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This is your team's best center fielder ever

May 7, 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 each player's career with that franchise. We've already tackled catchers, first basemen,

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 each player's career with that franchise. We've already tackled catchers, first basemen, second basemen, third basemen, shortstops and left fielders. Next up are center fielders.

These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only, and fans were able to participate in Twitter polls to vote for their favorites. Here is the No. 1 center fielder for each club, as chosen by MLB.com's beat reporters.

American League East

Blue Jays: Devon White (1991-95)
Key fact: Won a Gold Glove Award in all five of his seasons with the Blue Jays
White manned center field for five seasons in Toronto, enough time to amass 20.9 fWAR, including three seasons north of 5.0 fWAR and a peak of 6.4 fWAR in 1991. His offensive numbers don’t jump off the page, but White did more than enough at the plate to let his true gift shine. In the field, White was a master. Just as Kevin Pillar is known for his endless reel of diving catches, White was known for just the opposite -- his ability to make effortless plays in the gaps without ever leaving his feet. Blue Jays top 5 >

Orioles: Adam Jones (2008-18)
Key fact: Franchise's all-time leader in games, hits, homers and RBIs among center fielders
Paul Blair is a legend, having won eight Gold Gloves and four World Series rings with the club. But Jones gets the nod here because of how superior he was as an offensive player, and for the outsized leadership role he played across his 11 years in Baltimore -- not just in the clubhouse, but as an important community voice as well. The heartbeat of the competitive Orioles teams of the mid-2010s, Jones is on the short list of the most impactful Baltimore athletes -- in any sport -- this millennium. Orioles top 5 >

Rays: Kevin Kiermaier (2013-present)
Key fact: Three-time Gold Glove winner
There’s an actual debate to be had between Kiermaier and B.J. Upton for the first spot, but the nod goes to Kiermaier. Though Kiermaier hasn’t swung the bat as well as the Rays had hoped when they signed him to a six-year extension, he’s still putting up similar numbers to what Upton did as a member of the Rays. While Upton has a slight edge on the basepaths, Kiermaier has a significant edge in defense. One Platinum Glove and three Gold Glove seasons have established Kiermaier as one of the best fielders in the game and earned him a 25.7 bWAR, which ranks fourth in franchise history. Rays top 5 >

Red Sox: Tris Speaker (1907-15)
Key fact: Belted 22 triples in 1913 -- still a club record
Speaker was an absolute machine in his day, starring for World Series championship teams in 1912 and ’15. One debate during the Dead Ball Era was who was the better player: Speaker or Ty Cobb? While Cobb’s offensive exploits were legendary and tough for anyone to match, historians widely consider Speaker to be the better fielder of the two. As a left-handed hitter, Speaker had few peers during his era. In 1,065 games with the Red Sox, he slashed .337/.414/.482. Speaker was also one of the best baserunners of his time, and he stole 264 bases over his final seven seasons with the Red Sox. Red Sox top 5 >

Yankees: Mickey Mantle (1951-68)
Key fact: Won seven World Series titles
An immensely talented icon of his generation, “The Mick” was the most feared hitter on some of the most successful teams in history, hitting 536 career home runs. In 14 seasons from 1951-64, the switch-hitting Mantle led the Yankees to 12 American League pennants and seven World Series championships. A three-time AL Most Valuable Player Award winner (1956, ’57, ’62), Mantle enjoyed one of the greatest offensive seasons ever in ’56, winning the AL Triple Crown by hitting 52 homers with 130 RBIs and a .353 average. He gets the nod in center over another all-time great, Joe DiMaggio. Yankees top 5 >

AL Central

Indians: Tris Speaker (1916-26)
Key fact: Only Major Leaguer to have three hitting streaks of 20 or more games in a single season
After spending nine years in Boston, Speaker was acquired by the Indians in 1916 and immediately made an impact, winning the AL batting title that year with a .386 mark. The outfielder certainly didn’t stop there. He served as the team’s player-manager starting in 1919 and led the Indians to their first World Series victory in '20. That season, he led all of baseball with 50 doubles and hit .388 with a 1.045 OPS in 150 games. His 74.3 bWAR ranks second in franchise history, trailing only second baseman Nap Lajoie (79.8). Indians top 5 >

Royals: Amos Otis (1970-83)
Key facts: Five-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove Award winner
Frank White, the Royals’ best second baseman of all time, said this of Otis a few years ago: "When people ask me about the guys I played with, they will say, ‘George Brett is the greatest hitter in Kansas City history.’ And I agree with that. But as far as a player, if you judge him in every facet of the game, this guy here [Amos Otis] is the best player who ever played for the Kansas City Royals.” In 14 seasons with the Royals, Otis recorded 365 doubles, 193 home runs and 340 stolen bases. His best season came in 1973, when he hit 26 home runs with 93 RBIs and posted an .851 OPS. He won a Gold Glove Award that year, was an All-Star and finished third in AL MVP Award voting. Royals top 5 >

Tigers: Ty Cobb (1905-26)
Key facts: MLB's all-time leader with .366 average; second with 4,189 hits, 2,245 runs scored
The plaque positioned outside the administrative entrance at Comerica Park calls Cobb the “Greatest Tiger of All / A Genius in Spikes.” Nearly a century after Cobb’s playing days, and 57 years after the plaque debuted at Tiger Stadium, the case still holds. Though Cobb played most of his career in a far different game during the Dead Ball Era, his numbers have stood the test of time, from a .366 batting average to 4,189 career hits. His 149.3 fWAR ranks fourth all-time behind Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds and Willie Mays. Cobb's personality was controversial, but his greatness on the field was undisputed. Tigers top 5 >

Twins: Kirby Puckett (1984-95)
Key fact: Twins' all-time leader in hits (2,304)
Thanks to the dazzling smile, infectious energy and community engagement that defined Puckett's 12-year career, the center fielder had already established himself as one of the all-time fan favorites in Minnesota even before the night of Oct. 26, 1991. That evening, in Game 6 of the World Series, Puckett ascended into baseball immortality with his walk-off homer in the 11th inning against the Atlanta Braves, and those famous words from Jack Buck will live forever in every Twins fan's memory: "And we'll see you tomorrow night!" The leadership, skills and jubilation for the game endeared Puckett to Twins fans in a way that few, if any, had done before, and few will match again. Twins top 5 >

White Sox: Johnny Mostil (1918, '21-29)
Key fact: Finished second in the 1926 AL MVP Award voting
Mostil’s two best seasons came in 1925-26, when he had 78 stolen bases, 77 doubles, 31 triples, 378 hits and 255 runs scored. He finished his career with a .386 on-base percentage and an .812 OPS. Mostil, who was a right-handed hitter, has the single-season franchise mark with his 135 runs scored in 1925, and his 120 runs scored in '26 are tied for fourth. He led the AL in stolen bases twice (1925, '26) and once in walks ('25). He finished with a career 22.9 fWAR, leaving him second behind Fielder Jones among White Sox center fielders. White Sox top 5 >

AL West

Angels: Mike Trout (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 WAR in his first nine years in the Majors, which dwarfs the franchise's second-highest WAR total, Jim Fregosi's 45.9. Trout is a career .305/.419/.581 hitter with 285 homers, 251 doubles and 200 stolen bases in 1,199 games. 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. Angels top 5 >

Astros: César Cedeño (1970-81)
Key fact: 49.6 bWAR is highest of any Astros center fielder in history
Cedeño was compared to Willie Mays early in his career by manager Leo Durocher before injuries took their toll. With a rare combination of speed and power, Cedeño was the second player in history (Lou Brock, 1967) to hit 20 homers and steal 50 bases in a season, and Cedeño did it three years in a row ('72-74). Cedeño was also a stellar defender, winning five consecutive Gold Gloves from 1972-76. In 12 years in Houston, Cedeño slashed .289/.351/.454 with 343 doubles, 55 triples, 163 homers, 778 RBIs and 487 stolen bases, which remains a club record nearly 40 years after his final game with the Astros. Astros top 5 >

Athletics: Dwayne Murphy (1978-87)
Key fact: Six Gold Glove Awards are tied for most of any player in A’s history
A patient hitter, Murphy formed a nice one-two punch batting behind Rickey Henderson at the top of the A’s lineup during 1980s. He carried some pop, with his 33 home runs in 1984 representing the most by an A’s center fielder in a single season. But what truly separates him from other A’s greats who patrolled center is his defense. With six AL Gold Glove Awards, Murphy is tied with third baseman Eric Chavez for the most by any player in club history, having won them consecutively from 1980-85, and his 31.7 bWAR accumulated over 10 seasons with the club remains the highest among A’s center fielders. Athletics top 5 >

Mariners: Ken Griffey Jr. (1989-99, 2009-10)
Key fact: First player to wear Mariners cap on his Hall of Fame plaque
There really is no debate on this one. Griffey was the Mariners’ first superstar, a 10-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove Award winner in his first 11-year stint with Seattle, earning those honors every season except his rookie campaign as a 19-year-old in 1989. He was named AL MVP in 1997, when he hit .304 with 56 home runs and 147 RBIs, and he led the AL in home runs in ’94, ’97, ’98 and ’99. Griffey was named on a then-record 99.3 percent of ballots when elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2016. His No. 24 became the first number retired by the Mariners later that summer, and his bronze statue now greets fans at the main gate outside T-Mobile Park. Mariners top 5 >

Rangers: Josh Hamilton (2008-12, '15)
Key facts: Third all time among Rangers with a .901 OPS and ninth with a .302 batting average
Hamilton only started 305 games in center field during his time with the Rangers, but he is clearly the franchise’s all-time greatest at the position. In fact, the five-time All-Star was one of the greatest Rangers/Senators players at any position. From 2008-12, Hamilton hit .305/.363/.549 with 142 homers and 506 RBIs, winning AL MVP honors in '10 (.359/.411/.633, 32 homers). Rangers top 5 >

National League East

Braves: Andruw Jones (1996-2007)
Key fact: One of four outfielders ever to win 10 consecutive Gold Glove Awards
Dale Murphy won consecutive NL MVP Awards while playing in Atlanta, but that was a little more than a decade before Andruw Jones began drawing comparisons to Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. Whether Jones was indeed the best center fielder in baseball history is debatable. But the 10-time Gold Glove Award winner is certainly at the forefront of that discussion. During his 11 full seasons (1997-2007) in Atlanta, the only players to produce a higher fWAR than Jones' 60.9 were Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds. Braves top 5 >

Marlins: Juan Pierre (2003-05; 2013)
Key facts: Lou Brock Award winner and World Series champion in 2003
Pierre is one of the most popular and historically important players in franchise history. Acquired from the Rockies after the 2002 season, Pierre established a work ethic around the organization that continues today, especially in regards to players arriving early in the day during Spring Training. On the field, he quickly became a catalyst on a Marlins club that went on to win World Series title in 2003. That year, Pierre paced the Major Leagues in stolen bases with 65, still a single-season team record, and received the Lou Brock Award, which is given to the player with the most stolen bases in the NL. The speedster also hit .305, played in every inning of all 162 games, scored 100 runs and had the lowest strikeout rate in the Majors (5.2 percent). Marlins top 5 >

Mets: Carlos Beltrán (2005-11)
Key fact: Leads Mets center fielders in WAR, home runs, doubles and RBIs
The injustice of Beltrán’s Mets career is that it likely will always be remembered for two things: the called strike three he took against Adam Wainwright to end the 2006 National League Championship Series, and the two months he spent as manager without ever managing a game. Those events are inextricably part of his legacy. And yet to focus solely on them would be to ignore a tenure that saw Beltrán hit .280/.369/.500 with 149 home runs over seven seasons, producing 31.1 WAR over the life of a contract that cost the Mets $119 million. Mets top 5 >

Nationals: Andre Dawson, Expos (1976-86)
Key fact: Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010
Dawson’s 21-year career began with his first 11 seasons on the Expos. He quickly made a strong impression as a Major League player by winning the 1977 National League Rookie of the Year Award. From there, the accolades poured in. Dawson earned six consecutive Gold Glove Awards from 1980-85, and he was named to the All-Star team three straight seasons ('81-83). As a member of the Expos, Dawson’s 48.4 bWAR is third highest among all players in franchise history. He is second in club history in doubles; third in runs, homers, RBIs and stolen bases; fourth in hits and doubles; and fifth in games played. Nationals top 5 >

Phillies: Richie Ashburn (1948-59)
Key stat: Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995
In the 1950s, Ashburn led the NL in hits three times, triples twice, walks three times and on-base percentage three times. He won batting titles in 1955 and '58. Still, Ashburn flew under the radar because he played in the NL at the same time as fellow outfielders Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Duke Snider. Maybe that is why it took so long for Ashburn to make the Hall of Fame. Ashburn had 2,574 hits in his 15-year career. He had a lifetime .308 batting average and .396 on-base percentage. He hit only 29 home runs, but he could fly. Ted Williams nicknamed Ashburn “Putt Putt” because he covered the outfield like he had twin motors in his pants. Phillies top 5 >

NL Central

Brewers: Gorman Thomas (1973-83, ‘86)
Key fact: Still ranks fifth in Brewers history with 208 home runs
Robin Yount is the best center fielder in Brewers history, but he already made our all-time team at shortstop. So this honor goes to Thomas, whom Sports Illustrated once referred to as “the only Brewer hitter who looks as if he chews glass.” On a roster stocked with characters, that qualified as high praise. Manager George Bamberger gave Thomas a shot to play in 1978 and Thomas capitalized, belting 32 home runs for the Brewers’ first-ever contender. A year later, Thomas led the American League with 45 homers. In ’82, he tied the Angels’ Reggie Jackson for another league crown. Thomas swung hard and lived hard, swilling postgame beers with fans in the parking lot after taking his four at-bats for the day. “They come to see me strike out, hit a home run, or run into a fence,” he once said. “I try to accommodate them at least one way every game.” Brewers top 5 >

Cardinals: Jim Edmonds (2000-07)
Key fact: Fourth on the Cardinals’ all-time home run list with 241
Center field has been a remarkably stable position for the Cardinals over the years, and Edmonds is the best of the bunch. St. Louis didn't win more than 87 games in any of the 12 seasons prior to his arrival, but the club averaged more than 92 wins during his eight-year stay. Known for his highlight-reel catches and powerful uppercut swing, Edmonds drove in 100 runs in three of his eight seasons with the Cardinals, averaged 30 homers per season, won six consecutive Gold Gloves and accumulated 37.9 bWAR. The four-time All-Star finished fifth in NL MVP voting in 2004 and helped the Cardinals to a World Series title in '06. Cardinals top 5 >

Cubs: Hack Wilson (1927-31)
Key fact: His 191 RBIs in 1930 are a single-season MLB record
For six seasons with the Cubs, Wilson carved out his place not only in Cubs lore, but in baseball history. In 1930, he had 56 homers, 146 runs and 208 hits while batting .356 (1.177 OPS), and his total of 191 RBIs still stands as the single-season MLB record. Since 1938, the closest anyone has come to that mark has been 165, which came via the bat of Manny Ramirez in 1999. Across the 1927-30 seasons, Wilson posted a 1.051 OPS while averaging 39 homers and 150 RBIs per year, and he hit .322/.412/.590 with 190 homers and 769 RBIs in 850 career games for the Cubs. Wilson died in 1948 at the age of 48 following a long battle with alcoholism, which played a role in his career being limited to 12 seasons, but it did not stop his entrance into the Hall of Fame in 1979. Cubs top 5 >

Pirates: Andrew McCutchen (2009-17)
Key fact: Five-time All-Star; 2013 NL MVP
At his peak, McCutchen was undoubtedly one of the game’s best all-around players -- a legitimate difference-maker at the plate, on the bases and in center field. McCutchen won a Gold Glove Award in 2012, when he also took home the first of his four consecutive Silver Slugger Awards. He finished third in NL MVP voting in 2012, won the award as he led the Bucs back to the postseason in ’13, then finished third in ’14 and fifth in ’15. He was the face of the franchise throughout the last decade and their leader during the club’s three best seasons since the early 1990s. There’s an argument to be made that McCutchen was the Pirates’ best player since Barry Bonds and their most beloved star since Willie Stargell. Pirates top 5 >

Reds: Vada Pinson (1958-68)
Key fact: Earned All-Star selections in 1959 and ’60
Although Edd Roush is a Dead Ball Era Hall of Famer and Eric Davis was one of the top five-tool players of the late 1980s, the nod here goes to Pinson. Pinson’s 47.7 bWAR is eighth all time for Cincinnati, behind five Hall of Famers, the banned Pete Rose and possible future Hall of Famer Joey Votto. During his 11 seasons in Cincinnati, he batted .297/.341/.469 with 186 home runs. At different points, Pinson led the National League in runs (1959), hits ('61 and ’63), doubles ('59-60) and triples ('63 and ’67). In '61 -- the year Cincinnati won the NL pennant -- he was third in MVP Award voting and won a Gold Glove Award. Five times during his career, Pinson had 20-homer, 20-steal seasons. Reds top 5 >

NL West

D-backs: Steve Finley (1999-2004)
Key fact: Won National League Gold Glove Awards with the D-backs in 1999 and 2000
If there’s one position on the field where the D-backs have been blessed with elite talent over the years, center field is it. Not surprisingly then, this was the hardest of all the positions to pick the top spot, as you can make a strong case for both A.J. Pollock and Finley. Ultimately, Finley is the choice. Signed as a free agent before the 1999 season, Finley won Gold Gloves in his first two years in Arizona and was a big part of the reason they won three division titles -- and a World Series -- from 1999-2002. Finley slashed .365/.441/.462 during the postseason in 2001, the year the D-backs won it all. D-backs' top 5 >

Dodgers: Duke Snider (1947-62)
Key fact: Posted three consecutive seasons with an OPS higher than 1.000
When you’re in a song title with fellow Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, you top this list. While Snider never won an MVP Award -- he arguably deserved it in 1955, when he lost to teammate Roy Campanella -- he earned seven All-Star selections, had five 40-homer campaigns and produced five seasons with at least 100 RBIs and 100 runs during his time with the Dodgers. He also posted three consecutive seasons with an OPS greater than 1.000 from 1953-55. Dodgers top 5 >

Giants: Willie Mays (1951-72)
Key fact: Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979
Widely regarded as the best all-around player in baseball history, Mays was a singular talent who spent 21 of his 22 Major League seasons with the Giants, serving as the most prominent bridge between the New York and San Francisco eras. The Say Hey Kid won two National League MVP Awards, made 24 All-Star teams and captured 12 Gold Glove Awards while captivating generations of baseball fans during his Hall of Fame career. Mays hit .302 with 660 home runs, 1,903 RBIs and 3,283 hits and holds the all-time record for putouts by an outfielder with 7,095. He remains the Giants’ franchise leader in games played (2,857), home runs (646), hits (3,187), at-bats (10,477) and total bases (5,907). Giants top 5 >

Padres: Steve Finley (1995-98)
Key fact: Ranks first in franchise history among primary center fielders with 82 homers
Although Finley only spent four seasons in San Diego, his peak intersected with arguably the best stretch in franchise history. No Padres center fielder has ever put forth a season as productive as Finley’s 1996 campaign in which he batted .298/.354/.531 with 30 homers, sparking a run to an NL West title. Two seasons later, he was a crucial piece on the 1998 pennant-winning squad. From 1995-98, Finley was a steady presence in the outfield, averaging 151 games per season with two Gold Glove Awards and a trip to the All-Star Game in ‘97. Padres top 5 >

Rockies: Charlie Blackmon (2011-present)
Key fact: Earned three of his four All-Star selections as a center fielder
From earning the regular center field job at the start of 2014 until his move to right field in 2019, Blackmon gave the Rockies a stability they’d never had in center. The only two players in club history with more than 2,500 plate appearances as center fielders are Blackmon (3,068 plate appearances) and Dexter Fowler (2,572). Blackmon made three of his four All-Star appearances and won a batting title (2017) in center. Rockies top 5 >