Adrián Beltré: Santo Domingo to 2004 Dodgers Stardom to Cooperstown in 2024

Adrián Beltré, born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (DR), on April 7, 1979, was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers [illegally] at 15, and made his MLB debut for them on June 24, 1998, at 19. He replaced 36-year-old Bobby Bonilla at third in the Dodgers’ line-up and went 2-for-5 versus the Anaheim Angels. Bonilla played six total Puerto Rico Winter League (PRWL) seasons with San Juan and Mayagüez (1983-88), plus 1995-96 with Caguas. Beltré’s entire big-league career is classified as MLB, due to Inter-League games from 1998 on. By comparison, Brooks Robinson played American League (AL) regular season games with Baltimore, and Mike Schmidt only participated in National League (NL) regular season contests with Philadelphia. This blog covers Beltré’s 21-year MLB career with the Dodgers, Mariners, Red Sox, and Texas Rangers, from 1998-2018. It highlights his Dominican Winter League (LIDOM) career. Most importantly, it compares Beltré’s stats to other third basemen enshrined in Cooperstown, plus Ron Cey, one of the author’s favorite players. Beltré played at 5-11, 220 pounds.

He was called Kojak in the LIDOM

Beltré’s LIDOM nickname was Kojak, due to his closely-cropped, nearly bald hairstyle. He played for four teams in five LIDOM seasons and was 1998-99 League MVP with Águilas Cibaeñas (AC), followed by MVP, 1999-2000 LIDOM finals with Estrellas Orientales (EO). Beltré reinforced the Licey Tigers in the 1999 Caribbean Series, hosted by San Juan, at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, in the Hato Rey section of Puerto Rico’s capital. His second Caribbean Series was reinforcing AC in Santo Domingo, in February 2000. The author’s 2024 book on Caribbean Series History will furnish more details on Beltré in these events. Table I highlights his LIDOM regular season and post-season stats. Beltré was involved in a 12-player LIDOM trade on September 8, 2001, when the Azucareros del Este traded him, infielder Wilton Guerrero, and pitchers Miguel Batista and Luis Pineda to the Escogido Lions for eight players. The purpose of LIDOM and PRWL teams was, and is, to win, not develop players.

Adrián Beltré, 1998-99 MVP with Águilas Cibaeñas. Photo credit:

Table I: Adrián Beltré’s LIDOM Regular Season and Post-Season Hitting Stats, 1996-2000, 2001-02

TeamSeasonGABRH2B3BHRRBIBAOBPSLGOPS
Azucareros1996-9730629132104.210.324.274.598
Azucareros1997-9840114182572111.219.286.342.628
AC1998-995822639#68901037.301.365.473.838
EO1999-00825393004.360.484.480.96
Escogido2001-0214000000.000.000.000.000
Totals 137431691152131156.267.343.406.749
TeamPlayoffs            
Azucareros1996-97815131000.200.333.267.600
AC (finals)1998-99416120013.125.176.313.489
EO (round-robin)1999-001862111850418.290.451.5651.016
EO (finals)1999-007284910311.321.375.6791.054
Totals 37121173270832.264.389.521.910

#Led league. He stole 17 bases in 1998-99; and caught three times. Source: winterball data—LIDOM subscription.

Minor League and MLB Success

Table II depicts Beltré’s minor-league and MLB season-by-season hitting stats, including rehab assignments. He finished second to Barry Bonds in the 2004 NL MVP voting and won the first of four Silver Sluggers. His five Gold Gloves came with Seattle (2007-2008) and Texas (2011-2012, 2016). Beltré helped Texas reach the 2011 World Series and strengthened his Cooperstown credentials, age 31-39, with Boston (2010) and Texas (2011-2018).

Table II: Beltré’s Hitting Stats in the Minors and MLB

SeasonTeamGABRH2B3BHRRBIBAOBPSLGOPS
1996Savannah6824448751431659.307.406.586.992
1996San Bernardino6323840621312040.261.322.450.772
1997Vero Beach1234359513824226104.317.407.561.968
1998San Antonio6424649792121356.321.411.581.992
2001Vero Beach39041001.444.583.5561.139
2001Las Vegas25231012.600.7141.4002.114
2011Round Rock28120000.250.250.250.500
 Minors (5)325118523536374866262.306.393.549.943
1998LAD77195184290722.215.278.369.648
1999LAD152538841482751567.275.353.428.780
2000LAD138510711483022085.290.360.475.835
2001LAD126475591262241360.265.310.411.720
2002LAD159587701512652175.257.303.426.729
2003LAD158559501343022380.240.290.424.714
2004LAD15659810420032048!121.334.388.6291.017
2005SEA156603691543611987.255.303.413.716
2006SEA156620881663942589.268.328.465.792
2007SEA149595871644122699.276.319.482.802
2008SEA143556741482912577.266.327.457.784
2009SEA11144954119270844.265.304.379.683
2010BOS1545898418949!228102.321.365.553.919
2011TEX1244878214433032105.296.331.561.892
2012TEX1566049519433236102.321.359.561.921
2013TEX16163188199!3203092.315.371.509.880
2014TEX148549791783311977.324.388.492.879
2015TEX143567831633241883.287.334.453.788
2016TEX1535838917531132104.300.358.521.879
2017TEX94340471062211771.312.383.532.915
2018TEX119433491182311565.273.328.434.763
MLBTotals (21)29331106815243166636384771707.286.339.480.819
 Post-Season            
2004LAD NLDS415140001.267.250.267.517
2011TEX ALDS415540034.267.313.8671.179
2011TEX ALCS627463002.222.276.333.609
2011TEX WS730592023.300.323.567.889
2012TEX WC14000000.000.000.000.000
2015TEX ALDS39040001.444.500.444.944
2016TEX ALDS311121000.182.250.273.523
TotalsPost-Season28111162960511.261.297.450.747

!Led league. Source: Baseball Reference.

Beltré’s Three Cycles

On September 1, 2008, Beltré went 5-for-6 with two singles, a double, a triple, and a homer in Seattle’s 12-6 win at Texas. Four years later he was 4-for-4 (August 24, 2012) at the same ballpark for Texas, versus Minnesota, a second cycle, an 8-0 win. Then, his third cycle, August 3, 2015, at Globe Life Park in Arlington, came in a 12-9 victory over Minnesota with four hits in five at-bats. Beltré is just one of five big leaguers to hit for the cycle three times in the past century. The other four include:

  • Bob Meusel, New York Yankees, May 7, 1921, July 3, 1922, and July 26, 1928;
  • Babe Herman, Brooklyn Dodgers, May 18 and July 24, 1931; and Chicago Cubs, September 30, 1933;
  • Trea Turner, Washington Nationals, April 25, 2017; July 23, 2019; and June 30, 2021;
  • Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers, August 29 and September 17, 2018; Milwaukee Brewers, May 11, 2022.

Eighteen Members of 600 Double Club

Beltré’s 636 career doubles place him at #11 behind Honus Wagner’s 643. The “Elite Eighteen” played 20+ big-league seasons. They include: Tris Speaker-792, Pete Rose-746, Stan Musial-725, Ty Cobb-724, Albert Pujols-686, Craig Biggio-668, George Brett-665, Nap Lajoie-657, Carl Yastrzemski-646, Honus Wagner-643, Beltré-636, David Ortiz-632, Miguel Cabrera- 627, Hank Aaron-624, Paul Molitor-605, Paul Waner-605, Cal Ripken Jr.-603, and Barry Bonds-601.

Beltré’s Home Run Prowess

Four big leaguers who played at least 75 percent of their career games at third base hit over 400 homers:

  • Mike Schmidt, 1972-1989 Phillies, 548 total (515 playing third);
  • Eddie Mathews, 1952-1966 Braves, 1967-68 Astros, 1968 Tigers, 512 total (496 playing third);
  • Adrián Beltré, 1998-2004 Dodgers, 2005-09 Mariners, 2010 Red Sox, 2011-2018  Rangers, 477 total (477 playing third);
  • Chipper Jones, 1993, 1995-2012 Braves, 468 total (415 playing third).                                             

Beltré’s Fielding Excellence

Brooks Robinson played more games at third than Beltré, 2,870-2,759, and more innings at the hot corner, 25,035.2 to 23,840. Beltré’s 2,933 career games included 156 as DH, seven at shortstop, and one at second base. Robinson’s 2,896 contests included 25 at second and five at shortstop. Table III compares Beltré’s big-league fielding stats to selected other third basemen.

Table III: Fielding Stats for Selected Retired Major League Third Basemen

PlayerGames#PutoutsAssistsErrorsDPGG!FLD%
Brooks Robinson28702697620526361816.971
Adrián Beltré2759219451823115235.960
Wade Boggs2215155044752294232.962
Mike Schmidt22121591504531349510.955
Eddie Mathews2181204943222933690.956
Ron Santo2130195545813173955.954
Scott Rolen2023147840811863558.968
Chipper Jones1992115934472232760.954
Ron Cey1989150040182233150.961
George Brett1692137236742613071.951

#Third base only. !Gold Gloves. Source: Baseball Reference.

Table IV lists four advanced metrics for 10 third basemen: Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Offensive WAR (oWAR), Defensive WAR (dWAR), and Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA). It includes the percentage of big-league games they played at third. Beltré was third in WAR and played 94.1 percent of his games at third. His .350 wOBA is solid but only higher than Brooks Robinson’s .322 wOBA for these 10-third sackers. George Brett’s offense overshadowed his defense. He played five of every eight major league games at third.

Table IV: Four Advanced Metrics for these 10 Third Basemen

 PlayerWARoWARdWARwOBA3B G%
Mike Schmidt106.891.818.4.39592.0
Eddie Mathews96.093.75.6.38991.2
Adrián Beltré93.571.627.0.35094.1
Wade Boggs91.481.413.9.38190.8
George Brett88.684.82.2.37462.5
Chipper Jones85.388.3-0.9.39779.7
Brooks Robinson78.447.739.1.32299.1
Ron Santo70.566.68.7.36794.9
Scott Rolen70.152.821.2.36899.3
Ron Cey53.850.76.6.35695.9

Source: Baseball Reference.

Beltré’s Best Season Versus Mike Schmidt’s Best Campaign

Mike Schmidt opined that his two seasons with Caguas, 1972-74, were “helpful to his big-league career.” Jerry Morales, Schmidt’s Caguas teammate, hit 14 homers in 1973-74, as their leadoff hitter, to Schmidt’s 12. Arecibo’s Benny Ayala’s 14 homers tied Morales to lead the PRWL. Caguas won the 1974 Caribbean Series in Mexico, one of the highlights of Schmidt’s professional career, per Morales. Ron Cey starred for the 1972-73 Santurce Crabbers with a .298 BA, seven homers, and 43 RBIs. He affirmed the PRWL was “instrumental in becoming the regular third baseman for the 1973 Los Angeles Dodgers.” Wade Boggs posted a .354 BA for the 1981-82 Bayamón Cowboys before his AL debut with 1982 Boston. He benefitted from the PRWL. Boggs lived at Aguadilla’s Ramey Air Force Base as a child when his dad was stationed there. “Puerto Rico was a stepping stone that I used,” said Boggs. “I was on the verge of playing in the major leagues when I got there.” Table V contrasts Schmidt’s 1980 NL hitting stats with Beltré’s 2004 hitting stats. Schmidt won his first of three NL MVP Awards in 1980.

Table V: Mike Schmidt’s 1980 PHI Hitting Stats and Adrián Beltré’s 2004 LAD Hitting Stats

SeasonTeamGABRH2B3BHRRBIBAOBPSLGOPS
1980PHI15054810415725848121.286.380.6241.004
2004LAD15659810420032048121.334.388.6291.017

Source: Baseball Reference.

What Percentage of the Cooperstown Vote Should Adrián Beltré Get for his 2024 Induction?

Of 18 big leaguers inducted in Cooperstown—who were third basemen—nine (half) were voted in the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). Nine (half) came in via Committees including two per a special Negro Leaguers vote. Steve Henson, writing in the Los Angeles Times, on November 21, 2023, stated that “Beltré is a Hall of Fame lock 20 years after the Dodgers let him get away.” https://sports.yahoo.com/adri-n-beltr-considered-hall-195845850.html?fr=sycsrp_catchall Per Henson, “Beltré’s consistent production, clubhouse popularity, and distance from any connection to performance-enhancing drugs should give him an overwhelming chance to get the requisite 75% of votes from the BWWAA in his first year on the ballot.” Table VI summarizes past voting patterns for Cooperstown Inductees who mainly played third base.

Table VI: Historical Voting Patterns, Third Basemen Enshrined in Cooperstown

PlayerYearVoting Results/OtherPercent of Vote
Jimmy Collins1945Old-Timers CommitteeNot Available (NA)
Pie Traynor194893 votes/121 ballots76.9
Frank “Home Run” Baker1955Veterans CommitteeNA
Judy Johnson1975Negro LeaguesNA
Fred Lindstrom1976Veterans CommitteeNA
Eddie Mathews1978301 votes/379 ballots79.4
George Kell1983Veterans CommitteeNA
Brooks Robinson1983344 votes/374 ballots92.0
Ray Dandridge1987Veterans CommitteeNA
Mike Schmidt1995444 votes/460 ballots96.5
George Brett1999488 votes/497 ballots98.2
Paul Molitor^2004431 votes/506 ballots85.2
Wade Boggs2005474 votes/516 ballots91.8
Jud Wilson#2006Negro LeaguesNA
Ron Santo2012Golden Era Committee93.8
Deacon White2013Pre-Integration87.5
Chipper Jones2018410 votes/422 ballots97.2
Scott Rolen2023297 votes/389 ballots76.3

^Molitor was a DH 1991-98. #Wilson also played first base. Many sources.

Postscript

Brooks Robinson, one of 11 Baltimore Orioles prospects who played winter ball with 1955-56 Willard Blues in Colombia, at 18, hit nine homers for the 1957-58 Cienfuegos Elephants in Cuba, tying for the league lead. Dick Hall, his Baltimore teammate most of the 1960s, 1970, and 1971, spoke fluent Spanish, having married a lady from Mazatlán, Mexico, while playing winter ball there. After Baltimore won the 1970 World Series, Brooks Robinson ensured Hall translated Spanish-speaking interviews with Cubans Miguel Cuéllar and Marcelino López. https://sabr.org/journal/article/dick-halls-baltimore-legacy/

Thanks to Wade Boggs, Ron Cey, Dick Hall, Jerry Morales, and Mike Schmidt. Jorge Colón Delgado did the editing and photo placements.

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