For all the talk about the Golden State Warriors ruining parity in the National Basketball Association, repeat champions isn't solely a basketball issue. Before the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup this past season, only four teams had won the coveted National Hockey League trophy in the previous eight seasons. Major League Baseball (MLB) isn't so different; the league has had five different winners - Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs, Kansas City Royals, San Francisco Giants, and Boston Red Sox - in each of the past five seasons but the Giants also won three times from 2010 to 2014 and the Red Sox won three times from 2004 to 2013. The St. Louis Cardinals won in 2006 and again in 2011 and it has generally been the same group of teams that has competed for the championship. There have been exceptions and the league has definitely been more competitive than others, but it's not as if there's a new team challenging for the throne year in and year out.
Because of that, there isn't exactly a ton of players who have experienced the joy of winning the World Series. Even worse, quite a few veteran players have had the pleasure of being dealt either at the trade deadline or in the offseason only to win championships with their new team. Jon Lester, for example, won twice with the Red Sox before helping the Chicago Cubs win its first World Series in more than a century in 2016. So while it isn't a surprise to learn he's a World Series champion, below are 20 unexpected players who have been part of a championship-winning team.
20 Francisco Liriano
Despite once being among the most dominant pitchers in the game, left-handed pitcher Francisco Liriano has struggled mightily in recent seasons. He experienced somewhat of a career resurgence with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2013 to 2015 and was effective as a reliever with the Toronto Blue Jays during the team's 2016 playoff run, but he was awful in 2017 for them as he had a 5.88 earned run average (ERA) and 1.62 walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP) through 18 starts.
Somehow, the Jays were able to deal him to the Houston Astros in exchange for minor league prospect Teoscar Hernandez. He was only marginally better in 14 innings with the Astros during the regular season and allowed a pair of hits through two-and-one-third innings in the playoffs, but still earned a World Series ring. He's now pitching for the Detroit Tigers.
19 Gregor Blanco
The San Francisco Giants have never really boasted an impressive outfield on either of their three championship-winning teams in the previous decade (minus Hunter Pence) so, unless you're a hardcore fan of the team, you probably aren't aware that Gregor Blanco was there for two of those championships. The 34 year old native of Caracas, Venezuela joined the Giants in 2012 and won a World Series then and in 2014.
Blanco, who is still with the Giants, has a pedestrian .256 career batting average through 1,039 regular season games and has been even worse in the playoffs. Through 156 plate appearances, he has two home runs and a .179 batting average.
18 Jarrod Dyson
It's not often that a 50th-round pick makes the big leagues, let alone wins a World Series; in fact, the league only has a 40-round draft now. Back in 2006, however, Jarrod Dyson was selected in the last round of the draft by the Kansas City Royals. Because of his blazing speed and defensive ability, he made his way through the minors and became a fixture on the team by the 2015 season, when the Royals won the World Series.
Dyson was primarily used for defensive and baserunning purposes during the playoffs that year and only had four plate appearances. In fact, during the team's consecutive World Series appearances in 2014 and 2015, the now-34 year old only had a pair of hits in 23 plate appearances.
17 Phil Hughes
A 32 year old native of Mission Viejo, California, Phil Hughes presently pitches for the San Diego Padres and previously pitched five seasons with the Minnesota Twins. However, he was drafted by the New York Yankees in 2004 and spent the first seven years of his career with the American League East franchise.
Aside from the surprising run the team put together last year, the Yankees were in a rough spot for a few years, so it's hard to remember them being so good when Hughes was still around. However, he was with the team during its 2009 World Series championship, which it won in spite of Hughes as he allowed 11 hits and six earned runs through six-and-one-third innings out of the bullpen.
16 Kyle Hendricks
A former eighth-round selection of the Texas Rangers in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft, Kyle Hendricks has been a standout on a loaded Chicago Cubs pitching staff for the past four seasons. The 28 year old came into his own during the 2016 season as he finished third in National League Cy Young voting after posting a 16-8 record to go along with a 2.13 ERA.
He actually started Game 7 of the World Series that year against the Cleveland Indians, but you might not remember that given the game's wild ending. He only lasted four-and-two-third innings that game and had a tough postseason overall, but the Cubs overcame a miraculous comeback by the Indians to win an historic World Series.
15 Cameron Maybin
We're not sure what's more surprising: that Cameron Maybin won a World Series or that he's still in the league? The former first-round pick of the Detroit Tigers has largely been a utility outfielder since joining the league and, while those players often stick around for a handful of seasons at best, Maybin has managed to play in 1,030 games since joining the league as a 20 year old in 2007.
Early in his career, he played for some awful teams in Florida, San Diego, and Atlanta, but was acquired last season by the Houston Astros from the Los Angeles Angels at the trade deadline. He only hit .186 with the team during the regular season and received only eight plate appearances during the playoffs, but he's a champion nonetheless.
14 Hunter Strickland
It's been awhile since the San Francisco Giants won the World Series, so it might be difficult to believe that Hunter Strickland is a World Series champion. The talented 29 year old right-handed pitcher has registered an ERA of 3.10 or below in each of the past four seasons out of the bullpen and was particularly impressive during his first full season in 2015. However, he played in nine games as a September call-up the year prior, when the Giants last won the World Series.
Strickland impressed enough in those nine games that he was called upon to pitch eight-and-one-third innings during the playoffs. He allowed nine hits and seven earned runs during that time but he earned a ring nonetheless.
13 Kendrys Morales
Toronto Blue Jays fans might be frustrated with Kendrys Morales and his inability to move on the basepaths, but the designated hitter has recovered from a rough start to the 2018 season and now has 21 home runs, 54 runs batted in (RBI), and a .255 batting average while hitting in the middle of an awful lineup. He was performing at an even higher rate in 2015, when, as a member of the Kansas City Royals, he hit 22 home runs and 106 RBI to go along with a .290 batting average.
It's hard to envision Morales being a key component of a championship-winning team at this point in his career, but he was an important player for the Royals in 2015. He had four home runs and 10 RBI during the team's World Series run.
12 Dexter Fowler
Chicago Cubs fans won't be fooled to learn that Dexter Fowler is a World Series champion, but it might be hard for the casual MLB fan to remember the talented outfielder as a member of the Cubs' 2016 World Series team. That's because he spent only two seasons with the team and was overshadowed by talented young players like Kris Bryant and Javier Baez. Fowler is now a member of the St. Louis Cardinals and, prior to joining the Cubs, played for the Colorado Rockies and Houston Astros.
Although he struggled during the NLDS, Fowler recorded 16 hits, three of which were home runs, and six RBI combined during the next two playoff rounds.
11 Ben Zobrist
It might not be all that hard to remember that Ben Zobrist is a World Series winner (check that, two-time World Series winner), but it's incredible that he is also a World Series MVP given his lack of superstar status. Sure, he's a three-time All-Star, but he has spent most of his career in Tampa Bay as part of some bad teams. However, he won a World Series with the Kansas City Royals in 2015 and was the shining star of the 2016 World Series as a member of the Chicago Cubs.
Zobrist was the unlikely hero in that seven-game series as he registered a .357 batting average and scored five runs. He didn't have any home runs and only drove in two runs, but his timely hits were integral to the Cubs winning the World Series.
10 Clay Buchholz
A first-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in the 2005 MLB Amateur Draft, Clay Buchholz has had an up-and-down career. One year he's among the best pitchers in baseball and the next he's barely hanging on to a job. In 2014, he recorded a 5.34 ERA, but the year prior he posted a 12-1 record to go along with a 1.74 ERA and an impressive WHIP of 1.03.
The Red Sox, of course, won the World Series that year, but Buccholz wasn't as impressive in the playoffs as he was during the regular season. The Texas native pitched 20-and-two-thirds innings and allowed 22 hits and 10 earned runs. After pitching only seven innings during the 2017 season, he has actually been quite effective this season with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Injuries have continued to be an issue, but he boasts a 2.05 ERA through 15 starts.
9 Chris Coghlan
Ben Zobrist might have been the unlikely hero of the Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series win, but Chris Coghlan is easily the most forgettable member of that team and he's somehow still hanging on to a job in the team's minor league system. Originally selected 36th overall in the 2006 MLB Amateur Draft, the utility player was actually an everyday player with Chicago in 2014 and 2015, but was dealt to the Oakland Athletics in February 2016.
Fortunately for Coghlan, the Cubs re-acquired him from the Athletics in June of that season and he was able to coast his way en route to winning a World Series by going 0-7 in eight appearances. He played a handful of games for the Toronto Blue Jays the following season and is now with Chicago's Triple-A affiliate in Iowa.
8 Johnny Cueto
A 32 year old native of Dominican Republic, Johnny Cueto has spent the majority of his career with the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants, although he did start 13 games for the Kansas City Royals during the 2015 season after being acquired by the team for a handful of prospects in late July. He obviously signed with the Giants the following offseason, but not before helping the Royals win a World Series.
Cueto was actually awful in his 13 regular season starts as he allowed 101 hits in 81-and-one-third innings, but rounded out his game in the playoffs. He got lit up against the Blue Jays in the ALCS, but pitched a complete game, two-hitter in Game 2 of the World Series against the New York Mets.
7 Danny Duffy
Selected in the third round of the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft, left-handed pitcher Danny Duffy has been a slightly-above-average pitcher for the Royals since breaking into the league in 2011, but surprisingly had one of the worst seasons of his career - save for this season - in 2015, when the team won the World Series. Duffy started 24 games that year and registered a 7-8 record to go along with a 4.08 ERA and 1.39 WHIP.
Not surprisingly, he was moved to the bullpen in the playoffs and, although he didn't fare much better, he was able to pitch well enough to be included on the team's World Series roster.
6 Jaime Garcia
The last two seasons have been so bad for Jaime Garcia that it seems almost inevitable that he will be out of the league by next year. However, for now, the 31 year old is hanging on to a job as a member of the bullpen with the Toronto Blue Jays, where he has a 5.93 ERA and 1.53 WHIP. He wasn't much better last year as he split time between the New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins, and Atlanta Braves.
Yet, early in his career, Garcia was an effective left-handed starting pitcher. During his third season, in 2011, he posted a 13-7 record and a 3.56 ERA in the regular season and started five playoff games for the World Series-winning St. Louis Cardinals. He even started two games in the World Series and only allowed eight hits and two earned runs through 10 innings.
5 Matt Duffy
Matt Duffy hasn't exactly struggled in the past two seasons, but the third baseman has had a difficult transition from the National League to the American League, at least in regard to his power numbers. He's batting .299 this season as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays and hit .258 last year, but only has a combined 13 home runs and 67 RBI during that time. By comparison, he hit 12 home runs and added 77 RBI during the 2015 season, when he finished second in National League Rookie of the Year voting.
Duffy played for the Giants that season and had a favorable spot in the lineup, which can be attributed to his impressive RBI total. However, even Giants fans might forget that he won a World Series with the team that year as he was pushed out of the starting lineup and had only seven plate appearances in the playoffs.
4 Brett Gardner
Brett Gardner, a former third round pick in the 2005 MLB Amateur Draft, isn't exactly a spring chicken at 35 years old and has been with the New York Yankees his entire career, so you have to figure he has at least one World Series with the team. He has, but it came in 2009, during his first full big league season. And even then, the outfielder played a much smaller role on the team as he only registered 284 plate appearances in 108 games. It wasn't until the following season when he became the Yankees' starting left fielder.
Gardner played sparingly in the 2009 ALDS and ALCS, but went 0-10 during the World Series, which is probably why most people might assume he hasn't won a championship.
3 Pablo Sandoval
For as much criticism as he has received for his weight over the course of his career, it's incredible to think Pablo Sandoval is a three-time World Series winner who still happens to be going relatively strong at 31 years old. His talent as a hitter is obvious as he has topped 60 RBI five times in his career and boasts a career batting average of .281, but given the way he has been talked about in the media in the past, you might think he was a replacement-level player.
The reality is that Sandoval is a clutch hitter who has an impressive .344 batting average through 39 playoff games. He also has six home runs and 20 RBI in those games. He had nine home runs and 40 RBI through 92 games this season before enduring a season-ending injury in late July.
2 J.A. Happ
J.A. Happ might qualify as one of the premier good-but-not-great pitchers in the league. The former third-round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies is 35 years old and only just earned his first All-Star nod this season due to being the only decent player on an awful Toronto Blue Jays team. He's a middle of the rotation starter on a quality team, but has played for mostly bad teams during his career. In fact, Happ has now played for six different teams during his 12-year career.
Happ achieved rookie status during the 2009 season, but pitched 31-and-two-third innings for the Phillies during the 2008 season. He also pitched three innings out of the bullpen during the team's World Series run that year.
1 Xander Bogaerts
Is it surprising that a player the caliber of Xander Bogaerts is a World Series champion? Absolutely not. But it's hard to believe the talented Red Sox infielder is given he's only 25 years old and the Red Sox haven't won a World Series since 2013. However, Bogaerts rocketed through the Red Sox minor league affiliates and made his big league debut with the team as a September call up in 2013. He was average at best through 50 plate appearances, but was called upon to contribute in the playoffs.
Bogaerts became the youngest player to start a playoff game in Red Sox franchise history and was crucial to Boston beating Detroit in the ALCS as he recorded three hits, all of which were doubles, in six at bats. He played more regularly in the World Series, registering 23 plate appearances in six games against the St. Louis Cardinals.