The best baseball players born on Dec. 16

December 16th, 2023

Who are the best players born on each day of the year? We have a list for every day on the calendar.

Here’s a subjective ranking of the top five for Dec. 16.

1) Mike Flanagan (1951)
A workhorse ace for the Orioles in the late 1970s/early '80s, Flanagan surpassed the 200-inning mark seven times during his 18-year career (15 seasons with Baltimore). He was an All-Star in 1978 and took home the AL Cy Young Award in '79 with a career-best 190 strikeouts, 3.08 ERA, an MLB-best 23 wins and five shutouts. The southpaw was a World Series champion with the 1983 Orioles, and he worked one inning of a combined no-hitter against the A's in 1991. He retired in '92 with 167 career wins and a 3.90 ERA. Enshrined in the Orioles Hall of Fame, Flanagan later served as pitching coach, general manager and a broadcaster in Baltimore.

2) Alcides Escobar (1986)
A steady presence at shortstop for much of the 2010s, Escobar will be remembered fondly in Kansas City as the spark plug for the 2015 champion Royals. Arriving from Milwaukee as part of the Zack Greinke trade in 2010, "Esky" was the leadoff hitter on the '14 squad that captured the first of back-to-back American League pennants. A year later, he was an All-Star, a Gold Glove winner and a World Series champ, helping the Royals secure their first title in 30 years. Escobar was named ALCS MVP during that championship run, going 11-for-23 with a 1.134 OPS in six games vs. the Blue Jays.

3) Billy Ripken (1964)
"This is the best feeling I've even encountered," Billy Ripken said in 1987, when he teamed up with brother Cal Jr. as the Orioles' double-play combo, with their father, Cal Sr., at manager. Born four years after baseball's eventual Iron Man, Billy was a scrappy infielder who battled injuries over a 12-year MLB career. A light-hitting second baseman, Ripken couldn't match his brother's Hall of Fame credentials, but he still gained acclaim as a successful broadcaster with MLB Network.

4) Sammy Strang (1876)
A switch-hitting infielder/outfielder, Strang appeared in 903 games across 10 seasons from 1896-1908. "The Dixie Thrush" hailed from Chattanooga, Tenn., won a championship with the 1905 New York Giants and led baseball in 1906 with a .423 on-base percentage. Like many ballplayers of his era, Strang sacrificed time in the dugout to military duty, serving in the Army during the Spanish-American War, then as an infantry captain in World War I. After his playing days ended, Strang stayed active in baseball (coaching at the U.S. Military Academy and later managing the Chattanooga Lookouts).

5) Adolfo Phillips (1941)
Tagged the "Panamanian Flash," Phillips was a swift center fielder who twice finished top five in NL stolen bases with the Cubs. But he struggled to earn consistent playing time, accumulating 13.4 WAR across eight seasons while also suiting up for Philadelphia, Montreal and Cleveland. His best year might have been 1967, when he hit a career-high 17 homers (during the second dead-ball era) with Chicago and led all NL center fielders with 10 total zone runs.

Others of note:
Tyler Chatwood (1989):
A rare pitcher whose best years might have come in Colorado, Chatwood had 34 wins and a 4.18 ERA in five seasons with the Rockies but only 18 wins and a 4.80 ERA in five years elsewhere (Angels, Cubs, Blue Jays, Giants).

Héctor Santiago (1987): An All-Star for the Angels in 2015, this lefty broke into the Majors with the White Sox in 2011. Ten years later, he became the first pitcher suspended for use of an illegal substance in MLB's crackdown on "sticky stuff."

Tom Wilhelmsen (1983): Nicknamed for his former profession before making a baseball comeback, "The Bartender" rose from independent ball in 2009 to the Mariners' closer three years later. Wilhelmsen saved 68 games in six seasons with Seattle, also pitching with the D-backs and Rangers before announcing his retirement in 2018.

Oscar Mercado (1994): A 15-homer, 15-steal debut campaign in Cleveland earned him consideration for the 2019 AL Rookie of the Year Award, but his numbers dipped the next two seasons. He hit .207/.242/.372 in 128 plate appearances in 2022, all but one of those coming with the Guardians. The other was a strikeout in his lone at-bat with the Phillies, who claimed him off waivers on June 27. When Philadelphia then waived him, Cleveland took him back on July 4.

Want to see more baseball birthdays for Dec. 16? Find the complete list on Baseball Reference.