An everyday, dominating center fielder is becoming a lost art in baseball. With utility players and platoon players becoming more prevalent, finding the next Rickey Henderson or Kirby Puckett is only going to get tougher in future years. If a shortstop is the captain of the defense think of a center fielder as the alternate captain. Luckily for the Milwaukee Brewers, they do not have to struggle to find someone to man the middle of the outfield. The Brewers have Lorenzo Cain. Cain has sort of struggled to start 2019 and that has generated some unfair criticism for the veteran. Cain is still a player the Brewers are lucky to have if you compare him to other center fielders, but where exactly does he rank among them? Look no further, here is the official center fielder rankings when it comes to who a team should want for the remainder of the 2019 season.
30. Lewis Brinson
Once regarded as a highly touted prospect in the Brewers’ farm system, Lewis Brinson has failed to live up to expectations. In 3 years and 543 plate appearances, Brinson has a batting average of .190 and an OPS of .561. He has been so bad that the Marlins can’t even put him in their lineup.
29. Keon Broxton
Another former Brewer, Keon Broxton has failed to have a productive season since 2017. Even in 2017, Broxton had a very low batting average of .220. An above average defender because of his speed, Broxton is not able to show his glove off consistently because of his struggles at the plate. This season, he is currently hitting .188 with an OPS of .518 for the Orioles.
28. Delino DeShields
The only reason DeShields stays in the lineup for the Texas Rangers is because of his glove and speed in center. Since his debut in 2015, DeShields has hit below .230 three times and has only hit 15 home runs.
27. Kevin Pillar
Although he has a fantastic glove for the Giants, Pillar has struggled at the plate in 2019. His best days are behind him and right now, he is one of the least desirable center fielders to have in your lineup.
26. Leonys Martin
Currently in his 9th MLB season, Leonys Martin is a journeyman who has played for four teams in the past 2 seasons. This year with the Indians, Martin is continuing his streak of lowering his batting average every year since 2014.
25. Brett Gardner
Once an MLB All-Star, Gold Glover, and World Series Champion, Brett Gardner is coming off his worst professional season in 2018. He has followed 2018 up by hitting .233 this year in the Yankees star-studded lineup.
24. Juan Lagares
If Juan Lagares could stay on the field for the Mets, he would be ranked much higher on my list. Currently in his 7th season, Lagares hasn’t played more than 94 games in a season since 2015. A former Gold Glove winner, Lagares has never been a threat at the plate considering the most hits he ever had in a season was during 2014 in 416 at-bats.
23. Jake Marisnick
In a stacked lineup, Jake Marisnick stands as the odd ball out for the Houston Astros. He plays with energy out in center but that isn’t enough to rank him higher.
22. JaCoby Jones
Unless you’re a Detroit Tigers fan, you probably don’t know who JaCoby Jones is. This is most likely because he is just average at everything he does when it comes to hitting, fielding, and base running.
21. Manuel Margot
At only 24 years old, Margot is apart of the young core for the San Diego Padres. In his two full seasons in 2017 and 2018, Margot showed the ability to be respectable at the plate. However, in 2019, Margot has regressed and has hit worst batting average of his career.
20. Randal Grichuk
Perhaps the center fielder with the most power on this list, Grichuk has averaged 22 home runs a year for the past 4 years as a Toronto Blue Jay. However, he struggles to get on base at an average rate and that is why Grichuk rounds out the 20s. Also, when it comes to other MLB center fielders, Grichuk is just average defensively.
19. Billy Hamilton
One of the most exciting players to watch on this list, Billy Hamilton is also the fastest. He doesn’t get on base at the most efficient rate, but when he does, he is an automatic bet to steal a base and score a run. Acquired by the Royal this offseason, Hamilton is having one of his usual seasons. He has a low batting average but a good amount of tripes and stolen bases.
18. Victor Robles
A 22-year-old for the Washington Nationals, Robles has a very bright future ahead of him. He has shown the ability to succeed at the MLB level but the sample size is too small. However, in 3-4 years, don’t be surprised if Robles is a top ten center fielder.
17. Jarrod Dyson
An older player on this list and a former World Series Champ, Dyson has played 9 full years in the majors. This year is his first full year as a starter and he has been solid for the Diamondbacks. His numbers won’t blow you away but they are good enough to consider Dyson an average MLB center fielder.
16. Ramon Laureano
Like Victor Robles, Laureano is a younger prospect for the A’s who doesn’t have a big enough sample size to make a definitive statement about. In 2018, Laureano was a rookie and hit .288 in 176 plate appearances. This year, he is hitting .265 in 75 games but has struggled defensively a bit.
15. Alex Verdugo
The only reason Verdugo isn’t higher on the list is because he isn’t the everyday center fielder for the Dodgers. He is used more in pinch hitting role and fills in defensively where he can. Verdugo doesn’t struggle at the plate and is one of the reasons Los Angeles has such a feared lineup. This year he is hitting .296 with an OPS of .812. Those numbers are very impressive considering Verdugo mainly comes off the bench.
14. Harrison Bader
Entering his prime at 25 for St. Louis, Bader plays great defense for the Cardinals. This season, Bader is having a down year at the plate hitting only .217 but last year showed Bader can get in a groove at the plate when he hit .264.
13. Albert Almora Jr.
Albert Almora Jr., is one of the most consistent players for the Chicago Cubs. He is only 25-years-old and already has a World Series and three solid years under his belt. His numbers and defense aren’t flashy but Almora gets the job done and provides good value for Chicago out in center.
12. Mallex Smith
As he enters his prime, Seattle Mariners’ Mallex Smith is a center fielder with great speed and a good bat. Last season, he led the league in triples while also hitting .296 with 40 stolen bases. In 2019, Smith is having a bit of a down year but I have the confidence he will turn it around and rise up the ranks of the top center fielders.
11. Jackie Bradley Jr.
Although debatable, JBJ is the best defensive center fielder on this list. His defense alone gets him to the 11th spot on my rankings but his inconsistently on offense keeps the Red Sox player out of the top 10.
10. Nick Senzel
The only true rookie on this list, Senzel was drafted 2nd overall by the Reds in 2016 and has lived up to the hype. He is already one of the better fielders of his position and he is currently hitting .261 with an OPS of .781. For a rookie, these numbers are impressive and are only expected to rise as the 23-year-old gets older. Baseball fans should expect to see Senzel’s name on All-Star ballots for many years to come.
9. Ian Desmond
As we dive inside the top ten, this is where we get to the best of the best. Coming in at number nine is Rockies center fielder, Ian Desmond. Desmond is a two time All-Star and three time Silver Slugger. Desmond always could and still can hit with the best of them even at 33-years-old. A utility man who mostly plays center, Desmond is a jack of all trades.
8. Odubel Herrera
Since his All-Star season in 2016, Herrera has yet to catch that same magic. However, that does not mean he hasn’t been good. Consistently ranking near the top for center fielders in home runs and RBIs, Herrera would be an upgrade for most teams in center.
7. Leury Garcia
Probably the most unknown player in the top ten, Garcia is in his prime and playing great for the Chicago White Sox. Although the power numbers aren’t there, Garcia hits in the .270 range while also playing great defense. As a White Sox fan favorite, Garcia is in the middle of his prime and will continue to be a consistent player for the next 4-5 years.
6. Kevin Kiermaier
Once I got to Tampa Bay Rays center fielder, Kevin Kiermaier, is when the rankings got the most difficult. Kiermaier is a two time Gold Glove winner and one time Platinum Glove winner. He is one of the best defensive players in the entire MLB but he’s also no slouch at the plate. He shows off solid numbers at the plate but not necessarily good enough to get into the top five.
5. Lorenzo Cain
Well, here he is, this is where Milwaukee Brewers center fielder, Lorenzo Cain, ranks among all MLB center fielders. So far in 2019, Cain has had somewhat of a down year when it comes to batting average but that is sure to change soon. For the past five seasons, Cain has hit .301, .307, .287, .300, and .308. He has finished top seven in MVP voting twice because of his ability to hit and play elite defense. Speaking of defense, Lorenzo Cain is the best defensive player in the entire MLB to not have a Gold Glove. Maybe 2019 will be the year? The only reason Cain isn’t ranked higher is because he is 33 and history says he will be entering a decline soon.
4. Byron Buxton
This is the spot in the rankings where we get to players I would rather have on the Brewers over Lorenzo Cain. Coming in at number four is Twins phenom, Byron Buxton. Buxton is the best defensive center fielder in the MLB. He has won a Gold Glove, Platinum Glove, and Wilson Overall Defensive Player of the Year awards. Besides his defense, Buxton can hit for average with above average power. He has elite speed meaning Buxton is very close to being a five tool player. Also, did I mention he’s only 25? The best is yet to come for Byron Buxton.
3. Ender Inciarte
Ender Inciarte is apart of the youth movement in Atlanta that has the team winnings games at an alarming rate. Like Buxton and Cain, Inciarte is a great defender who has won three Gold Glove awards. Besides incredible defense, Inciarte also hits the ball better than most center fielders. In the past 5 seasons, he has hit .289 while also providing speed on the base paths. At 28, Inciarte is in the middle of his prime so don’t be surprised to see 5 more solid years out of him. Maybe a Silver Slugger could be in his future.
2. Starling Marte
The second best center fielder in all of baseball is Pittsburgh’s, Starling Marte. An elite hitter and defender, Marte has been Pittsburgh’s rock for 6 years. He has the power and speed to be considered a five tool player and at 30-years-old, Marte still has some left in the tank.
1. Mike Trout
This was the easiest decision in the entire rankings. It’s Mike Trout, do I even have to explain myself here?
***Stats accurate as of 6/20/19 according to baseball-reference.com***