Every year the MLB Network has a Top Ten Right Now series at every Position and here I will breakdown my top 10 at every position. Some you may agree with and some you might not everyone’s list would probably be different in some way shape or form and that’s the beauty of baseball always something to debate. The captain of the outfield is the next list. So here’s my top 10 Center Fielders Right Now
#10 AARON HICKS
As a Yankee fan I have seen a lot of Aaron Hicks over the last couple of seasons and though often injured Hicks has true great potential. He may not be a superstar but he is a very dynamic player that has the tools and skillset to be a well above average Major League Player. So Hicks makes my list more for what he can do not what he has done.
#9 KEVIN KIERMAIER
Kiermaier the outfield defensive guru makes the countdown. Center fielders by historical narrative have been the captain of the outfield and have command and patrolled more ground than their corner counterparts. Kiermaier covers even more than most. Kevin has also been improving on the offensive side of the ball as well. In a injury shortened 2017 campaign Kiermaier still posted a 114 OPS+ according to baseball reference. Kiermaier will look to rebound health wise and have another stellar year roaming center field in Tampa.
#8 MICHAEL CONFORTO
Conforto was in the midst of a breakout season. Like Kiermaier, Conforto’s season was cut short due to injury. Conforto even in only 109 games managed a career high 145 OPS+ (according to BBRef). Conforto had 27 homeruns with an ISO% of .276 and a SLG% of .555, these are real power indicators. Conforto should be healthy earlier in the season and should resume his power hitting ability. Conforto has some defensive questions, as depending on your preferred defensive metric Defensive Runs Saver (DRS) has Conforto at -4 DRS but Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) has him at 1.3 UZR, but if you like to use UZR/150 which is an estimate of UZR per 150 innings played has Conforto at 3.7. Now thats a wide range but with more playing time he can continue to improve.
#7 BYRON BUXTON
In my opinion Buxton will surpass Kiermaier as the best defensive Center Fielder in the game. Buxton no matter what metric you use in the best preventer of runs at this position. UZR 9.9, UZR/150 13.1, DRS 24. Buxton was knocked early on in his career as being only a glove man, no offense, and after a brief demotion to the minors Buxton returned a new man offensively. Byron finished 2017 with 16 homeruns & 59 rbi’s which is very solid production from your leadoff man.
#6 CHRIS TAYLOR
Taylor came out of now where in 2017. Taylor was once a throw in, in a Dodger Mariner trade, Chris has now solidified himself as an everyday player. In 2017 21/72 hr/rbi, amassing a 122 OPS+. Taylor will continue to thrive in the Dodgers lineup.
#5 LORENZO CAIN
Lorenzo Cain has quietly become a very good player. While playing in Kansas City hasn’t truly given him year in and out exposure, being a vital part of the 2015 World Series Champions does help to elevate his case. Cain has now signed on with Milwaukee and will be able to take advantage of a much more hitter friendly ballpark that is Miller Park over Kauffman Stadium.
#4 TOMMY PHAM
Tommy Pham broke out in a big way in 2017. Pham had 23 homeruns, 73 rbi’s, 25 stolen bases and the sabermetric slash line goal of .306/.411/.520 and a 144 OPS+. Pham will be planted into the middle of the Cardinals lineup. In 2018 Pham is projected to have another 20/20 potential season.
#3 GEORGE SPRINGER
The 2017 World Series MVP had a great year obviously capped off helping the Astros win the World Series. 34 homeruns 85 rbi’s and a 144 OPS+. Springer will continue to anchor the top of the Astros order.
#2 CHARLIE BLACKMON
The Beard of Blake Street, Charlie Blackmon has truly become one of the best players in all of baseball. Blackmon has been a perennial silver slugger and have received MVP votes in the last two seasons. Blackmon 37 homeruns and 104 rbi’s and a OPS+ of 142. The number that truly jumps out at you when you look at his numbers is the .601 slugging percentage. That signifies real power. The defensive metrics don’t give any Colorado center fielder any credit, however the eye test says he is a good outfielder.
#1 MIKE TROUT
This man is walking on sunshine. Mike Trout is the best player on the planet. The player that you would build on a video game or start a franchise around. Even going on the DL for the first time in his career, Trout finished 4th in the AL MVP. Trout is the guy that will benefit most this season by the Angels being the spot Ohtani chose because he will get more national spotlight and his enormous talent will be showcased.