MLB Stars Who Switched Positions

As most coaches know, when you have a very talented baseball or softball player, you can usually put them at any positon and they’ll do a good job. And there are players who don’t necessarily stand out at any one spot, but they do a good job wherever you play them and fill in well—that’s the definition of a utility player. But you might not know that there have been several Hall of Famers who have moved around the diamond—from the outfield to the mound, from catcher to pitcher, from infield to outfield and more. The moves didn’t always happen for the same reasons, but the results turned out solid anyway. Here’s a look at just a few former players who made the switch to a different position—for different reasons.

Who’s your favorite switch-it-up defensive player?

Babe Ruth. Pitcher to outfielder to home run hitter.
The greatest home run hitter of his era wasn’t even an everyday player the first several years of his Major League career. Babe Ruth started with the Red Sox as a pitcher, where he threw about 1,200 innings with a very decent ERA of 2.19. However, Ruth also played in dozens of games as a non-pitcher because he liked to hit, and it was obvious that he was a force at the plate. Toward the end of his pitching days in Boston (1914–1919), the manager started to put Ruth in the lineup when he wasn’t pitching, which is what Ruth and the fans liked. In 1919, he batted more, pitched less and set the Major League record for home runs in a season with 29. By the time Ruth was traded to the Yankees in 1920, his pitching days were pretty much over. That first year with the club, the now-former pitcher broke his own record for home runs set only the year before. He smashed 54.

Robin Yount. Wide-ranging shortstop.
When you mention position switches, Yount’s name always comes up. Yount was a great-hitting shortstop and a star with the Milwaukee Brewers, a Hall of Famer with 3,142 hits. He played the first half of his career at shortstop, even winning one Gold Glove Award. But shoulder problems triggered a move to the outfield starting in 1985, and he played the rest of his 20-year career as a centerfielder, winning MVP in 1989.

 Craig Biggio. A catcher second to none.
In his fourth Major League season (1991) with the Houston Astros, Craig Biggio hit .295 with 161 hits and made the NL All-Star Game as catcher. What happened next? The Astros asked him to give up catching and move to second base. The team wanted to have Biggio on the team for years to come…with fresh legs. Biggio didn’t like the idea and had to be coaxed. One advisor was an Astros coach who knew something about the rigors of catching: former Yankee great Yogi Berra. With just one off-season and one Spring Training season to get ready, the transition began. The next year (’92), Biggio made the All-Star team again, this time starting at second—becoming the first player to be an All-Star backstop and catcher. Biggio went on to a Hall of Fame career, getting more than 3,000 hits, setting several NL hitting records and earning countless awards. He’s considered one of the best second basemen of all time.

 Stan Musial. The Versatile Man
Stan Musial is known as one of the greatest hitters of all time, the National League’s version of Boston’s Ted Williams. But few of today’s fans are aware of his alternating defensive stints between first base and the outfield—unusual for its time, and even by today’s standards. In his 22-year career, Musial started 989 games at first base, plus about twice that many (1,854) in the outfield. The first switchover happened in the ’46 season, his first full season back after a one-year stint in the Army. One day in Spring Training, he got the idea that the Cardinals had something special in mind for him. “When I reported in the clubhouse, I found a new first baseman’s glove in my locker,” Musial said. “I took the hint and began working out at the infield position.” He got his first start at first in July and adapted well. In a game against the Cubs in August, he handled 20 chances at first, racking up 19 putouts and an assist. He was a natural around the bag, but would his offensive output be affected? Oftentimes, a team (and even the player) will worry that a position change (taking the player out of his comfort zone) might hurt his performance at the plate. That didn’t happen to Musial. The records show he led the Cardinals to the World Series in ’46 while leading the National League in average, singles, doubles, triples, extra-base hits and total bases. In ’48, his manager moved him out to right field, where he was stationed (more or less) through 1954. Then, from ’55 to ’59, he was the starting first baseman again, always doing well enough to make the All-Star team for the National League. For good measure, he wrapped up the final four years of his amazing career as a starting outfielder (once again) for St. Louis, where he played his entire career. In all, Stan Musial played in a National League record-setting 3,026 games and made the All-Star squad 20 times.

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