Who is the Best Center Fielder in Baseball?
Thursday April 26, 2012
Bryan Sheehan: Have you ever sat and pondered as to who is the best Center Fielder in the game of baseball today? With so many good options, it is rather hard to make the choice. To make the assessment, you have to look at all the “tools” and come up with the best all-around Center Fielder in the game. Keeping that in mind, here are my top-5 selections- starting with #5:
The Flyin’ Hawaiian is the epitome of all-around solid player. Not the greatest in any aspect, he has a jack-of-all-trades look that is made extraordinary by his hustle. Though he won’t steal gratuitous amounts of bases, his speed on the basepaths is seen in his league leading 16 triples last year. His three straight Gold Gloves from 2008-2010 are also really impressive, and considering his perfect fielding percentage in 2011, he could have easily won four straight.
Bourn is the prototypical fast center fielder. He’s led the league in stolen bases for the past three years, nabbing 61 in his 2011 campaign between the Astros and the Braves. Like Juan Pierre in his prime, Bourn is extremely fast, and can make good contact with the ball. Though it’s not all-star worthy, his .294 batting average last season was 27 points higher than the league average for leadoff hitters. His speed also translates on defense, giving him great range to run down balls in the gap.
Ellsbury would be higher up on the list if he were healthy. A duel threat, he earned both a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove after a “perfect” year defensively in center (he hasn’t committed an error since 2009, when he was charged with the only two of his career) and success at the plate that culminated in a .321 average, 32 dingers and 105 RBIs. Never one to shy away from base stealing, he finished in the top ten with 39 steals, and has led the league twice in his young career; in 2008 he had 50 swiped bags, and in 2009 he had 70. Second only to Justin Verlander in MVP voting last year, Ellsbury was also third best in the American League when it came to WAR, as he ended the season with a 7.2. The absolute number two best center fielder when he’s healthy, the problem right now is his shoulder injury: I ranked an injured Chase Utley too high in my last positional rankings, so I’m hesitant to give Ellsbury the benefit of the doubt.
Always a decent player, Granderson exploded offensively last year, leading the league with 119 RBIs and hitting 41 homeruns. Add ten triples, 25 stolen bases and a MLB high 136 runs scored, and Grandy’s 2011 was fantastic. Early on in 2012, it looks as he’ll be continuing his dominance: already 12 RBIs and 6 dingers in just 16 games, on pace to top his 2011 numbers if he continues this way. His 136 runs scored is a bit of a crooked number, influenced mainly by the fact that he hits in front of the 3-4-5 of the New York Yankees. His .262 batting average is low for someone that gets driven in so much, but you can’t fault him for being on a winning team.
1. Matt Kemp
What can be said about a hitter than promises a 50-50 season, and is taken seriously? Kemp, who hit .324 with 39 homeruns, 40 stolen bases and 126 RBIs last year, is already off to an intensely hot start. Leading the league practically every category, from batting average (.460) and total bases (60) to homeruns (9) and RBIs (22), Kemp’s early prediction of a 50 homerun, 50 stolen base season may not be so farfetched. Though there is sure to be some drop-off in his production, for not it seems that Kemp is one of the best hitters, for both average and power, in the game. A gold glove outfielder, Kemp may drift slightly into the category of “gold glove because of hitting prowess,” but his play in center field is by no means a liability. Like Ellsbury, Kemp won both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger last year, and finished second in voting for Most Valuable Player.
Today’s feature was prepared by Baseball Writer, Bryan Sheehan. You can follow Bryan on Twitter (@BaseballHipster), read his interviews with Phillies’ minor league prospects at PhightingOn.com, and catch him writing the occasional article for ThroughTheFenceBaseball.com. Tweet him about this article and give him a follow and he will follow you back!
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Posted on April 25, 2012, in Players: Fantasy Baseball Articles and tagged baseball, center field, center fielder, curtis granderson, jacoby ellsbury, matt kemp, michael bourn, mlb, shane victorino, top CF. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.