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15 greatest outfielders in MLB history

Mike Trout
Oct 2, 2022; Anaheim, California, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) hits a home run during the fourth inning against the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most exclusive lists in baseball history is surely a list of the best outfielders of all time. Baseball history is filled with great outfielders, making it almost impossible to separate the greatest outfielders in MLB history from one another.

We’re talking about outfielders from all different generations and with a variety of skill sets. Some are great power hitters, others have speed, and some of the best outfielders of all time are great hitters and defensive players.

Best outfielders of all time

But who are the greatest outfielders ever and how do you separate good players from legendary players?

It’s a tough question, but we wanted to answer it in order to come up with a list of the best baseball outfielders in MLB history. While we had to leave some great players off our list, here is our ranking of the 15 best outfielders of all time.

15. Rickey Henderson

Rickey Henderson is undoubtedly at the top of the list of the best leadoff hitters in baseball history. But the skills that made him an ideal leadoff batter also make him one of the best outfielders of all time.

We’re talking about a guy who finished his long career with over 3,000 hits and nearly 300 home runs. His prowess as a baseball stealer also puts him in rare company. After all, he holds the LMB records for career stolen bases, single-season stolen bases, and runs scored.

He was the MVP in 1990 and a 10-time all-star. Henderson even won a Gold Glove and three Silver Sluggers in addition to leading the American League in stolen bases 12 times.

14. Ken Griffey Jr.

Ken Griffey has one of the sweetest left-handed swings a person could ever hope to see. Even if he was slowed by injuries during his latter years, Griffey was still a 13-time all-star who hit 630 home runs and was a near-unanimous Hall of Fame selection in his first year of eligibility.

In addition to that sweet swing, Griffey was an elite athlete who could cover tons of ground in center field and make highlight-reel catches. That explains why he won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves during the first half of his career. Of course, he also won MVP honors in 1997 and Comeback Player of the Year in 2005 after injuries hindered him the previous year.

13. Mike Trout

Modern arguments of Mike Trout vs Harper are almost pointless. Not only is Trout at the top of the list of the best outfielders of the 2000s, but he also deserves to be mentioned among the greatest outfielders ever, even before his career is over.

Trout has been an all-star every year of his career since his rookie season in 2012 when he won Rookie of the Year honors. He’s also won three MVP awards despite playing on bad teams.

Despite his lack of Gold Gloves, Trout is an exceptional defensive outfielder. The kicker is that Trout is a member of the 30-30 Club, which is an achievement that only a few of the outfielders on our list can claim. It’s too soon to say how far he’ll climb on our list by the time his career is over, but he’s already among the top 15 outfielders of all time.

12. Frank Robinson

To date, Frank Robinson remains the only player to win MVP honors in both leagues, winning NL MVP in 1961 and AL MVP in 1966. The 1966 season was also the year Robinson won the Triple Crown and World Series MVP while leading the Orioles to a title.

Robinson also has a Gold Glove and Rookie of the Year on his resume. Despite falling a little short of 3,000 career hits, Robinson still tallied 586 home runs while batting .294, helping to make him one of the legendary figures in baseball history.

11. Joe DiMaggio

Joe DiMaggio’s record of 56 straight games with a hit is more than enough to put him among the best outfielders in baseball history. Of course, DiMaggio accomplished a lot more than that hitting streak and two batting titles.

He was also a three-time MVP and twice led the American League in home runs and twice in RBIs, doing both in 1948. While he didn’t have the same power as some other outfielders, DiMaggio hit 361 homers in his career while batting .325.

Perhaps most importantly, he helped the Yankees to nine World Series championships, so he was a winner through and through.

10. Mickey Mantle

The Mick surely deserves a prominent on our list of the best outfielders of all time. He’s best remembered as arguably the greatest switch-hitter to ever play the game.

While batting from both sides of the plate, Mickey Mantle racked up 536 career home runs while posting an average of .298. While he only won one Gold Glove, he was a good defensive outfielder who also won the Triple Crown in 1956 and MVP honors three times.

Of course, Yankees fans praise him for his involvement in seven World Series championships. 

9. Roberto Clemente

Most people remember Roberto Clemente for his tragic death and humanitarian work. But that sometimes hides what an incredible player he was. Besides being a great person, Clemente was a .317 career hitter and a 15-time all-star who finished his career with exactly 3,000 hits.

He was a part of Pittsburgh’s world championships in both 1960 and 1971, and in between, he won 12 straight Gold Gloves, four batting titles, and an MVP award. While he was an amazing person, Clemente was nearly as good of a player.

8. Ty Cobb

While controversial in his personal life, there is no denying that Ty Cobb is one of the best pure hitters to ever play the game.

For a long time, he was the all-time hits leader and still holds the record for the best career batting average at .367. With over 4,100 hits, Cobb was a 12-time batting champion, six-time stolen base leader, and four-time RBI leader. He even won the Triple Crown in 1909 and MVP in 1911. His power and defense don’t measure up to some of the outfielders ahead of him on our list, but he’s still among the greatest outfielders ever. 

7. Ted Williams

There haven’t been many hitters in baseball history better than Ted Williams. He will likely be the last player to ever hit .400 in a season. Williams finished his career with the Red Sox with a .344 average and over 2,600 hits to go with his 521 career home runs.

Keep in mind that Williams missed three years in the middle of his career while serving in the Navy and Marines during World War II.

He returned from the war and immediately won his first of two MVP awards in 1946 and then won his second Triple Crown in 1947. On top of those honors, Williams led the AL in homers four times and won six batting titles. But his resume could have been even better if he didn’t miss those three seasons.

6. Tris Speaker

Without question, Tris Speaker is the least-known player on this list. He played between 1907 and 1928 but is undoubtedly one of the best two-way outfielders in baseball history.

Not only does he own the all-time record for career doubles but he also has the most outfield assists in MLB history. Defensively, his glove was known as the place where triples went to die. That’s how good he was defensively.

As a hitter, Speaker racked up over 3,500 career hits and a .345 career average, albeit just 117 home runs during the dead-ball era. But he did win MVP honors in 1912, which was the same year he led the American League in homers and helped Boston win the World Series, helping to cement his legacy.

5. Stan Musial

Despite dabbling at first base during his career, Stan Musial is an outfielder above all else. He was also one of the best pure hitters in baseball history and arguably the best left-handed hitter of all time.

Musial was a seven-time batting champ who finished his career with over 3,600 hits and a .331 average. While he never led the league in home runs, he hit 475 of them over his 22 seasons and came up one homer short of the Triple Crown in 1948, which was the year he won his third and final MVP.

Musial helped the Cardinals win three World Series championships and even took a year off during his career to serve in the Navy toward the end of World War II. He even won his second MVP award immediately after the year he took off to serve his country. The guy was just a natural hitter.

4. Hank Aaron

There are some who still consider Hammerin’ Hank the real Home Run King. While he no longer owns that record, Hank Aaron still smashed 755 home runs in his career while also amassing over 3,700 total hits and batting .305.

He was a well-rounded hitter who just happened to know how to tap into his power. For what it’s worth, Aaron still holds the all-time MLB record for RBIs, total bases, and extra-base hits.

He also won two batting titles, three Gold Gloves, and took home MVP honors in 1957, the same year he led the Braves to the World Series title. Aaron could do it all and remains one of the most accomplished players in MLB history.

3. Barry Bonds

Even if his connection to PEDs knocks him down a spot on our list, there’s no denying that Barry Bonds is one of the greatest outfielders ever. Like it or not, he technically holds the MLB records for most career home runs with 762 and single-season home runs with 73.

He also holds the single-season and career records for walks.

The thing to remember about Bonds is that he was a three-time MVP before his body started to artificially grow and he became a feared power hitter. Even after he started using PEDs, most players around him were doing the same and he still won four straight MVPs from 2001 to 2004.

Bonds was also a two-time batting champ and an eight-time Gold Glover. His career ended with 2,935 total hits and 514 stolen bases. He wasn’t just a home run hitter, which is why he has to remain near the top of the list of the best outfielders of all time.

2. Willie Mays

Since Willie Mays isn’t connected to PEDs, we’ll put him one spot ahead of Bonds, who happens to be his godson. The “Say Hey Kid” is truly one of the biggest legends in baseball history.

He was the embodiment of a five-tool player. He finished his career with over 3,200 hits and a .302 average with 660 home runs and 338 stolen bases.

Mays won MVP twice, separated by 11 years, which is a testament to how long he was an elite player. More to that point, Mays won 12 consecutive Gold Gloves and is one of the best defensive center fielders in MLB history. Keep in mind that he played 23 seasons in the majors, only after playing three years in the Negro Leagues. His career numbers could have been even better if he had gotten to the majors sooner.

1. Babe Ruth

Even if he got his start as a pitcher, Babe Ruth eventually became the greatest outfielder ever and arguably the best player in baseball history. He wasn’t always the most well-behaved player either on or off the field.

But between the lines, there’s been no player in baseball history quite like him.

Ruth hit .342 over his 22 seasons while smashing 714 home runs, which was a record that stood for a long time. Despite winning just one batting title and one MVP award, Ruth was the best hitter of his generation, especially when it came to hitting for power.

He led the American League in home runs 12 times, including a run of six in a row. Ruth also helped his teams to win seven World Series titles, three with the Red Sox and four after his famous trade to the Yankees. Nearly 100 years after his career ended, Ruth is still the best there ever was, and 100 years from now, that’s not likely to change.

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