MLB

Best colleges for producing MLB talent

The best collegiate football talent is on full display as the sport plays out its annual bowl games — including four in MLB ballparks this season.

While those schools battle it out on the gridiron, we decided to take a look at which programs have produced the best talent on the baseball diamond.

This, of course, is an entirely subjective ranking, but it took into consideration a number of different factors. Among the criteria considered for this piece was the total number of big leaguers produced and the quality of those players (Hall of Famers, All-Star selections, etc.), with an edge given to more recent success.

Without further ado — and with plenty of debate sure to follow — here’s a look at the top 10.

1. Arizona State
Hall of Famers: 1 (Reggie Jackson)
Others of note: Barry Bonds, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Sal Bando, Rick Monday, Bob Horner

Though Arizona State has produced just one Hall of Famer, it has a long history of producing MLB talent. No school is responsible for more big league home runs — led, of course, by Bonds’ all-time record of 762 — and the Sun Devils have racked up more MLB All-Star selections than any other school. Along with Jackson and Bonds (each 14-time All-Stars), other future All-Stars to come out of ASU include Pedroia (four selections), Paul Lo Duca (four), Bando (four), Jason Kipnis (two) and Andre Ethier (two), among others. Hall of Famer Jim Palmer also briefly enrolled at ASU, though he ultimately signed a professional contract before lacing up his cleats at the collegiate level. The Sun Devils have produced four No. 1 overall picks in the MLB Draft, twice as many as any other school.

2. USC
Hall of Famers: 2 (Randy Johnson, Tom Seaver)
Others of note: Mark McGwire, Fred Lynn, Dave Kingman, Barry Zito, Bret Boone, Aaron Boone

It was a really tough call to keep USC out of the top spot. Johnson is obviously one of the most dominant pitchers of all time and Seaver isn’t far behind. Toss in McGwire (583 career homers), Lynn (1975 AL MVP and Rookie of the Year), Kingman (442 homers) and the Boone brothers, and it’s not hard to make a case that USC deserves the top honor. Arizona State holds the edge in total players drafted (455-351), but USC has had more players make The Show (122-115).

3. Michigan
Hall of Famers: 3 (Charles Gehringer, Barry Larkin, George Sisler)
Others of note: Jake Cronenworth, Bill Freehan, Jim Abbott, Steve Howe, Rich Hill

The Wolverines have the honor of being the only school with a trio of Hall of Famers, though two of the three began their careers well before World War II. Sisler played from 1915-30, while Gehringer’s 19-year career spanned from 1924-42. That’s not to say the school hasn’t produced any recent talent. Larkin was elected to the Hall of Fame in the Class of 2012. Hill has carved out a 17-year career. Cronenworth finished second in NL Rookie of the Year Award voting in 2020 and was an All-Star in ’21.

4. Vanderbilt
Hall of Famers: N/A
Others of note: Walker Buehler, Sonny Gray, David Price, Mark Prior, Bryan Reynolds, Rip Sewell, Dansby Swanson

Vanderbilt is likely to continue climbing this list in the coming years, as it continues to churn out MLB talent. The Commodores had 11 former players on Opening Day rosters last season, the most from any school in the country. The school has also produced a pair of active No. 1 overall picks in Swanson and Price. Buehler, Gray and Prior have also helped Vanderbilt gain a reputation as a pitching powerhouse — and that continued in the 2021 MLB Draft when the school had two pitchers taken in the top 10 (Jack Leiter at No. 2 and Kumar Rocker at No. 10).

5. LSU
Hall of Famers: N/A
Others of note: Albert Belle, DJ LeMahieu, Alex Bregman, Kevin Gausman, Aaron Nola

LSU certainly has a large imprint on the current MLB landscape. Bregman finished in the top 5 in AL MVP voting in 2018 and ’19. LeMahieu did the same in ’19 and ’20. Nola earned a share of NL Cy Young Award votes in ’18 and ’20. Gausman received Cy Young consideration in ’21.

6. Texas
Hall of Famers: N/A
Others of note: Roger Clemens, Huston Street, Brandon Belt, Corey Knebel, Burt Hooton, Pinky Higgins

Clemens is obviously the highlight here, winning an MLB record seven Cy Young Awards over a 24-year career. The Longhorns have produced plenty of other All-Star-caliber big leaguers, though, including Street (324 career saves), Belt (167 homers) and Hooton (151 wins), among others.

7. Minnesota
Hall of Famers: 2 (Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield)
Others of note: Denny Neagle, Glen Perkins, Terry Steinbach

The Gophers are in rare company as one of the few schools to produce multiple big league Hall of Famers. Winfield was elected in the Class of 2001 and Molitor followed three years later. Winfield not only starred on the diamond at Minnesota, but he also helped the school win a Big Ten championship on the basketball court. As for Molitor, he came along a few years later and carved out a solid collegiate career of his own before getting drafted third overall en route to a 21-year stint in the Majors.

8. SDSU
Hall of Famers: 1 (Tony Gwynn)
Others of note: Graig Nettles, Mark Grace, Stephen Strasburg, Bud Black

Gwynn set the standard at San Diego State, starring in both baseball and basketball to the extend that he was selected in both the MLB and NBA Drafts on the same day. Considering he racked up 3,141 hits and was a 15-time All-Star during his 20-year career with the Padres, it’s safe to say he made the right choice. Nettles, who played more than a decade before Gwynn, as a six-time All-Star in the big leagues. And the Aztecs are still making their mark in the Majors, from Strasburg (2019 World Series MVP) to Black (998 career wins as a manager).

9. Long Beach State
Hall of Famers: N/A
Others of note: Jason Giambi, Evan Longoria, Jeff McNeil, Steve Traschel, Troy Tulowitzki, Jered Weaver

Jason Giambi was a force at Long Beach State in the early 1990s before a 20-year MLB career that included an MVP Award, five All-Star selections and a Home Run Derby title. But it was the early-to-mid 2000s teams that really produced a wealth of big league talent. Weaver was taken 12th overall in the 2004 MLB Draft. Tulowitzki was drafted seventh overall in ’05. Longoria went third overall the following year. Jason Vargas, Marco Estrada and Jared Hughes were also selected in those three Drafts, while Matt Duffy, McNeil and Garret Hampson are active big leaguers out of Long Beach State.

10. Columbia
Hall of Famers:
2 (Eddie Collins, Lou Gehrig)
Others of note: N/A

Columbia hasn’t produced the depth of these other schools, but it’s hard to ignore the quality. Both Gehrig and Collins were inducted in the Class of 1939, putting Columbia in rare air as a school with multiple Hall of Famers. It’s also worth noting that fellow Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax took night classes at Columbia, but he did so in the offseason after his professional career had already started.

Honorable mention: Arizona, Cal, Georgia Tech, Miami, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Stanford


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