Every offseason, MLB Network runs through a series of programming. One such show is about the Top 10 Right Now at each position. And as we have done in both 2018 and 2019, we will go over our Top 10 Center Fielders Right Now.
Just a quick note about this list, it is a personal list, and everyone will value different things from each position. So I encourage you to make your own list and see who makes the cut on your list.
10. Whit Merrifield- Kansas City Royals
We begin this list with a player moving to this position, Whit Merrifield. And while this may seem like a strange inclusion, I like Merrifield as a player. I think of Merrifield as a “baseball player.” And over the last couple of seasons, Merrifield has been an underrated asset to a struggling Royals team. And as we move into 2020, I expect Whit to be a major player and one of the ten best center fielders this season.
9. Ender Inciarte- Atlanta Braves
The Braves Center Fielder has been one of the game’s best defenders at the position over the last several years. And while some value offense more, in Center Field I want defense. A good defender in Center Field can save teams a lot of runs against them, and that’s a skillset Inciarte provides. Offensively, Ender has been slightly below league average by FanGraph’s wRC+ (because of a lack of power), but his plus defense means more to me than his homerun total.
8. Kevin Kiermaier- Tampa Bay Rays
Another player that falls into my defense first in Center Field mentality is the Rays, Kevin Kiermaier. Kiermaier has been a spectacular defender, and it can be irritating to watch when it’s against my Yankees. Kevin took a considerable step backward offensively last season, but that could easily be attributed to a career BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) of .267. But again for my money, I think a good defender is very valuable, and that’s why he makes my list.
7. Ramon Laureano- Oakland Athletics
The biggest claim to fame in 2019 was a throw made by Ramon Laureano. And this upcoming season should bring even more highlights from the cannon arm of Laureano. Ramon has played a little more than one season in the Major Leagues, and for his career, Laureano has a slashline of .288/.345/.508. Heading into 2020, Laureano should be among the best and most interesting Center Fielders in the game.
6. Byron Buxton- Minnesota Twins
When it comes to defensive Center Fielders, there is none better than Byron Buxton. The Twins Center Fielder hasn’t been the offensive force that was expected, like many others on this list, Buxton’s defense is his calling card. Should Buxton take the next steps and add any value offensively, he can quickly advance higher on this list.
5. Lorenzo Cain- Milwaukee Brewers
The elder statesman on this list, Lorenzo Cain, has proven that he is still among the game’s best defenders in Center Field. Cain is able to go get it with the best of them. Offensively, Lorenzo had a down season in 2019, as compared to the previous two seasons. And a relatively healthy season should see an offensive bounce back. Putting Lorenzo at this spot on the list also comes as a result of more of a track record than some of the others on this list. Again, I’ll reiterate I like my Center Fielder to be good defensively, and any type of superb offense is an added benefit.
4. Starling Marte- Pittsburgh Pirates
Now, this move is based on his offense. Starling Marte is capable of being one of the best offensive threats in Center Field in 2020. Off the strength of an “All-Star” level campaign and slugging over .500 for the first time in his career, Marte is set to break out. However, I say that with a caveat as Marte needs to be traded out of Pittsburgh. As the Pirates lineup is currently constructed, outside of Josh Bell, no one is a genuine concern. Should the Bucs trade the Center Fielder, Marte would likely shine in a better offensive lineup. And let me reiterate this ranking for Marte is based on his offense, as in my opinion, Marte is playing out of position, and he shouldn’t be a Center Fielder. But the offense gives him a level of separation from the previous entries.
3. George Springer- Houston Astros
Even in an injury-plagued season, George Springer is among the upper echelon of Center Fielders in Major League Baseball. In just 122 games, Springer his 39 homeruns, drove in 96 RBIs and slashed .292/.383/.591, culminating in a WAR of 6.5. (According to FanGraph’s WAR.) And over the last few seasons, Springer has been among the best players in MLB, let alone the Center Fielders.
2. Cody Bellinger- Los Angeles Dodgers
On most other lists, Cody Bellinger would top them, and pretty easily. Bellinger is coming off an MVP caliber season, in which he would hit 47 homers and 115 RBIs. Cody has played like a legitimate candidate for MVP over the last few seasons and going into 2020, that trend should continue. The offense that Bellinger provides is second to one and would outrank most others in MLB. Going into this new season, Cody Bellinger is a safe bet to be the second-best Center Fielder in the game.
1. Mike Trout- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
In the biggest non-spoiler in the world, Mike Trout is the best Center Fielder in the game. To clarify the point just a little bit more, Mike Trout is the best player in Major League Baseball. Period, end of story. And while I would be perfectly justified stopping there, I will for the sake of it all just give some numbers for Trout over the last three seasons. During that span, Trout has a slashline of .310/.448/.659. Also factor in a wRC+ of 189 (league average is 100.) Mike Trout is 89x better than a league-average replacement in Center Field. And if you’re interested in the “old school” back of the baseball card stat numbers, Mike Trout has 114 homeruns and 246 RBIs during that span. As well as an MVP award and finished in the Top 5 MVP voting despite having injury shorten seasons in all three campaigns.