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The final list of the Top 10 African-American players in Major League Baseball for 2019 features some of the game’s superstars. People often ask me why I make the list. Some would prefer I keep “race out of baseball,” despite the fact that the game exploded off of its diversity and currently Black ballers comprise less than 8 percent of the league. At one time — not too long ago — the numbers were double that.
Preserving the rich, plentiful history of Black Knights throughout baseball history and highlighting the players of the present and future is a mandatory cultural responsibility.
The players on this list are an inspiration to the youth. Documenting their successes is imperative to sustaining and promoting an African-American presence on the baseball fields and in the front office.
Top 10 Black Knights of 2019
1. George Springer, CF (Houston Astros)
On any given day Springer is the best Black Knight in the game and the premiere leadoff hitter in the sport. He’s the catalyst for Houston’s potent offense and World Series potential.
A former World Series MVP, Springer missed some games early on in the year but rebounded to have a typically superb all-around season. His 35 homers rank second to Josh Bell’s 37 among Black Knights. His 91 RBI from the leadoff spot boost his Top 15 WAR (6.6).
2. Tim Anderson, SS (Chicago White Sox)
Tim Anderson came full circle in his breakout MLB season. The fourth-year shortstop has career highs in OBP (.355) and slugging (.511) from the leadoff spot on a miserable White Sox squad. He also has 17 HR, 55 RBI, 15 steals.
Despite his boss play, Anderson is yet to earn the respect of the league. He wasn’t named to the All-Star squad and he’s still a basement bargain player at $1.4 million.
The 26-year-old started as the No. 1 player on this list, dropped to fourth in June and is finishing strong with his eyes on his first batting title as he leads MLB with a .335 BA with 10 games to go. His stats would be even more impressive if nagging injuries didn’t limit him to 115 games. On the flip side, he has to improve on a league-leading 25 errors. 2019 has positioned Anderson for a huge contract and an even better year in 2020.
3. Mookie Betts, RF (Boston Red Sox)
2018 was so out of this stratosphere for Betts, that his 2019 stats and the failure of the Boston Red Sox, have people calling .293 with 40 Doubles, 28 homers and an MLB-leading 131 runs, a down season. He did drop from No.1 to No. 3 on this list, but I’d hardly call that a “down year.”
Any player would be so lucky as to have the kind of slump season that Betts had following his 30-30 MVP campaign and World Series ring.
The Red Sox collapsed as an organization but Betts shook off a slow start and still produced an All-Star season on both sides of the ball and maintained his status as a Top 5 player in the game. His impact was evident as he had a 6.6 WAR, good for seventh in MLB and second-highest highest among Black Knights.
4. Josh Bell, First baseman (Pittsburgh Pirates)
He kicked ass all season. Bell has blossomed in 2019. The best Black first baseman since Ryan Howard leads all Black Knights with 37 homers and 116 RBI — which is good for 5th in all of baseball.
His .936 OPS is 15th in MLB and second among Black Knights to Springer (.956). Bell established himself as one of the game’s feared hitters. With Khris Davis’ down year, Bell has supplanted the Green Bomber as the premier African-American slugger in the game in 2019. He does have to cut down on his 13 errors at first base.
5. Marcus Semien, SS (Oakland A’s)
Semien missed the cut in 2018 and rose from 13th place on The Top 15 MLB Black Knights list in May to fifth place as the season winds down. This was truly his breakout season. Siemen, one of a handful of black shortstops in the game was super solid and established himself as All-Star caliber.
He led all Black Knights in hits with 177, pumped 31 HR, tied for fourth in MLB in runs (117) and had the fourth-highest WAR in the sport (7.4 WAR) for a playoff-contending Oakland A’s team. Semien also put in work with the glove, playing 153 games at shortstop and netting 414 assists, both MLB highs.
6. Michael Brantley, LF (Houston Astros)
When the Houston Astros added arguably the best pure average hitter in baseball to an already multi-faceted lineup rich with power and technical batting acumen, people knew Houston was going to be a problem for opposing pitchers.
Brantley isn’t your typical boom or bust All-Star outfielder. His .318 batting average was 8th in the league and he’s 11thin MLB in hits and doubles. Brantley is a throwback hitter, who when healthy is a prolific .300 batting average guy. His true value will reveal itself during the playoffs in clutch hitting situations.
7. Tommy Pham, LF (Tampa Bay Bucs)
The fleet-footed Pham continues to make his mark as one of the premier African-American talents in the game. He hit the ground running this season and led Tampa Bay’s early surge to first place in the AL East before the Yankees took off. Pham compiled his third 20-20 season. He’s 13th in MLB with 23 stolen bases, 25th in OBP (.376) and has 20 homers.
This season, @TphamLV hosted several youth baseball teams and the Write Field students. Thanks to Tommy, these young fans had the opportunity to watch batting practice, where they met Tommy, and attend the game. #RaysUp pic.twitter.com/kBPyboGO5y
— Rays Community (@RaysCommunity) September 17, 2019
8. Aaron Judge, RF, (NY Yankees)
Judge had another unfortunate injury, this time an oblique, that limited him to 95 games so far this season after a wrist injury limited him to 112 games in 2018. He hasn’t regained his 2017, 52-homer form yet but he managed 24 homers and a 4.7 WAR in limited duty. Even with his injuries, when healthy, the 6-foot-6 Judge is one of the game’s top talents and a revered Black Knight.
A recent shoulder injury caused him to be removed from the game, so we will see how that affects him during these upcoming playoffs. The Yankees have already clinched the division.
9. Jason Heyward, RF (Chicago Cubs)
The veteran, “J-Hey Kid” is winding up his finest regular season since 2015, stroking 21 HR, 61 RBI and helping the Cubs stay in the thick of the Wild Card race with less than 10 games remaining in the season.
- CC Sabathia, P (New York Yankees): Our honorary Black Knight this season is 19-year MLB pitcher CC
Sabathia is retiring after this final World Series run and the future Hall of Famer took the mound for the last time at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night.
— TieBreaker (@TieBreakerMedia) September 19, 2019
CC originally signed a seven-year contract worth $161 million with the Yankees back in 2009. That was the largest pitching bag in baseball history at the time and the pressure to perform was immense.
The big fella not only led the team to its last World Series title in 2009, but he has a stellar 134-88 record with a 3.80 ERA in 11 seasons in New York.
He is one of the most prolific Black Aces and baseball ambassadors in the history of the sport. He’s given as much to baseball off the field with his various community initiatives as he has on the field en route to compiling a Hall of Fame career to rival the likes of any African-American pitcher history — any Yankees pitcher for that matter.
Earlier this season Sabathia recorded his 250th win and 3,000th strikeout. He became the 17th pitcher in history — and only the third left-hander — to record 3,000 career strikeouts.