America’s Finest (Player-Producing) City
Not a cloud in the crystal clear blue skies. A hint of sea water in the air. Grass as green and as lush as it could get. Baseball weather all year round. This is San Diego, America’s Finest City. This is San Diego, producer of Major League ballplayers.
It’s no surprise that many pro ballplayers come to San Diego and never want to leave. Many experience San Diego, then move their families here. The city’s beauty and charm are attractive, but we are going to focus on those Major League players who were actually born in or around San Diego rather than those who came and couldn’t bring themselves to leave. There is a pretty long list of players from the area so we are going to just rank the top-ten.
10. Nick Punto
Punto is best-known for his time in Minnesota, but he did get himself a World Series ring in St. Louis this year. Punto split his career WAR almost evenly between defense and offense. His career WAR sits at 8.0. His oWAR is 4.4 and dWAR is 3.6. Punto has never been an outstanding player, but he has made himself a nice career as a serviceable big leaguer.
Punto was born in San Diego and attended Trabuco Hills High School. He was drafted by the Phillies in 1998. Punto’s career triple-slash is .248/.325/.327, but he had perhaps his best year this past season. In 63 games for the Cardinals, Punto posted a .278/.388/.421 line with an OPS+ of 127.
9. Hank Blalock
Due to injury and declining production, it has been a while since Blalock has seen a Major League ballfield. He last played in 2010. But during his time in the big leagues, Blalock was a pretty productive Majore Leaguer.
He posted a career line of .269/.329/.463 with 153 home runs, and 959 hits. He was an All Star twice and posted a career WAR of 9.2. His OPS+ was a respectable 101.
Blalock was born in San Diego and went to high schol at Rancho Bernardo High. Hopefully Blalock makes it back to a Major League club, but if he doesn’t he finishes up 9 on our list of players born in San Diego.
8. Ray Boone
Ray was a San Diegan through and through. He was born in San Diego, he went to school at Herbert Hoover High School in San Diego, he died in San Diego, and he was buried in San Diego. Ray played 13 seasons and had himself a very nice career.
He posted a career WAR of 24, averaging nearly 2 WAR per year. He was a two-time All Star with a career line of .275/.361/.429. He collected over 1200 hits and walked 608 times to only 463 strikeouts. In his career, Ray posted a 114 OPS+.
Ray ranks just below another Boone in the family, Bob.
7. Bob Boone
Bob was probably the best of the Boone clan (and there were a lot of them). He was a 4-time All Start, a 7-time Gold Glove winner, and was third in Rookie of the Year voting in 1973.
Bob’s career triple-slash was not quite as good as his father’s, but still decent enough to carry him through 19 Major League seasons. He posted a .254/.315/.346 line for his career. He finished with over 1800 hits and 26.1 WAR. Bob was born in San Diego and attended Crawford High School. He was drafted by the Phillies in 1969 (the same year his home town got its first Major League team).
Aside from one of the most gruesome injuries I’ve ever seen on a baseball diamond, Kendall’s is largely over-looked. Kendall was besieged by injuries in his career and it seems his most recent shoulder injury will probably spell the end of the line for him, but during his time he accumulated 37.7 WAR. He had almost 2200 hits in 15 seasons, and he scored over 1000 runs.
Kendall’s career was one that almost defined flying under the radar. He hit .290 or better seven times, yet only made an All Star team three times. Kendall’s defense may have hindered him a bit as he posted a negative dWAR (-2.8). However, his offense was really impressive. He finished, if he is indeed done, with a career line of .288/.366/.378.
Kendall was born in San Diego and went to Torrance High School before being drafted by the Pirates in 1992.
5. Mark Prior
Prior will probably generate some questions being ranked number 5 on our list, but he’s that high for a reason. Mark Prior was dominant. He had the makings of a Hall of Fame style pitcher. Unfortunately, injuries derailed his young career.
Prior only pitched 5 seasons in the Majors but still managed 13.1 WAR. His 2003 campaign was amazing as he collected 6.2 WAR that year alone. He was 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA. He struck out 245 batters that year, finished third in Cy Young voting, and finished ninth in MVP voting. Shoulder and elbow problems kept him from reaching his full potential, but he excelled in the time he did have.
Prior was born in San Diego, went to University High School, and was drafted by the Cubs in 2001.
Coming in at number 4 is another debatable pitcher. Stephen Strasburg really only has part of a season to his name, but he was untouchable when he first came up. Strasburg is only 6-4 in 17 career starts, but he showed flashes of brilliance. His debut netted him a 14-strikeout performance. He’s already compiled 114 strikeouts in just 92 innings pitched. An 11.9 K/9 ratio accompanies a 6.11 K/BB ratio for his short career.
Strasburg has a ways to go to earn this spot for good, but what he’s shown the world so far is pretty amazing. Strasburg was born in San Diego and went to High School in Santee. He played college ball at San Diego State under Tony Gwynn before being drafted by the Nationals in 2009.
Gonzalez will round out our contemporary players. His numbers in San Diego and now in Boston make him the perfect candidate to be this high on the list. His youth and continued success will solidify his spot.
Gonzalez is just 29 years old and has compiled 28.2 WAR. In San Diego he amassed 22.4 WAR before posting his best season yet with Boston in 2011. This past season he had 6.9 WAR to go along with his career-best slash line of .338/.410/.548. In his career so far, Gonzalez posted a triple-slash of .293/.375/.514. His OPS+ is a ridiculously high 140 over 8 seasons. He is already a four-time All Star, two-time Gold Glove winner, a Silver Slugger award winner, and has found himself in the mix five times for MVP voting.
Gonzalez has a very good chance to move up this list and overtake second place if his success continues. If his career ended today, he may still have locked up the number three spot just on his accomplishments to date.
Gonzalez was born in San Diego and went to High School at East Lake High. He was drafted by the Marlins in 2000.
Graig was clearly the better of the Nettles boys. His brother Jim had a decent Major League career, but Graig had a fantastic career. He also gets bonus points for playing in San Diego for three years.
Graig collected of 2200 hits, scored more than 1100 runs, hit 390 home runs, and has over 1300 RBI. He was a six-time All Star with a career WAR of 61.6. Graig also sneaked in two Gold Glove awards. Graig played in 22 seasons, saw time in seven different postseasons, and helped the Padres to the 1984 World Series. Even with playing as many seasons as he did, Graig still managed to post a 110 OPS+.
Graig was born San Diego and went to San Diego High School. He went to San Diego State University and was drafted by the Twins in 1965.
1. Ted Williams
No question, the greatest player to ever be born in San Diego. I’m not sure anyone will ever top him. Ever.
Not only is Williams the only San Diego-born player to reside in the Hall of Fame, but he also served his country proudly in World War II. The Splendid Splinter was born August 30, 1918 in sunny San Diego, California. Williams went to Herbert Hoover High School in San Diego. He signed with the San Diego Padres (Minor League) right out of High School. After one season, he signed with the Boston Red Sox.
Williams finished 4th in MVP voting his very first year in the league after hitting .327/.436/.609 for an OPS+ of 160. Interestingly enough, he was not an All Star that year. He would go on to have just one more year in his career in which he didn’t make an All Star team, and that was the 1952 season in which he only played in 6 games.
Williams, already a three-time All Star by the end of the 1942 season, left baseball to go serve his country. Williams became a Naval Aviator. He excelled to the point of being able to come back and become an instructor at Pensacola. After four years of service, Williams returned to Boston and returned to baseball.
Over the course of his career, Williams played 19 seasons, was a 17-time All Star, a two-time MVP, and hit 521 home runs. He was the last player to hit over .400, hitting .406 in 1941. Williams’ career WAR of 125.3 is incredible. He finished his career at .346/.482/.634. His on-base percentage is the best all-time.
Here’s where Williams ranks all-time in some of his most prolific categories:
Batting Average: 8th
On-Base Percentage: 1st
Slugging Percentage: 2nd
Home runs: 18th
Ted Williams represents the best San Diego has to offer. He was one of the greatest ball players who ever lived. He served his country in war, and he was an ambassador for the game of baseball. San Diego repaid him with the Ted Williams Expressway.
Williams is, and forever will be, the greatest player San Diego ever produced.