The state of Nevada, among other things, is probably most familiar simply due to its biggest city: Las Vegas. Yes, in this chance-laden part of America, all of high society gather to live it up. Casinos and various entertainment venues shimmer and shine throughout the night, offering a façade of decadence and brilliance. It’s the perfect backdrop for dreams…and risky maneuvers. Being a baseball player in this state could fall into either one or both of those categories. For, after all, Nevada is not the first place that springs to mind when one thinks of terrific diamond talent. The state does rank 44th in WAR metrics for a reason. Not a single Cooperstown honoree has come from here.
So, the question we have to ask here is one of simplicity, yet complexity. Namely, answering what in the world makes this state so special. The solutions will come. In fact, there are two entries in our search for Nevada’s best baseball player that are fairly obvious. It just doesn’t make an impact until one associates those players with the state itself. That being said, there are a lot of very familiar faces on here. It seems that Nevada might have something to prove after all. Without further ado, here are the 10 best players ever to come from the state.
Nevada’s Best Baseball Player
Our search begins, admittedly, near the bottom of the metric barrel. Still, though, Nate Schierholtz did manage to grind out eight seasons in the big leagues. Of these, six were spent with the San Francisco Giants. His first 58 Major League games showed great potential. He hit .310 with 13 doubles and a solid 100 OPS+. Unfortunately, the rest of his Giants career didn’t go quite as well. Midway through 2012, he became one of the pieces dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies in a blockbuster that sent Hunter Pence the other way. He went on to sign with the Chicago Cubs in the offseason. In 2013, he had his best career season, posting a 1.7 WAR and exploding for 32 doubles and 21 homers.
Born: Las Vegas
The first of six active players on this list, Brandon Kintzler has made a name for himself in bullpens across the league. That’s not an understatement as he has played for six separate franchises over his 12-year career. During that time, he’s amassed a 61-61 record, a 3.50 ERA, 61 saves, and 335 strikeouts. In 2017, he picked up his first and, to date, only All-Star appearance as he posted 28 saves over the first half with the Minnesota Twins. In 2019, with the Cubs, Kintzler had his best year overall, putting up a 1.6 WAR and a 2.68 ERA. Currently, he is a free agent after experiencing a statistical downturn with the Phillies and a minor league stint with the San Diego Padres.
Born: Las Vegas
The search for Nevada’s best baseball players now enters the realm of the explosive. Not that Marty Cordova was ever statistical dynamite, but he did do the idea a fair bit of justice. In 1995, with the Twins, he took home AL Rookie of the Year. He did so by hitting .277 with 24 homers, 27 doubles, 142 hits, and 20 steals in 137 games. The next year, though his power dipped, his average shot up to .309. However, the rest of his career was a roller coaster. In 2001, after a brutal one-year stint with the Toronto Blue Jays, he experienced a revival with the Cleveland Indians. He picked up his second, and final, career 20-homer season while posting a career-high 122 OPS+. Unfortunately, his revelation didn’t last long as he retired in 2003.
Jim Nash was not someone one might expect to see on a pitcher’s mound. In fact, he was someone that was more suited to the gridiron. He stood six feet, five inches tall, and weighed in at 215 pounds. That said, Nash is second on the all-time Nevada win (68) and strikeout (771) lists. Though never an All-Star, he did put up some impressive numbers during his younger years. His four years with the Kansas City/Oakland Athletics were where he shone the brightest. In 1966, he finished runner-up to Tommie Agee in AL Rookie of the Year voting. He went 12-1 with a sparkling 2.06 ERA and a 166 ERA+. Two years later, he put up 13 wins and a 2.28 ERA. His production fell severely and he endured two disastrous stints with the Atlanta Braves and Phillies before retiring.
Born: Las Vegas
The WAR metrics finally crest the double-digit mark as our second active member of the list makes an appearance. Until last year, Tyler Anderson had never been lights out statistically. His best season was his rookie year when he posted a then-career low 3.54 ERA with the Colorado Rockies. From there, his statistics stabilized to the point where he was consistently average. Then, in 2022, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed him out of free agency. He flourished, exploding for 15 wins, a 2.57 ERA, a 163 ERA+, and his first All-Star appearance. Though he didn’t receive any Cy Young votes, he did finish fifth in both wins and ERA and fourth in ERA+. He also had higher Adjusted Pitching Run and Win metrics than Max Scherzer and fellow Dodger Clayton Kershaw.
It might surprise some to see Joey Gallo on the list seeking Nevada’s best baseball player. Indeed, it definitely surprises this writer. That said, Gallo is the embodiment of the modern three-outcome hitter. He either hits the ball five hundred feet, strikes out, or walks. Unfortunately, he does more of the middle option, whiffing 1,048 times to date. However, that’s balanced out by a thunderous bat when he makes contact. He’s launched 177 homers, including back-to-back 40-homer seasons with the Texas Rangers in 2017 and ’18. His defense has also been solid, earning him two Gold Gloves and a 1.6 career dWAR. He could be much, much higher on the list if he would exercise a little more patience at the plate.
Born: Las Vegas
Tommy Pham could be described as being somewhat underrated. Indeed, he has four seasons each of 130 or more hits and 200 or more total bases. In 2017, with the St. Louis Cardinals, he hit .306 while posting 23 homers, 25 steals, and 22 doubles with a career-high 144 OPS+. In 2019, with the Tampa Bay Rays, he put up career bests hits (155) and total bases (255). He also hit 21 homers and played to a very solid 3.6 oWAR. He’s had his ups and downs, but overall, his career has been far from terrible. While his work between two teams in 2022 wasn’t that explosive, he still managed 207 total bases, 131 hits, and 17 homers. This earned him a one-year, $6 million deal with the New York Mets.
Born: Las Vegas
Kris Bryant had one of the best starts to a career of all time. In 2015, he won NL Rookie of the Year while helping lead the Cubs to the NLCS. The next season, he was even better, hitting .292 and crushing 39 homers while garnering NL MVP honors. More than that, he helped the Cubs end their infamous 108-year World Series championship drought. In 2017, he was just as terrific, hitting .295 with 29 homers, 162 hits, and 111 runs scored. He finished seventh in MVP voting and his name was on the lips of both fans and commentators alike. Since then, he’s experienced something of a downward trend. That said, 2022 was kind to Bryant. His first year with the Rockies saw him hit .306 with 49 hits through 42 games before injuries cut his season short.
Born: Las Vegas
Our search for Nevada’s best baseball player sees its final mound general make an appearance. For Barry Zito, being a mound general was everyday business, especially in the early 2000s. His time with the Athletics ran the gambit from solid to absolutely spectacular. In 2002, he led the American League with 23 wins, posted a 2.75 ERA, made his first All-Star game, and won the Cy Young Award. The next season was successful as well, though his ERA did jump to 3.30. Nevertheless, he made another All-Star Game. From there, his career was nothing massive. In 2006, after making his third and final All-Star appearance, he signed with the Giants. The highlight of his seven years there were his surprising 15 wins in 2012.
Born: Las Vegas
bryce harper gave his left shoe to a fan after signing it and is now walking around the phoenix airport shoeless. king shit. pic.twitter.com/7MF8bqnNrJ
— m (@matttadelphia) February 13, 2023
Bryce Harper is one of those players where nothing more really needs to be said about him. He is Nevada’s best baseball player by far. A two-time MVP, Harper stands out amongst the pantheon of modern-day baseball stars. He’s also courted his fair share of controversy, but that’s neither here nor there. His statistics read like a future Hall of Famer. He’s a Rookie of the Year, a two-time Silver Slugger, and a seven-time All-Star. In 2015, he had his best season, posting a 9.7 WAR. He hit .330 with 42 homers, 99 RBI, 118 runs scored, and 172 hits with a league-leading 198 OPS+. In 2021, he nearly replicated those numbers. All told, Harper is, not only Nevada’s best but one of the best in the game right now. Only time will tell if he can remain there.
Main photo credits:
Bill Streicher-USA Today Sports
Nate Schierholtz, Hunter Pence, Brandon Kintzler, Marty Cordova, Jim Nash, Tommie Agee, Tyler Anderson, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Joey Gallo, Tommy Pham, Kris Bryant, Barry Zito, Bryce Harper