning a place alongside legends such as Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Lou Gehrig, Tom Seaver, Willie Mays, and Bob Gibson. To get there, players have to receive 75% of the votes cast by eligible members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

The competition is tough and predicting who will make the cut has become a popular online sports betting activity. Various sports betting sites offer MLB betting lines for MLB Hall of Fame inductees, and you can even get sports betting odds of +1,000 that nobody will be inducted.

Ultimately, it’s down to what the sportswriters think. Sometimes players with great stats aren’t picked because they don’t get enough spotlight on a national level. It seems unfair that these underrated players should be forgotten, so here’s our selection of the most underrated MLB players of all time.

Dave Stieb, pitcher

People still debate whether the Tigers’ Jack Morris should be in the Hall of Fame, but they seldom talk about Dave Stieb. They should. It’s true that he only had 176 wins out of 443 games for the Chicago White Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays, but on a personal level, he was one of the toughest pitchers of the 1980s. He won the second-highest number of games among all pitchers (behind Jack Morris) and had a solid ERA (earned run average) through 16 seasons of play (1979–1993, 1998), posting an average season of 14–10 with a 3.29 ERA and 1.22 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched).

With never less than 31 starts in 10 out of 11 seasons from 1980 to 1990, Stieb was also tremendously durable. Unfortunately, he suffered from a career-long lack of support, largely because he pitched for some lousy teams. Nonetheless, Stieb was a seven-time All-Star.

Tony Oliva, right field and designated hitter

Tony Oliva developed a reputation as one of the best hitters in Minnesota Twins history. He’s one of only two hitters to win a batting title in their rookie season (the other one was Ichiro Suzuki). An incredible performance of 32 home runs, 43 doubles, and 94 RBI (runs batted in) won Oliva the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1964. He went on to play 15 seasons (1962–76) in which he won three batting titles overall, took home a Gold Glove, and was leading American League hitter five times. His grit showed during the 1973 season: He was 34 years old and had missed practically the entire 1972 season, but still batted .291 with 16 home runs and 92 RBI.

Oliva was one vote short of being inducted by the Hall of Fame’s Golden Era Committee in 2014. His next chance comes up in December this year. Will Tony Oliva finally get the recognition he deserves?

Graig Nettles, third baseman

Mention of the New York Yankees brings to mind famous names like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Derek Jeter, but there are other players who’ve played a critical role. Graig Nettles is one of those individuals who made the Yankees what they are today.

Nettles was outstanding in the hot corner in the 70s and into the 80s. He was known for going all-out to stop every ball that was hit his way. His defensive plays against the Dodgers in the third clash of the World Series in 1978 turned the game decisively toward the Yankees.

Nettles also played a key batting role, hitting 96 home runs and driving in 293 runs from 1976 to 1978, when the Yankees went to the World Series three years in a row and won twice. When he retired in 1988, Nettles had hit more home runs than any other third baseman in MLB.

”Shoeless Joe” Jackson, outfielder

A baseball player holds a baseball in one hand and a mitt in the other.

The legacy of “Shoeless Joe” Jackson is still a topic of debate more than a hundred years after he had to leave MLB. He was known as one of the hardest workers in baseball, with an unequaled passion for the game. His 13 seasons in the game (1908–1920) included 10 full Major League campaigns where he had more than 1,700 hits. In 1911, he batted .408 with an OPS of 1.011 for Cleveland in a season where he accumulated 331 total bases. He set a World Series record with 12 base hits in 1919 and batted .382 with an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of 1.033 in 1920. His career batting average of .356 puts him in the top three of all time. Yet “Shoeless Joe” was excluded from the Hall of Fame.

It was all to do with the “Black Sox” scandal. MLB betting was a lucrative business then as now, and Jackson was one of eight Chicago White Sox players accused of trying to throw the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. Jackson was acquitted by a grand jury, but Major League Baseball banned him from the game for life.

Bobby Grich, second baseman

Bobby Grich was a great all-rounder with a reputation as a superb defensive second baseman who could also step up to the plate. He played 17 seasons (1970–86) for the Baltimore Orioles and the California Angels, posting a career WAR (wins above replacement) of 75 and a WAR7 (peak WAR) of 46. He won four Golden Glove Awards and was an All-Star six times. He played second base for five teams that reached the playoffs, as well as eight teams that won 90 games or more. As a batter, he led the American League in 1981 with 22 home runs and a .543 strike percentage. He was the first player to be inducted into the Angels Hall of Fame in 1988 and became an inductee of the Orioles Hall of Fame in 1998.

So why isn’t Bobby Grich in the Baseball Hall of Fame? His name was removed from the ballot in 1992 when he only received 2.6 percent of the votes, but many (especially Angels fans) argue that based on his career stats, Grich deserves a second chance.

Dave Concepción, short stop

The Minnesota Reds’ Dave Concepción is one of the most highly regarded shortstops of all time. His partnership with Joe Morgan was one of the great double-play combinations in MLB history. His 19 seasons (1970–88) were highly decorated – he won five Gold Gloves, including four consecutive awards from 1974 to 77, and two Silver Sluggers in a row (1981–82). He’s regarded as a clutch player, based on his 300-plus batting average in the three World Series he appeared in. Concepción also made it onto nine All-Star teams eight times in consecutive years (1975–82) and stole 321 bases in his career.

Concepcion’s contributions to the Big Red Machine have been put in the shade by Hall of Fame teammates Pete Rose, Tony Perez, and Morgan. Yet when compared to the 22 shortstops in the Hall of Fame, Concepcion ranks ninth in HR (home runs), 10th in SB (stolen bases), 11th in hits and RBI, 15th in SLG (slugging percentage), and 19th in AVG (batting average) and OBP (on-base percentage). Based on these stats, Dave Concepción could be MLB’s most underrated player.

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