The best baseball players born on Jan. 2

December 18th, 2021

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 Jan. 2:

1) Edgar Martinez (1963)
A 2019 inductee to the Hall of Fame, Martinez was a two-time batting champ, seven-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger (one at 3B, four at DH) over an 18-year career. "Gar" arrived in Seattle as a third baseman at age 24, and the bat kept him in the lineup to collect 309 homers, 2,247 hits and 68.4 WAR while hitting .312 with a .933 OPS over 2,055 games, all with the Mariners. Born in New York but raised in Puerto Rico, Martinez enjoyed his best season in 1995, when he led MLB with a 1.107 OPS and 52 doubles, finishing third in AL MVP balloting. He also hit .356 that season to become the first full-time DH to win a batting title.

2) David Cone (1963)
A third-round Draft pick by his hometown Royals in 1981, Cone developed into a five-time All-Star with 62.3 career WAR, five World Series rings and the 1994 AL Cy Young Award on his résumé. The right-hander shined under the New York spotlight, winning 20 games for both the Mets (1988) and the Yankees (1998). And on July 18, 1999, he tossed the 16th perfect game in MLB history, leading the Yanks to 6-0 win over the Expos in the Bronx. "Coney" is also well-known to younger Yankees fans as a color commentator on the YES Network.

3) Fernando Tatis Jr. (1999)
Though impossible to project where he will finish on this list, "El Niño" certainly has taken San Diego by storm through three seasons in the Majors. As a 20-year-old rookie in 2019, he lived up to the top prospect hype by hitting .317 with 22 homers in 84 games. After emerging as an NL MVP contender a season later, Tatis signed a 14-year contract extension, securing his future with the Padres through 2034. It remains to be seen if he sticks at shortstop, and there are concerns with his left shoulder, which was dislocated in 2021.

4) José Méndez (1885)
Though he never got a chance to play in the Majors, Méndez was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2006 as “the first Cuban-born star in the pre-Negro Leagues era.” According to his plaque in Cooperstown, the 5-foot-10 right-hander dazzled on the mound with a "deceptive fastball and sharp-breaking curve." In 1908 after his debut season in Cuba, Méndez aced his first test against MLB-caliber competition, hurling 15 shutout innings against the Cincinnati Reds across three exhibition games. In the 1920s, he led the Kansas City Monarchs to three consecutive Negro National League pennants as a player-manager.

5) Greg Swindell (1965)
A lefty who compiled the third-highest WAR (30.5) on this list, Swindell debuted in 1986 as a starter with Cleveland. He earned All-Star status in 1989, on the heels of his 18-win season in '88. Eventually making the move to the bullpen for the latter portion of his 17-season career, Swindell helped Arizona claim the 2001 World Series before retiring a year later.

Others of note:
Royce Clayton (1970): The former shortstop was a speed threat (231 career steals) and an All-Star with the Giants in 1997, racking up 19.5 WAR across 17 MLB seasons.

Jeff Suppan (1975): A World Series champion with the Cardinals in 2006, Suppan was pivotal to that title run, taking home MVP honors in the NLCS with two dominant starts over the Mets.

Want to see more baseball birthdays for Jan. 2? Find the complete list on Baseball Reference.