In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, MLB.com will present a series of roundtables discussing the best players from across Latin America. First, the Dominican Republic.
Alison Tutter, Editor/Moderator: Today, we are discussing who is the best player from the Dominican Republic. This includes everyone – past and present. This is an almost unfair task, given the incredible talent that has emerged from DR over time. There are four Hall of Famers – David OrtizAnd the Pedro MartinezAnd the John Marechal And the Vladimir Guerrero.
And of course there’s the future Hall of Famer, Albert PujolsThat should be in the conversation, if not driving it. It’s even hard to know where to start. I guess I’ll put my mind there – I think I should lean towards Pedro, with Pujols behind him.
Anthony Castrovins, reporter/columnist: I tend to Pedro too. Only because of his dominance in such a highly criminal era. His numbers adjusted for league and context are just hilarious (in a good way). From 1997-2003, when crime was at its peak, he had 213 era + – or 113% better than the league average! I definitely think it’s either him or the Pujols for the title of Best Ever from DR
Mark Vinsand, Executive Reporter: We’re talking about some of the best players in the history of the game, but for me, it’s about Pedro and Pujols. Pedro’s dominance was unparalleled during his era, but I think I should go with the Pujols. Even with his mediocre years in Anaheim, he’s approaching 700 career trips back home. And if you can find me someone with 10 years better than their first 10 years in St. Louis, I’m all ears.
People are talking about Mike Trout’s first decade and putting it in the conversation for the best player ever. It was Pujols’ first ten years better of trout.
footer: and perhaps even more important given how central he is to the pursuits of patron cardinals. Trout did not have a chance to chase many buntings.
soft sand: Also, I played Pujols in an era when there was skepticism about PED around every hitter. However, we haven’t heard any of it related to Pujols.
Castrovins: Fun thing about Pujols (this doesn’t really matter but seems to me interesting): It’s in the 1.6 Baseball Reference war this chapter. That puts him in War 101. This magical farewell season put him in the 100 WAR Club, which has just 32 members. Pujols have not been worth more than 0.3 WAR in any season since 2016, so he has finally crossed the 100 Hump this year.
soft sand: Pedro’s influence on the Red Sox is undeniable. I don’t want this to sound like I’m ruling out how good Pedro is. It’s unbelievable. I consider him guy number 2, just a hair behind the Pujols. I also give credit to the players who are on the field every day versus the novice shooters. I’m going to break this down into best player and best center player, in which case there is no argument against those two.
David Finn, Executive Editor, LasMayores.com: This is a difficult task. Pujols is the clear leader in WAR (Baseball Reference) with over 7.0 over his nearest competitor, Adrian Belter. But regardless, I’d go with Pujols because he’s the all-time leader in home races, RBIs and a host of other offensive numbers, in some cases by a huge margin. Pedro comes second. With what he did in the PED era (three Cy Youngs, five ERA titles, five ERA+ titles…with five of those over 200!) and a host of others, between 1997 and 2000.
It was tough, but I’ll give Albert the slightest edge.
soft sand: OPS in Pujols during his first ten years was 1,050. It was above 1.000 in eight of those seasons, and the two times it didn’t reach that level, it was at 0.955 and .997. Machine.
where: Yes, finishing this boom certainly gives him a boost in this debate.
footer: I think my argument with Pedro stems from how erratic he is almost at every start. It wasn’t a guaranteed win every time, but it was close. It’s impossible, really, to compare a bowler with a center player. It would be an easier exercise if we split the categories and pick the best player and best player, but at MLB.com we never take the easy road.
Castrovins: I know some readers are rolling their eyes at things like ERA+ and WAR, but these are really just ways to show the historical weight of these guys’ careers. Pujols is number 30 of all-time in WAR, and the only bowler with at least 2,500 rounds and a career better than Pedro’s 154 mark is Clayton Kershaw (156).
soft sand: Let’s give Beltré some love, too. He doesn’t match the Pujols (or even come close), but if we really break this one, he gets a nod as a better player than DR
where: The Beltré is generally underrated, and is easily lost in shuffle. It’s number 4 for me.
Castrovins: Beltré has been the anti-Pujols in terms of how he really built his legacy in the back half of his career. All four of his All-Star picks came after he turned 30. Now he’s a Hall of Famer celebrity, you couldn’t have dreamed of it before his season in Boston in 2010. And that’s where his path to the top took off.
footer: I’m just wondering if Albert has continued what he was years ago of regressing, staying with the Angels and not doing what he’s been doing this year – which has been amazing – do we think he’s far ahead of Pedro?
Castrovins: Yes, of course. Those wasted years in Anaheim hit him. But it’s an impossible choice, even considering those years.
soft sand: I still have Pujols a little higher than Pedro.
soft sand: The last six years of Pedro’s career were good, but not great. A 3.87 ERA and 114 ERA+ and less than one stroke per cycle. He’s not even close to the guy we’ve seen over the previous decade.
Pedro’s first decade as an apprentice was crazy. 156-61, 2.58 ERA, 2,299 strokes in 1964 innings, 177 ERA+. silly.
where: An interesting controversy over the years, especially in the German Democratic Republic, is Pedro v. Marechal, the first Dominican Hoover.
Castrovins: What I appreciate most about these people is the impact they have had on the current group of stars from the Dominican Republic. You won’t find a Dominican-born pitcher who grew up in the ’90s and doesn’t worship Pedro.
soft sand: Marechal was great, but it’s hard for me to compare him to Pedro just based on the eras they’ve played in. Pedro was ahead at the heart of an offensive boom, and many of those years before his PED came about.
I think we also have to give some props to Guerrero and Ortiz, the Hall of Famers who are not quite up to the Pujols, but who have had great jobs.
where: This relates to the almost impossible task of comparing players from different eras. Marechal has had 244 full games (more than his 243 wins!), six seasons with 20 wins and three seasons with over 300 games. Those were the times, but in those times, he was one of the top three or four in a golden age of archery. But Pedro has the advantage for me there too.
Castrovins: Yes, completely different eras. But Pedro said this about Marechal when he went into the Hall of Fame: “I was too young to ever see Marechal Stadium, but I heard a lot, it was like it was higher than the human race. I mean, if you ask me who was the greatest Dominican pitcher of all time, I would say: Marechal. There is no doubt in my mind. Marechal.”
soft sand: This is a question for the group: Who was the most exciting player you’ve seen from DR? Maybe he didn’t have the same kind of career, but for a year, two or three years, he should have been watching TV when he was at the board? My voice goes to Alfonso Soriano. That guy was an electrician for the first three to four years of his life. I loved watching him play.
Castrovins: You mean other than Bartolo Colon beating?
where: For me, it was Sami Sosa. Of course, he should have been watching TV in the late 1990s to early 2000s. But people tend to forget that before the Big Bang, he was a 30-30 time youngster in the mid-90s and ended his career with 234 steals.
Castrovins: I grew up with Julio Franco here in Cleveland. Great production, speed, incredible longevity, and most importantly one of the best hitting positions ever.
soft sand: I hate that we didn’t even mention Manny Ramirez in this conversation. His PED history pretty much removes him from that argument, but in the time he played, I thought he was a pretty Pujols hitter. Maybe better. These are the two best right-handed hitters I’ve seen with my own eyes.
Castrovins: Yes, I hate that Mane tarnished his legacy, because he was an exciting (and terrifying) offensive player. It was exciting in other ways on the court.
where: I think Mane was a “machine” before “the machine”. Year after year, 555 home runs, 158 OPS+ over 11 years (1995-2005) Over 1,800 RBIs.
soft sand: To a lesser extent, I feel the same way about Robinson Kano. I covered it for the first nine years of his career, and it was amazing to watch. His arm at second base was great, and it felt like there was no floor he couldn’t hit. The game seemed too easy for him.
Castrovins: Watching Guerrero’s biggest song was always fun. You can throw the pitch into the press box, and it will somehow make contact with it.
where: Not to mention Guerrero Sr.’s arm. , which always leads us to the value argument, between someone like him (or even Manny) versus Ortiz, often a particular hitter.
soft sand: Talk about a guy who can hit any floor. I loved that Vlad swings the balls in the dirt and traps them along the line or hits them against the wall. It was amazing.
where: He can hit any throw, and he does it without hitting the gloves!
soft sand: She almost rooted for a ball to hit him at the runner’s first or second, just to see if he would fire that cannonball.
footerLet’s finish this by ranking the top five players from the Dominican Republic. Mine: 1. Pedro 2. Pujols 3. Ortiz 4. Vlad 5. Marechal.
where: 1. Pujols 2. Pedro 3. Big Papi 4. Beltré 5. Marichal.
There’s an emotional element to Ortiz, the impact he’s had on a franchise like the Red Sox, the three world championships, especially the 2013 championship that came out of #BostonStrong and the way he totally dominated that series.
Castrovins: It’s absolutely true that Ortiz’s DH prestige is detrimental to his overall value. But find me a more amenable clutch (and yes, some guys are really better than others at the clutch). He had a slash of .289/ .404/ .543 in 369 board appearances in postseason. October’s career is amazing with many legendary moments.
soft sand: Ortiz gets into the must-watch conversation, too. For a long time, there was probably no player you wanted in a big place more than Big Papi.
Castrovins: 1. Pedro 2. Pujols 3. Ortiz 4. Vlad 5. Marechal.
soft sand: It’s amazing to think that the Red Sox that lifted the curse in 2004 had three of the guys we talked about: Pedro, Manny, Ortiz.
whereLeaving Vladimir Sr. off the list kills me. But to Allison’s starting point, the separation between hitters/shooters and the number of great names in play shows the level of talent coming from DR
soft sand: My top five are: 1. Pujols 2. Pedro 3. Ortiz 4. Beltré 5. Marichal (I almost put Vlad at number five, but I think Marechal should be on this list. I wish I had seen him on the court.)
Castrovins: The DR area is 18,700 square miles. And when you look at the list of players from there, you’ll find it’s a ridiculous amount of talent.
I would add that the only person who doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves is Felipe Allo. He has 2,000 hits, 200 home runs, and 1,000 management wins. The only others are Joe Tory and Frank Robinson. To me, Alou has been in the Hall of Fame his whole life in baseball.
soft sand: Let’s do this again 20 years later and see if Julio Rodriguez, Wonder Franco, O’Neil Cruz or Juan Soto join the discussion. Soto is 23 years old and already ranked 48th on WAR’s list of all-time Dominican players.