Today, we take a look at the player voted the SIXTH-greatest Angels acquisition in team history--and it's another shortstop acquired through non-traditional methods.
In the Eckstein installment of this countdown just a few days ago, I mentioned that there are two players in this countdown who were not acquired through free agency or trade. Eckstein was the first to be listed, acquired via waiver claim. This player, acquired through the expansion draft, is the other. Our very own Matt Welch (according to this player's Baseball Reference page) believes him to be the most productive expansion-draft player of all time. His numbers with the Angels do much to support that argument. A six-time All-Star and Gold Glove shortstop, the Angels selected him in the 1960 expansion draft with the 35th overall selection, from the Red Sox (shortstops from Boston, acquired through non-traditional methods, fans love him...trend?). He spent eleven years in the organization, and is one of only five Angels with their number retired. He even managed the organization after his retirement (though he more famously managed the Phillies to the 1993 NL pennant). None other than Jim Fregosi.
JIM FREGOSI, SHORTSTOP
.268/.340/.403, 1408 H, 219 2B, 70 3B, 115 HR, 546 RBI, 558 BB, 43.3 WAR (3.9 average, 11 seasons)
He was a lot more significant to this franchise than a lot of people take him for. He saw limited playing time in his first two seasons (ages 19 and 20 those years), but he took over the starting shortstop job in 1963, hitting .287 and finishing 23rd in AL MVP voting. Basically, there was no looking back. Autry and Rigney liked what they saw, and Fregosi wasn't going anywhere for a while. Arguably his strongest season came the next year, in 1964, though the slash line wouldn't look overwhelming--.277/.369/.463--and he earned his first All-Star appearance, and a 13th-place finish in MVP voting. What's largely unknown about that season was his WAR total (obviously)--his 7.7 WAR was second amongst position players, and his 141 OPS+ was seventh. And with a season like this coming from him at age 22, there was much optimism for a potentially Hall of Fame-level career in an Angels uniform.
However, while not on the same echelon of Darin Erstad's 2000 season, that was pretty much the way Fregosi's 1964 stuck out compared to the rest of his Angels tenure. Not to say he was bad thereafter; far from it. Fregosi stayed a consistent, sharp-hitting shortstop, though in his seven successive seasons, he only ever topped a .350 OBP again twice (1969 with .361, and 1970 with .353), and above .280 once (.290 in 1967). His consistent presence was much appreciated, until a down year, coupled with injuries, in 1971, when he posted a slash line of .233/.317/.326, by far his worst season in an Angels uniform, and that was enough for the front office to start shopping him.
That 1971-72 offseason saw Fregosi traded to the Mets, and what a haul the team got for the fan favorite/franchise face--Don Rose, Frank Estrada, Leroy Stanton, and some AAAA-type pitcher with control problems named Nolan Ryan. Shrewd move by little-known Angels GM Harry Dalton, who had a knack (in Anaheim and elsewhere) for acquiring Hall of Fame talent (he also brought Frank Robinson, Earl Weaver and Jim Palmer to Baltimore, and drafted Paul Molitor in Milwaukee).
In voting, Fregosi received two first-place votes, four second-place votes, and two fourth-place votes, for a total of 78 points.
Maybe it's because of the fact that he played for the Angels in their first seasons that he got underrated. Maybe it's because people are just forgetful. In any case, the numbers don't lie. Fregosi was certainly a consistent and lovable guy, the first true fan-favorite Angel, and we do remember it. #11 is retired for a reason. A very, very good reason.