In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, MLB.com is hosting a series of roundtables featuring the best players from various Latin American countries. Today’s topic: The best players from Venezuela.
Alyson Footer, Moderator/Editor: Given the amount of talent we’ve been seeing coming out of Venezuela over time, I was looking forward to this debate. While Luis Aparicio is currently the only Venezuelan in the Hall of Fame, that will change dramatically in the next few years. Miguel Cabrera is a first-place finisher, and Félix Hernández will be on the ballot in the not too distant future. After that, we have Jose Altuve and Ronald Acuña Jr. on the horizon. But at the moment we can all agree that Miggy is the best Venezuelan player of all time? To discuss.
Anthony Castrovince, reporter/columnist: No question. On the shortlist of greatest right-handers of all time.
Sarah Langs, Researcher/Analyst: I think so! No disrespect to Aparicio. But 500+ HR, 3,000+ hits, a triple crown…
Efrain Ruiz, Editorial Producer, Las Mayores: Yes, there is actually no question here. Very simple, with all due respect to Mr. Aparicio.
Footer: This topic is fun because maybe in another decade we’ll be fighting over Miggy and Acuña.
Long: But I love the horizon. Acuña’s start to his career is similar to HOFern when we look at the adjusted stats. Can’t wait to discuss in 10 years.
Castrovice: Acuña was pretty clearly compromised by knee surgery this year. And yet, even in a bad year, he managed to outperform for a great team. But next year, hopefully, it’s back to MVP-caliber performance that we’re anticipating.
Of all the players I’ve talked to about baseball in my time, Miggy is just on a different level in his approach to hitting and reading opposing pitchers. An absolute scholar.
Ruiz: We could throw in a thousand stats and facts, but I like these two: Cabrera, Hank Aaron and Albert Pujols are the only players in MLB history with 3,000 hits, 500 homers and 600 doubles. And he’s one of only seven players with 3,000 hits and 500 homers. And among Venezuelans, he leads in home runs (506, 107 more than Andres Galarraga), hits (3,081), doubles (607), runs (1,529), RBIs (1,842), slugging (.524), OPS (.909) and OPS+ (142), well above Bobby Abreu (128).
Miggy also has 12 All-Star Games, two MVP awards, four batting titles, and is the only Triple Crown winner since 1967 — at least for the next two weeks since that guy Aaron Judge who plays for the Yankees (did you heard of him?) may join him soon. Miggy might not be as far ahead of the pack in WAR (Baseball Reference Version) as people might think – 67.9 vs. 60.2 for Abreu and 55.9 for Aparicio – mostly because his production is pretty much on his powerful racket was limited. Still, it’s not really that close.
Castrovice: Miggy has hinted this may be his last season (although he’s still under contract next year). If he hangs them, that would be one heck of a Hall of Famer class with Pujols, who, as we discussed the other day, has a pretty strong case as the greatest player of all time from the Dominican Republic.
Ruiz: It’s gonna be a very loud day in Cooperstown, Anthony.
Castrovice: Wave those flags!
Long: My favorite part about Miggy is just his transformation. From that kid on the Marlins’ 2003 World Series team to someone we celebrate for all those stats collected. That kind of staying power is so impressive and so important.
Footer: It doesn’t hurt that he has one of the most endearing personalities in baseball. Very gif-like.
Ruiz: Totally, especially the second half of his career.
Footer: What does Acuña have to do to make this a real argument two decades from now?
Castrovice: Only 2,500 hits left or something…
Ruiz: Stay on the field, which Miggy was able to do for a long time, playing at least 148 games each season from 2004 to 2016 with the sole exception of 2015.
Castrovice: Exactly, Efrain. Acuña is the more dynamic player in terms of what he can do on the field and especially on the basepaths. But that also makes it harder to post like Miggy has been doing for so long.
Long: Be sure to win an MVP award or two. And just like someone who loves to watch Acuña play, I can’t wait for him to win the World Series and not be on the bench recovering from an injury but instead celebrate his moment with a great catch and gets a crucial lead home run. He needs those signature moments. I know he already has a lot of them! But winning even more after the team won the World Series without him last year.
Ruiz: Then sustained production, which is harder than staying in the field. I love Acuña and its potential, but there is still a long way to go. We always like to compare players in the first so many years of their careers – hitting more home runs by age 25, etc. – but the hard part is always keeping it going.
Castrovice: We haven’t really talked about another active player that could be tied to Cooperstown and that’s Altuve. He won’t surpass Miggy as Venezuela’s tallest player, but he’s 32, already an eight-time All-Star, nearing 2,000 hits, nearly 600 extra base hits, and while some people are understandably getting hung in the wake of the Astros’ cheating scandal ( although we have reason to believe he was not involved) he was a key member of a consistent winner.
Ruiz: At 32, Altuve just overtook Omar Vizquel in WAR (45.9 to 45.6) and from what he’s shown this year it sure looks like there’s plenty left in the tank. I really think he has a chance to totally challenge Cabrera’s WAR if he stays healthy. Four seasons of 200 hits, three hit titles, an MVP award, the 2019 ALCS MVP, eight All-Star Games, the 2017 World Series… Yes, there’s the whole Astros controversy, but there’s good evidence that he is basically didn’t use this cheat system and he actually hit a lot better on the street (.381/.449/.633) than he did at Minute Maid Park (.311/.371/.463) in 2017.
Castrovice: Incidentally, although Aparicio is currently the only Venezuelan in the hall, there’s an argument that Dave Concepcion should at least take part in the entertainment in Cooperstown. Nine All-Star appearances, five Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, two World Series with the Big Red Machine.
Ruiz: Santana’s summit was definitely something different.
Between 2004 and 2009, Santana was able to say something that perhaps only Cabrera could say among Venezuelan players: that he was the best player in baseball — or, in this case, the best pitcher. Think about it. Aparicio was great but never the best player in baseball. Abreu, the same. Hernandez? Yes, maybe the best pitcher for a short time. During that period from 2004 to 2009, among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched, Santana led the majors in WAR (39.0), wins (99), ERA (2.86), ERA+ (154), strikeouts (1,335), and WHIP (1.046). ). Johan Santana should become a Hall of Famer.
Castrovice: As I scroll through the list of players from Venezuela, there are some of these Hall of Very Good guys – Johan, Abreu, King Félix, K-Rod, Carlos Zambrano, Vizquel…
It’s hard to endorse any of them full-bodied for the Hall, but they’ve had great careers.
Ruiz: Yes, the difficult thing here is choosing from 2 to 5.
Castrovice: This turned out to be purely anecdotal, but I saw more people taking Abreu’s argument in print and online last winter. His share of the vote went up from 8.7 to… 8.6. So it didn’t do anything. But he still has seven tries. In fact, we held a round table on his case!
Ruiz: Abreu sure has some numbers.
Reached base 3,979 times, hit 921 extra base hits and stole 400 bases in 2,425 games
Reached base 3,955 times, hit 763 extra base hits and stole 319 bases in 2,440 games
Player A is Abreu. Player B is Tony Gwynn.
I’m not saying Bobby is a Hall of Famer because I think the fame factor is missing for whatever reason, but he was a great player.
Castrovice: Yes, while I’m personally still skeptical of Abreu as a Hall of Famer, I have to say his fall was stronger than I thought without really looking into the numbers. And the internet has the power to do it! With the advantage of seven more years on the ballot, he may see a surge of support.
Ruiz: Numbers stay forever, true, but narratives shift. Among the Venezuelans, Abreu has a better WAR than everyone but Miggy and is five points ahead of Aparicio.
Castrovice: If you look at the list of players from Venezuela and rank them by WAR, the surge of talent that has come from there just in the last few decades really stands out. I was lucky enough to cover Victor Martinez when he showed up in Cleveland and he’s one of those Hall of Very Good guys. Just a huge counter presence for a very long time.
Long: Magglio Ordóñez is different – what a great hit of his time. And a very fun player to watch.
Footer: Let’s rank your top five Venezuelan players. Walk!
Castrovice: 1. Miggy, 2. Aparicio, 3. Altuve, 4. Johan, 5. King Félix.
I expect Acuña to be on my list when all is said and done. And I think Altuve will end up in Cooperstown.
Long: 1st Miggy, 2nd Aparicio, 3rd Santana, 4th Altuve, 5th King Félix.
I’ll have Acuña here for sure one day. I have Altuve here because I expect him to make it into the Hall of Fame.
Ruiz: 1st Miggy, 2nd Aparicio, 3rd Santana, 4th Abreu, 5th Altuve. Aparicio is the only one in the hall, he helped change the game by bringing the pace back, was a fabulous defender in a key position and came through at a time when it wasn’t easy for Latinos or African Americans. Altuve still has a real chance of reaching the top if he stays healthy.