Blue Jays: Top-five first basemen in franchise history

Evan Gignac
League Championship - Kansas City Royals v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Four
League Championship - Kansas City Royals v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Four / Tom Szczerbowski/GettyImages
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#2 John Olerud

Blue Jays career: .293/.395/.471, 920 games, 109 homeruns, 471 RBI, 19.7 bWAR

Blue Jays resume: All-Star and 3rd in MVP voting (1993), 4th in Rookie of the Year voting (1990)

Olerud is one of the coolest stories of a homegrown player in franchise history, because there wasn’t a whole lot of actual growing going on. Olerud was taken in the third round of the 1989 MLB Draft, then went on to make his MLB debut in September of that same year, and never played a minor league game until 2005 while rehabbing from surgery on his foot.

"Johnny O" had many memorable things tied to his name, from his profound 1993 season, his historic college career, or his signature batting helmet he’d wear onto the field.

The year Olerud was drafted, he suffered a brain aneurysm while running indoors. After a series of stays in the hospital and surgeries, of course lucky to be alive, he would wear a helmet while playing first base from there on out as a precaution.

The Jays were lucky to actually sign Olerud after drafting him. The third-rounder enjoyed riches of success in college baseball while playing at Washington State, and was intent on playing his senior year in his home state. He signed with the Blue Jays under the condition that he would report directly to the major league team, a concept that is unheard of in today’s game.

Olerud was clearly up to the challenge, getting into six games in 1989 before playing in 111 the following year. He would be a solid first baseman from 1990-1992, showing strong defensive skills at first base while consistently making contact to all fields at the plate. His true breakout came in 1993.

Olerud’s 1993 season was one for the ages, and for a good portion of it, he had a shot at a .400 batting average. Olerud began to fall off in the second half, but settled with a gaudy slash line of .363/.473/.599 with 24 home runs and a major league leading 54 doubles. These results equated to an OPS of 1.072 and an OPS+ of 186, both leading the American League.

Johnny O would have three more productive seasons in Toronto, though none of them would approach his numbers from 93. Olerud would be traded to the New York Mets after the 1993 season in favor of the next player on this list. Olerud would continue to be a remarkably consistent player through the rest of his career, but the trade would prove to be the right move.

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