The role of captain in baseball is an honorary title given to a player to acknowledge their outstanding leadership on their respective team. In the early history of professional baseball, captains had responsibilities that were shared with managers and coaches, including preparing lineups and making in-game decisions.
Although the role of captain is merely a symbolic and rare title now, some recent players held the title of captain including former Rangers third baseman Adrián Beltré and Mets shortstop David Wright. As of the 2021 season, no MLB team has an active designated captain.
Although many players and veterans today help their teams by leading by example, the role of captain should be one that is given to an active player on every team that best exemplifies a team’s culture and possesses great leadership skills. So, I thought it would be interesting to list the current players who should be captains on their respective teams.
American League East
Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Although he’s the youngest active player on the roster, the soon to be first time All-Star Guerrero Jr. has already proven that he is not only the most talented player on the team, he is the leader of the Blue Jays young nucleus of players that includes Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette. As the Blue Jays age and mature, Guerrero Jr. will not only be the face of the franchise, he will be the catalyst for if they find success in the next few years.
Orioles: Trey Mancini
Mancini has been one of the most productive Orioles during these last few lean years for the ball club. Although he hasn’t been an All-Star or one of the best players at his positions in the league, those being first base and the outfield, his leadership, courage, and stamina are unquestioned. Revealing to the public that he was battling stage 3 colon cancer in 2020, he missed the 2020 season to undergo treatment. He fought and won his battle against cancer, and was able to return as an everyday player for the 2021 season.
Rays: Kevin Kiermaier
Part of the Rays organization since being drafted by the ballclub in 2010, Kiermaier has been one of the best defensive outfielders in the majors, winning three Gold Gloves as a centerfielder to this point in his career. On a team that is always bringing in unknown players, turning them into stars, and trading them just before their value drops off, Kiermaier has been a stable force that every Rays player can rely on being present.
Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts
A soon to be three time All-Star for the Red Sox, Bogaerts has been one of the best shortstops in the league since he debuted for the team in 2013. After the Red Sox made their usual “win a championship, stink for a year or two, and immediately return to being title contender” move following their 2018 title, Bogaerts leads Boston into the new decade as their most skilled and experienced Red Sox position player.
Yankees: Brett Gardner
Being a part of the Yankees since 2008 and winning a championship with the club in 2009, the soon to be 38-year-old outfielder has seen the personnel from the 2000s Yankees like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, CC Sabathia, and Álex Rodríguez age and retire. He brings his knowledge and expertise of the game and Yankee culture from playing with those legends of the game to the new generation of Yankee stars like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gerrit Cole.
American League Central
Indians: José Ramírez
One of the last members of the 2016 Cleveland team that went to the World Series, Ramírez remains as not only one of the best players in Cleveland, but one of the better third basemen in baseball. He’s currently the most productive member of the 2021 team with 17 home runs and 49 runs batted in through June 28, so adding his production while taking into account his playoff experience, Ramírez is the perfect leader for a team hoping to make one last push towards the playoffs in a difficult division.
Royals: Salvador Pérez
Salvador Pérez has all the accomplishments and longevity that you would want out of a leading man for your ballclub. He’s a soon to be seven time All-Star, a five time Gold Glove winner at catcher, a three time Silver Slugger, and a World Series MVP for the Royals in 2015. He was signed by the Royals in 2006 and debuted for the team in 2011 at the age of 21. Now in his age 31 season, Pérez is committed to the team through at least the 2025 season, hopefully when he can help lead a new generation of young Royals players hungry to do damage in the playoffs.
Tigers: Miguel Cabrera
Now in his age 38 season, the former Triple Crown winner and two-time MVP isn’t very productive at the plate, but he remains one of the all-time great sluggers in this sport’s history. With the Detroit Tigers in the middle of a rebuild, it’s alright to have Cabrera there to mentor the young incoming players while he’s under contract through 2023.
Twins: Nelson Cruz
The soon to be 41-year-old designated hitter is still as productive as ever in the second half of his career, hitting close to .300 and leading his team with 17 home runs through June 28. Although the Twins have been one of the most disappointing teams in baseball over the first half of the 2021 season, Cruz is an example for the rest of the team of stamina and constant production.
White Sox: José Abreu
One of the veterans of this team, Abreu has seen the White Sox franchise at its worst, having been on the team since 2014 and surviving their rebuild and turning into the title contenders they are today. The 2020 AL MVP winner is struggling in the first half this year, but his presence will be crucial for a White Sox team filled with young stars like Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, and Luis Robert as they hope to make a deep push in the playoffs this year.
American League West
Angels: Mike Trout
Considered the best player in baseball for most of if not all of the last decade, Trout is the best baseball player that the Angels have had in their team’s history and is on track to having one of the best careers in MLB history. The three-time AL MVP is signed through 2030, so he’ll have plenty of time to shine amongst other stars on his team like two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani and slugger Anthony Rendon. He will be able to mentor and guide upcoming Angels players for years to come in the hopes of making a playoff run. It’s just a shame he can’t pitch for the team too.
Astros: José Altuve
One of the better players in Astros history, Altuve has been the heart and soul of the Astros throughout their dominant run in the second half of the 2010s, winning an MVP in 2017 en route to helping guide the team towards their first championship in franchise history. Although his integrity has been under scrutiny for the past few years due to his involvement in the Astros sign-stealing scandal, he remains the cog that keeps the Astros moving and someone that the rest of the team relies on.
Athletics: Matt Olson
The longest-tenured player on the Athletics, the 27-year-old Matt Olson may not be the most experienced player on the team, but he has been the most productive this year. It was a tough choice choosing between Olson or Matt Chapman, with both players being just a year apart in age and both players having two Gold Glove awards under their belts, but Olson’s production just slightly edges Chapman’s production.
Mariners: Kyle Seager
Another veteran popping up on the list is Kyle Seager for the Mariners. Although he isn’t on the same tier of former Mariners greats like Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro Suzuki, Seager is on that next tier of productive players for the franchise. Debuting in 2011, Seager has been nothing short of dependable in a decade where the Seattle franchise has been mediocre at times and bad at other times.
Rangers: Joey Gallo
In all fairness, the Texas Rangers are not a good team this year. In fact, they are the worst team in the AL West and one of the worst teams in baseball. When you take a look at Joey Gallo’s stats, you’ll immediately notice the low average and extremely high strikeout totals. However, he is the definition of the “three true outcome batter.” Meaning that he’ll either strike out, walk, or hit for power a majority of the time. The reason I’d choose him to be captain is that although he deals with the inability to make constant contact with a baseball, he is a good defender and has been able to generate plenty of walks this year, making sure he gets on base.
National League East
Braves: Freddie Freeman
Easily the most productive Braves player of the last decade, Freeman had to endure a rebuilding Atlanta team in the mid-2010s, but his loyalty has been rewarded as his team is now constantly the team to beat in the NL East, with him as their leader. Not only available for the majority of the team’s games, Freeman is able to stand out on a team filled with stars like Ronald Acuña Jr. and others. Although the Braves and Freeman are struggling so far this year, don’t be surprised to see the Braves rise in the standings in the second half of the season when Freeman starts getting hot at the plate.
Marlins: Starling Marte
Although Marte has only been on the Marlins for less than 100 games, he’s their best position player on the roster. Frankly, this team is young and not good yet, so until a position player like Jazz Chisholm or young pitchers like Sandy Alcantara or Trevor Rogers emerge as established stars, Marte’s the man on this team.
Mets: Jacob deGrom
The only pitching captain on this list, Jacob deGrom is the face of the New York Mets. He is, without a doubt, the most dominant pitcher and probably baseball’s most dominate player right now. Opponents fear him, while teammates respect him and count on him. He’s this year’s NL Cy Young frontrunner, lapping the competition, and it isn’t even July yet. Since debuting in 2014, deGrom has only gotten better and better each year of his career.
Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman
Mr. National himself, Ryan Zimmerman was the first pick in Nationals franchise history all the way back in 2005, debuted that September, and has played in every season in Nationals history except for last year’s shortened 2020 season. One could pick Stephen Strasburg as captain since he was the first overall pick for them in 2009 and helped deliver the Nationals their first championship with an MVP performance in the 2019 World Series. One could also easily pick Max Scherzer as he’s been one of the best pitchers of this generation in his seven years as a National, but I’d go with Zimmerman as he’s been a good consistent player with the Nationals his entire career and the Nationals have been with him for their entire existence.
Phillies: Bryce Harper
When a player signs a contract for not only $330 million but for a duration of 13 years, there’s an expectation that that player will not only be the most productive player on the team, but he will be able to carry that ball club to postseason success. While the Phillies haven’t made it to the postseason yet in the Harper era, it isn’t in spite of him. He has maintained a level of play very similar to what he did while in Washington D.C. However, with such a hefty contract, the expectations will remain high on his ability to not only perform to the level of that contract but to also bring the Phillies success for the next decade. However high Bryce Harper soars, the Phillies are expected to follow.
National League Central
Brewers: Christian Yelich
He’s the captain for this team solely for his performances during the 2018 and 2019 seasons in which he won the NL MVP and was runner-up the following year. He was an absolute offensive machine, leading the national league in batting average and OPS both years, as well as hitting 80 home runs in those two seasons combined. Signing a nine-year contract following that 2019 season, Yelich hasn’t lived up to that contract up to this point, with his contact and power numbers way down. Nevertheless, the Brewers will be hoping for Yelich to rebound offensively to help his club make a postseason run.
Cardinals: Yadier Molina
One of the best defensive catchers in MLB history, Molina has been a mainstay on the Cardinals roster since the 2004 season. A nine-time All-Star, a nine-time Gold Glove winner, a Silver Slugger, and a two-time World Series champion, Molina is one of the most important Cardinals of the 21st century. He’s an easy choice for captain.
Cubs: Anthony Rizzo
The longest current tenured Cub, he’s a Silver Slugger, a three time All-Star, and a four time Gold Glove winner along with helping his team win the World Series in 2016. Having gone through the rebuild of the Cubs in the early 2010s and guiding his team to a World Series victory, Rizzo knows how it feels to be a last place team but also to win at the highest level. His determination and stamina are qualities that easily make him the perfect candidate to be a Cubs captain.
Pirates: Adam Frazier
Since debuting for the Pirates in 2016, Frazier has been a productive player for a team that hasn’t finished above third place in their division. Likely headed to his first All-Star game next month, his best tool throughout his career has been his contact, with him being in the top three in hits in the national league as of June 28. He won’t be a free agent for two years, so he can help younger players like Bryan Reynolds and Ke’Bryan Hayes develop into their full potential.
Reds: Joey Votto
The team’s primary first baseman since debuting for the Reds in September 2007, he’s one of only two current position players to have an on-base percentage over .400 for their career. An NL MVP winner in 2010 and a Gold Glove winner in 2011, this six-time All-Star is one of the most disciplined active batters in the majors, being 2nd among active batters in walks for their career. On a 2021 Reds team filled with offensive weapons, including Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker, be sure that it’s Joey Votto mentoring them.
National League West
Diamondbacks: Ketel Marte
Let’s face it, the Diamondbacks are awful this year and it looks like they are headed for a teardown and full rebuild of their roster. If there’s one shining light on this squad, it’s surely Ketel Marte. The 27-year-old soon-to-be two-time All-Star is simply the best player on this team which doesn’t have much talent outside of him. It remains to be seen how much longer he will be a Diamondback, but while he’s in Arizona you can bet he’ll be the star in the Valley of the Sun.
Dodgers: Justin Turner
On a team filled with future hall of famers and All-Stars like Mookie Betts, Kenley Jansen, and Clayton Kershaw, it’s Justin Turner that has been the heart and soul of the Dodgers since he came to the team in 2014. In true Dodger fashion, he turned from a replacement-level player on Baltimore and New York into an All-Star and .300 hitter once he joined the Dodgers. Over the course of the Dodgers playoff run this last decade, Turner has become an important player, hitting a franchise-record 12 home runs and 79 hits. Always infusing young talent and established talent on the roster, the Dodgers rely on Turner to keep a winning and aggressive culture going in the clubhouse.
Giants: Buster Posey
A future hall of famer, Buster Posey has every accolade one can hope to achieve in their career. He has been a Rookie of the Year, an NL MVP, a soon-to-be seven-time All-Star, a Comeback Player of the Year, a Gold Glove Winner, a four-time Silver Slugger, and a three-time World Series champion. Not only does he know what it’s like to be a multiple-time champion, he has experienced the grueling challenge of coming back from a season-ending injury in 2011 and enduring four straight losing seasons. Leading his team to a great start in 2021, Posey will be responsible for guiding his team towards success for the rest of the season and possibly beyond.
Padres: Fernando Tatís Jr.
The young phenom tearing up the league, Tatís Jr. is the type of homegrown franchise leading superstar the Padres have been hoping to have for a long time. Traded to the Padres from the White Sox before making his U.S. debut, Tatís Jr. debuted at the beginning of the 2019 season and since then, the Padres and Tatís Jr. have slowly gotten better alongside each other. One of the top position players in the national league so far this year, Tatís Jr. will look to help the Padres win their first division title since 2006. The reason the 22-year-old Tatís Jr. is the captain choice over their other superstar, Manny Machado, is because the Padres committed 14 years to Tatís Jr. and a club doesn’t commit that many years without expecting that player to lead a team.
Rockies: Charlie Blackmon
Blackmon has been a very productive player on the Rockies since he debuted for them 11 years ago in 2011. He’s had a career .300 batting average so far while being a Rockies player. A four-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger award winner, Blackmon is one of the more productive players in Rockies franchise history. He’s never been the most talented player on Rockies teams that fielded Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, DJ LeMahieu, and Troy Tulowitzki, but Blackmon has been there with all of them and continues to be an important man on the Rockies.