As it has for as long as the game has existed, center field is the home of some of the best-rounded talents in the game. It takes a blend of being able to do it all to be truly considered one of the elite players at the position, and currently there is an especially gifted group manning the position.
In each of the past two seasons, a center fielder has won a league Most Valuable Player nod. And it would be fair to say that there are multiple favorites to bring yet another MVP to position this year. Due to this surplus of talent, ten spots are nowhere near enough to capture all of the significant players at the heart of the outfield. Even an All-Star from a year ago that had a downturn in the second half of the season failed to make his way onto the list. Thus is the nature of one of the game’s most competitive spots.
Yet with that being said, let us take a look at the players that did make the cut. Starting with a duo that most likely populates the top five of the best players in the game, regardless of position.
1. Mike Trout, Angels (#1 in 2014): He won his elusive MVP –or as elusive as one can be for a 22-year-old – a year ago, and did it by attacking the season in a completely different way than he had in his previous two years. Trout played the part of heart of the order producer instead of all-world table setter that he had in his first two seasons, and the results lead to yet another stunning display of complete dominance. He connected for a career-best 36 home runs and 111 RBI, while leading the AL in runs scored for the third consecutive year. When coupled with his 39 doubles, 9 triples, superb base running and solid outfield play, there is no wonder why he is now firmly entrenched as the game’s top talent.
2-year average: .305 average/.964 OPS/32 home runs/104 RBI/39 doubles/24 stolen bases/.994 Fld%
2. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates (#2 in ’14): He followed up his MVP 2013 year with another comprehensively brilliant year. He led the NL in a varied platter of measures including on-base % (.410), on-base + slugging % (.952), total runs created (130), extra base hits (69) and offensive Wins Above Replacement level (7.8). Toss in the fearless range he shows defensively and the leadership model he puts on, and there is perhaps on one more complete player than him—maybe.
2-year average: .316 average/.931 OPS/23 home runs/84 RBI/38 doubles/22 stolen bases/.981 Fld%
3. Adam Jones, Orioles (#4 in ’14): Mr. Consistency was at his usual high standard again last season, right in the 30 home run, 100 RBI, .280 average neighborhood again (a true split of .281/29/96, to be exact), while playing to a third straight Gold Glove in the field as well. Jones is the understated MVP of the O’s, who drove them towards their American League East Title on the strength of his dependable everyday output.
2-year average: .283 average/.795 OPS/31 home runs/102 RBI/32 doubles/10 stolen bases/.989 Fld%
4. Carlos Gomez, Brewers (#7 in ’14): The ever-excitable Gomez has continued to round into one of the game’s top all-around talents, with a rare blend of power and speed that is unleashed at a moment’s notice. He topped 20 home runs for the second consecutive year, while swiping 30 bases for the third straight campaign. He remains on the short list of best defensive outfielders alive as well, capable of reaching any part of his mid-field terrain with the same ease.
2-year average: .284 average/.838 OPS/24 home runs/73 RBI/30 doubles/37 stolen bases/.987 Fld%
5. Yasiel Puig, Dodgers (#4 in Right Field in ’14): Puig made the shift over from right out of necessity last season, and for the time being he profiles to stay there. But with his freakish athletic gifts, there is really nothing he can’t do, as his diverse offering across the board showed last year. He turned in 37 doubles, 9 triples, 16 home runs and 11 stolen bases, as well as 15 total outfield assists with his cannon of an arm (8 from center). While the process of him finding harmony in using all of his gifts is a work in progress, the talent is undeniably tantalizing.
2-year average: .305 average/.888 OPS/18 home runs/56 RBI/29 doubles/11 stolen bases/.949 Fld%
6. Jacoby Ellsbury, Yankees (#3 in ’14): His first year in pinstripes did not necessarily live up to the lofty standards that his contract may have brought on, but at the same time it was far from a lost year as well. He played his usual lockdown center field, leading the AL in range factor at the position. Offensively, his batting average dropped to a personal full-season low, but he still swiped 39 bases, hit 16 home runs, which contributed to his AL-best power x speed ratio (most home runs multiplied by stolen bases).
2-year average: .285 average/.764 OPS/12 home runs/62 RBI/29 doubles/46 stolen bases/.994 Fld%
7. Lorenzo Cain, Royals (Not Ranked): Cain’s defensive contributions played a huge part in the overall success of the Royals, and he was mostly robbed of a Gold Glove by Jones’ reputation this past year. But he made his talents clearer than ever before, topping both .300 and 20 stolen bases for the first time in his career, then revving it up to a sensational .333 postseason average as well. A star may be being born.
2-year average: .278 average/.708 OPS/4 home runs/50 RBI/25 doubles/21 stolen bases/.996 Fld%
8. Marcell Ozuna, Marlins (Not Ranked): The middle portion of the Marlins dynamic young outfield had a powerful first full-season in 2014. He popped 23 home runs and drove in 85 runs, while playing a very solid defensive campaign as well. Ozuna contributed eight outfield assists, and while he is the least decorated of his outfield mates, his potential is just as exciting.
2-year average: .268 average/.746 OPS/13 home runs/58 RBI/22 doubles/4 stolen bases/.988 Fld%
9. Denard Span, Nationals (Not Ranked): The always steady leadoff man and uber-consistent defender had perhaps his most notable season to date a year ago. He turned in a .302 average and 31 stolen bases, as well as a career-best 39 doubles and .416 slugging %. In addition, he tied as the NL leader in hits with 184, although that was the lowest full-season league leading total since 1988.
2-year average: .290 average/.739 OPS/4 home runs/42 RBI/34 doubles/26 stolen bases/.995 Fld%
10. Juan Lagares, Mets (Not Ranked): He is the most exciting outfielder to watch in all of the game and perhaps since Jim Edmonds and Andruw Jones roamed MLB outfields a decade ago. Lagares can flat go get it and has one of the most impressive CF arms the game has seen in years, so the 25-year-old was correctly honored with his first Gold Glove a year ago. While his offensive output is still developing (his on-base% increased by 40 points last year), he is talented enough in his specialty to have made a 5.5 WAR figure based mostly on his defense alone.
2-year average: .262 average/.669 OPS/4 home runs/40 RBI/22 doubles/10 stolen bases/.983 Fld%
Runners Up: Charlie Blackmon, Adam Eaton, Jon Jay, A.J. Pollack