From 1-50, the best current nicknames in MLB

A rose by any other name would actually smell sweeter if it had a cool nickname

January 21st, 2021

Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco -- affectionately known as Mr. Smile and Cookie, respectively -- recently helped turn the Mets into the greatest baseball nickname powerhouse since the early days of the sport when someone with a name like "Stuffy" or "Boardwalk" could walk into a bank and get a home loan.

But that got us thinking: What are the very best nicknames in the Major Leagues right now? Obviously, that means it's time to rank them.

Before we jump in, a word on how we chose the strongest.

First, we'll be giving more points to particularly inventive or original names. Sorry, but no A-Rods or Chappys in here. That also includes baseball nicknames that sound much cooler, but are still just a play on a name. Apologies to Tony Two Bags (Anthony Rendon) and Mitchy Two Bags (Mitch Moreland).

We'll also be awarding nicknames that were bestowed upon players a little higher than those they bestowed upon themselves. Just because you told everyone to call you "Pie" on your first day of college doesn't actually mean that's your nickname. Unfortunately, that includes genius monikers used for Players Weekend like "Corey's Brother" used by Kyle Seager -- hilarious, but not a nickname. And, sadly, if you have a nickname that is so good that it's become your name, it's not going to be on the list. Sorry to Mookie Betts and Bubba Starling.

Finally, this list is for active players. While not everyone on the list appeared in a big league game last year, they had at least signed with a club. Deepest apologies to Mr. Big Sexy himself, Bartolo Colon.

Now then, let's dive in.

1. Javier Báez - El Mago (The Magician)

Perhaps the perfect nickname. Coined by The Bigs, an independent sports media organization in Chicago, it fits Báez like a -- excuse the pun -- glove. If you knew nothing about baseball and were told you were about to see El Mago take the field, you would be ready to see something your eyes couldn't believe. Báez delivers that nearly every time he plays.

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2. Pete Alonso - Polar Bear

Everyone's favorite New Jersey resident, Todd Frazier (we'll get to him later), took one look at Alonso and decreed that he looked like a "big ole' polar bear." That's all Alonso needed: With a record-breaking rookie season and a deep and enduring love of chocolate milk, Alonso's become the most beloved bear this side of Winnie the Pooh.

3. Fernando Tatis Jr. - El Niño (The Kid)

Considering that Tatis is the most electrifying, stop-everything-you're-doing-and-turn-the-game-on-right-now player since Ken Griffey Jr., it's fitting that his nickname is similar to The Kid's. But this wasn't one bestowed upon him recently -- Tatis has been called "El Niño" since he was just 12 years old.

4. Juan Soto - Childish Bambino

Coined by Baseball Prospectus editor Craig Goldstein, Soto's sobriquet is a play on The Great Bambino -- obviously -- and hip hop artist Childish Gambino. While this one may not age as well as the rest, you certainly can't argue with how good it is right now.

Soto is one of the game's most dominant hitters, who also plays with child-like glee. Even the way he gets into the box -- practically licking his lips as he stares down the pitcher -- is exciting.

5. Luis Robert - La Pantera (The Panther)

The nickname emerged organically as all of Robert's teammates one day seemingly decided that his ability to fly around on defense and scorch the field with line drives made La Pantera a fitting name.

As Avisaíl García told The Athletic, “It just came up. Everybody called him La Pantera, so I called him it back," García said. "But he’s super fast, he plays hard and goes 100 percent all the time. He’s a really good kid. He plays hard, has fun in the game. I’ll always like him.”

6. Noah Syndergaard - Thor

With his long hair and ability to hurl thunderbolts, there is no other option. It helps that Syndergaard has completely embraced the role, too.

7. Willians Astudillo - La Tortuga (The Tortoise)

With his squat frame, ability to play quite literally every position, and his all-out hustle on the field, many fans see Astudillo as a kind of baseball folk hero. He's been rewarded with the moniker to match.

8. Shohei Ohtani - Sho Time

He plays in L.A. (OK, fine, about 30 minutes outside of Los Angeles) and can both smash dingers and strike batters out like no one since Babe Ruth. Move over Lakers, this is the real Sho Time.

9. Rafael Devers - Carita (Babyface)

Devers was given the nickname as a child, but the slugging third baseman has worn it well. Even when crushing blasts over the Green Monster, he still looks like a young child. If only we could all be so lucky.

10. Josh Donaldson - Bringer of Rain

OK, sure, Donaldson may have given himself the nickname and it's not even because he peppers the clouds with dingers (he claims he took it from an episode of "Spartacus: Blood and Sand"), but that doesn't matter. At this point, Donaldson simply is the Bringer of Rain. That's the power of good branding.

11. Albert Pujols - La Maquina (The Machine)

Pujols was briefly known as "El Hombre" but disliked it because he felt it was disrespectful to St. Louis' Stan "The Man" Musial. So, he became La Maquina -- a nickname he shares with both DJ LeMahieu and José Berríos. However, look at Pujols' stat line and gaze at all the seasons of .330-plus averages and 40-plus home runs and you really might wonder if he is a baseball robot.

12. Nelson Cruz - Boomstick

Cruz has shown off plenty of boom in his lumber, smashing more home runs than anyone since 2014. It's enough that he's had massive hot dogs named after him in both Texas and Minnesota:

13. Aaron Judge - All Rise

It may not quite roll off the tongue -- Do I call him "All Rise" or do I say "All Rise" when he comes to the plate? -- but it's both a great play on Judge's last name and a fitting description of what fans in Yankee Stadium do when he launches another moonshot into the outfield bleachers.

14. Mike Trout - The Millville Meteor

Folksy and charming, Trout's sobriquet is fittingly similar to Mickey Mantle's nickname inspired by his Oklahoma hometown, "The Commerce Comet." The only reason it's not higher is how rarely it's used. We should change that.

15. Félix Hernández - King Félix

He may not pitch in Seattle any longer with an entire giant-turkey-leg-eating section devoted to his starts, but he will always and forever be the King.

16. Carl Edwards Jr. - Stringbean Slinger

The slight Edwards was given his nickname while in the Minors, but the handle honestly seems like it time traveled from the 1960s to be used today.

17. Francisco Lindor - Mr. Smile

Lindor simply can't seem to contain his joy on the field, making this one of the most charming and fitting nicknames in sports. This is the kind of nickname your grandmother would give out -- and that's a good thing.

18. James Paxton - Big Maple

One of only 11 Canadian-born big leaguers last year, Paxton has the big arm and the giant maple leaf tattoo to match.

19. José Abreu - Pito (Whistle)

The reigning AL MVP Award winner has perhaps the least intimidating nickname in sports.

"I was a young kid and my uncle called me that," Abreu told the Chicago Tribune as a rookie in 2014. "He stayed with 'Pito.' Everybody (in Cuba) calls me 'Pito.'"

20. Manny Machado - El Ministro de la Defensa (The Minister of Defense)

Machado earned his nickname thanks to his fantastic glovework in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. The two-time Gold Glove Award winner showed off lightning-quick reflexes and a strong arm to warrant an update on former Phillies center fielder Garry Maddox's nickname, "The Secretary of Defense."

21. Gary Sánchez - The Kraken

While John Sterling's home run call of "Gary is scary," is more, uh, lyrical, we'll take the sea monster nickname that GM Brian Cashman gave the catcher in 2015.

22. Triston McKenzie - Dr. Sticks

McKenzie surprised everyone last year by striking out 10 batters in his debut, doing it while looking like he could be blown over by a strong gust of wind.

23. Bryce Harper - Bam Bam

This one would be higher -- after all, when Harper's at the plate, he really is like the club-wielding Flintstones character -- except this nickname appears to have died out. Sure, it was Harper's nickname as a child and his former Nationals teammates even got in on the act in 2013, but most fans hadn't heard of the connection when it was used as a "Jeopardy" clue. Let's make this the official petition to bring it back.

24. Luis Arraez - La Regadera (The Sprinkler)

In a game currently loaded with power hitters, Arraez stands out for his ability to spray base hits all over the field -- kind of like a sprinkler.

25. Blake Snell - Snellzilla

Snell stole the nickname from his brother when he was 11 years old and people -- even then -- thought it worked better on him. That worked out nicely because it fits a Cy Young Award winner.

26. Todd Frazier - The Toddfather

Most puns based on a player's name don't work. But when Frazier is so New Jersey that he wound up on the local news to wage war against the local turkey population, then, yeah, he deserves a "Godfather"-based nickname.

27. Matt Adams - Big City

Though he's since slimmed down, Adams earned Big City for being both a big dude and one who would come up with big hits when the game was on the line. Braves reliever Luke Jackson modified this one last year, calling Adams "Big City Light."

28. Eric Sogard - Nerd Power

This is the nickname that unites all spectacle-wearing baseball fans.

29. Yasiel Puig - Wild Horse

Given the name by the peerless Vin Scully, Puig always plays the game at maximum effort and with reckless abandon -- kind of like a wild horse.

30. Pablo Sandoval - Kung Fu Panda

A Giants legend for his big hits and even some pitching appearances, more people these days may know Kung Fu Panda as Sandoval instead of for the movie.

31. Brandon Belt - Baby Giraffe

Belt may resemble a giraffe at the plate with his lanky, long limbs -- and even inspired a baby giraffe to take his name -- but Belt's performance on the field is silky and smooth.

32. Jeff Samardzija - Shark

The pitcher actually earned his nickname during his freshman year at Notre Dame -- and not while playing in front of San Francisco's McCovey Cove -- when his new teammates thought he looked like the shark from "Finding Nemo."

"It started during a game while I was pitching and they yelled at me from the dugout. Then Coach [Paul] Mainieri picked it up and it just snowballed from there," Samardzija said. "I guess I look like a shark."

33. Randy Arozarena - El Cohete Cubano (The Cuban Rocket)

After his star turn in last year's postseason, this nickname might actually be underselling Arozarena's talents.

34. Jose Altuve - El Pequeño Gigante (The Little Giant)

Forget that famous photo of Altuve standing next to the big giant, Aaron Judge, the three-time batting champ got this name from the Spanish call of his walk-off home run against the Yankees in the 2019 postseason.

35. (tie) Chris Davis - Crush Davis / Khris Davis - Khrush Davis

Ah, the odd inspiration game of baseball nicknames. The Orioles' Davis first earned the nickname "Crush" as a rookie with the Rangers for his long home runs, but it also paid homage to Crash Davis, the Minor League icon from "Bull Durham." Well, when Oakland's Davis started smashing the ball, he got his own unique spelling of the nickname, too.

36. Jeff McNeil - The Squirrel

Nicknamed by Noah Syndergaard, McNeil didn't initially love the nickname when he was the team's super-utility player. But as he kept hitting and his energetic style made him a fan favorite, McNeil embraced the name and even has the moniker stitched into his baseball glove.

Jeff McNeil, seen here using just his claws -- ahem, his hands -- just like a squirrel.

37. Chris Archer - Flaco Fuerte (Skinny Power)

Apparently, if you're a thin pitcher, your nickname is going to reflect that.

38. Carlos Carrasco - Cookie

No, it's not because Carrasco's breaking pitches are delicious looking cookies that batters can't help but whiff at (though that would be good). In fact, it's much more straightforward: Carrasco, like all decent people, likes cookies. Former teammate Chris Perez saw Carrasco eating cookies in 2011 and the name just stuck.

39. Chris Paddack - Sheriff

Paddack comes from Texas and is known for wearing a large cowboy hat, so Padres fans gave the pitcher his moniker. In 2019, they even started arriving at starts in their own ten-gallons hats and wearing costume badges.

40. Dustin Pedroia - Laser Show

Though Pedroia has only had 34 plate appearances over the past three years -- and missed all of the 2020 season -- Red Sox fans will always remember the diminutive second baseman for his big attitude and even bigger swing. Pedroia earned the nickname while in college, but it took off in Boston in 2010 thanks to this quote when Pedroia protected David Ortiz, who was in a slump at the time:

“A couple of years ago, I had 60 at-bats, I was hitting .170, and everyone was ready to kill me, too,” Pedroia said after that game. “And what happened? Laser show. So, relax.”

41. Fernando Rodney - La Flecha (The Arrow)

It was either this -- honoring his save celebration -- or "Guy who wanders amongst the pines."

42. Michael Brantley - Dr. Smooth

Though the name hasn't really followed Brantley from Cleveland, it certainly fits. The soft-spoken outfielder has hit .300 or better in five of the past seven seasons. One of the years he missed, he hit .299.

43. Yuli and Lourdes Gurriel - Piña & Piña Power (Pineapple and Pineapple Power)

The brothers earned their nicknames for their distinctive -- dare I say anti-gravity -- hair that resembles the top of a fresh pineapple.

44. Ryan Braun - The Hebrew Hammer

Braun picked up the nickname -- which fellow Jewish slugger Hank Greenberg also used (though he was more commonly referred to as Hebrew Hank) -- for his slugging ways. He was the first Jewish player to win the MVP since Sandy Koufax when he took home the 2013 Award.

45. Franmil Reyes - La Mole (The Beast)

At 6-foot-5 and 265 lbs., Reyes is not only one of the larger dudes in the sport, but he hits some of the biggest home runs in the game, too. His home runs averaged 422 feet in 2020 -- fourth-best in the sport.

46. Travis Shaw - The Mayor of Ding Dong City

Perhaps the most fun one to say on this list, Brewers fans got to shout this a lot when Shaw hit 63 home runs from 2017-18.

47. Marcell Ozuna - El Oso (The Bear)

A fitting name for the slugger, though it does seem to lack the creativity that Ozuna deserves. Perhaps "The Photographer" would be better these days?

48. Tommy La Stella - 3 a.m.

No, not named for the Matchbox Twenty hit (bet you didn't expect to see a nearly 30-year-old VH1 banger referenced here, did you?). Then-Cubs manager Joe Maddon gave La Stella the name, saying that that the infielder could "wake up at 3 a.m. and hit anyone." Considering that La Stella posted the lowest strikeout rate in the Majors last year, I think he was right.

49. Tony Gonsolin - The Cat Man

Gonsolin wears a cat shirt on Saturdays because, well, those are Caturdays. (Duh.) What other name could you give him?

50. Sean Manaea - The Throwin' Samoan

A nickname that rhymes is always a bonus. So, while Manaea is not the first Throwin' Samoan -- that belongs to former NFL quarterback Jack Thompson -- I don't think A's fans mind.