Although the first game of the season was played early this morning in Japan, there is truly only 8 days until every other team plays their season openers on Opening Day. Today we look down position number “8” the Center Fielder.
- Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angels
A day removed from signing a sports record 12-year, $430 Million contract, the unanimous best player in our generation clearly and deservedly earns the top spot on this list. Through his age-26 season, Trout had more wins above replacement (64.3) than any player in the history of baseball. Perhaps his trophy shelf isn’t as stocked as you’d expect, boasting only a Rookie of the Year and two MVP Awards (though he has finished in the top two in MVP balloting in six of the past seven seasons and never lower than fourth). And yes, he has made trips to the DL in each of the past two years and has yet to appear in more than a single postseason series. Trout is by far the best player in baseball.
2. Lorenzo Cain – Milwaukee Brewers
To think Cain didn’t start playing baseball until his Sophomore year in High School and a time when many kids his age have gotten interest from colleges is insane. The now 2x All-Star, World Series Champ, and AL MVP had an amazing first season back in Milwaukee being named to his second All Star Game hitting .308 with 10 Home Runs. Always a defensive stability, Cain will surely have another great season in Milwaukee
3. George Springer – Houston Astros
Springer has scored at least 100 runs in each of the past three seasons, making him one of four players who can claim that, though that’s partly the product of his being a leadoff man for one of the game’s best offenses. Springer has averaged 28 home runs and 79 RBIs the past three years behind .269/.357/.470 triple-slash rates, but it’s a concern that his ground ball, hard-contact and baserunning metrics seem to be going in the wrong direction. It’ll be interesting to see how Springer performs this year.
4. Aaron Hicks – New York Yankees
Hicks enjoyed an amazing breakout season for the Yankees last season posting a career high 27 Home Runs, 79 RBIs while starring in 137 games in the Bronx. Hicks also just signed a 7-year, $70 Million extension with the Bronx Bombers so expect to see Hicks in CF in the Bronx for the foreseeable future. Although he will be sitting out the first series of the season (back), Hicks will surely play a huge role this season for the Yankees.
5. Kevin Pillar – Toronto Blue Jays
If you have to choose one CF to solely play defense, after Trout of course, Kevin Pillar is surely one of the best. It’s hard to ever see a season, yet alone a week without a star studded catch. That’s not to say that Pillar isn’t a good hitter, albeit not as good as those above him, as he hit .252 with 15 Home Runs.
6. Byron Buxton – Minnesota Twins
Coming off a breakthrough second half of 2017, during which time Buxton batted .300/.347/.546 with 11 home runs and 13 stolen bases in 57 games, Buxton struggled through a nightmarish 2018 on multiple levels. He batted just .156 and struck out in 29.8 percent of his trips to the plate in the season’s first two months, landed on the disabled list due to migraines, broke his toe in his first minor league rehabilitation game, and was unable to fully recover from the latter until midsummer. However, due to his stellar defense and promising outlook, Buxton lands at number 6 for me and surely has the chance to rise up this list.
7. Jackie Bradley Jr. – Boston Red Sox
Bradley is an elite defender, and it is that defense that kept him in the major leagues all of last season. His triple-slash line on Fathers Day sat at .184/.280/.301, which is the type of line that gets 99.9 percent of hitters demoted to Triple-A to work on things. The Red Sox valued his glove enough to keep him up and let him work through things, and they were rewarded when he hit .272/.341/.481 the rest of the season with nine home runs and 10 steals. Expect Bradley Jr. to have a bounce back season in 2019.
8. Starling Marte – Pittsburgh Pirates
Entering his age 30 season, Marte is still performing hitting .277 with 20 Home Runs and 33 Stolen Bases last season, joining only Mookie Betts and Jose Ramirez to have at least 20 Home Runs and 30 Stolen Bases. Looking at this, it looks like Marte still has some stuff left in him and that he has the ability to be able to perform at this level for the next 3 maybe 4 seasons.
9. Kevin Kiermaier – Tampa Bay Rays
Kiermaier is a similar player to Pillar as he is not an amazing hitter, but is a stellar defender, not fearing anything when tracking down fly balls. Last season, he established new lows across the board, slashing a meek .217/.282/.370. He did manage 10 steals, his fifth-consecutive season reaching double-digits, but with five unsuccessful attempts, his success rate was at its worst since his rookie campaign. Thumb, back and shoulder woes, along with a hairline fracture in his right foot, all relegated Kiermaier to just 88 games, the lowest total in his five-year career. Kiermaier’s top-notch defense usually keeps him in the lineup. A couple of years ago Kiermaier would have been closer to the top of this list, however he is barely gripping onto his spot on this list.
10. Ian Desmond – Colorado Rockies
Looking at yet another position change, Desmond has proven that he is capable of playing most places on the diamond. Launching 22 homers and stole 20 bases in 2018, Desmond marked the fifth time in the last seven seasons that he was a member of the illustrious 20-20 club. Desmond has been an elite player, although he isn’t as known as well as other utility players, over the last couple of seasons. Desmond should have yet another great season, especially hitting in his home ballpark at Coors Field.
Just Missed: A.J. Pollock – Los Angeles Dodgers, Harrison Bader – St. Louis Cardinals, Brandon Nimmo – New York Mets