Five Best CF’s on the Diamond.

     In relation to corner outfielders, CF’s have to possess a little more defensive prowess.  There is a very obvious reason why players like Pat Burrell, Adam Dunn, and Bobby Abreu–just to use a few names from this current Free Agent market–are placed in left or right, rather than in center.  They aren’t fast enough, they don’t take the correct path to the ball enough of the time, and if they did play the position, they would be terrible at it.  The Top 5 CF’s are (Included is 2008 OPS+):

  • Grady Sizemore:  OPS+ 128:  If I had to build a team around an individual player, Sizemore would probably be it.  Granted, his age factors into that decision a great deal, but so doesn’t the fact that he plays an up-the-middle position and the fact that he is a very good hitter.  Sizemore has begun his career with OPS’s of 123, 132, 122, 128, excluding his 43 game 2004 season.  The reputation that Sizemore has defensively, actually exceeds his actual skill.  Grady seems to be regarded as one of the best defenders in center, but from what I gather, and see in the +/-, is that Sizemore is overrated in this department.  Capable?  Yes.  And Sizemore will probably improve his route-running as he continues to field balls, but right now there are a handful of CF’s that play better defense.  By the way, Sizemore is a leadoff hitter, and a leadoff hitter with an OBP of between .370-.390 every season, while adding an abnormal slugging percentage from the first slot in the batting order, well, that helps his team win ballgames.
  • Carlos Beltran:  OPS+ 129:  Carlos Beltran is just about as underrated as they come.  Sure, Beltran has never been as great as he was in the 2004 postseason, where he slugged eight home runs, but all he does is produce great year after great year.  And to be fair, Beltran’s postseason was about as great as they get, so there is no way he is going to hit like that for entire seasons.  Because Beltran never says or implies much through even his body language, he is going to sneak up on everyone’s Hall of Fame ballots.  Beltran is just about as good as they come as far as defense in CF.  He actually has a strong case for number 1, as he has led ALL OF’s in Win Shares in two of the past three seasons.  See, Beltran suffers from JD Drew-syndrome, which is the ability to do things, make them look easy, all while showing little-to-no emotion.  Now Beltran is clearly better than Drew, and healthier, but the perception of each is similar.  The only reason that Beltran is not number one is because I think very highly of Grady Sizemore.  The two could very well be 1) and 1A) if it makes everyone feel better.  And Beltran could even have the number one spot all by himself if you wish. 
  • Curtis Granderson:  OPS+ 124:  Granderson was banged up in 2008, but what people failed to notice is that he was actually quite good, I am sure that is due partially to him playing on a poor, underacheiving team.  I am not sure, however,  that Curtis will ever be as good as his 2007 year, but he is still a top of the line CF.  The one thing that is scary is his strikeout totals, but each year they have decreased, meaning that he is putting the ball in play more often, at least giving himself a chance to reach base with the speed he has.  A player like Pat Burrell may not want to increase his contact rate, because it may cost him in the power department, and increase the amount of double plays he grounds into.  But Granderson can actually stay out of double plays, grounding into only 17 in over 500 games played.  Granderson is above average in the fielding department, and is a better defender than Sizemore, but not as good as Beltran.  But I think that three is a fair spot for CG. 
  • Josh Hamilton:  OPS+ 136:  Hamilton is actually getting statistically drilled by John Dewan’s +/- system.  Last season, Hamilton was regarded as a below average CF, if one relies on this metric.  But Hamilton drills a baseball the same way he has been drilled by defensive metrics.  One thing that might concern me a lot is the way Hamilton hits at home in Arlington versus the way he hits on the road.  But there may be something to that, so I am not going to look too much into his Home/Road splits just yet.  Because as we know, because the media continually tells us, Josh Hamilton has a rough past.  I could very well see where a player in his situation could feel overwhelmed on the road, given his what he has experienced.  But if it keeps up through his career in Texas, then we could definitely make a case for his hitting being overrated because of the ballpark in which he calls home. 

  • BJ Upton:  OPS+ 107:  Upton is the real deal in the talent field, but there is a fine line, at least now, between he and the Top three CF’s.  Upton killed the ball in the postseason last year, hitting seven home runs in 16 games.  But what Upton has in talent, he lacks in the mental aspect of the game that we know of as baseball.  How many times is he going to nonchalantly watch a ball sail over his head because he seems to want to look good making a play?  I think he is a better defender than the next guy which would have been Nate Mclouth most likely, (better than the previous guy, too) and that is a large reason he is in this spot.  But he does get on base a lot, his .383 OBP is good evidence of that.  Upton seems like he may have a real breakout year in 2009 or 2010. 


  1. thekfny28

    It’s a tough decision between Upton and Wells, really… Upton was much better in 07, but Wells was better in 08. Really, it’s that youth element of Upton’s, how he is only 23 years of age, that slightly puts him over Wells.

    Fantastic list, SM. You couldn’t be any more right in my opinion…

    -EJ the Kid From New York

  2. raysrenegade

    I think that in 2009, your pick of Upton will show more rewards. He is finally feeling great after the off season shoulder surgery and is looking forward to the season. If he has half the power in 2008 he had in the last month and the playoffs, he will be a 30-30 man.

    I agree with all but Beltran. I hate to say this, but I think he has been overrated since he was with the Kansas City Royals. Torii Hunter is my pick to take his spot on your top 5.

    All together, it is am impressive display of hitting, stealing and awesome speed in center field. Great job on the blog.

    Rays Renegade

  3. joefromnewhampshire

    Julia, I am not even sure that is why his home numbers are better. It could be because it is easier to hit in Texas and that is it. But I wouldn’t exclude the possibility that he just has to much going on in his head right now, or did last year anyway, to play as well on the road.

  4. joefromnewhampshire

    Big Papi, There are spots that I don’t feel all that comfortable with, like number five on this list. I have no problem with someone going with another CF in that spot instead of Upton. Maybe Upton’s talent and potential is why I placed him there, even though that isn’t supposed to matter when doing these lists, its supposed to be about what the player has done. Hunter is good too, but his OBP is nothing speacial, while Upton does get on base more often. And although Hunter is adequate in the field, I think his defense has slipped some since his best years. As for Wells? I don’t know. Wells is above average, and he is a nice player, but his contract stinks, haha. But yes, I could see why some might think he is worthy of the spot over Upton.

  5. joefromnewhampshire

    Thanks, Rays Renegade. But I will have to stand pat with Beltran at 2. I think he does everything well, but no one ever thinks that it is enough. He will most likely be a legit Hall of Famer in my mind once his career is over. But of course he will need to continue to play well for more years. I agree that Hunter has a case to be in there, but not at the expense of Beltran.

  6. Erin Kathleen

    I have to grudgingly agree with Grady Sizemore as your #1 pick. I’ve seen enough of him over the years to appreciate his skill in the field as well as at the plate. No really, I’ve seen enough:(

    Besides his insane OBP and SLG%, he provides a lot of power from the leadoff spot. I don’t know his exact numbers, but I’m pretty sure he’s hit at least 20 homers a year for the last four years. I think he hit a career-high 33 last year. He and Jim Thome both give me nightmares.

  7. kmcleod

    Wells has got to be on this list! Healthy he is a top five CF easy.

    Chris Young may get himself on this list in a year or two if he cuts down on his strikeouts!

  8. joefromnewhampshire

    Basically agreed, but he can be a poor corner OF, but not actually be the Worst of the bunch, meaning that he can still be thrown out there. But yes, he is a much better DH.

  9. joefromnewhampshire

    Well, an AL team has to want him enough, and it seems that the Reds didn’t think any offer was good enough (there must have been some) until they tossed him to the DBacks at the last minute. I wonder if he prefers to play the field, or DH.

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