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Reds’ Top 5 center fielders: Sheldon's take

@m_sheldon
May 5, 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

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 Mark Sheldon’s ranking of the top 5 center fielders in Reds history. Next week: right field.

1. Vada Pinson: 1958-68
Key fact: Went to the 1959 and ’60 All-Star Games

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. Pinson, who racked up 2,757 hits during his 18-year career, was always overlooked for National Baseball Hall of Fame consideration but was elected to the Reds Hall of Fame in 1977.

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

Many of Pinson’s best seasons came before he was 25 years old. At different points, he 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.

For his Reds career, Pinson ranks seventh in hits, sixth in doubles and 13th in home runs in franchise history.

2. Edd Roush: 1916-26, '31
Key fact: Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962

Roush was traded from the Giants to the Reds along with fellow future Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson and Bill McKechnie in July 1916. The following season, Roush won a batting title while hitting .341, then added a second one with a .321 average in '19 while helping the Reds win a World Series.

Viewed as one of the best hitters during the dead-ball era, Roush slashed .331/.377/.462 over his 12 seasons in Cincinnati.

3. Eric Davis: 1984-91, '96
Key fact: Ranked 10th all time for the Reds with 203 home runs

A five-tool player when he debuted at the age of 21, Davis was the first Major League player in history to hit at least 30 homers and steal 50 bases in the same season, despite playing only 129 games in 1987. That year, he slugged a career-high 37 homers with 100 RBIs while slashing .293/.399/.593.

A three-time Gold Glove Award winner and two-time All-Star, Davis was known for holding his bat low while having stunning bat speed. He hit one of the biggest home runs in franchise history in Game 1 of the 1990 World Series off A’s ace Dave Stewart to set the tone for a Reds sweep. The Reds inducted Davis into their Hall of Fame in 2005.

4. Gus Bell: 1953-61
Key fact: Inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 1964, the same season he retired from playing

Bell was a four-time All-Star with Cincinnati and hit a career-high 30 home runs in 1953. Among Reds who predominantly played center field, he ranks third in hits (1,343), doubles (228) and RBIs (711) behind Pinson and Roush, and fourth in homers (160). He was a member of the '61 NL pennant winners, but his time in Cincinnati ended when he was plucked by the Mets later that year in the expansion draft.

The Bell name is part of Cincinnati baseball royalty and one of the sport’s few three-generation Major League families. His son, Buddy, played 18 big league seasons, including third base for the Reds from 1985-88. Grandson David Bell played 12 seasons and currently manages for Cincinnati. His other grandson, Mike, played 19 games for the Reds in 2000. Gus, Buddy and David all wore No. 25 for the club.

5. Cesar Geronimo: 1972-80
Key fact: Hit two home runs during the 1975 World Series and scored the winning run in the 10th inning of Game 3

Geronimo was part of the same eight-player trade that brought future Hall of Famer Joe Morgan from the Astros ahead of the 1972 season as the Big Red Machine became a dynasty. Although never an All-Star, Geronimo won four consecutive Gold Glove Awards for his fielding work from '74-77.

The best hitting season for Geronimo came in 1976, when he batted .307 with a .795 OPS and 11 triples -- all career highs -- and .308 in the World Series vs. the Yankees to help the Reds win their second consecutive championship. He was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 2008.

Honorable mentions
Ken Griffey Jr. (2000-08) was one of baseball’s all-time best players for the Mariners before injuries marred much of his time in Cincinnati. But the superstar slugged 210 homers -- ninth most in club history -- and was a three-time All-Star. … Bobby Tolan (1969-73) hit .282/.335/.417 for the Reds and led the Majors with 57 steals in '70. … Billy Hamilton (2013-18) won’t be remembered fondly for his hitting skills, but rather for the electricity he brought. Hamilton’s speed helped him steal at least 56 bases in four straight seasons, and he was one of the best to play the position for the club, defensively.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.