The American League in Major League Baseball has existed since 1901. With literally thousands of players and over a hundred Hall-of-Famers, choosing the best position players will be a tough task. So, here’s the list of the All-Time Great American League Hitters
- 16 position players: one starter for each spot and a reserve.
- A DH Spot with a reserve.
- A player must have played more than 70% of their games in the American League in order to be considered.
American League Starters
Catcher – Yogi Berra (1946-1963, 1965)
Yogi Berra is the most successful catcher in MLB history. Berra is an 18-time All-Star, won ten World Series championships, and is one of only six players to win the AL MVP Award three times. On a New York Yankees team filled with stars, Berra managed to earn MVP votes for 15 consecutive seasons and lead the Yankees in RBI for seven consecutive seasons. Berra is also famous for his very quotable ”Yogi-isms” making him, not only one of baseball’s best ever, but also one of its most colorful.
First Base – Lou Gehrig (1923-1939)
Lou Gehrig is perhaps known best for his amazing consecutive games streak of 2,130, a record that stood for 56 years. However, it’s truly remarkable how productive Gehrig was during that streak without taking a day off. With 493 career home runs, a one-time record of 23 career grand slams, a .340 lifetime BA and 1,995 RBI. He was also a six-time World Series champion, two time AL MVP, 1934 AL Triple Crown winner and seven-time All-Star. Despite playing in the shadow of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig still goes down as one of the greatest players in MLB history.
Second Base – Nap Lajoie (1896-1916)
Nap Lajoie’s play could very easily translate to today’s game. His individual hitting numbers are enough to make any player jealous. His .426 BA in 1901 is, even to this day, the highest ever recorded by an American League player. And, he won the Triple Crown in 1901 as well. He was a five-time AL Batting Champion and was so popular as a player for the Cleveland Bronchos, the name was changed to the Cleveland Napoleons, ”Naps” for short. An inaugural player for the American League and, no doubt, one of its best.
Third Base – Brooks Robinson (1955-1977)
Without a doubt, Brooks Robinson was the best defensive third baseman to ever play. His 16 consecutive Gold Gloves are tied with Jim Kaat for the most ever at any position. The 1964 MVP finished his career with 2,848 hits, 1,357 RBI and a .267 BA. During his 23 year career, he helped the Baltimore Orioles win two World Series titles and was also the World Series MVP in 1970. His accolades also include being an 18-time All-Star and his .971 fielding percentage was the best ever at the time of his retirement.
Shortstop – Cal Ripken Jr. (1981-2001)
It’s difficult to associate Cal Ripken Jr. with something other than his record streak of 2,632 consecutive games played. However, Ripken’s numbers show that he is one of the best to ever play the game. He collected 3,184 hits, 431 home runs, and 1,695 RBI. In fact, Ripken ranks first or second amongst shortstops in hits, runs, home runs and RBI. He is also a 19-time All-Star, two time AL MVP and eight-time Silver Slugger Award winner. Despite being 6’4 and not being particularly speedy, Ripken still managed to provide excellent defense and earned two Gold Gloves as well.
Left Field – Ted Williams (1939-42, 1946-60)
The last player to hit .400, Ted Williams will go down in history as one of the greatest hitters who ever lived. His .482 OBP is the highest of all time and his career BA of .344 is tied for seventh all-time. Williams was not only a great contact hitter, but he also hit for power as well. He finished his career with 521 home runs, was a four-time AL home run leader and a two time Triple Crown winner. Had he not missed time due to military service, Williams would have no doubt passed the 3,000 hit mark. Despite missing nearly five seasons, Williams will still go down as the greatest left fielder ever.
Center Field – Mickey Mantle (1951-1968)
Mickey Mantle is regarded as the best switch-hitter in MLB history, and rightfully so. With his all-around skills on full display, Mantle was a 20-time All-Star, seven-time World Series champion, the 1956 AL Triple Crown winner and one of the most charismatic players to ever play. He holds several World Series records including home runs with 18, most RBI with 40 and most extra-base hits with 26. Unfortunately for Mantle, his career was beset by several major injuries that likely diminished his production. However, despite the setbacks, Mantle still finished his career batting .298, smacking 536 home runs and driving in 1,509. Behind Babe Ruth, Mantle has to be considered the most popular New York Yankee ever.
Right Field – Babe Ruth (1914-1935)
To this day, there is no greater and more recognized player in the game of baseball than Babe Ruth. Before becoming one of the best hitters ever, Ruth was one of the most dominant pitchers in the league. There was seemingly nothing Ruth couldn’t do on the baseball diamond. After converting to a full-time outfielder in 1919, he promptly broke the single-season home run record. His 714 career home runs stood for 39 years and his single-season record of 61 home runs stood for 34 years. Ruth’s final career numbers include a .342 lifetime BA, 2,873 hits and 2,213 RBI, numbers that no doubt could be higher had he been a full-time position player his entire career. The 1923 AL MVP and seven-time World Series champion has deservedly become a mythical figure in baseball lore and his accomplishments will never be forgotten.
Designated Hitter – Edgar Martinez (1987-2004)
Originally a third baseman, Edgar Martinez became a Hall-of-Famer after his move to full-time DH 1995. In 6,128 plate appearances as a DH, Martinez hit .314 with 243 home runs. He is a five-time Silver Slugger, seven-time All-Star and a two time AL batting champion. Unfortunately, injuries slowed Martinez later in his career possibly diminishing several of his power numbers. However, he is the first full-time DH to be elected to the Hall-of-Fame and is considered the best ever at his position.
American League Reserves
Catcher – Ivan Rodriguez (1991-2011)
”Pudge” is arguably the greatest defensive catcher ever. The 1999 AL MVP has the best caught stealing percentage of any catcher at 45.68% and thirteen Gold Gloves. He is a 14-time All-Star and seven-time Silver Slugger Award winner. He also holds the record for most caught games with 2,227. Ivan Rodriguez finished his career with a .296 BA, 311 home runs and 1,332 RBI.
First Base – Jimmie Foxx (1925-42, 1944-45)
Jimmie Foxx was a baseball phenom who had major success at an early age. Making his MLB debut at only 17, Foxx finished his career with 534 home runs, a .325 lifetime average, and 1,922 RBI. He was a nine-time All-Star, three-time AL MVP, two time World Series Champion, and the 1933 Triple Crown winner.
Second Base – Eddie Collins (1906-1930)
The 1914 AL MVP was a great hitter recording 3,315 hits and a .333 career batting average. Six-time World Series winner is only non-Yankee to win at least five titles with the same team. Despite there being no MVP Award during Eddie Collins‘s early years, he finished first in the Chalmers Award voting in 1914. He is one of only four players with more than 500 steals and at least a .400 OBP.
Third Base – Alex Rodriguez (1994-2016)
Could arguably fill two positions on this list as Alex Rodriguez began his career at shortstop. One of the best power hitters of all time, Rodriguez finished with 696 home runs, 2,086 RBI, a .295 BA, and 3,115 hits. The three-time AL MVP also was also a 14-time All-Star, ten-time Silver Slugger Award winner and won two Gold Gloves. A PED scandal has somewhat tainted Rodriguez’s illustrious career. But, there is no denying that he was one of the best players of his generation and one of Major League Baseball’s most successful on and off the field.
Shortstop – Derek Jeter (1995-2014)
A near-unanimous Hall-of-Famer, Derek Jeter has earned his spot as one of the greatest clutch players in history. His 99.7% of Hall-of-Fame votes is the second-highest ever and highest for all position players. He is the Yankees all-time leader in hits, doubles, games played and stolen bases. Jeter is also a career .310 hitter, 14-time All-Star, five-time World Series Champion, Silver Slugger Award and Gold Glove Award winner. His postseason numbers are just as impressive as he boasts a .309 playoff BA and .321 World Series BA. Jeter also holds postseason records for hits, runs, singles, doubles, triples, and runs scored. He is truly ”Captain Clutch.”
Left Field – Rickey Henderson (1979-2003)
It can be argued that Rickey Henderson is the greatest leadoff hitter ever. His 1,406 career stolen bases and 2,295 runs scored still stand as MLB records. Also, he still holds the single-season stolen base record of 130 which he set in 1982. The 1990 AL MVP finished his career with 297 home runs, 81 of them leadoff home runs which are, also, still a record. The ten-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger award winner is one of the most colorful players in MLB history.
Center Field – Ty Cobb (1905-1928)
Despite finishing his playing career nearly 100 years ago, Ty Cobb still holds several Major League hitting records. His lifetime BA of .367 and 12 batting titles are numbers that will most likely never be surpassed. Cobb’s 4,191 hits stood as a record until 1985. Despite being a polarizing figure, Cobb received the highest percentage of votes, 98.2%, in the inaugural 1936 Hall-of-Fame class, higher than Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson. The 1911 AL MVP’s numbers still hold up to this day. He was the Triple Crown winner in 1909 and finished his career with 1,938 RBI.
Right Field – Al Kaline (1953-1974)
Al Kaline can be considered the best defensive right fielder ever. He is the owner of ten Gold Gloves and is an 18-time All-Star. His career stats include a .297 BA, 3,007 hits, 399 home runs, and 1,583 RBI. One of the game’s best all-around players, he helped lead the Detroit Tigers to the 1968 World Series title. Also, he finished in the top five in AL MVP voting four times.
Designated Hitter – David Ortiz (1997-2016)
David Ortiz‘s career 485 home runs, 1,569 RBI and 2,192 hits as a DH are all current records for the position. One of the most accomplished clutch hitters ever, Ortiz hit 11 game-winning home runs and two in the postseason. Ortiz finished his career as a 10-time All-Star, seven-time Silver Slugger Award winner and three-time World Series champion winning the 2013 Series MVP award. He will be a no doubt future Hall-of-Famer.
- Catcher – Mickey Cochrane (1925-1937) – Three-time All-Star and two time World Series winner. His .320 career BA stood as the best ever by a catcher until 2009.
- First Base – Hank Greenberg (1933-1941, 1945-47) – Considered one of the greatest hitters ever. Finished his career as a five-time All-Star, two time AL MVP and World Series champion. Lost several productive years due to military service.
- Second Base – Roberto Alomar (1988-2004) – His ten Gold Gloves are the most ever by a second baseman. A 12-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger Award winner and two time World Series Champion. Finished his career as one of the best all-around second basemen ever.
- Third Base – George Brett (1973-1993) – One of only four players in MLB history with at least 3,000 hits, 300 home runs, and a .300 lifetime BA. He is also the only player in either league to win a batting title in three different decades. The 1980 AL MVP is also a 13-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger.
- Shortstop – Luke Appling (1930-43, 1945-50) – Seven-time All-Star and two-time AL batting champion. His 587 career extra-base hits are more than his career strikeouts of which he had only 528.
- LF – Carl Yastrzemski (1961-1983) – Followed Ted Williams in left field for the Boston Red Sox and responded with a Hall-of-Fame career. An 18-time All-Star, 1967 AL MVP and Triple Crown winner. Finished his career with a .285 BA, 3,419 hits, 452 home runs, and 1,844 RBI. Also a seven-time Gold Glover.
- CF – Joe DiMaggio (1936-42, 1946-51) – Best known for his 56 consecutive game hitting streak. Finished his career as a 13-time All-Star, nine-time World Series champion and three-time AL MVP.
- RF – Reggie Jackson (1967-1987) – One of the best postseason performers ever. Two time World Series MVP and Silver Slugger Award winner. He finished his career with 563 home runs and 1,702 RBI. The 14-time All-Star is also a five-time World Series Champion and the 1973 MVP.
- Designated Hitter – Frank Thomas (1990-2008) – Two time MVP winner, five-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger Award winner. His 269 home runs as a DH rank second all-time.
- Catcher – Carlton Fisk (1969, 1972-1993) – ROY Award winner, 11-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger Award winner.
- First Base – Harmon Killebrew (1954-1975) – A 13-time All-Star and 1969 AL MVP. His eight seasons of 40 or more home runs are second only to Babe Ruth.
- Second Base – Charlie Gehringer (1924-1942) – Six-time All-Star and 1937 AL MVP was a nearly flawless player. Was the starting second baseman for the first 6 All-Star Games.
- Third Base – Wade Boggs (1982-1999) – A 12-time All-Star, eight-time Silver Slugger Award winner and five-time AL batting champion. The best contact-hitting third baseman in history.
- Shortstop – Robin Yount (1974-1993) – Three-time All-Star and Silver Slugger. Two time AL MVP winner. One of the most consistent shortstops ever.
- Left Field – Shoeless Joe Jackson (1908-1920) – Babe Ruth said Jackson was the greatest natural hitter he’d ever seen. Unbelievable career .356 BA. Would be higher on the list had he not been banned from baseball at age 32.
- Center Field – Tris Speaker (1907-1928) – 1912 MVP. Finished his career with a .345 BA and 3,514 hits and his 792 doubles are still the most ever.
- Right Field – Ichiro Suzuki (2001-2019) – AL ROY and MVP in 2001. Ten-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner. Finished his career with .311 BA and 3,089 hits.
- DH – Harold Baines (1980-2001) – Second most hits at the DH position and 235 Career home runs as a DH.
There it is, the All-Time Great American League Hitters. To see the National League side, check out the article here. It’s fun to imagine both of these historic lineups playing on opposite sides on one another. So much history and so many great names. Please check back soon for the list of All-Time Great American League Pitchers.
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