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Where In The World Is The Best Red Sox Player: South

We finish off the East Coast in style!

If you missed the premise of this series, check out the intro piece here. TLDR: Who is the best Red Sox player to come out of each state/country?


After the giant names of last week, it will be pretty hard to top the Mid-Atlantic. Still, the South brings plenty of heat, and I’m not talking about the weather!

North Carolina

Batter: Trot Nixon

I’m absolutely in love with Trot Nixon as the representative from North Carolina, and it wasn’t much of a contest either. Second most in games played with the Sox (982), most HRs (133), RBI (523), second highest OPS+ (116), and just the sheer passion he brought to this Red Sox franchise, it was automatic for me. Ya know, breaking the Curse of the Bambino with officially the last run-scoring hit of the 2004 World Series isn’t too bad either. Durham should be damn proud of Trot!

RUNNER UP: BILLY GOODMAN (1947-1957)

Pitcher: Wes Ferrell

Ferrell belongs to a very historic baseball family, including his brother Rick, who is a Hall of Famer, and both of whom formed a battery with the Red Sox! While the Greensboro native was very good on the mound, with an ERA+ of 120 and 314 strikeouts in Boston, he also holds the career record for homers hit as a pitcher (this is all pre-Ohtani and the universal DH, however, we want to quantify Ohtani in his own category), with 37 longballs!

RUNNER UP: ERNIE SHORE (1914-1917)

Rick And Wes Ferrell Of The Red Sox Photo by FPG/Getty Images

South Carolina

Batter: Jim Rice

How could it be anyone else than the legendary Jim Rice? Eight-time All-Star, two Silver Sluggers, 3-time AL home-run leader, 2-time AL RBI leader, MVP in 1978, a career Sox who carried on the tradition of being an extraordinary power-hitting left fielder, who rightfully has his number retired and lives in the Red Sox Hall of Fame? There will be a runner-up listed below, but there was absolutely no touching Rice, the Anderson, SC native.

RUNNER UP: HAWK HARRELSON (1967-1969)

Pitcher: Heath Hembree

This was...a really weird result to come out of South Carolina. Only seven pitchers have donned a Red Sox uniform hailing from The Palmetto State, and of them, Hembree floats right to the top. He leads the South Carolinians in ERA+ (123), games played (251), and strikeouts (270). Did the Spartanburg native totally fall off a cliff at one point? Without a doubt. But the result of his acquisition from the Padres for Jake Peavy in a terrible 2014 season wasn’t not worth it. He did pitch in the 2018 playoffs (thanks, Steven Wright for getting injured), and gave up no runs en route to the title victory. Trading him for Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold also worked in Boston’s favor, even considering Pivetta’s hot/cold streaks and Seabold not working out in the Red Sox organization. I will say the runner-up put up a fight this time.

RUNNER-UP: BOBBY BOLIN (1970-1973)

Georgia

Batter: J.D. Drew

Alright, I’m calling Baseball Reference’s bluff here, and it’ll give more context to an earlier debate for a player in the New England category. Carlton Fisk may have been truly raised in New Hampshire, but it’s universally noted he was born in Vermont. According to Baseball Reference (the stats repository I’m drawing off of to start), Drew was born in Tallahassee, Florida. Everywhere else, including his MLB.com bio page, has him born in Valdosta, Georgia. Majority rules, Drew belongs with the Georgians, and quickly becomes the Peach State representative.

Despite what people thought was an aloof attitude to the game, Drew was an excellent baseball player. A World Series champion in 2007 and an All-Stat in 2008, Drew was a productive hitter across his entire career. An OPS+of 114 in Boston is the lowest combined for his career for the teams he played for but the highest of all Georgians. His 915 total bases and 80 HRs in Boston were second-best for teams played, and his 286 RBIs were a career-best amongst teams he played for.

RUNNER-UP: LEON CULBERSON (1943-1947)

Pitcher: Willard Nixon

This was genuinely a really tough call. Nixon—a Taylorsville native—was a career Red Sox, never won more than 12 games a season, and lost more times than he won. Still, with over 1,200 innings pitched and 616 strikeouts, it’s hard to look past what he did otherwise. The 50s feel like a lost decade for the franchise, where they fielded good-not-great teams, and Nixon fell squarely in that category, pitching from 1950-58 with an ERA+ of just 98. There were six pitchers who had better ERA+ than Nixon, one of whom was honestly a hair away from being Georgia’s pitching representative, but the runner-up still has more to give, despite an already impressive story and career so far. For now, it’s Nixon. In a few years? Maybe Garrett Whitlock’s name shows up here.

RUNNER-UP: GARRETT WHITLOCK (2021-present)

Gum Card Of Willard Nixon Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

Florida

Batter: J.D. Martinez

Our second J.D. on the list, he came to the Red Sox as a part of a dire need for the team: a revamped power hitter, though in the tail end of his prime. Martinez delivered, and then some. A four-time All-Star, a Silver Slugger in 2018, a career-high 130 RBIs in 2018, a World Series title, a 134 OPS+ in Boston, 130 total homers, 423 total RBIS, 1294 total bases, it’s hard not to say Martinez lived up to his hefty contract, despite injuries and slumps. Miami should be proud to have J.D.!

RUNNER-UP: MIKE NAPOLI (2013-2015)

Pitcher: Tim Wakefield

This is a case of someone not being statistically better, but having a better legacy in Boston. It’s not hard to see the runner-up below, so I’ll just address it now. Chris Sale is a statistical anomaly. Strikeouts/walks, ERA+, Sale takes the cake. Sale’s legacy, despite being a World Series champion, is also marred by injury after injury. If he stays on the mound and pitches to his averages, Sale runs away with this. But we live in the real world. Tim Wakefield spanned so many eras of Red Sox baseball, it’s beyond me. He pitched with guys like Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens all the way to Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Clay Buchholz, and held on with all of them. Though finicky as a true knuckleballer (the memories of Doug Mirabelli’s police escort to Fenway being what felt like Wake’s personal catcher always tickle me), Wakefield will forever be a Red Sox legend and a two-time World Series winner. With 2,000 K’s and 200 wins, the Melbourne native wiggles past Sale.

RUNNER-UP: CHRIS SALE (2017-present)

Alabama

Batter: Jim Tabor

The New Hope native felt like a logical choice where all but eight of the choices played in the 1950s and earlier. Tabor leads Alabamans from the Red Sox in RBI (517), second in HRS (90) yet only four shy of the lead, by far the leader in stolen bases (64) and walks (230). An OPS+ of 101 isn’t the most impressive considering his runner-up has one of 128, but Tabor was a way more well-rounded player and belongs in this spot.

RUNNER-UP: IKE BOONE (1923-1925)

Red Sox Players Joe Cronin, Jim Tabor And Ted Williams Photo by Paul J. Maguire/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Pitcher: Craig Kimbrel

When I see an OPS+ that looks too good to be true, I tend to assume it’s because of a small sample size. In 187 games appeared as a member of the Red Sox, Kimbrel’s OPS+ is 184. No, that's not a typo. As frustrating as Kimbrel was by his end, Kimbrel was as dominant as another member of today’s edition as a closer the Red Sox have ever seen. With 108 saves, most K’s by any Alabaman pitcher (305), reliever or starter, and an otherworldly 4.07 strikeouts/walks ratio because of that, the Hunstville native was beyond an easy choice to pitch for The Cotton State.

RUNNER-UP: ED MORRIS (1928-1931)

Mississippi

Batter: Ellis Burks

Born in Vicksburg, Burks had quite an up-and-down tenure with the Red Sox but was a spectacular player in his own right, He became the third player in Red Sox history to hit 20 HRs and swipe 20 bags in a single season in 1987. An OPS+ of 115 as a Red Sox is by far his lowest, but it’s the most of any Mississippi-born Sox player and he came full circle to win a World Series ring in 2004 despite the lack of real game time.

RUNNER-UP: GEORGE SCOTT (1966-1979)

Pitcher: Oil Can Boyd

The most strikeouts of any pitcher from The Magnolia State. A stellar K/BB ratio. An ERA+ of 102, though three of the four members above him played in less than a qualifying season in my eyes. A kick-ass nickname. He had a complicated legacy as a strong pitcher with drug use issues that maybe could have changed the image of the franchise had he been able to pitch in Game 7 of the 1986 World Series. Even still, Oil Can Boyd is my choice to top the pitchers’ list for Mississippi.

RUNNER-UP: Dave Ferriss

Tennessee

Batter: Mookie Betts

This one is going to be really, really sore to write.

Mookie Betts should have been the future of the Red Sox. As toolsy a player as the Red Sox have had in the modern era. A clutch home run hitter, consistent with the bat in his hand, speedy on the basepaths, and an elite defender both with his glove and his arm. Of any member of the Killer B’s outfield, Betts was truly the star. The Nashville native has been injury prone since his move to Los Angeles, but he can stick another World Series ring in our faces for his efforts. 139 HRs in Boston, 470 RBI, and 126 stolen bases, all top the list for The Volunteer State. The Nashville native will always hold a soft spot in my heart.

RUNNER-UP: EARL WEBB (1930-1932)

Pitcher: David Price

Price’s legacy in Boston is more tumultuous, but his numbers don’t lie. An ERA+ of 118, by far leading the list of Tennesseans with 609 strikeouts, when Price was on, he was ON. When Price and Sale were on, it was a two-headed monster. The Murfreesboro native was firey on the mound and in the clubhouse, and despite some injury issues, proved a lot of his haters wrong with some stellar performances in the 2018 playoffs and World Series. Did he live up to the seven-year, $217 million contract he signed, then a franchise record? No. But he showed up and showed out when he needed to most.

RUNNER-UP: DREW POMERANZ (2016-2018)

Kentucky

Batter: Mike Greenwell

The Gator certainly earns a spot on this list and his place in the Red Sox Hall of Fame. An AL MVP runner-up in 1988 (though Jose Canseco’s PED use makes even this zillenial question who really earned it), he suffered under the weight of lofty expectations of Red Sox left fielders of yore, and though never fully at those levels, the Louisville native is better than just about every other Kentuckian on this list. Oddly enough, he works in Florida politics now?

RUNNER-UP: ADAM DUVALL (2023-present)

Pitcher: Carl Mays

Mays strides past just about every other pitcher to hail from the Bluegrass State for the Red Sox. The Liberty native pitched from 1915-1919, collecting 399 Ks, a 124 ERA+, three World Series titles just with Boston, and is one of the first recorded submariners of note. His most notable legacy is throwing the pitch that led to the only on-field player death of Ray Chapman in 1920, but he should be remembered as a stellar pitcher as well.

RUNNER-UP: JESSE TANNEHILL (1904-1908)

Portrait of Carl Mays Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

Louisiana

Batter: Reggie Smith

The Shreveport native is far and away the clearest choice for Louisiana batters. A 129 OPS+, 149 HRs, 536 RBIs, and 425 BBs all lead Louisianans to play for the Red Sox. He came in second in Rookie of the Year, was a two-time All-Star, a Golden Glove winner, and played a big role in the 1967 Impossible Dream team. While Smith is critical of his time in Boston, dealing with horrific racist comments, and certainly didn’t hold back in comments about the city, Smith’s legacy both in the Red Sox Hall of Fame and his place on this list is well cemented.

RUNNER-UP: TOM HARPER (1972-1974)

Pitcher: Jonathan Papelbon

Dropkick Murphys. All you needed to hear as an opposing batter to know the game was over. Papelbon—at his best—was one of the most electric closers not just in Red Sox history, but in all of baseball. Giving his best blue steel on the mound, revving back, dealing 509 Ks and 219 saves, the most saves all-time for the Sox, I can’t think of anyone year after year who was so dominant as a closer for the franchise. The Baton Rouge native was just as firey off the mound, which definitely got him into trouble, but peak Papelbon was just a cheat code.

RUNNER-UP: NO ONE

Arkansas

Batter: George Kell

A Baseball Hall of Famer in the class of 1983, Kell was known as a terrific third baseman both on the field and with the bat. Playing with the Red Sox from 1952-1954, his OPS+ of 122 is the highest of any team combined he played with and of any representative of The Natural State.

RUNNER-UP: SMEAD JOLLEY (1932-1933)

Boston Red Sox’ George Kell Sitting on Sidelines

Pitcher: Ellis Kinder

With only four Arkansas pitchers to choose from, Kinder was an easy choice Most games (365), most saves (97), most Ks (557), and even still, the highest ERA+ of the bunch (135). In 1949, he went 23-6, led the Majors in shutouts, and was clearly the best pitcher in the American League. His 97 saves are honestly a product of that the Sox needed delivers and he stepped up. Supposedly in 1947, a seagull dropped a three-pound smelt fish on Kinder at Fenway Park while he was pitching as a member of the St. Louis Browns and Kinder STILL got the win.

RUNNER-UP: WES GARDNER (1986-1990)

Ted Williams and Ellis Kinder Embracing Due to Victory

This list definitely trended more modern but with some throwback flair. It’s just so funny doing these lists week-to-week, where states can bring powerhouses like Jim Rice and Jonathan Papelbon, to weird semi-forced choices in Heath Hembree, and the crazy stories of these guys of more than a century ago!

Phew. Lots of states to cram into this one. Just wait until the Midwest next week!

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