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15 MLB Players Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

People often overlook the fact that the MLB is full of injury because it is not necessarily a full contact sport. Yet, so many players have suffered significant injuries during their careers because of a handful of factors such as the vigorous schedule and overwork of muscles. We often forget that many players retire at such a young age because they physically have lost the ability to even throw a baseball. MLB players play 162 games each season, so injury is an extremely common part of the game.

In this article, we will be looking at fifteen players whose careers ended far too quickly. In most circumstances, these players went through an abundance injuries. However, the topics do range in different directions as well. At the end of the day, each player on this list lost the opportunity to grow their careers because of forces that were out of their control. With that, it must be truly upsetting for them to think about.

Nonetheless, here is the list of these unfortunate players.

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15 Freddy Sanchez

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For a short while, Freddy Sanchez was on top of the MLB world and grew into a legitimate All-Star n the league. After being traded by the Boston Red Sox,Sanchez had a spectacular stint with the Pittsburgh Pirates and became their best player. In his five seasons with the Pirates, Sanchez made the all-star game three times and even won the batting title in 2006.

However, Sanchez's career would sadly end far too soon when he started to experience a series ofserious injuries. He luckily ended up winning a World Series championship with the San Francisco Giants, but simply could not stay healthy. After spending the entire 2012 season with a severely injured back, Sanchez would never play in the MLB again and officially gave up in 2015.

14 Rick Ankiel

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Rick Ankiel is a very special case when it comes to this list because, at the start of his career, he was originally a pitcher, but had to give it up because he lost complete control over his pitches. Yet, after years of struggling, he resurrected his MLB career and transitioned into a full time outfielder.

Although Ankiel's career was not necessarily cut short to injury, inconsistency made it impossible for him to hit his ceiling as a pitcher. He was expected to be the ace of the future for the Cardinals, but instead, grew into a productive outfielder for the team. Ankiel truly displayed persistence by becoming a batter, but lost a handful of seasons growing into one.

13 Juan Encarnacion

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Juan Encarnacion was a very reliable player during his time in the MLB. He was a great utility player and because of that, saw himself play for a handful of contenders. Encarnacion ended up winning two World Series championships in his short career and very well could have won more if it had not been for his tragic accident.

In 2007, Encarnacion was hit directly in the eye by a foul ball hit by Aaron Miles and was severely injured in the process. He would miss the rest of that season and the 2008 season as well. After trying to make a comeback, it became apparent that the injury simply would not allow him to be able to play in the MLB again. He was only 31 at the time.

12 Matt Clement

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Matt Clement had a successful, but short career in the MLB and easily could have accomplished much more than he did. Clement became a very reliable pitcher for the Cubs in the early 2000s and found himself grow into an All-Star for the Red Sox in 2005. Yet, after this season, everything would go downhill for him.

In 2006, Clement became a below average starter and saw his ERA jump to 6.61, far higher than most pitchers in the league. Clement ended up getting season ending shoulder surgery and from this, never ended up pitching in the MLB again. Some speculate that his issues on the mound came after he got hit in the head by a line drive from Carl Crawford.

11 Josh Hamilton

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Josh Hamilton's career had some sparks of superstar moments, but at the end of the day, he did not reach his full potential because of himself. After Hamilton was drafted first overall in 1999 by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, he completely went down the wrong path and battled with drug addiction. This in turn slowed down his process of making the MLB.

Hamilton turned it around and ended up finally making the MLB in 2007, but it is clear that he could have been in the league far longer. Hamilton became a legitimate all-star and even won both the AL MVP and the ALCS MVP in 2010. Yet, Hamilton again fell into drug use during 2015 and ultimately never was the same player again.

10 Mark Prior

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Mark Prior was one of the best pitchers in the MLB for the entirety of his career, but sadly for him, it was a very short one. Prior only pitched five seasons with the Chicago Cubs before injuries completely took over his life. Prior would never be able to land another MLB contract, but worked for many seasons to try to keep the dream alive.

Prior signed minor league deals numerous times with many different teams, but simply could not make it past his shoulder issues. After another failed attempt with the Cincinnati Reds in 2013, Prior decided to retire shortly after. It is truly a sad case with him because he had all the tools to become a true superstar in the league.

9 Mo Vaughn

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Mo Vaughn was one of the best power hitters in the MLB during the mid to late 1990s, but due to injuries, his reign was short lived. His best season in the league came in 1995 when he won the Silver Slugger Award and AL MVP. He would continue his success for a few more seasons before he started to drop.

After joining the Angels in 1999, Vaughn became injury prone and would miss a lot of time due to this. In fact, Vaughn sat out the entire 2001 season and that turned out to be the final blow to his career. After returning and joining the Mets, Vaughn suffered from many knee injuries and finally called it quits in 2003. He easily could have had many great years left.

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8 Mark Mulder

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Mark Mulder was one of the Big Three when he played for the Oakland Athletics and with that, easily one of the game's top pitchers. Mulder made the All-Star game twice with the A's during his five year stint there, but after leaving for the St. Louis Cardinals, everything began to go in the wrong direction for the one time superstar.

Like many pitchers, Mulder began to develop severe shoulder problems and completely lost control of his pitches. Mulder would go through a handful of rotator cuff surgeries, but ultimately could never return to form. Mulder's last game came in 2008 and he was only 31 years old. He easily could have had far more time in the bigs, if not for his shoulder.

7 Nomar Garciaparra

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NomarGarciaparrawas arguably the best shortstop in the MLB during the late 90s and early 2000s. With Alex Rodriquez and Derek Jeter, the three were theposterboysof the MLB, but of course, this quickly changed.Garciaparrabegan to deal with numerous injuries to the wrist and that ultimately began his downfall.

After years of dominating the league,Garciaparrasaw his stats decrease immensely because of his injuries. After being traded by the Red Sox,Garciaparralost his entire mojo and never was the same player. He would end up playing on a handful of teams after the Sox, but was never the same player. Injuries derailed his once certain Hall of Fame career.

6 Kerry Wood

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At one point in time, Kerry Wood was on top of the MLB world and seen asapotential elite pitcher. In his rookie season, Wood struck out anastonishing 20 batters and had nowhere to go, but up. Yet a year later in 1999, he had to undergo Tommy John Surgery and this ended up being the beginning of a serious amount of injuries.

After years of inconsistency as a starter, Wood became a relief pitcher for the Cubs and actually found some success. He became a successful closer and relief pitcher during the final years of his career, but is it clear that the injuries he faced hindered his production. Wood had all the tools to be a superstar starting pitcher for years.

5 Sandy Koufax

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Sandy Koufax is one of the greatest pitchers to have ever set foot on an MLB diamond and was the heart of the Los Angeles Dodgers. For eleven marvelous seasons, Koufax dominated the MLB both individually and in team accomplishments. Koufax won four World Series championships, three Cy Young Awards, two World Series MVPs, and three four no-hitters.

Insanely enough, Koufax did all of this while retiring at age 31. Koufax could have had so many wonderful seasons left, but as the pattern has shown, experienced too many injuries to continue. It has been noted that Koufax spent his last two years in the MLB in significant pain and had bruising all over his arms. He would end up retiring in 1966 because his arthritis got far too strong.

4 Don Mattingly

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The current manager of the Miami Marlins, Don Mattingly, was once one of the best players in the entire MLB. Mattingly had a handful of spectacular seasons with the New York Yankees during his career and was a big factor behind their success. During his stint, he was a six-timeall star, as well as the 1985 AL MVP.

However, Mattingly experienced a lot of back pain during the final years of his career and it resulted in a fairly significant drop in production. He no longer was a power hitter and his average began to drop. Although he still had a spot on the Yankees, he eventually had to call it quits in 1997 after not being able to play for two seasons.

3 Bo Jackson

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Bo Jackson was one of the biggest names in all of sports because he was not only a superstar baseball player, but inthe NFL. Bo Jackson was an amazing hitter, great fielder, and was one of the fastest players in both leagues. One can never forget his outstanding wall run catch while he was a member of the Kansas City Royals.

However, playing in two professional sport leagues quickly led to severe injuries for the extremely talented athlete. Jackson had to retire from the NFL because of hip surgery and focused solely on baseball,but his numbers dropped dramatically in the process. After this, he was never the same player and soon retired in 1994 prematurely.

2 Jose Fernandez

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Perhaps the saddest story on this list, Jose Fernandez was an absolute beast during his career with the Miami Marlins. Once he joined the scene in 2013, he showed that all the hype around him was legitimate and won the NL Rookie of the Year. He would continue to dominate, but tragedy struck and took away his career.

On September 25thr, 2016, Fernandez got into a boating accident at Miami Beach andsadlypassed away. Fernandez was only 24 at the time of the incident and easily had so much time left as a star in the MLB. Today, his number is now retired by the Marlins and he will be forever missed not only for his baseball skill, but mainly as an individual.

1 Lou Gehrig

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Lou Gehrig was the heart and soul of the New York Yankees during his career and it is easy to understand why. He led the team to six World Series championships during his tenure, was a seven-time All-Star, and a two-timeMVP. Yet, his leadership on the field is what will forever be remembered when looking at his legacy.

Yet, Gehrig famously had to end his career prematurely when he was diagnosed with ALS. This is why the disease has been named after Gehrig. It is clear that Gehrig could have had many more seasons left in the bigs because he left when he was on top. He was even an All-Star in his last season in 1939. Two years later, Gehrig sadly passed away at the age of 37.

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