6. John Olerud
Like Paul Molitor, John Olerud was not a traditional first baseman. He was not a guy who was up at bat trying to hit a 450 foot home run every time up. He was just trying to set the table for the guys behind him to drive him in or come through with a clutch run-scoring single if needed.
Olerud is also someone who did not play in the minor leagues before debuting at the MLB level. After being drafted the Blue Jays in 1989, Olerud appeared in six games down the stretch, getting three hits in eight at-bats.
In his first full season at the big league level, he played 111 games and finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year balloting. In his first three full seasons in Toronto, Olerud seemed like a hitter who was a little bit above average. Not horrible, but nothing that’s overly exciting.
The 1993 season is when Olerud really came onto the scene. He slashed .363/.473/.599 with 24 home runs and 107 RBI. He was an All-Star for the first time and finished third in the MVP voting. Olerud led the league in batting, OBP, OPS, and doubles (54) that year. The most impressive stat to me is he walked 114 times and struck out only 65 times, nearly twice as many walks as strikeouts. He was hitting over .400 through August 2nd but fell off just a tad down the stretch.
An argument can be made that he should’ve won the MVP. Even though he didn’t hit 41 home runs like the winner Frank Thomas, he led the league with his 179 WRC+ amongst many other categories.
The next couple of seasons were shortened due to the lockout and Olerud never quite got back to that 1.072 OPS player that he was in 1993 but he was still very good, consistently posting OPS+ numbers between 110-120.
Olerud was never a great defender, usually putting up league average defensive metrics but that doesn’t take away from his offensive production.
With Carlos Delgado emerging in the minor league system, the Jays decided to trade Olerud to the Mets for Robert Person in a trade that did not fare well for the Blue Jays.
Olerud finished his eight-year tenure in Toronto with a .293/.395/.471 slash line,109 home runs, and 471 RBI through 920 games. He’s eighth in Jays’ history in bWAR and is the franchise leader in OBP.
Olerud played a big role in both of the Blue Jays World series teams and is one of the best first basemen the team has ever employed.