Top 15 MLB Stars Who Played In College World Series

The track from college baseball player to Major League Baseball star is a relatively recent phenomenon. Big league players throughout much of history didn't have a need to play college baseball, and many still don't, going straight from high school to the minors.

But the value of a free (or at least discounted) college education has its benefits, and it's an effective bargaining chip after the MLB draft each summer. Some players are also late-bloomers who became pro prospects by becoming college stars.

These are the 15 best players who were on great teams in college who ended up being great in Major League Baseball. They played in the College World Series and became legends in the major leagues later, ranked by their pro accomplishments:

01
of 16

Barry Bonds, Arizona State (1983-84)

Pro career: The all-time leader in home runs (762) and a seven-time National League MVP, the former Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants star is considered one of the greatest players of all-time, although his legacy is tainted by being a central figure in the BALCO steroids scandal.

College World Series result: ASU finished fourth in Bonds' freshman season, but he made a big splash in 1984, tying an NCAA record with seven consecutive hits and making the All-Tournament team. However, Arizona State finished fourth, losing to eventual champion Cal State Fullerton.

02
of 16

Roger Clemens, Texas (1982-83)

Pro career: Won 354 games in a 24-year career and won seven Cy Young Awards, pitching for the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and Houston Astros. However, like Bonds, his name is also among those tainted by performance-enhancing drugs scandal, a charge he has denied repeatedly.

College World Series result: Texas finished third in his sophomore season and was on the mound as a junior when the Longhorns won the championship, beating Alabama for the title. He once pitched 35 consecutive scoreless innings in college and was 25-7 in his two seasons at Texas.

Pro career: The Hall of Fame third baseman is considered the best at his position all-time. Playing his entire career with the Philadelphia Phillies, he was an eight-time home run champion, a 10-time Gold Glove winner and a three-time National League MVP.

College World Series result: Carried the Bobcats to their only CWS appearance in 1970, but Schmidt, a shortstop at the time, failed to make the All-Tournament team. Ohio beat USC and Iowa State, but lost to Texas and Florida State, finishing fourth. More »

04
of 16

Dave Winfield, Minnesota (1973)

Pro career: The Hall of Fame outfielder had 3,110 hits, 465 home runs and 1,833 RBI in a 22-year career for five teams, most notably the San Diego Padres and New York Yankees. A 12-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove winner.

College World Series result: A two-sport star (he also played basketball), Winfield took the Golden Gophers all the way to third place in 1973, where they lost to Fred Lynn and USC. Winfield made the All-Tournament team as a pitcher and remains the only College World Series Most Valuable Player who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Pro career: The first true designated hitter in the Hall of Fame, Molitor had 3,319 hits and batted .306 in his career with the Milwaukee Brewers, Toronto Blue Jays and his hometown Minnesota Twins.

College World Series result: Four years after Winfield took the Golden Gophers to Omaha, Molitor helped take the Gophers back. Minnesota went 1-2 in the CWS, however, losing to Cal State Los Angeles, beating Baylor and losing to eventual champion Arizona State, a team with nine future big-leaguers on the team, including Bob Horner and Hubie Brooks. More »

06
of 16

Barry Larkin, Michigan (1983-84)

Pro career: The Hall of Fame shortstop played 19 big-league seasons, all with the Cincinnati Reds. He was a lifetime .295 hitter and was a 12-time All-Star and nine-time Silver Slugger winner.

College World Series result: Took Michigan to back-to-back CWS appearances, a rarity for a Big Ten squad. Michigan was third in 1983 (when Larkin was a college teammate with future Reds teammate Chris Sabo) and eighth in 1984.

Pro career: One of only four players in big-league history with 500 home runs and 3,000 hits (Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray are the others), Palmeiro hit .288 with 569 home runs and 1,835 RBI in 20 seasons. However, he was suspended positive for steroid use in 2005.

College World Series result: Was teammates with future All-Star Will Clark and pitchers Jeff Brantley and Bobby Thigpen as Mississippi State finished fourth in 1985, losing to eventual champion Miami. More »

Pro career: The 1975 American League Rookie of the Year and MVP was a star for 17 big-league seasons, most notably for the Boston Red Sox and California Angels. He was a nine-time All-Star and batted .283 with 306 career home runs and 1,111 RBI.

College World Series result: No player was more successful than Lynn in college, as the Trojans won the CWS for three consecutive years with Lynn in the outfield. He on the All-Tournament team as a freshman as USC won the 1971 championship, beating Southern Illinois in the championship. They repeated in 1971, beating Arizona State for the championship, and made it three in a row by beating a Winfield-led Minnesota team and then Arizona State in the championship. More »

Pro career: Still an active player at age 42 as of 2013, he was a five-time All-Star and the 2000 AL MVP. He has hit more than 400 home runs and drove in more than 1,400. However, he has admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs in his career.

College World Series result: Long Beach State finished fifth in the tournament, but Giambi made the All-Tournament team as a third baseman. More »

Pro career: Had a fairly quiet but very productive pro career with 2,461 hits, 377 home runs and 1,518 RBI in a 17-year career, most notably with the San Francisco Giants from 1997-2002.

College World Series result: The Golden Bears were two and out in 1988, losing to Arizona State and Florida. More »

Pro career: Won 270 games in 18 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees and was a five-time All-Star.

College World Series result: Stanford finished third in 1990, losing to champion Georgia after splitting two games earlier in the tournament with the Bulldogs. More »

Pro career: A 200-game winner as of 2013 with the Oakland A's and Atlanta Braves, he is a three-time All-Star.

College World Series result: Auburn finished sixth in 1997, beating a Lance Berkman-led Rice team but losing twice to Stanford. More »

Pro career: As of 2013, Helton is a .319 career hitter with more than 2,400 hits, 350 home runs and 1,350 RBI. A five-time All-Star, he won the NL batting title in 2000.

College World Series result: Was a teammate of future NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey with the Volunteers as Tennessee lost to Mark Kotsay and eventual champion Cal State Fullerton and finished fourth. More »

Pro career: The 1975 American League Rookie of the Year and MVP was a star for 17 big-league seasons, most notably for the Boston Red Sox and California Angels. He was a nine-time All-Star and batted .283 with 306 career home runs and 1,111 RBI.

College World Series result: No player was more successful than Lynn in college, as the Trojans won the CWS for three consecutive years with Lynn in the outfield. He on the All-Tournament team as a freshman as USC won the 1971 championship, beating Southern Illinois in the championship. They repeated in 1971, beating Arizona State for the championship, and made it three in a row by beating a Winfield-led Minnesota team and then Arizona State in the championship. More »

Pro career: Was 151-136 with a 3.38 ERA in a 15-year big-league career with the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers, and was second in Cy Young voting in 1978.

College World Series result: Made the All-Tournament team as a freshman in 1969, when Texas finished fourth. He returned to the CWS a year later, but Texas finished third, losing to USC and Florida State. Hooton was one of the best college pitchers of all-time, going 35-3 and throwing two no-hitters. More »

16
of 16

Honorable mention

Albert Belle, LSU (1986-87); Ryan Braun, Miami (2003-04); Robin Ventura, Oklahoma State (1986-87); Lance Berkman, Rice (1997); Tim Wallach, Cal State Fullerton (1979); John Franco, St. John's (1980); Will Clark, Mississippi State (1985); Jason Varitek, Georgia Tech (1994)