The appropriate time for this post probably was last week, when Carlos Delgado retired as the career home run leader among players born in Puerto Rico. Or maybe in January, when Roberto Alomar was elected the island's third Hall of Famer. I figured I knew who the best Puerto Rican player in MLB history is, but I wanted to know where Delgado and Alomar stood. Here are the top ten, ordered by an average of FanGraph's and Baseball-Reference's WAR statistics. While there are some disparities, both methods resulted in the same players in the top ten.
- Roberto Clemente - 87.55
- Ivan Rodriguez - 70.5
- Roberto Alomar - 65.85
- Carlos Beltran - 55.3
- Jose Cruz - 53.7
- Orlando Cepeda - 52.55
- Jorge Posada - 49.05
- Bernie Williams - 47.55
- Carlos Delgado - 46.65
- Javier Vazquez - 44.3
Alomar's place is right where I would have thought among the players listed. Delgado is a spot or two lower, but there is really little difference between him, Williams and even Posada (for the moment). A few other thoughts about the list:
- Obviously Clemente is Number 1, but did you know his fielding runs above average is second all-time among outfielders? Only Andruw Jones (Number 1 on the list of players born in Curacao!) has more. Four times, Clemente contributed over two wins just from his defense, all from right field. What a sight that must have been.
- I was surprised to see Beltran so high on the list. I think he's one of those players - like J.D. Drew - who we don't properly appreciate because we (or at least Mets fan) think he should be even better. Injuries will probably prevent him from climbing into the top 3 on this list and entering Hall of Fame discussions, but he's closer to that level than I had thought. Plus, he's already ahead of one Puerto Rican Hall of Famer.
- I knew nothing of Jose Cruz before becoming acquainted with sabermetrics. I'm young enough to have seen none of the pre-Killer B Astros and for all I knew, the team's history more or less began in 1986. Now, I understand that Cruz, along with fellow Astro greats Cesar Cedeno and Jimmy Wynn, have been grossly neglected by time.
- Puerto Rico does not have a history of great pitchers, and, as a Yankees fan, it pains me a little to see Vazquez on this list. For that last spot, he beat out Jose Valentin, who was apparently a far superior defensive shortstop than I ever knew, and yes, two-time American League Most Valuable Player Juan Gonzalez. Thank you, BBWAA.