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America's Under-the-Radar Baseball Factories


Los Angeles Angels' CF Mike Trout; Photo via Jeffrey Hayes

The term “baseball factory” is often used to describe an area that produces many Major League Baseball players. There are lots of characteristics that make a baseball factory, but it ultimately comes down to both the quality and the quantity of baseball players who call that place home. Some of the most well-known baseball factories include Las Vegas, Nevada, Southern California, and Florida, producing talent such as Bryce Harper, Gerrit Cole, and J.D. Martinez, respectively. But what about the more unknown baseball production sites? Which states produce the most MLB talent but receive the least recognition for it?


New Mexico:


The southwest corner of the United States is not unfamiliar with baseball, as Arizona hosts half of MLB’s Spring Training. However, it is New Mexico that has produced some surprisingly great talent. The combined OPS of all MLB players from New Mexico is .811, which is the highest of the 50 states, as well as the only state over .800. The state’s sole Hall of Famer, Ralph Kiner, was a staple in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ lineup from 1946-1952 before being traded to the Chicago Cubs during the 1953 season. Kiner led the National League in home runs in all seven of his seasons with the Pirates. This dominant stretch included six All-Star selections and five straight 40-home-run seasons, eclipsing 50 homers in two of them. His career fizzled out rather prematurely, as he retired at just 32, but Kiner was a force to be reckoned with in his short time on the diamond.


While boasting current Major League talent like Mitch Garver, Chase Silseth, Ken Giles, and Trevor Rogers, the best current player from New Mexico is Houston Astros’ 3B Alex Bregman. The second overall pick in the 2015 Draft, Bregman made his MLB debut just a year later. Since then, he has contributed to four American League pennants and two World Series Championships. He was also selected to two All-Star Games. Bregman was the MVP runner-up in 2019, as he boasted an astounding 1.015 OPS to go with 41 home runs, 112 RBI, and a Silver Slugger.


Connecticut:


Athletes who grow up in New England have a natural disadvantage due to the region's weather patterns. An outfielder in Connecticut can’t simply go outside and take fly balls in January the way that an outfielder in Florida can. Despite this, Connecticut has quietly become somewhat of a baseball powerhouse in terms of names the state has produced. There are three Hall of Famers from Connecticut, although all three played before the establishment of the American League. Jim O’Rourke, elected in 1945, and Roger Connor, elected in 1976, were both great hitters with elite defensive versatility. It is important to note that these men played before it was commonplace to use a glove in the field, but both impressively held fielding percentages above .900. The third Hall of Famer from the Constitution State is Ned Hanlon, who was elected in 1996. Hanlon, while having a decent playing career, was elected primarily for his accomplishments as a manager. He coached the Baltimore Orioles to three straight National League pennants. Following the 1898 season, Hanlon took over the Brooklyn Superbas and promptly won two more NL pennants before retiring from managing in 1907 after a stint with the Cincinnati Reds.


Connecticut has a very long list of recent MLB players, including former All-Stars A.J. Pollock, Matt Harvey, Mo Vaughn, George Springer, and Carl Pavano. The best live-ball era player from Connecticut, however, is former Cincinnati Reds reliever Rob Dibble. Dibble put together a dominant season as part of the vaunted “Nasty Boys” bullpen for the 1990 World Series champion Reds. He held an 8-3 record that season and saved 11 games to the tune of a 1.74 ERA and an absurd 229 ERA+. However, Dibble’s career was cut short by control issues that led him to take a leave of absence from baseball in 1996, a decision that later became permanent.


New Jersey:


In terms of player development, New Jersey is in the same position as Connecticut, as the cold weather limits time on the field. However, in terms of talent produced, New Jersey boasts some of the greatest players of all time. Four Hall of Famers hail from New Jersey, most recently New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter in the Class of 2020. Despite growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Jeter was born in Pequannock, New Jersey, which led to him growing up as a Yankees fan. The other Hall of Famers from New Jersey are old-timers but are quite notable in their own right. Elected in 1961, outfielder Billy Hamilton (no, the other one) was a prominent speed threat during his 14-year career. Hamilton stole 914 bases during this span, a record that was held until being shattered by Lou Brock and then Rickey Henderson. Hamilton still ranks third all-time in career stolen bases and holds four separate seasons of 100 or more steals. The Hall of Fame class of 1968 holds the final two New Jersey-born honorees. Outfielder Goose Goslin, despite being just a one-time All-Star, was a prolific hitter in the 1920s and 30s. With a career .318 batting average, .887 OPS, and .960 fielding percentage, Goslin is widely considered to be one of baseball’s earliest five-tool players. The final Hall of Famer (for now) from New Jersey is outfielder Joe Medwick. The 1937 NL MVP knew how to put the bat on the ball, collecting 2,471 hits at a .324 career batting average. A 10-time All-Star, Medwick also played an elite defensive outfield, committing just 86 errors in 16,284 innings. He is certainly one of the most underrated Hall of Famers.


New Jersey holds a fairly lengthy list of recent MLB players, including Zac Gallen, Jason Heyward, and Todd Frazier, but the greatest player from New Jersey is none other than Mike Trout. There is not much to say about Trout that hasn’t already been said. In just 13 seasons to date, Trout has amassed 85.2 Wins Above Replacement while holding a steady .301 career batting average, a .994 career OPS, and a career 174 OPS+. Trout has had a first-ballot Hall of Fame career, and he is still going strong for the Los Angeles Angels.


 

While the above states deserve more recognition, all areas of the country have contributed to the game in some way. Every single state in the United States of America has had at least 10 MLB players. Alaska has the least with 12, while California claims 2,452. As one might imagine, California leads the USA in all hitting and pitching counting stats. The best collective batting average, however, is held by Nebraska, led by Hall of Famers Wade Boggs, Sam Crawford, and Richie Ashburn. The aforementioned New Mexico leads in OBP, Slugging, and OPS. On the pitching side, Alaska holds the best win percentage thanks to Curt Schilling. The lowest ERA goes to Vermont despite having zero Hall of Fame pitchers. Talent comes from all over, not just the hotbeds like Florida and California that get all of the love. Pay attention because you never know where you might find the next all-time great.



Sources:



"Mike Trout" via Jeffrey Hayes licensed under CC BY 2.0

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