10 greatest utility players in MLB history

Ben Zobrist
Arturo Pardavila III from Hoboken, NJ, USA, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

There might be no group of players more overlooked in baseball history than the best MLB utility players of all time.

These are some of the most versatile MLB players to ever play the game. Even if they weren’t bonafide superstars, the greatest utility players in baseball history deserve credit because they were good at so many different things and contributed to their teams in so many ways. Plus, a lot of the most versatile baseball players in MLB history often found themselves on winning teams, which was no coincidence.

Best MLB utility players of all time

Of course, since they weren’t star players, it’s not always easy to remember the best MLB utility players of all time. But don’t worry about that because we’ve done the historical leg work for you.

Whether you agree with or list or not is another question. However, we have compiled a ranking of the top-10 greatest utility players in baseball history.

10. Rance Mulliniks

Rance Mulliniks may not be a household name nowadays but during his career, he was one of the top utility infielders in the game. He came up as a shortstop but learned to play third base and started moving all over the infield.

He was a true rover and ended up playing 16 seasons in the big leagues, mostly with the Blue Jays. For his career, Mulliniks hit .272 with 435 RBIs despite not hitting for much power. Instead, he made his living by being versatile.

9. Mariano Duncan

Mariano Duncan is mostly remembered as a shortstop and a second baseman and was even an all-star in 1994. But during his career, he found his way all over the diamond, starting at least one game at every position except pitcher and catcher.

While he was never known as a power hitter or a great offensive talent, Duncan was a slick fielder no matter where you put him. It’s why he played 13 seasons in the majors and helped his team win a World Series twice.


8. Chone Figgins

He didn’t have much power but Chone Figgins could hit for a high average and field his position, regardless of what position he played. He played primarily at third base, although he spent a lot of time at second base and in center field.

Figgins ended up playing everywhere but first base, pitcher, and catcher. Outside of his defensive versatility, Figgins brought a lot to the table. He was a career .276 hitter and stole 341 bases over his 12 seasons in the majors. He was also an all-star in 2009 and the MLB stolen base leader in 2005, helping to earn him recognition as one of the best MLB utility players in baseball history.

7. Tony Phillips

Tony Phillips played 18 seasons during the 1980s and 90s and was one of the best MLB utility players of all time despite playing in an era before utility players got much attention or respect. He came up as a second baseman, which was his primary position.

But Phillips had no problem playing shortstop or third base and made over 100 appearances in the outfield. Even though he was never an all-star, Phillips was a career .266 hitter and always contributed enough to stick around the league, playing 18 seasons for seven different teams.

6. Matt Carpenter

During his 11 seasons with the Cardinals, Matt Carpenter was constantly shifting around between first base, second base, and third base, although the hot corner was his primary position. During his prime years, Carpenter was a versatile utility player who hit like an everyday third baseman. From 2012 to 2018, he was an exceptional offensive player, winning the Silver Slugger Award in 2013 and being named an all-star three times.

Even when his offensive production dropped, Carpenter was still valuable because of his versatility, even playing the outfield and appearing as a pitcher in 2021.

5. Martin Prado

Most consider Martin Prado a third baseman, but he was actually a true utility player. By the end of his career, he had played every position except for pitcher, catcher, and center field. By the late stages of his career, Prado could move seamlessly between third base, second base, and left field, which is what helped him extend his career for 14 years.

The Venezuela native was also a great hitter, making the All-Star Team in 2010 and finishing his career with 100 home runs and a .287 batting average.

4. Chris Taylor

The term super-utility player was definitely created for players like Chris Taylor. Even before his career is even over, he’s one of the best MLB utility players of all time. From the start of his career, Taylor has done a great job of embracing the role of a utility player.

He’s also good enough defensively to play all three outfield positions, including center field, third base, shortstop, and second base. In fact, he’s spent most of his career at either shortstop or in center field, which is why he’s so valuable. Offensively, Taylor has always been a steady hitter and not afraid of the big stage, earning NLCS MVP honors in 2017.

3. Jose Oquendo

While Jose Oquendo spent a little time as the middle-infield partner to the great Ozzie Smith, he’s best known for his incredible versatility as one of the greatest utility players in baseball history. It helped Oquendo that he was a brilliant defensive second baseman and a strong defensive shortstop. He actually has the second-best career fielding percentage among second basemen.

But no matter where you put him, Oquendo was great with the glove. He even spent a little time behind the plate and appeared as a pitcher, making him one of the rare players in big league history to play all nine positions. Granted, Oquendo was mostly known for his glove and versatility, he batted .256 for his career, doing just enough offensively to prove himself useful.

2. Placido Polanco

Placido Polanco definitely deserves to be considered among the best MLB utility players of all time. Of course, if we’re being fair, he was also one of the most underrated second basemen of his generation. He was a two-time all-star and took home ALCS MVP honors in 2006, as well as a Silver Slugger Award in 2007.

For his career, Polanco batted .297 and racked up over 2,100 hits. But in addition to being a great second baseman, Polanco was also an accomplished third baseman who could also handle himself at shortstop.

In fact, he is one of two players to win a Gold Glove at multiple positions, winning twice at second base and once at third base. On top of that, Polanco retired with the best all-time fielding percentage at both second base and third base. Wherever he played, he could handle himself in addition to being able to handle the bat as well.

1. Ben Zobrist

While his career only ended in 2019, Ben Zobrist will likely be remembered as one of the most versatile players in baseball history. Even though he was primarily a second baseman, all of his managers had no problem moving him around the diamond.

He saw plenty of time in the outfield and could even handle himself at shortstop, earning him the title of super-utility player. Zobrist was also a switch-hitter and one of the most patient hitters of his era.

Unlike most utility players, Zobrist made enough of an impact to be a three-time all-star. It’s also no coincidence that he won the World Series in back-to-back years with two different teams late in his career. He was a versatile player and always played winning baseball.

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About Bryan Zarpentine 238 Articles
Bryan Zarpentine is a freelance writer and editor with most of his work focusing on the world of sports. He is a 2008 graduate of Syracuse University and still resides in upstate New York.

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