Being named a cover athlete is a prestigious honor in the the professional sports world. By observing cover athletes from the past, it becomes apparent that this honor can affect players in a variety of ways. For instance, many are familiar with the "Madden Curse" that seemingly plagued the careers of cover athletes Peyton Hillis and Vince Young. Nonetheless, it is unclear how much of a role video game covers have in downturning the performance of certain players.
On the flip side, some cover athletes may have gained good luck from recieving cover honors. For instance, when Calvin Johnson was the cover athlete for Madden 13, he was named an All-Pro with 122 catches for 1,964 receiving yards. We will rank the last ten MLB The Show cover athletes using three metrics: career performance, performance in the season prior to being named a cover athlete and performance in the season they appeared on the cover.
10 RF Yasiel Puig
MLB The Show 15 surely has the worst cover athlete out of any of the franchise's releases in the past 11 years. Puig was electric to watch on defense with his combination of athleticism and arm strength. His position in the massive market of Los Angeles as the right fielder for the Dodgers is another factor that contributed to the bloated hype surrounding Puig entering the 2015 season.
Puig's moderately decent hitting stats in the 2014 season were barely enough to earn him cover honors. The right fielder has the least impressive stat line out of any player on the list for the season prior to being named a cover athlete. In addition, his performance in the 2015 season as the cover athlete was horrific, as he only played 79 games and finished the season with a forgettable .255 batting average and only 38 RBIs.
9 RF Bryce Harper
Harper had a pretty monster season as a power hitter in the season prior to being named the cover athlete of MLB The Show 19. The former Washington Nationals right fielder hit 34 HRs and contributed a career-high 100 RBIs. However, his continuous habit of finishing seasons with a batting average of around .250 is a major liability.
Harper is struggling at the plate in his 2019 season, remaining outside of the top tiers in every offensive metric. Not to mention, he was named the most overrated player in baseball based on a pole taken by every player in the MLB. Similar to Puig, Harper's bloated popularity played a bigger factor in being named the cover athlete than his actual performance on the diamond.
8 1B Adrian Gonzalez
One interesting aspect of Gonzalez's reign as the cover athlete for MLB The Show 12 is the fact that he is in a Red Sox jersey. Although Gonzalez put up some of the highest numbers in his career at Boston (.338 batting average and 117 RBIs), he only spent two seasons with the Red Sox out of his 15 season career.
The Red Sox traded the star first baseman to the Dodgers in the middle of his season as the cover athlete in 2012. Gonzalez's power hitting stats are inferior to many of the other names on the list, but his solid batting averages and RBI count in both the 2011 and 2012 seasons push him far past the likes of Puig and Harper.
7 RF Aaron Judge
Judge had an unforgettable season at the plate leading up to him being named the cover athlete for MLB The Show 18. The 2017 season was only Judge's second season in the league and he horrified opposing pitchers with 52 HRs and 114 RBIs. However, Judge experienced a downturn in his offensive performance during his season as the cover athlete as a result of injuries.
Since his stellar 2017 season, Judge has hit less than 40 homers in the 2018 and 2019 seasons combined. The young player is only in his fourth season as a pro, but injury troubles raise doubt as to whether Judge will ever perform at a similar level to his 2017 season. In addition, Judge has never finished a season with a batting average above .290 so that hurts his stock against the rest of the prestigious cover athletes on this list.
6 3B Josh Donaldson
In the season leading to Donaldson being named the cover athlete for MLB The Show 16, the third baseman won the American League MVP and hit a whopping 41 HRs with 123 RBIs. His career batting average is amongst the lowest in this list of athletes, but his batting averages in both the season prior to and as the cover athlete were both higher than his career average.
Donaldson is also a formidable example of a cover athlete that performed at a high level while he was on the cover. His batting average only dropped slightly and he hit 37 HRs and contributed 99 RBIs. Donaldson is a fantastic player and ended up on the cover of MLB The Show in a scorching period of his career.
5 CF Andrew McCutchen
McCutchen is a versatile talent—especially in the early period of his career—who became a fan favorite to baseball fans everywhere. His ability to perform at a high level both defensive and offensively made McCutchen a major threat in MLB The Show. In the season leading to being named the cover athlete of MLB The Show 13, McCutchen contributed an impressive .327 batting average with 31 HRs and 96 RBIs.
In his 2013 season as the cover athlete, McCutchen experienced a slight dip in his offensive numbers, but was still named the National League MVP. McCutchen is the only player on the list that earned an MVP while they were on the cover of MLB The Show. His modest career stat line is the only factor that keeps him from penetrating deeper into the top five.
4 2B Dustin Pedroia
In the 2008 season leading to Pedroia earning cover honors, the second baseman won the American League MVP and lead the Red Sox to win the World Series. Pedroia is also one of very few players in the history of baseball to win the MVP after winning Rookie of the Year in his previous season.
Pedroia's impressive .299 batting average over the course of his career is also one of the highest figures out of his cover athlete peers. Pedroia's small size warrants minimal power production, but his astounding ability as a defensive middle infielder more than makes up for it. The long-time Red Sox player earned four Golden Glove awards over the course of his career. Pedroia also contributed solid numbers in his season as the cover athlete.
3 C Joe Mauer
Mauer was on the cover of both MLB The Show 10 and MLB The Show 11. The Twins catcher is the only player to be named the cover athlete for MLB The Show twice, let alone two consecutive years in a row. In the 2009 season that lead to him earning cover honors for the first time, Mauer was named the American League MVP and earned a batting title. The Twins player had a stunning batting average of .365—the highest season batting average out of every player on the list. Mauer has surely had one of the most decorated careers in the modern era of the MLB, and should be considered one of the greatest catchers of all time.
It is admirable that Mauer could achieve such high levels of success at the plate due to his defensive position. Typically, catchers are less likely to be strong offensive performers as a result of the additional responsibilities, engagement and physical burden they experience on defense in comparison to other positions. Although Mauer was not an amazing power hitter, his golden gloves and contact hitting firmly set him in the top three.
2 CF Ken Griffey Jr.
Griffey Jr. played in the MLB for an astounding 25 seasons. Unlike any other name on the list, the center fielder was named to the Hall of Fame in 2016 and was named the cover athlete after he had retired. The MLB The Show 17 cover was a fantastic way to commemorate Griffey Jr.'s storied career.
Over the course of his career, Griffey Jr. hit 630 HRs and had 1,836 RBIs, which ranks him seventh all time in career HRs and in the top 20 for career RBIs. He was named the American League MVP in 1997 as a member of the Seattle Mariners. Although Griffey Jr.'s performance decreased in the latter stretch of his career, he will forever be thought of as one of the greatest players in the modern era of baseball.
1 1B Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera achieved an incredible milestone in his 2012 season when he became the first player to win the Triple Crown since Carl Ystremski 45 years prior. The Tigers first baseman led the league in batting average, RBIs and HRs with figures .330, 40 and 139 respectively. His 2013 season that led to him being named the cover athlete for MLB The Show 14 is similarly impressive, as he contributed a higher batting average and close to identical HR and RBI count. Cabrera was named the American League MVP in both consecutive seasons.
In his 2014 season as the cover athlete, Cabrera's performance decreased but still remained stellar. His batting average remained over .310 and despite his lesser HR production, Cabrera still managed to knock in 109 RBIs. The first baseman's career numbers are intimidating with a .316 lifetime batting average with 470 HRs and 1672 RBIs. Cabrera will surely go down as one of the greatest batters in the history of baseball, as well as the best cover athlete MLB The Show has ever had.