Being short in the major leagues may be considered a burden, especially since it seems most players tower over you. But, some players have found their small stature to be an advantage in the game of baseball. Not only does their small frame throw off their opponents, it also deceives them. Sometimes, the smaller the better. This list explores ten of the shortest players playing major league baseball right now.
NOTE: This is not an exhaustive list. Many players are 5’8″. I have simply chosen the players whom I feel give the reader the best story.
10. Jimmy Rollins — Philadelphia Phillies — 5’8″
If you had to pick out a handful of the most popular players for the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2000s, Jimmy Rollins would surely be picked. He’s done everything a player can possibly do with one team (he’s been with the Phillies since his debut in 2000). Rollins has set records on the team, including becoming the all-time hits leader. His defense is excellent, earning him the Gold Glove Award from 2007-2009 and again in 2012. He’s a three-time All-Star, dominating the shortstop position in the N.L. Jimmy is even a World Series champion, grabbing the biggest prize of them all in 2008. As a great shortstop, his height helps him out. Since Rollins is smaller than most MLB players, he has a lower center of gravity, which makes handling ground balls so much easier.
9. Rafael Furcal — Miami Marlins — 5’8″
Similar to Jimmy Rollins in more ways than one, the ninth spot on this list belongs to Rafael Furcal. Furcal, also making his debut in 2000, is another decorated infielder playing in the major leagues. Expanding on the concept of a low center of gravity, infielders (particularly middle infielders) have an advantage when it comes to being small. One main reason for this advantage deals with the idea that smaller people can move quicker. Though a 6’6″ shortstop would have a longer wing span in terms of reaching balls on the move, shorter and smaller middle infielders can scoot quickly over the field. They have a better chance of getting in front of the ball instead of having to backhand it. With Rafael being 5’8″, it seems he has a major advantage in the infield.
8. Tony Campana — Arizona Diamondbacks — 5’8″
Continuing the trend of 5’8″ players, Tony Campana is a feisty center fielder playing for the Los Angeles Angels. Campana brings up a unique perspective on small baseball players, since he plays in the outfield as opposed to the infield. As an outfielder, a player’s number one valued strength is field coverage. Outfielders need to cover vast amounts of territory, which means they need to be fast. If you’re a lanky outfielder, you might be able to cover a wide space since your arms and legs are so long. A shorter player has to take more steps to get to the ball, which goes against modern conventions in the outfield. Campana is rebelling against the norm as he continues his career as a 5’8″ outfielder.
7. Leury Garcia — Chicago White Sox — 5’8″
So far, we’ve covered both small players who play the infield and small players who play the outfield. This next entrant is a utility player utilizing his stature to play both second base, third base, and the outfield. Leury Garcia, a Dominican-born ball player, has the talent to play both parts of the baseball field. While it may not seem like much, being able to move swiftly in the outfield as well as gobble up hits up the middle infield is a huge plus. Not only that, but to also snag those lasers shot down the third base line is a special talent. Managing his height in both infield and outfield positions allows the manager to strategically place Garcia on the field. Leury made his debut in 2013 for the Texas Rangers, but currently plays for the Chicago White Sox.
6. Josh Harrison — Pittsburgh Pirates — 5’8″
Hopping from one utility player to another, Josh Harrison has earned the number six spot on this list. Sharing similarities with Garcia (listed above), Josh is a small player who can be placed in multiple positions in the infield and outfield. Standing 5’8″ may seem like a disadvantage in the major leagues, but Harrison is making it work to his advantage. His first three years as a big league player were relatively silent. However, in 2014, Harrison has become a respectable player. He has batted .298 so far in 2014. For his great batting average, Harrison was elected to his first All-Star game. Not surprisingly, he was listed as a utility player for the game.
5. Dustin Pedroia — Boston Red Sox — 5’8″
Probably the most widely recognized player on this list, Pedroia has had a decorated and busy baseball career. Becoming the premier second baseman for the Boston Red Sox in 2007, Dustin’s height has made his feats all the more popular. First, Pedroia has a stash of hidden power you wouldn’t expect coming from a guy who stands 5’8″. He has busted out 104 home runs and 317 doubles. This pop in his bat makes Dustin extremely deceptive, especially to new pitchers who think they can challenge him in the batter’s box. Secondly, he is an excellent second baseman. Having garnered the Gold Glove Award three times, the Fielding Bible Award twice, and the Heart and Hustle Award once, Dustin gives it his all while on the field. He’s also won the World Series twice, won the Silver Slugger Award, and has been elected to All-Star game four times. Quite a list of accomplishments for a man standing 5’8″.
4. Tim Collins — Kansas City Royals — 5’7″
The first pitcher to appear on this list, Tim Collins may not seem like a prototypical pitcher. Standing only a couple inches above five and a half feet tall, Collins is breaking the stereotype of tall pitchers as he currently throws for the Kansas City Royals. With Collins being a small player, some might believe him to be a spot pitcher. Instead of blazing the ball past the batter, most people would think a man of Collins’ stature would carefully place the ball on the corners of the plate. Contrary to this belief, Tim can throw a mean fastball. His average fast ball speed varies between 93 and 94 mph. It just goes to show that a small pitcher can beat the odds and doesn’t necessarily have to mature into a spot pitcher.
3. Joseph Ortiz — Texas Rangers — 5’7″
A new face in the game of professional baseball, Ortiz is a Venezuelan pitcher. Much like Collins, the previous player on this list, Joseph Ortiz uses his small stature to deceive his opponents. He made his debut in 2013 for the Texas Rangers. Within his short time in the league so far, he has racked up a win-loss record of 2-2 with a 4.32 ERA.
2. Jose Altuve — Houston Astros — 5’6″
If Dustin Pedroia is the most popular short player in professional baseball, Altuve has to come in at a close second place. Playing second base for the Houston Astros, Jose has racked up two All-Star nods through just four seasons in the big leagues. Capitalizing on his small height, a website has been created called HowManyAltuves.com. Stemming from Houston broadcasters measuring home runs in “Altuves”, the website takes Altuve’s height and a home run distance and converts his height into Altuves. Jose takes no offense to the website and actually enjoys it. Playing second base in Houston is a tough job, since Jose is trying to fill the shoes of Astros legend Craig Biggio. If anything can do it, Altuve can.
1. Alexi Amarista — San Diego Padres — 5’6″
Tying Jose Altuve for the shortest player in baseball right now is Alexi Amarista, a utility man hailing from Venezuela. Amarista, making his debut in 2011 with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, has not had nearly the amount of success as Altuve. Amarista has batted just .198 in his career, hitting 11 home runs and driving in 82 RBIs. Alexi earned the nickname “Little Ninja” from his most recent team, the San Diego Padres. Why? According to the team, opponents underestimate him and he “sneaks up on them”. Alexi vs. Altuve. Until a shorter player comes into the league, who will win out in the battle of the short players? Only time will tell.