White Sox Top 5 center fielders: Merkin'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 Scott Merkin’s ranking of the top 5 center fielders in White Sox history. Next week: Right field.

White Sox All-Time Team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF

1. Johnny Mostil, 1918, '21-29
Key fact: Finished second in the 1926 American League MVP Award voting

Mostil’s two best seasons came from 1925-26, when he had 78 stolen bases, 77 doubles, 31 triples, 378 hits and 255 runs scored. He also had a .400 on-base percentage in '25, which rose to .415 in '26, closing his career with a .386 mark and an .812 OPS. Mostil, who was a right-handed hitter, has the single-season franchise mark with his 135 runs scored in '25 and his 120 runs scored in '26 are tied for fourth. He led the AL in stolen bases twice ('25, '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.

2. Jim Landis, 1957-64
Key fact: Won five Gold Glove Awards

Landis was an exceptional defensive presence who won consecutive Gold Glove Awards from 1960-64. He was a big contributor towards the team’s 1959 World Series appearance, hitting .272 with five home runs, 26 doubles and 60 RBIs during the regular season for a seventh-place finish in AL MVP Award voting. He batted .292 with six runs scored in six games against the Dodgers in the Fall Classic that year.

During Game 3 of the World Series, Landis made an iconic catch on a fly ball hit by Jim Gilliam. In Game 5, he also had an important fourth-inning hit, moving Nellie Fox to third base, where Fox scored on a double play groundout to give the White Sox the only run they needed over Sandy Koufax to send the series back to Chicago.

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3. Chet Lemon, 1975-81
Key fact: Produced 216 extra-base hits from 1977-80

Lemon won a World Series title with the 1984 Tigers, but two of his three All-Star appearances happened with the White Sox from '78-79. His 44 doubles in '79 are tied with Frank Thomas and Ivan Calderon for the seventh highest single-season total in franchise history. Lemon was part of the South Side Hitmen in '77, when he hit 19 home runs and 38 doubles to go with an .803 OPS.

4. Lance Johnson, 1988-95
Key fact: Ranks fourth all-time in White Sox stolen bases

Johnson actually began his career in the Cardinals’ organization but was traded to the White Sox on Feb. 9, 1988. The fleet-footed left-handed hitter was a consistent offensive force for seven straight seasons, topping the AL in triples from 1991-94. Johnson’s 77 triples rank eighth all-time in franchise history. He hit .286 with 226 stolen bases during his White Sox career, and had a home run, triple, double and six RBIs during the White Sox '93 AL Championship Series loss to the Blue Jays. Johnson’s 25-game hitting streak in '92 is fifth longest in franchise history.

5. Aaron Rowand, 2001-05
Key fact: Represented the hard-nosed style of play behind the famous "Grinder Rules"

General manager Rick Hahn often uses the example of Rowand and third baseman Joe Crede as young players who make it to the Majors but have to go back to the Minors before returning and becoming truly established. Rowand had that scenario play out in 2003 but became the everyday center fielder for '04 and then for the '05 World Series championship.

Rowand played defense with reckless but successful abandon, with his stellar action in center during an August 2005 three-game series at Yankee Stadium almost single-handedly turning the momentum into a pair of White Sox wins. Rowand’s 24 home runs and 38 doubles in '04 stood as his best single-season total in both categories with Chicago. He was traded on Nov. 25, 2005, in the deal that brought designated hitter Jim Thome back to Chicago.

Honorable mentions
Fielder Jones played with the White Sox from 1901-08 and produced a 32.3 fWAR and 31.8 bWAR -- both of which are the highest among White Sox players who primarily played center field.

Happy Felsch had his best season in 1920, marking his last year with the White Sox. He finished with a .923 OPS, 14 home runs, 115 RBIs, 40 doubles and 15 triples.

Tommie Agee hit 36 home runs, picked up 72 stolen bases, knocked out 53 doubles and scored 171 runs over two All-Star seasons from 1966-67, winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award in '66.

Rudy Law recorded 171 stolen bases and hit .275 over 523 games with the White Sox.

played only 41 games with the White Sox and 32 in center, but he’s one of the best players ever in the game and made one of the more iconic throws in franchise history to nail Michael Cuddyer at the plate during the 2008 AL Central tiebreaker victory over the Twins in what is known as the Blackout Game. So, he gets a very honorable mention.