We continue our look at the top 100 Colorado Rockies of all time in this article. Here, we look at No. 88 on our list, John Vander Wal.
John Vander Wal played for Colorado for five seasons, more than any other team in his nearly 15-year career. He ranks seventh on the all-time pinch-hit list with 129. He had an MLB record 28 hits in 1995 which was his best season with the club. Vander Wal helped the Rockies reach the playoffs that year with a .347 batting average. Although he never had much power, even at Coors Field, as a pinch hitter he could be counted on to get on base and drive in runs.
Vander Wal has easily played the most games of any Rockies player on this list so far. While that didn’t always translate to success or consistent at bats, Vander Wal had some of his best seasons in Denver when the club was first coming up. His versatility in the outfield and at first base brought dimension to his game.
Vander Wal got to Colorado by a similar path as his teammates Larry Walker and Andrés Galarraga. He started his career in for the Montreal Expos, eventually making it to Denver, in 1994. While in Denver he had almost a 2 WAR being utilized mostly as a utility player coming off primarily off the bench. Vander Wal was one of the glue guys for the original Rockies playoff team. In 1996 Vander Wal had similar production actually getting more hits than in 1995 but in more plate appearances. In 1997 his production declined but he rebounded dramatically in 1998 essentially the later season evening out the one before.
This performance gave Vander Wal more confidence in the marketplace and the Padres traded for him in August. He played in the 1998 World Series collecting two hits in five at bats. Vander Wal would become a more of an every day player with the Padres and eventually the Pirates who he had his best season of his career with in 2000.