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. 15:
1) Bobby Grich (1949)
One of the truly underrated players of the Expansion Era, Grich compiled a bWAR mark of 71.0, which ranks 95th all-time through 2021 (and 62nd among position players). That’s only 0.3 behind Derek Jeter, for context. Yet Grich was one and done on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot, capturing only 2.6% of the vote in 1992. Grich and Lou Whitaker (75.1) are the only two second basemen above 70 bWAR who aren’t in Cooperstown. Sure, Grich got notice: He earned six All-Star nods and four Gold Gloves in a 17-year career with the Orioles and Angels. But he played before widespread analytics, and his on-base skills (.371 career OBP) were underappreciated.
2) Matt Holliday (1980)
Holliday provided one of baseball’s iconic moments with his phantom swipe of home plate to give the Rockies a victory in the 2007 National League Wild Card tiebreaker game against the Padres. He was far more than a moment, though, belting 316 home runs and posting an .889 OPS across 15 seasons, mostly with Colorado and St. Louis. A seven-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger winner, the outfielder was NL MVP runner-up in ’07, when he led the league in batting (.340), hits (216), doubles (50) and RBIs (137).
3) Ray Chapman (1891)
Chapman was 29 and in his prime as Cleveland’s shortstop when he was struck in the head by a fastball thrown by the Yankees’ Carl Mays on Aug. 16, 1920. Chapman died the following day, the only player to die from injuries sustained in a big league game. He played nine seasons, all with Cleveland, and had a .278 career batting average, 1,053 hits and 238 stolen bases. He still holds the single-season record for sacrifices, 67 in 1917.
4) Delino DeShields (1969)
DeShields collected 1,548 hits in a 13-year career with five teams. The second baseman was runner-up to David Justice for the 1990 NL Rookie of the Year Award. DeShields’ greatest asset was speed: He stole 463 bases and led the Majors in 1997 with 14 triples. A solid player by any standard, DeShields has the misfortune of being remembered in Los Angeles as the player the Dodgers acquired when they traded future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez to the Expos in November 1993.
5) Mike Marshall (1943)
A true pitching iconoclast, Marshall clashed with old-school coaches who didn’t grasp his then-unusual training methods and mechanics on the mound. The right-hander threw a screwball, and coaches considered him one. That’s one reason he toured through nine teams over 14 seasons, with no stop lasting more than four years. Yet Marshall never yielded, and he literally had the credentials to back up his beliefs. He earned a doctorate in exercise physiology from Michigan State University during his playing career. Marshall advocated working with weights, distance running and a kinesiology-based way of throwing. It worked for him -- he owns both the NL and American League records for games pitched in a season (106 and 90, respectively). He won the NL Cy Young Award in 1974, when he went 15-12 with a 2.42 ERA and a league-leading 21 saves while making those unfathomable 106 appearances. When Marshall died at age 78 in 2021, many of his concepts had entered the mainstream.
Others of note:
Mitch Garver (1991)
The catcher belted 31 home runs for the Twins in 2019 in only 311 at-bats en route to a Silver Slugger Award.
Steve Gromek (1920)
The right-hander spent 17 seasons in the big leagues, split between Cleveland and Detroit. He had a complete-game win in Game 4 of the 1948 World Series, helping Cleveland to the title. Gromek died in 2002 at 82.
Matt Duffy (1991)
The infielder has bounced around a bit since he was NL Rookie of the Year runner-up with the Giants in 2015, behind Kris Bryant.
Want to see more baseball birthdays for Jan. 15? Find the complete list on Baseball Reference.