MLB Stars Who Didn’t Have A Strong Enough Defense For The Majors

Baseball | 9/28/20

For most players, baseball has to be a two-way sport. You need to be able to hit as well as field the ball. Some players are better at one and can build their careers that way. Manny Ramirez was one of the best hitters of his generation, for instance, but couldn’t be trusted in the outfield. In the American League, that deficiency could be hidden by having him as the team’s designated hitter. Not every player is so lucky, though. These are the worst MLB defensive players of all-time!

Ed Taubensee Was Not A Reliable Catcher

ed taubensee
Rick Stewart/Allsport/Getty Images
Rick Stewart/Allsport/Getty Images

As a defensive position, catcher is grueling. Those who take the squat put immense pressure on their bodies for nine innings at a time. When you can hit the snot out of the ball, it’s okay to be a defensive liability behind the dish. When you’re Ed Taubensee… well, you probably should have stayed in the minors.

Taubensee was not a great offensive player and was an unskilled catcher. Over the course of his 10 season career, he committed 65 errors and only threw runners out at a 23 percent clip.

Mike Piazza Was An Offensive Juggernaut

world series piazza
Sporting News via Getty Images
Sporting News via Getty Images

Mike Piazza played in MLB for 15 seasons and was one of the most popular players of his generation. He was a juggernaut on offense, setting records for power-hitting catchers. Behind the dish, though, he left a lot to be desired.

Piazza retired in 2007 with a career .989 fielding percentage and 132 errors. He also had a caught stealing rate of 23 percent. Unlike Ed Taubensee, Piazza’s defense didn’t matter. He made his money with his bat.

Jason Giambi Never Should Have Played Defense

Cleveland Indians v Minnesota Twins
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

For some power hitters, when you can’t play defense, you play first base. That’s what happened with Jason Giambi. A power-hitter pure and simple, he was a defensive liability who was put at first to hide his deficiencies.

The issue was he couldn’t even defend that position. When he played defense, it was not pretty. His career defensive WAR was a disastrous negative 19.7! In 19 seasons he committed 104 errors and had a fielding percentage of .991.

Frank Thomas Was Stunningly Bad

frank thomas white sox
Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Frank Thomas was never destined to be a great defender. He was known as “The Big Hurt” for his bat, but the nickname also describes his defensive woes. When he did play in the field, he was a liability, to say the least.

In 18 seasons, Thomas had 80 errors, a .991 fielding percentage, and a defensive WAR of negative 22.5. If you’re wondering how he could playing nearly two decades with those numbers, just look at how many career home runs he bashed — 521.

Juan Samuel Tried To Play Six Different Positions

Juan Samuel collides with John Shelby during an MLB game
Getty Images
Getty Images

Juan Samuel was a talented hitter that several teams desperately wanted to turn into a viable everyday player. To do that, they needed to find a defensive position he could comfortably play. That… never happened.

Samuel’s career lasted for 15 seasons. He played for seven different teams and had his defensive position changed six times. Nothing ever stuck, though, and he retired with a defensive WAR of negative 8.9 and a fielding percentage of .973.

Alfonso Soriano Was An Error Machine

alfonso soriano
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Alfonso Soriano was brought up in MLB as a second baseman. When he signed a monster $136 million contract with the Chicago Cubs, the team moved him to the outfield to hide his poor defensive player. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work.

Soriano retired with a .971 fielding percentage, a negative 10.1 defensive WAR, and 169 errors. Unsurprisingly, Soriano never won a Gold Glove in his career, but he did win four Silver Slugger Awards!

Chuck Knoblauch Was Good… Until He Wasn’t

chuck knoblauch
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

For his 19-year career, Chuck Knoblauch had a defensive WAR of plus six, which doesn’t look terrible on paper. He even won a Gold Glove Award in 1997 for his defensive play. The problem was that when his arm turned on him, his defense absolutely cratered.

In 1999, he committed 26 more errors than he did in 1998. Once he called it quits he had committed 125 errors, and his fielding percentage cratered to .982.

Edwin Encarnacion Struggled At The Start Of His Career

edwin encarnacion
Ron Vesely/Getty Images
Ron Vesely/Getty Images

When Edwin Encarnacion first came up from the minor leagues, he was a terrible defender. One of the worst in MLB. As the years passed, however, his defense improved. Now late in his career, he’s a passable defender.

Despite his late-career defensive improvement, Encarnacion still has 144 career errors (as of this writing) and a .976 fielding percentage. He also has a defensive WAR of negative 14.5. We can’t see him upping those now that he’s relegated to DH duty.

Jose Offerman Led The League In Errors Multiple Times

jose offerman
Boston Herald/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images
Boston Herald/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

A career .273 hitter, Jose Offerman managed to stay relevant as a leadoff hitter in MLB despite being a defensive problem, During his worst years, Offerman led the league in errors three years between 1992 and 1995.

Brought up by the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team grew so weary of his instability that they traded him to the Royals. The Royals moved him to second base, but the change of position didn’t do much to improve his play.

Derek Jeter Wasn’t As Good As His Reputation

derek jeter
Koji Watanabe/Getty Images
Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

This is going to be a controversial inclusion on this list because of how beloved he is, but the stats do not lie. Derek Jeter was not a great defender as the New York Yankees’ franchise shortstop.

Jeter retired after 20 seasons in MLB with a .976 fielding percentage and defensive WAR of negative 9.4. He also had 254 career errors, meaning he averaged 15 errors a season. Yet, somehow, Jeter was given five Gold Glove Awards.

Adam Dunn Was Slow And Strong

adam dunn nationals
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Adam Dunn was never destined to be a great defensive player. He was large, slow, strong, and skilled at one thing — hitting the ball out of the yard. Oddly enough, even though Dunn was best suited to play designated hitter, he spent most of his career in the National League and needed to defend.

When he played first base and outfield, Dunn amassed a .981 career fielding percentage. He also had a defensive WAR of negative 28.4.

Manny Ramirez Was Entertaining At The Very Least

Cincinnati Reds v Oakland Athletics
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Manny Ramirez was undeniably one of the most entertaining players to watch during his 19 season MLB career. Known as “Mannywood” when he brought his services to Los Angeles, Ramirez was a great offensive weapon, but a wildcard in the outfield.

Ramirez hung up his cleats with a career .978 fielding percentage. His defensive WAR was a negative 21.7 and he committed 75 errors. Before retiring for good, Ramirez tried to revive his career in Asia, but his comeback never materialized.

Bernie Williams Didn’t Deserve His Gold Gloves

MLB Photos Archive
Don Smith/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Don Smith/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Bernie Williams played center field for the Yankees for 16 seasons. In that time, he compiled a defensive WAR of negative 9.5 and a fielding percentage of .990. He also won four Gold Glove Awards, even if we’d argue he didn’t deserve them.

To play center field, you usually have to be the most athletic player in the outfield. You have the most ground to cover and the biggest room for mistakes. In two of the seasons when Williams won his Gold Gloves, he allowed more runs than any other player at the position.

Nate McLouth Lacked Assists

Washington Nationals v Oakland Athletics
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Nate McLouth doesn’t make this list for his number of errors or career fielding percentage. In 10 seasons, the former Pirate was good, even winning a Gold Glove Award in 2008. He also retired with a defensive WAR of positive 6.2.

McLouth’s biggest area of concern was his arm. Most center fielders have strong and accurate arms, but not this one. He only had 23 career assists, which isn’t a very respectable number for the position.

Wil Myers Was Never Worth The Money

wil meyers san diego
Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images
Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images

Wil Myers started his career in Tampa Bay before having a breakout season in San Diego. He turned his one big season into an $83 million deal that he never lived up to, in no small part thanks to his suspect defense.

Less than a decade into his career, Myers has earned a defensive WAR of nearly negative 5. He hasn’t won a Gold Glove and probably never will. On the plus side, he has 228 career assists and has experience at all three outfield positions.

Bobby Bonilla Would Have Benefited From Being A DH

New York Mets' right fielder Bobby Bonilla misses
JOHN ZICH/AFP via Getty Images
JOHN ZICH/AFP via Getty Images

Every year there is a day known by New York Mets fans as “Bobby Bonilla Day.” It’s the day that the team pays the former offensive star $1.19 million. Of course, Bonilla isn’t on this list because of his defensive skills.

Bonilla played for 16 seasons and retired with a career .955 fielding percentage, which is one of the worst on this list. His defensive WAR was a negative 15.6.

Jose Canseco Used His Head To Assist A Home Run

jose canseco
Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Jose Canseco played for 17 seasons in MLB and had his peak offensive years alongside Mark McGwire in Oakland, where the pair became known as the “Bash Brothers.” As explosive as he was with the bat, though, he lacked in defensive acumen.

Canseco’s most embarrassing moment came when he was chasing down a ball in the outfield. As he got near the wall he reached his glove up to catch it, only to have the ball bounce off his head and go into the stands as a home run.

Matt Stairs Was A Bench Player For A Reason

matt stairs
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Matt Stairs was never talented enough on offense to earn an everyday role in MLB in spite of his porous defensive play. He played for 13 seasons and retired with a fielding percentage of .964.

Stairs had 41 assists and 57 errors. He played for seven teams — the Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees, and Anaheim Angels, calling it quits with a defensive WAR of negative 7.8.

Gary Sheffield Had 171 Career Errors

1997 World Series Game 2: Cleveland Indians v. Florida Marlins
Bob Rosato/MLB via Getty Images
Bob Rosato/MLB via Getty Images

Over the course of a 22-season career, any player would accumulate a fair amount of errors. Not everyone, however, would reach Gary Sheffield’s 171 career errors. Not even his 1,240 career assists can make up for it.

Sheffield retired with a .964 fielding percentage and a negative 27.7 defensive WAR. A likely Hall of Famer, Sheffield is one of the greatest hitters of all-time. This is one player that could have benefitted from a career at designated hitter.

Dave Meyer Never Found A Position That Stuck

dan meyer a's
@Jdaniel2033/Twitter
@Jdaniel2033/Twitter

A utility man for his entire 12-year MLB career, Dan Meyer played for the Detroit Tigers, Seattle Mariners, and Oakland Athletics. A career .253 hitter, Meyer was able to hang around the big leagues even though he could never find a defensive position that stuck.

When his career ended, the versatile but defensively troubled players had a .983 fielding percentage, 89 errors, and defensive WAR of negative 10.