*Note- There is an updated version of this on my new website**
One thing most Major Leaguer’s have in common is size. Most combine superior athleticism and with a big frame. Think Mike Trout (6’2″, 235), Bryce Harper (6’3″, 215) Madison Bumgarner (6’5″, 235), Miguel Cabrera (6’4″, 240), and Matt Harvey (6’4″, 215). Even the best ball players from 100 years ago were bigger than the average man. Babe Ruth (6’2″, 215), Ty Cobb (6’1″, 175) and Christy Mathewson (6’1″, 195). With the rise of salaries and the grueling schedule front office personnel prefer the athlete with the larger body to endure baseball’s 162 game grind over the smaller framed Dustin Pedroia‘s of the baseball world. The following list proves that not every great player needs to have a herculean frame. This is a list of the best player at each position who are under six feet tall.
Catcher – Yadier Molina 5’11”
Yadier Molina is the undisputed best catcher in the game and the best defensive catcher since Benito Santiago. There is no part of a defensive game that any current catcher can claim thrown to, Molina owns the position. He has also made himself into one of the better hitting catchers. He is a six-time NL All-Star (2009-2014), he’s won seven consecutive Gold Gloves (2008-2014), and he’s finished in the top 5 in NL MVP voting twice (4th in 2012 and 3rd in 2013).
First Base – Prince Fielder 5’11”
Prince Fielder may not be the fleetest of foot, at 5’11” and weighing in at 275, but until last year he was a sort of modern-day ironman. Between 2006 and 2013 Fielder averaged 160 games per season, leading the NL twice (2009 & 2011) and the AL twice (2012 & 2013) and has played in every game so far this year. He doesn’t just play in every game, he produces at a high level. He’s averaged 35 homers, 108 rbi, while batting .286 with a .390 on-base percentage, and 138 intentional walks-third most between 2006-2013 behind only Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. Fielder is a five-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger, and has finished in the top five in MVP voting three times (2007, 2009, & 2011).
Second Base – Dustin Pedroia 5’9″
Dustin Pedroia is baseball’s average joe. Pedroia may be an average size man but he plays with the effort and grit of three men. He has led the league in runs twice (2008 & 2009), hits once (2008), and doubles once (2008). He is a four-time All Star (2008-2010 & 2013), four-time Gold Glove winner (2008, 2011, 2013-2014), and a Silver Slugger in 2008. He was also the AL Rookie of the Year in 2007 and AL MVP in 2008.
Third Base – Adrian Beltre 5’11”
At 5’11” and a rock solid 220 Adrian Beltre is one of the best and most often overlooked third baseman of all time. His first full season came at the age of 20 with the Dodgers. Despite compiling over 2,600 hits, 534 doubles, 398 homers, 1,392 rbi, and batting .284 he has led his league only three times; 2004 (home runs, 48), 2010 (doubles, 49), and 2013 (hits, 199). It’s hard to believe that he didn’t make an All-Star team until his 12th year in the league in 2010 at the age of 31 with Boston. Since then he has been selected to four All-Star games, has four Gold Gloves, four Silver Slugger Awards, and finished as high as second in the MVP voting in 2004 even though he wasn’t selected to the All-Star team. He finished in the top five one other time, coming in third in 2012.
Shortstop – Jimmy Rollins 5’7″
Jimmy Rollins is the prototypical shortstop – quick, slick fielding, and defense first – measuring in at 5’7″, weighing 175. During his prime Rollins could swing the bat with the best the game had to offer. He led the NL in runs once (2007), triples four-times (2001-2002, 2004, 2007), and stolen bases once (2001). Rollins’ 2007 is one of the best statistical season by a shortstop in the game’s history – scoring 139 runs, 212 hits, 38 doubles, 20 triples, 30 homers, 94 rbi, 41 steals, and batting .296. He’s a three-time All-Star (2001-2002, & 2005), four-time Gold Glove winner (2007-2009 & 2012), 2007 Silver Slugger Award winner and the 2007 NL MVP. In 2014 Rollins joined Paul Molitor and Johnny Damon as the third player in history with 400 doubles, 100 triples, 200 homers and 400 stolen bases.
Outfield – Yoenis Cespedes 5’10”
Yoenis Cespedes is a Cuban export who stands 5’10” and weighs in at 210. He has one of the best arms in the Majors, just ask Howie Kendrick. Besides his cannon he posses speed and raw power to burn. He likes to swing the bat. Cespedes started his career as a 26-year old so he didn’t have much time to adapt. He finished second in the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year voting behind Mike Trout. He has been selected to one All-Star team (2014).
Outfield – Andrew McCutchen 5’10”
Andrew McCutchen made his big league debut in 2009 and has since been the centerpiece around which the Pirates are attempting to build a World Series champ. McCutchen is an all around player, hitting for power (hitting as many as 31 homers in a season), for average (career .296 hitter), playing above good defense (career .988 fielding percentage), and using his speed on the base paths (stealing between 18-33 bags a year). He’s been selected to the last four NL All-Star teams, won one Gold Glove (2012), won three-consecutive Silver Slugger Awards (2012-2014), was the NL MVP in 2013 while finishing third in MVP voting in both 2012 and 2014. McCutchen is that rare player is good at everything.
Outfield – Brett Gardner 5’10”
Brett Gardner who is 5’10” and 185 gets the nod over an aging Ichiro Suzuki, Shin-Soo Choo, Shane Victorino, and the oft injured Coco Crisp. The biggest thing Gardner brings to the game is his speed. He rarely grounds into double plays, can distract a pitcher while on base and can turn a double into a triple if the outfielders don’t get the ball in quick. He steals bases at an 81% clip. His speed is a plus in the outfield, allowing him to cover a lot of ground. Gardner has a career defensive WAR of 8.8. He has led the AL in triples (2013) and stolen bases (2011).
Starting Pitcher – Johnny Cueto 5’11”
Johnny Cueto, who stands 5’11” and tips the scales at 220, gets to take the hill. He has had some injury issues the last few years starting only 24 games in 2011 and 11 in 2013. But in 2012 and 2014 when healthy for the season he has been one of the best pitchers in the game not named Clayton Kershaw. Over 677 1/3 innings since 2011 Cueto has held opponents to a .220 batting average against while striking out 20.8 percent of batters faced. During that same time he’s also posted an ERA of 2.48 and a WHIP of 1.066. Cueto has earned one All-Star selection and finished second (2014) and fourth (2012) in Cy Young voting.
Closer – Craig Kimbrel 5’11”
Craig Kimbrel isn’t just the best closer under six feet, the 5’11” Kimbrel has been the best closer in baseball since he became the Braves closer in 2011. Since 2011 Kimbrel has saved the most games in baseball with 194, 49 more than second place Fernando Rodney. Kimbrel also has the second highest single season and career strikeout percentage, getting 50.2 percent of batters to strikeout in 2012 and a career rate of 41.8 percent, only 1.1 percent behind the all-time leader Aroldis Chapman. Kimbrel was the 2011 NL Rookie of the Year, has been selected to four consecutive All-Star teams, and finished in the top five of NL Cy Young voting twice (2012 & 2013).