Baseball season is fast approaching. With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Spring Training in just over a month, there’s no better time than now to look at baseball’s top talent. In part one of Overtime’s own Top 10 Right Now (a la MLB Network), we look at the MLB’s top 10 center fielders right now.
10. Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa Bay Rays
Kiermaier followed up an intriguing 2014 season with more of the same in 2015. His batting remained consistent (.263 average, 10 homers, the same totals as 2014), but he flourished when given more at-bats near the top of Tampa Bay’s order. Kiermaier’s low OBP (.298) is worrisome, but could work itself out in time.
Kiermaier’s main value comes in his defense. There’s no doubt that Kiermaier is among the 5 best defensive center fielders in baseball. He threw out 15 baserunners and led all of the Major Leagues with 42 defensive runs saved. Kiermaier is a player to keep an eye on in Tampa Bay.
9. Carlos Gomez, Houston Astros
The enigmatic Gomez had a down year by his standards in 2015, but is still one of baseball’s most electric players. His .314 OBP, 101 strikeouts, and modest 12 home runs point to a player on the decline, but Gomez is still just 30 years old and is only 2 years removed from a 24-homer, 40-steal campaign.
Gomez plays the game very hard, which could be the cause of his slow 2015. But with Houston on the rise, Gomez is one of the Astros’ biggest building blocks. A bounce-back season of epic proportion could be in store for the fiery outfielder.
8. Adam Eaton, Chicago White Sox
Eaton took a big step forward in 2015. The pesky 5’8″ dynamo, “Spanky” posted a .287 average, clubbed a surprising 14 home runs, stole 18 bases, and played top-notch defense for the ChiSox.
Eaton is a critical piece to the White Sox. He can both set the table (.361 OBP) and clear it (.431 SLG), and his speed and defense in center field are among the league’s best. Eaton is a throwback player to the center fielders of days gone by, a speedy all-rounder with stellar defense.
7. Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles
At number six on the list we have another “Adam”, but this one plays a much different game from the previous one. You know what you’re going to get with Adam Jones. He has hit 25-plus home runs and driven in at least 80 RBI in 5 straight seasons, has hit .280 or better in 4 of those, and hasn’t gone on the disabled list since 2009.
Jones is still one of the Orioles’ most valuable players. Sure, he strikes out too much and doesn’t have the speed that he once did, but his steady defense, timely hitting, and veteran leadership make Jones one of the MLB’s most consistent center fielders.
6. Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets
After some thoughtful consideration and a more clear role as defined by his contract with the Mets, Yoenis Cespedes is making this list as a center fielder. Originally, Cespedes was on the left fielders list, but we have moved him to center field after learning of the Mets’ plan to play him primarily in center.
There’s no denying Cespedes’ stellar offensive numbers. He hit .291 with 35 home runs, 105 RBI, and a .870 over the entire season, but had even better figures when he was with the Mets. In only 57 games in New York, Cespedes completely changed the ballclub and was the missing piece required for the Mets’ World Series run. His center field defense is quite an adventure and he is prone to go missing for long stretches, but Cespedes is an elite talent when everything is going his way.
5. A.J. Pollock, Arizona Diamondbacks
If you only follow baseball casually, you might not know who A.J. Pollock is. But if he continues his rapid ascent, it’ll only be a matter of time before everyone knows Pollock’s name. The D-Back’s center fielder had a breakout 2014 cut short by injury but came back with an even better 2015. Pollock hit .315, popped 20 taters, stole 39 bases, had an OPS of .865, and played an excellent center field.
At 28 years old, Pollock is just hitting his prime. And with star players Paul Goldschmidt, Zack Greinke, and Shelby Miller around him, perhaps the D-Backs aren’t that far removed from contending. A 30-30 season might be in the cards for Pollock sooner than you think.
4. Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs
Heyward’s new status as a center fielder didn’t hurt his ranking one bit. The league’s preeminent defensive outfielder shouldn’t have any issues acclimating to the rigors of playing center field for the Cubs in 2016. The move to center also makes Heyward’s offensive numbers even more impressive. Heyward isn’t as flashy as some predicted, but he is consistent and clutch. A .280 average, 15 homers, 20 steals, and a high OBP are all standard for Heyward.
The Cubs may have immensely overpaid for his services ($184 million over 8 years), but he is a good fit in Chicago. He’ll be able to hit anywhere in the lineup, can play any outfield position spectacularly, and could be the centerpiece of a Cubs World Series club in the near future.
3. Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals
Cain took the jump in 2015 into the elite center fielder class. A World Series Champion for the first time, Cain is squarely in his prime. He is a .300 hitter, has developed sneaky power (16 homers), can steal 30 bases a year, and is a leader for the Royals. He can play any outfield position and is always there when the Royals need him most.
Cain needs to have a big 2016 to prove that 2015 wasn’t a fluke. The Royals are depending on Cain heavily, and their number-3 hitter shouldn’t have any issues in meeting those expectations.
2. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
“Cutch” is clutch. Andrew McCutchen is one of baseball’s most exciting players and a true specimen. Despite nagging injuries in the last two seasons, McCutchen has still posted numbers among the MLB’s best. The 2013 MVP winner has a good eye at the plate, hits .300 just about every year, and has elite power. McCutchen is also a very good defender, and is just one of baseball’s best all-around players.
McCutchen will be leading the Pirates for a long time as he hopes to raise the Jolly Roger a couple of times in the playoffs. If McCutchen played any position other than center field, he’d probably be number one on this list. But the best player in baseball is also a center fielder, which makes McCutchen a solid number 2.
1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Trout’s age-23 season was his best one yet, at least statistically. His .299 average was a nice rebound from 2014, his 41 home runs were by far and away a career-best, his strikeouts went down, and his walks went up. Trout may not be the kid who stole 49 bags in his rookie year while running wild in the field, but he still takes the extra base at an advanced clip and is one of baseball’s elite defenders.
There simply isn’t anyone better in baseball than Mike Trout. His seasons somehow get better each and every year, which leaves you wondering what he can do in 2016. The MLB is Mike Trout’s world, and we’re just living in it.