A Starting Lineup of Baseball’s Biggest One Year Wonders — The Infield
One year wonders mystify us all. A rollercoaster in the form of one player. Be it a young phenom who wins rookie of the year then collapses, an All-Star who succumbs to injury woes, or a discounted veteran who overcomes all the odds to amaze us all. In that one year, these players took the Majors by storm and looked poised to continue that trend yet faltered after, but that's why they’re one-year wonders. So what if we take the very best versions of these one-year wonders and put them in a starting line up? Well, that's what I’m gonna do. This will be a full line up, starting pitcher rotation and all. This is a long piece so I’m gonna split this up a bit, starting off with the infield. Just know there were plenty of close calls here, so I’ll name some honorable mentions to start us off.
1B Chris “Crush” Davis: He went from hitting 53 dingers and finishing 3rd in the AL MVP voting in 2013 to setting the record for the lowest batting average in a season for a qualified player (.168) in 2018. He also went through a 0–54 hitless slump, another record. Poor Orioles. Oh yeah, they gave him a 7-year, $161 million contract to sit on the bench. Yikes.
SS Mike Morse: Morse played all over the place, from first base to the outfield to shortstop. He was an oddity as SS as well, he’s a unit of a man at 6'5 245 pounds. In 2011, he showcased the power that comes with being that yoked. He slammed 31 bombs to go alongside 95 RBIs and a .303 BA. He wasn’t named to the All-Star game but he still got plenty of recognition, being named to Sports Illustrated’s “All Underrated Team.” After that, his power dipped as well as his overall production, he never touched +20 HRs again. He would win the World Series in 2014 with the Giants but he wasn’t great. Probably the most famous moment in his career was in 2017, saving Bryce Harper from the clutches of Jeff Samardzija in the Harper-Strickland brawl. He wouldn’t play again after due to a concussion from colliding with Samardzija.
2B Warren Morris: Morris is known for one thing and one thing only. His heroic walk-off home run in the 9th inning in the 1996 College World Series. He was the 9th spot guy as well. His power was drained because of a past broken hamate bone. Yet he did this. Amazing.
Many foresaw a great MLB career after this, and in his rookie year, it sure looked like it. After three years in the minors, he hit for .288 with 73 RBIs and 15 dingers in 1999. He finished 3rd in the NL Rookie of the Year race. A big sophomore jinx season hit him like a truck that next year, and he became a journeyman utility guy after that. He would retire in 2006. At least he’s an LSU legend.
C Rick Wilkins: Power hitting catchers are always a treasured commodity. Mike Piazza became the gold standard for that class of player. He is one of 12 catchers to hit 30 dingers and have a .300 BA in a season, and he did it 8 times. While a rookie Piazza was enjoying his first all-star season in 1993, another young catcher in the NL was slamming it. Rick Wilkins for the Chicago Cubs. He didn’t do much in the minors for a few years yet got promoted rapidly (he hit .227 in 127 games in Double-A). When he eventually got to the Majors, he didn’t set the NL on fire, batting a pedestrian .248 and slugging an average .387 in 169 career games before 93. His other hitting stats weren’t great either, for he only had 14 home runs and 44 RBI.
But something clicked in 93, and Wilkins ended up jacking 30 home runs and joining Piazza and other Hall of Fame catchers in the .300, 30 dingers club. He was only 3 behind Sammy Sosa for the team high. Even more astonishingly, his OPS of .937 was good for 3rd in the NL behind, oh I don’t know, Barry Bonds and the 1993 NL batting champ Andres Galarraga. Wilkins got a small pay raise (emphasis on small) on his $212,500 contract after his breakout year but he fell off a cliff after that, hitting only 7 home runs in 313 ABs in the strike-shortened 1994 season. After that, he was traded to the Astros in a package that included Luis Gonzales. And the Cubs went back to being sad.
1B Kevin Maas: The late ’80s, early 90’s Yankees were a strange bunch. Deion Sanders (yes, that Deion) was there, Yankees legend Don Mattingly was almost traded while his body was slowly deteriorating, and they were losing. A lot, which isn’t very Yankee like. But something happened in 1990. They had something to believe in, or rather, someone.
We didn’t have a very good team, but we had a very good player — Dave LaPoint
That very good player wasn’t Sanders, wasn’t Mattingly, or even Hall of Famer Dave Winfield. It was 25-year-old rookie Kevin Maas.
A steady player in the minors, Maas was hitting .320 at Triple-A in ’89 before a knee injury stopped him from any potential promotion. But the Yankees needed a spark midway through the ’90 season. Maas was their man. It only took him 72 ABs to slam 10 dingers, and he famously hit 2 during Old Timers Day (which he now makes regular appearances). He ended the year second in the rookie of the year voting with a stat line of .257 BA, 21 HRs, and 41 RBIs in just 254 ABs. He was seen as the heir apparent to Don Mattingly, whose body was betraying him. Maas’s power numbers were ok in ’91 as the fulltime DH, hitting 23 HRs and 63 RBIs, but his average was tanking (.220). Pitchers caught up to the lefty’s pull tendencies. He didn’t last much longer after. But Maas gave the Yankees the confidence to trust faulty but promising homegrown players, like Bernie Williams. The next Yankee dynasty was already taking shape, as Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada was drafted the same year as Maas’s breakout. He tried to make the Yankees roster in ’96 during spring training but didn’t make it. The new dynasty would win that World Series.
2B Marcus Giles: At the turn of the 21st century, the Braves had two hot prospects who were slated to join Chipper Jones and build something special. Shortstop Rafael Furcal and Second Baseman Marcus Giles. Furcal would get the first shot in 2000, making the ridiculous jump from Single-A to the Majors to win the NL Rookie of the Year. Giles wasn’t far behind, for he debuted in 2001. He showed promise in his first 244 ABs, which included his first home run, a grand slam against eventual teammate Mike Hampton and the Rockies. But a severe ankle sprain put him in limbo in 2002, shifting between Triple-A and the Majors.
2003 would show the true Giles. .316 BA, 21 HRs, 69 RBIs (nice), and a robust .917 OPS. 2004 for a short time was looking like the very same thing until a brutal collision between Giles and CF Andruw Jones resulted in a broken collarbone. His numbers after were ok, but not the dominant ones seen in 03. In 2006, Furcal became a Dodger and the Braves needed a new leadoff man. Who else but the man who was seen as a partner to Furcal? Giles wasn’t a leadoff hitter though, and his 2006 season proved it. Only 11 HRs and a .262. After that, like Furcal, he was done as a Brave. He would spend 2007 with his brother Brian in San Diego but that season proved to be his worst and last. He couldn’t find a Major League deal after that.
3B Aaron Boone: Boone’s first game as a major leaguer gave us the perfect introduction to what kind of player (and eventually manager) he would become. A fiery personality who doesn’t mind the big moments. He got ejected in his first game.
He would spend his Reds career mostly as a low-level starter/bench player with plus contact hitting but things changed in ’02. His power numbers started climbing, reaching a career-high of 26 (that did come with a lower BA of .241…). But ’03 was the best of power Boone and contact Boone. While with the Reds, he would make his first and only All-Star game while slamming 18 bombs and 65 RBIs. The Yankees, needing a third baseman due to the struggles of Robin Ventura, traded for Boone on the cheap at the deadline. In total, Boone had a very solid stat line of 24 HRs, 96 RBIs, a solid .267 BA, and 23 stolen bases to boot. But Boone made his mark in the playoffs. In Game 7 of the ALCS, Boone hit an 11th inning walk-off dinger off knuckleballer Tim Wakefield to prolong The Curse of The Bambino for one more year.
He was then on known as “Aaron Motherfucking Boone” by Red Sox fans. While the Yankees would lose to the young and dynamic Marlins led by Pudge Rodriguez and Miguel Cabrera, it was a nice middle finger to Rex Sox fans. Boone’s career took a sad yet funny turn after that electric moment. He would tear his ACL during a pickup basketball game in the offseason, which is a direct violation of his contract. He would be released by the Yankees then jump around from team to team until retiring with the Astros in 2009 after struggling with some nagging injuries. His replacement at third base for the Bronx Bombers wasn’t a bad one in the end.
SS Bobby Crosby: The Oakland A’s were hot off an AL West winning season, but they ended up losing to the Red Sox in the 2003 ALDS. Miguel Tejada and Eric Chavez were an electric duo, combining for 56 dingers and 207 RBIs. Chavez also won his 3rd consecutive Gold Glove while Tejada was the 2002 AL MVP, asserting himself as the premier offensive, power-hitting shortstop. But the A’s couldn't afford to keep them together forever. Tejada would sign with the Orioles for $72 million for six years that offseason. The A’s, however, knew they had someone waiting in the shadows. 1st round pick Bobby Crosby. He would replicate some of the offensive capabilities Tejada had. 22 bombs and 64 RBIs speak as such. He led all AL rookies in hits (130), doubles (34) and walks (58).
One massive caveat came with all of this, however. A very mediocre .239 BA and 141 strikeouts, good for 4th most in the AL. But hey, he ended up winning the AL Rookie of the Year, one vote shy of unanimous in fact. He is also the ROTY with the lowest BA, so there's that also. After that solid 2004 season, his power suddenly sapped, never touching double digits again as he slowly became a utility man. Chavez and new faces like Nick Swisher and Frank Thomas would become the torchbearers for the Athletics, not the once touted Crosby.
And that's in the infield. As I said earlier, this lineup is gonna be pretty long so I’ll split this up a bit so you won’t be reading this for like 30 min in one go. You can thank me later.