Who Are the Top 5 Canadian MLB Players?
258 Canadian-born players have appeared in Major League Baseball. Which players have made the biggest mark in The Show? For purposes of simplicity, I have ranked Canadian-born players by their career bWAR (wins above replacement, as calculated by Baseball Reference). The top three should not be surprising to students of the game.
5. Jeff Heath
Birthplace: Fort William, ON
Position: Left Fielder
Slash Line: .293/.370/.509
Heath debuted for the Cleveland franchise on September 13, 1936, and played 14 seasons, spending time with Cleveland, the Washington Senators, St. Louis Browns and the Boston Braves. He was an American League All-Star Team starter in 1941 and reserve in 1943.
Birthplace: East York, ON
Slash Line: .248/.349/.397
Martin debuted and retired as a Los Angeles Dodger but spent four seasons at the end of his career as a beloved hometown member of the Toronto Blue Jays. One of his four All-Star appearances came as a Blue Jay in 2015.
3. Joey Votto
Birthplace: Toronto, ON
Position: First Baseman
Slash Line: .302/.416/.520
The 2010 National League MVP and six-time All-Star is the greatest active Canadian-born MLB player. He has made six All-Star appearances and won one Gold Glove Award. Votto could become the third Canadian-born player to be inducted into Cooperstown, but he has not amassed as much hardware as his compatriot Larry Walker.
2. Larry Walker
Birthplace: Maple Ridge, BC
Position: Right Fielder and First Baseman
Slash Line: .313/.400/.565
In 2020, Walker became the first member of the Colorado Rockies to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and the second Canadian-born player. His career accolades include seven Gold Glove Awards, three Silver Slugger Awards, three batting titles, five All-Star appearances and the 1997 National League MVP award.
Birthplace: Chatham, ON
The Cubs legend and first Canadian to be inducted into the Hall of Fame was a three-time All-Star and National League Cy Young Award winner in 1971. In 1971, he led the National League with 39 starts and 325 innings pitched, which illustrates the differences in workload for starting pitchers of yesteryear compared to today’s game. Jenkins also led MLB with 30 complete games in that same season. He finished a 19-year MLB career with 267 complete games, averaging 14 per season. He won at least 20 games per season for six consecutive seasons between 1967 and 1972, including an NL-leading 24 in his 1971 Cy Young season.
Honorable Mention: Freddie Freeman
Birthplace: Villa Park, CA, USA
Position: First Baseman
Slash Line: .295/.384/.509
Freeman was not included on this list when I originally posted it since he was born in the United States. He however claims Canadian citizenship through his parents. Freeman’s career bWAR ranks him behind Joey Votto and ahead of Russell Martin. Freeman is a five-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger winner, one-time Gold Glove Award winner. He claimed the National League MVP Award in 2020 and captured a World Series championship with Atlanta in 2021.
Will any of today’s younger Canadian-born players surpass the current top five? I think Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who finished second in the 2021 American League MVP voting in his age-22 season, is the best bet.