1989- Gregg Olson, Reliever
Olson’s first full season in the major leagues was arguably his best season in the bigs, a career that spanned 14 seasons and nine different franchises.
The fourth overall pick in the 1988 draft out of Auburn, Olson was pitching for the Baltimore Orioles by the end of the season, appearing in 10 games. He walked 10 and struck out nine, giving up four runs on 10 hits across 11 innings. It didn’t take long for him to settle in and find success as a professional.
Olson was fantastic in his first full season in the majors, taking home Rookie of the Year honors, finishing sixth in Cy Young voting and 12th in MVP voting. Not bad for a closer. Logging 85 innings across 64 games, the former Auburn Tiger went 5-2 with a 1.69 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 27 saves. His 85 IP and 90 strikeouts were both career-highs.
After spending six seasons with the Orioles, he became a free agent and signed with the Atlanta Braves ahead of the 1994 season. He was unable to replicate his success in Baltimore at any of his future stops, due to a torn elbow ligament that derailed his once-promising career. Olson was worth 11.6 bWAR as an Oriole and a combined 1.2 bWAR from 1994-2001.
Armed with one of the more devastating curveballs in baseball, Olson remains the Orioles franchise leader in saves with 160. He was elected to the Orioles Hall of Fame in 2008. Without that torn ligament early in his career, would we be talking about Gregg Olson the MLB Hall of Famer? Possibly.