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Rockies' Top 5 center fielders: Harding's take

@harding_at_mlb
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. Love this list? Hate it?

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. Love this list? Hate it? If you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Thomas Harding's ranking of the top five center fielders in Rockies history. Next week: right field.

• Rockies All-Time Around the Horn Team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF

1) Charlie Blackmon, 2011-present
Key fact: Made three of four All-Star Game appearances based on center-field play with Rockies

The position is one of the most challenging in baseball. Coors Field has the biggest center-field area in the game, and the way the ball travels off the bat makes for full-speed sprints -- often toward an unforgiving wall. From Opening Day 2014 through '18, Blackmon gave the Rockies the most production and longevity at the position. During that time, he made three of his four All-Star Game appearances.

Blackmon’s best year was 2017, when he won the National League batting title (.331) and led the Majors in total bases (387), plate appearances (725), runs (137), hits (213) and triples (14). He also hit 37 homers and set an MLB record with 103 of his 104 RBIs coming from the leadoff spot. Blackmon placed fifth in NL Most Valuable Player Award voting that year. The Rockies moved him to right field in '19.

2) Ellis Burks, 1994-98
Key fact: Finished third in NL MVP Award voting in 1996

Burks played just 303 games in center field, but his production in those games was remarkable -- 74 home runs, 193 RBIs and a .590 slugging percentage. In his biggest year, his 1996 All-Star season, Burks led the Majors in runs (142) and total bases (392) and was tops in the NL in slugging percentage (.639). He also batted .344 and finished third in NL MVP Award voting.

3) Dexter Fowler, 2008-13
Key fact: Only Rockies player aside from Charlie Blackmon to exceed 2,000 plate appearances as center fielder

Before becoming a major cog in the postseason with the Cubs (he has a 2016 World Series ring) and Cardinals, the switch-hitting Fowler had his growing pains and successes with the Rockies. Fowler led MLB in triples with 14 in '10, and his 53 three-baggers stand as the club career record. Among center fielders in the club’s 28-season history, the only players with over 2,000 plate appearances at the position are Blackmon (3,068) and Fowler (2,572).

4) Preston Wilson, 2003-05
Key fact: Elected to All-Star Game in 2003

After arriving in a trade with the Marlins, Wilson posted a 3.9 offensive WAR, per Baseball-Reference, during his time with Colorado. In 2003, when he got an All-Star Game nod, he hit 36 home runs, led the NL with 141 RBIs and posted career highs in batting average (.282) and slugging percentage (.537). A left knee injury in '04 limited Wilson's future production with the Rockies, and he was dealt to the Nationals in '05. He would go on to earn a World Series ring with the Cardinals in '06.

5) Juan Pierre, 2000-02
Key fact: Batted .308 while striking out just 96 times in 1,542 plate appearances in a Rockies uniform

Pierre noses out some players who put up decent numbers, such as Cory Sullivan, Quinton McCracken and Willy Taveras. Pierre was the Rockies’ regular center fielder from his Aug. 7, 2000, debut until he was dealt to the Marlins after the '02 season; Sullivan, McCracken and Taveras had periods as reserves. As Colorado's leadoff man, Pierre was a solid stolen-base threat -- he led the NL in '01 with 46 and recorded 47 in '02 -- and he batted .308 while striking out just 96 times in 1,542 plate appearances, with a .356 on-base percentage.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.