Cincinnati Reds: Who was the best player in team history to wear No. 16?

CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 04: Tucker Barnhart #16 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 04: Tucker Barnhart #16 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

One of the numbers throughout the history of the Cincinnati Reds that has seen a lot of talented players is the No. 16. But who was the best to wear it?

The No. 16 has seen some action in the Queen City. Some of the best and most electric players in the history of the Cincinnati Reds have worn the No. 16. It’s also been worn by some colossal failures. Let’s look back through thee history books and check out some of the players who’ve worn the No. 16 throughout the history of the Reds.

First, let’s check out the player who’s currently wearing the No. 16, catcher Tucker Barnhart. While many fans throughout Reds Country are eager to see top catching prospect Tyler Stephenson make his major league debut, I think Barnhart is a highly-underrated backstop.

Barnhart is never going to wow you with power or a high batting average, but few catchers do. Tucker battled injuries last season, but still found the field enough to set a career-high in home runs (11). Barnhart took home a Gold Glove in 2017 and is certainly an above-average defensive catcher.

Five-time All-Star Edgar Rentería spent one season (2011) in the Queen City wearing the No. 16. Rentería was a fixture in the St. Louis infield for many seasons, going to three All-Star Games and winning three Silver Sluggers. Unfortunately, the two-time World Series champion scratched out just 96 games during his lone season in Cincinnati and was well past his prime.

Highly-touted prospect Brandon Larson was given the No. 16 during his rookie season. Taken 14th overall by the Reds in 1997, Larson never amounted to the praise he received coming out of LSU. Larson spent four seasons with Cincinnati, never playing more than 40 games in a season and has a career batting average of .179. Ouch!

Reds Top 10 all-time leaders in WAR. More

Ron Oester is sure to get some love from the Reds faithful. A Cincinnati-native and fixture in the Cincinnati infield for 13 seasons, Oester is beloved throughout Reds Country. Oester finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1980, hitting .277 with 16 doubles and 20 RBIs.

Oester suffered a torn ACL in 1987 during a collision at second base, but would return in 1988 and was a key bench piece during the Cincinnati Reds 1990 World Series run. In Game 2 of the series, Oester’s final major league plate appearance, he drove in Joe Oliver and kept the Reds within striking distance of a game they’d win on Oliver’s walk-off hit up the third base line.

Who could forget Reggie Sanders? During his eight years in Cincinnati, Sanders showcased power, speed and athleticism. Sanders finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1992, falling to Eric Karros of the Los Angeles Dodgers. By today’s standards, Sanders may have won the award, as his OPS, WAR and slugging were higher than fellow rookies Karros and Moises Alou.

Sanders wore the No. 16 throughout the majority of his Reds career and finished his time in Cincinnati with a slash line of .271/.353/.476. Sanders went to the All-Star Game in 1995 and finished sixth the MVP vote behind teammate Barry Larkin. Sanders is one of the more underrated players in Cincinnati Reds history.

Leo Cárdenas, wore the No. 16 from 1961 to 1968. During that time, Cárdenas earned four trips to the All-Star Game and won a Gold Glove (1965). Dubbed “Mr. Automatic” for the ease at which he appeared to field the shortstop position, Cárdenas was no slouch with the bat either. Initially slated to platoon with Eddie Kasko, Cárdenas proved capable of holding down the position by himself.

In 1966, Cárdenas set the record for most home runs in club history by a shortstop (20). That record was eventually broken by Hall of Famer Barry Larkin. Cárdenas was elected to the Reds Hall of Fame in 1981, and much like Reggie Sanders, never seems to have received the level of recognition he deserves.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve some across some tight races for the best players to have worn a specific jersey number, but this one is by far the closest race we’ve had yet. There’s easily three solid candidates to choose from. When you look at the numbers in this case, they don’t tell the entire story.

Votto will forfeit $154K for every game missed. Next

In the end, I’m going to give the nod to Leo Cárdenas. While Ron Oester and Reggie Sanders definitely metro consideration, Cárdenas was one of the best defensive shortstops of his era. While a lot of fans today focus more on the power numbers, defense meant something back in Cárdenas’ day, and he was one of the best at one of the most important positions in baseball.