ASU Baseball: All-Time Sun Devil Major League Team


And what ASU has in quantity it has backed up in quality, trailing only the Texas Longhorns as the school with the most players inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame.

But what if one were to assemble an all-time Sun Devil team based on all those who put on the maroon and gold from the 1960s up until the present day? How might this team look and how might one determine player’s values to make this list?

For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll be using Wins Above Replacement (WAR) to rank the careers of Sun Devils to come up with a starting line-up and reserves (for more on the WAR metric you can refer to While WAR isn’t a perfect statistic, it does a very good job as an all-encompassing number to give an observer a value for everything a player can produce on the field. For disclaimer purposes, players have been selected into positions they have played during their big league careers, as there were some tough calls that needed to be made in the outfield, second base, and on the infield corners.

Starting Lineup:
C – Paul Lo Duca      ASU Career: 1993      MLB Seasons: 11      Career WAR: 17.9
Hit .446 in his one and only season as a Sun Devil, enough to get his jersey number on the wall at Packard Stadium. A season in which he was named the Sporting News Player of the Year, thanks in part to his 37-game hitting streak. It took him eight years to get to the majors, but thereafter appeared in four All-Star games before hanging up the cleats in 2008.

1B – Bob Horner      ASU Career: 1976-1978      MLB Seasons: 10      Career WAR: 21.7
The two-time college All-American was recently named to the 50 Best College Athletes of All Time, leading ASU to the 1977 College World Series title. He was the 1978 National League Rookie of the Year, no small task having skipped the minors and gone straight to the pros from ASU. Horner played second base for the Devils but was drafted number one overall by the Atlanta Braves in 1978 as a third baseman where he was on the field as a big leaguer less than a month after being drafted. Horner was by far one of the more physically gifted players to ever play for ASU.

2B – Dustin Pedroia      ASU Career: 2002-2004      MLB Seasons: 8      Career WAR: 35.2
The Muddy Chicken is now serving in his eighth season with the Boston Red Sox and moved ahead of Rick Monday in WAR this past May. His 2008 MVP campaign was one of the more memorable seasons for any batter under 6-ft. tall in recent times. If the second half of his career is anywhere near the first half, he should be joining other Sun Devil legends adorned in Cooperstown. The two-time first team All-American came in as a player most thought was too short to succeed, but in the process he displaced the incumbent short stop Ian Kinsler on his way to starting all 185 games of his college career and was far and away the best Sun Devil baseball player of the last decade.

3B – Sal Bando      ASU Career: 1964-1965      MLB Seasons: 16      Career WAR: 61.6
Bando became the eighth Sun Devil to be inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013. He teamed with Rick Monday to bring Arizona State its first national championship in school history in 1965. Bando went on to have a very successful professional career, winning three World Series titles with the Oakland Athletics with Sun Devil teammate Reggie Jackson while appearing in four All-Star games. He played in Milwaukee during the later part of his career before becoming their general manager during the majority of the 1990s.

SS – Mike Benjamin      ASU Career: 1986-1987      MLB Seasons: 13      Career WAR: 6.8
The current Sun Devils assistant coach was teammates with manager Tim Esmay during his two seasons in Tempe. His 1987 season in which he hit 18 homers and 55 RBI along with 30 stolen bases secured him a first team All-American spot along the way to being selected in the third round by the San Francisco Giants, leading to a 13-year major league career.

LF – Barry Bonds      ASU Career: 1983-1985      MLB Seasons: 22      Career WAR: 162.5
Bonds is another member of the Sun Devil Wall of Honor. The San Francisco Giants loss was Arizona State’s gain in 1982 as Bonds decided to go to college rather than playing as a professional over a $5,000 difference of opinion in signing bonus. He picked up where Bob Horner left off, becoming one of the best Sun Devils of the 1980s and consistently improving during his three-year stint with the team, culminating in him being selected sixth overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1985. Bonds played in a very talented outfield at Packard with future major leaguers Oddibe McDowell and Mike Devereaux. His career accomplishments are well known and his career WAR is double the next best Sun Devil, his distant cousin Reggie Jackson. Bonds currently stands as the all-time career home run leader with 762, as well as the single season leader thanks to his memorable 2001 campaign where he totaled 73. He stands fourth all-time in WAR behind only Babe Ruth, Cy Young, and Walter Johnson.

CF – Rick Monday      ASU Career: 1965      MLB Seasons: 19      Career WAR: 33.2
A key member of ASU’s 1965 College World Series championship team, Monday was named College Baseball Player of the Year during the same season. His place is secure as one of the top five best ever players that have moved on from their time in Tempe to a career in the professional ranks. Monday won two pennants with the Los Angeles Dodgers during his big league career and then stayed on with the team after his playing days to become an award winning broadcaster.

RF – Reggie Jackson      ASU Career: 1966      MLB Seasons: 21      Career WAR: 74.0
The cousin of Barry Bonds was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993. A 14-time All-Star game participant, Mr. Octobe—statistically speaking—is the second most productive player the ASU baseball program has ever produced in Major League Baseball. He logged six 100 RBI seasons, stole over 20 bases four times, and while he is still the career leader in strikeouts among hitters, he also finished his career with 563 home runs.

DH – Ian Kinsler      ASU Career: 2002      MLB Seasons: 8      Career WAR: 31.8
The Diamondbacks twice took a shot at the 5-tool talented Kinsler, drafting him in 2000 and 2001 before he transferred to ASU for the 2002 season. He was the odd man out at short stop, however, with freshman Dustin Pedroia stealing the headlines. Kinsler transferred to Missouri before being drafted in the 17th round by the Texas Rangers in 2003. Since then, he has gone on to post double-digit home run and steal totals in every season except his injury shortened 2010.

P – Floyd Banniser      ASU Career: 1970-1972      MLB Seasons: 15      Career WAR: 26.7
While Eddie Bane is one of the best ever to pitch at ASU, his pro career was far less successful than that of Bannister. He was elected into the college baseball Hall of Fame in 2008 thanks in part to his 38-6 career record as a pitcher for the Devils. He also was the gold standard for records for a pitcher at ASU, holding the single season record for ERA, shutouts, complete games, and strikeouts in a season. Bane was a first round pick of the Houston Astros in 1976, but went on to pitch for a slew of bad teams in his career, which lead to a career record that didn’t match the success of his amateur career.

OF – Alvin Davis     ASU Career: 1979-1982      MLB Seasons: 9      Career WAR: 19.9
OF – Andre Ethier     ASU Career: 2002-2003      MLB Seasons: 8      Career WAR: 16.7
2B – Fernando Viña       ASU Career: 1990      MLB Seasons: 12       Career WAR: 12.1
P – Larry Gura      ASU Career: 1967-1969      MLB Seasons: 16     Career WAR: 21.7
P – Craig Swan      ASU Career: 1969-1972      MLB Seasons: 12      Career WAR: 12.6

It’s hard to argue with the careers that some of these players have had, but there are two observations that stand out when looking up and down this list. First, four of the ten players in this starting line-up only recorded one full season as a Sun Devil regular before either being drafted or moving on to another school. Players like Kinsler and Lo Duca are often overlooked as being Sun Devils due to the fact they only logged one season in Tempe, yet players like Monday and Jackson live in Sun Devil infamy thanks to the championship flag that flies at Packard Stadium. And second, ASU has been really good at developing outfielders over the years, but pitching not so much. Something to ponder the next time you sit down with friends to discuss the best players ever to play for the maroon and gold.