Every year MLB Network puts on a series entitled “Top 10 Right Now” at each position in the game of baseball. And over the years I have joined along and made my list. Now before last season, it didn’t mean much beyond being a personal exercise. Last year having had LaracuenteLedger.com, I now have a platform to display my list. And this year I’ll be keeping with the decade-long tradition. I follow along with MLB Network and release my list as they air the corresponding episode of each position. So we begin with the Top 10 Center Fielders Right Now.
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Each time I sit down to make out my list of the Top 10 at each position I look to the graphic above that MLB Network releases. I usually have an idea in mind of my top players at each position, but then I research and try to make my best decision. Now the selection process is somewhat like a fantasy draft of each position as an individual draft. But by the same token one must take into account previous output and estimate what the player can do in the upcoming season at that position. And be sure to listen to tomorrow’s episode of The Laracuente Ledger Podcast for a complete recap of both my Top 10 Left Fielders & Center Fielders Right Now. So number ten on my Top 10 Center Fielders Right now is…
No. 10: Byron Buxton
Now when it comes to Byron Buxton, his placement is based on potential and Minor League track record. Because when looking at what Buxton has done in the Major Leagues it has been abys mal. Buxton has the necessary tools to be a very good Major Leaguer. And once Byron uncovers the trick to being his Minor League track record to the Bigs, he will have a stellar career.
No. 9: Jackie Bradley Jr.
Jackie Bradley Jr is known as a premier defender in the MLB. And amongst Center Fielders there are few (if any) that are better. However, Bradley’s offensive game has struggled to be as consistent as his defensive game. But when studying over JBJ as a player, he merits inclusion on this list. And that’s saying something because as it has been well documented on this site, I am a Yankee fan. And I don’t like giving the Red Sox or their players any credit, but it is due in Bradley Jr’s case.
No. 8: Ender Inciarte
The Atlanta Braves Center Fielder is about to score a lot of runs in the upcoming season. And as already one of the best defensive Center Fielders in the game Ender can only get better. Offensively, Inciarte took a step back in 2018. And even before that, Inciarte wasn’t exactly an offensive force. But going into a new season with a crew behind him of real threats, Ender should be able to capitalize. At the Center Field, position defense is a must-have skill in the toolset. And if Inciarte can add even a little more offense, he can become a staple of this list for years to come.
No. 7: AJ Pollock
AJ Pollock is a guy that hasn’t received a lot of national attention because of playing in Arizona. But he has been one of the best Center Fielders in the game. And the Dodgers can expect a 20/20 type player with an OPS over .800. And just to add in a bit more about Pollock he rates out positively as a defender in Center Field as well. So with the Los Angeles Dodgers bringing AJ Pollock in, they are adding a truly valuable player to their ranks.
No. 6: Cody Bellinger
When looking at the two years that Cody Bellinger has been in the Majors, he has been phenomenal. Bellinger has all the ability in the world. Now, most of his time with the Dodgers has been a rotating position, between the Outfield and First Base. But since he’s listed with the Center Fielders, that is where I will add him. Cody Bellinger is a plus defender in Center Field because of his incredible speed and the strength of his arm. How that will translate over an entire season will have to be seen. But one thing is certain if Bellinger can stay healthy and mindful of his approach at the plate, big things are in store of the 23-year-old Bellinger.
No. 5: Lorenzo
Lorenzo Cain is one of those guys that has quietly delivered an impressive career. Mostly playing in smaller markets, Cain has managed a career OPS+ of 109 to go along with a slash line of .293/.351/.420. And over four of the last five seasons, Cain has been an All-Star caliber player. Not to mention played very good defense in Center Field. When looking at Cain over Bellinger, for example, the consistency over a more extended period got him the nod. When projecting forward for the 2019 season, Lorenzo Cain is a reliable contributor and a winning culture kind of player.
No. 4: Charlie Blackmon
As an industry, pundits are trying to figure out the Coors Field effect. And players that call Colorado home have their contributions often overlooked. This bias affects our number four entry on the Top 10 Center Fielders Right Now, Charlie Blackmon. Blackmon has put together a nice career. Over the course of eight Major Leagues seasons, Blackmon has 140 home runs and driven in 425. Charlie has also produced a slash line of .302/.359/.497. Also playing in Colorado his defensive metrics aren’t viewed as favorably either. But that being said the defensive metrics are hardly capable of encapsulating the difficulty of the Mile High effects on the body. Blackmon has played no less than 143 games over the last five seasons. Blackmon is durable and effective.
Now when it comes to Rockies the home and road splits are often brought up. And with Blackmon, those same principles apply. A slash line of .344/.403/.567 at home ranks Charlie among the elite in the game. While his away splits look much more pedestrian at .262/.315/.430. Blackmon is both and neither player, an oxymoronic statement I know. But when we examine what kind of players guys are away from Coors Field, it can’t be measured until they are out of Denver. Charlie Blackmon is a top Center Fielder in the game today and earned this “mile high” placement.
No. 3: George Springer
Number three on my list is the Houston Astros, George Springer. Springer has played five seasons in the Major Leagues. And during that span as produced like an All-Star. And while by his own standards 2018 was a down campaign, it was a well above average season. Springer has posted a career OPS+ of 127 and added to that a total of 121 home runs and 330 RBI’s, most of which came as a leadoff man. As the new season approaches, Springer will take on a similar role at the top of the Astros order. And as Springer’s approach matures he can become an even better player. Look for 2019 to be the next step in the evolution of George Springer.
No. 2: Aaron Hicks
Aaron Hicks may not have been your first choice to be placed this high on the list. But as a Yankee fan, I get the pleasure to watch Hicks on a daily basis. And it’s in that regular viewing that one can appreciate the immense talent that Aaron Hicks brings to the table. Over the last two seasons, Hicks has broken out in the Bronx. During the previous two seasons despite dealing with injuries, Hicks has been the second best Center Fielder in baseball. And looking ahead to 2019, the premise of this list and the MLB Network series, Aaron Hicks is set for a significant push to the top. No, he will not surpass the number one entry on this list. Because let’s face it, it’s not a secret; Mike Trout is the greatest player we have ever seen play the game. But a healthy Aaron Hicks can easily grab hold of the number two spot on this list.
No. 1: Mike Trout
Well, this is a no brainer here, Mike Trout is the number one player in the game, let alone the number one Center Fielder. There is nothing a baseball field that Mike Trout cannot do. And his exploits are incredible to watch. There is not an executive in the game that would tell you otherwise, Mike Trout is the kind of player you build your franchise around. A once in a lifetime kind of talent and likewise as good of a man. Not a bad word is utter about him. And when you watch him on the field you are left in awe of his ability.
Over the course of eight Major League seasons, T rout has amassed 240 home runs, 648 RBI’s, 1187 hits, 189 stolen bases and slashed a career line of .307/.416/.573 and an average, yes AVERAGE, OPS+ of 175. Since 2012, his first full season in the bigs, Mike Trout has received MVP votes in every single season. Trout has won two MVP awards and arguably should have won three (or four if you ask me) more. Mike Trout on this current trajectory will go down as the greatest player to ever play this game of baseball.