Angels' Top 5 center fielders: Bollinger's take

May 4th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only … if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Rhett Bollinger's ranking of the top 5 center fielders in Angels history. Next week: Right fielders.

Angels' Top 5: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF

1. , 2011-present
Key fact: 72.8 bWAR is highest in club history

Trout is almost universally regarded as the best player of his generation and is undoubtedly the best player in franchise history by far -- and yet he’s still just 28 years old. Trout, a three-time American League MVP and eight-time All-Star, has racked up 72.8 Wins Above Replacement in his first nine years in the Majors, which dwarfs the franchise's second-highest WAR total, Jim Fregosi's 45.9.

Trout joined the organization after being selected with the No. 25 pick in the 2009 Draft, a compensation pick for the club failing to sign first baseman Mark Teixeira, who signed with the Yankees. He was a budding star from the start, and while he struggled a bit in his first taste of the Majors as a 19-year-old in 2011, he was the AL Rookie of the Year the following season, when he also finished second in the balloting for AL MVP in '12, hitting .326/.399/.564 with 30 homers and 49 stolen bases in 139 games.

Since that rookie season, Trout's worst finish in AL MVP voting was fourth in '17, when he was limited to just 114 games due to a torn ligament in his thumb. Trout is a career .305/.419/.581 hitter with 285 homers, 251 doubles and 200 stolen bases in 1,199 games. He's also an above-average defender in center with his speed and improved throwing arm -- but, surprisingly, has never won a Gold Glove.

Trout, though, has plenty of time to add to his accolades after signing a 12-year contract before the 2019 season that runs all the way through 2030. He has a chance to become an Angel for life and to cement himself as one of the best players in the history of baseball.

2. , 1993-99
Key fact: Two-time Gold Glove winner with Angels

Edmonds is one of the more underrated center fielders of his era, combining average, power and spectacular defense. He grew up locally, attending high school in nearby Diamond Bar, Calif., and was a seventh-round selection in the 1998 Draft after injuring his shoulder his senior year. He made his debut in '93 and finished eighth in the balloting for Rookie of the Year in '94. He broke out in '95, hitting .290/.352/.536 with 33 homers and 107 RBIs, earning his first All-Star selection. He won Gold Gloves in '97 and '98.

He also made one of the best catches in baseball history on June 10, 1997, an incredible full-extension diving grab after racing straight back to the wall at Kauffman Stadium. Edmonds, though, underwent shoulder surgery in ’99 and was traded to the Cardinals before the 2000 season for right-hander Kent Bottenfield and second baseman Adam Kennedy. Edmonds went on to better success in St. Louis, but Kennedy helped the Angels to the '02 World Series title.

3. , 2008-12
Key fact: Two-time All-Star with the Angels

The Angels faced some criticism upon signing Hunter to a five-year deal worth $90 million before the 2008 season, as Hunter was entering his age-32 season and most players see a decline in their skills in their 30s. But Hunter aged like fine wine, remaining productive with the Angels and quickly became the leader of the clubhouse with his affable personality.

Hunter won a Gold Glove in his first year with the club in 2008 and followed that up with an All-Star appearance, another Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger Award in '09. He was an All-Star again in '10, when the game was held at Angel Stadium. He was also willing to move to right field in his final two seasons with the club to allow Peter Bourjos and Trout to play center. In his five seasons with the Angels, he batted .286/.352/.462 with 105 homers, 147 doubles, 60 stolen bases and 432 RBIs in 713 games. He also batted .314 with one homer and 10 RBIs in 13 postseason games with the club. He played three more seasons in the Majors after leaving the Angels, with two in Detroit and a final year in Minnesota.

4. Albie Pearson, 1961-66
Key fact: His .379 on-base percentage is the fifth-highest in club history

Pearson was one of the smallest players in the Majors, listed at 5-foot-5 and 140 pounds, but he used that to his advantage, drawing plenty of walks as a table setter. He joined the club as its 30th and final pick of the 1960 expansion draft, getting selected from the Orioles. The Alhambra, Calif., native scored the first run in Angels history and became a regular from '61-65 before playing in just two games in '66 and retiring due to back issues. Pearson's best season came in '63, when he hit .304/.402/.398 with six homers, 47 RBIs, 17 stolen bases and 92 runs scored in 154 games. He also led the AL in '62 with 115 runs scored. He drew at least 92 walks per season from '61-63.

5. , 1982-87
Key fact: His 186 stolen bases are the third most in club history

Pettis, a sixth-round selection in the 1979 Draft out of Laney College in Oakland, was regarded as a terrific defender and won Gold Gloves with the club in 1985 and '86. He lacked power -- his career high in homers was five in '86 -- but stole plenty of bases, racking up 48 steals in '84, 56 in '85 and 50 in '86. In his six years with the Angels, he batted .242/.332/.319 with 13 homers, 143 RBIs, 296 runs scored and 186 stolen bases in 584 games.

Honorable mentions
Darin Erstad would’ve ranked among the Top 5, but was already included among the Top 5 first basemen in club history. Erstad's 32.6 WAR with the Angels is the sixth-highest total in franchise history, and his best season came as a center fielder in 2000, when he racked up 240 hits and won the Gold Glove.

Fred Lynn was a three-time All-Star with the Angels from 1981-83 and batted .271/.358/.464 with 71 homers, 94 doubles and 270 RBIs in four years with the club. He was the MVP of the '82 AL Championship Series and MVP of the '83 All-Star Game.

Devon White began his career with the Angels, playing with the club from 1985-1990. He was an All-Star in '89 and won Gold Gloves in '88 and '89. He later developed into a better hitter, batting .247/.295/.389 in his six seasons with the Angels.