Center field is a premium position in baseball. The skills needed to be a good all around center fielder far outweigh the skills needed to be a good left fielder. Most teams hide a weak defender in left field. It often requires less arm strength and less range to play. Center field requires the whole nine yards. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the best athletes grow up playing either shortstop or center field. So, the list of great center fielders in fantasy baseball is likely longer than that of left fielders.
- Mike Trout—Los Angeles Angels (Preseason #1)
(.312, 24 HR, 97 Runs, 82 RBI, 90 BB, 21 SB)
Coming into the season, there appeared to be chinks in the Trout armor. Mind you, he was still either number one or number two off of most people’s boards, but his average was beginning to slip and the speed was slowly eroding. He’s gone back to the player he was when he first came up. He’s hitting for higher average, a little less power, but more speed to go with it. He is still the best baseball player on the planet.
- Ian Desmond—Texas Rangers (Preseason #23)
(.290, 21 HR, 89 Runs, 76 RBI, 34 BB, 19 SB)
In a five category league, Desmond actually comes close to mirroring the production of Trout. He wasn’t even a center fielder at the beginning of the year. Most people assumed he would play left field and continue to be a low average, decent power threat like he had been in Washington. No player has done more to increase his free agent value than this guy.
- Charlie Blackmon—Colorado Rockies (Preseason #6)
(. .318, 23 HR, 88 Runs, 63 RBI, 35 BB, 15 SB)
Fine. These numbers are inflated because half of his games are played in Coors Field. I suppose this is a factor in the offseason if the Rockies ever choose to deal him away for prospects, but until then, just enjoy the numbers. As long as he stays in Denver, he should picked a lot higher than he was this season.
- Odubel Herrera—Philadelphia Phillies (Preseason #40)
(.283, 13 HR, 67 Runs, 42 RBI, 56 BB, 19 SB)
Sometimes it’s hard to explain how these rankings come out. Part of the explanation comes in the sixth category. I could be accused of inflating the importance of walks, but even in five category leagues they often lead to more runs being scored. In Herrera’s case, he simply contributes enough of everything to be a solid all-around contributor.
- Jackie Bradley—Boston Red Sox (Preseason #43)
(.272, 21 HR, 74 Runs, 73 RBI, 46 BB, 7 SB)
Bradley has produced more runs than Herrera, so in a five category league he is probably the better choice. Rankings are based on their rankings across the board, but that assumes every category is created equal. If you produce more home runs, runs, and RBI it is difficult to rank people above you. Bradley’s average has dipped in recent weeks, but he is still a solid all around contributor.
- Adam Jones—Baltimore Orioles (Preseason #11)
(.275, 24 HR, 74 Runs, 74 RBI, 30 BB, 1 SB)
Jones has taken a step backwards this season, but he is still very good player. My biggest beef with him is that he doesn’t draw enough walks. That obviously is not a huge deal in standard 5×5 leagues, but it does make him prone to slumps. He began the season in one and has been recovering ever since.
- Marcell Ozuna—Miami Marlins (Preseason #34)
(.274, 22 HR, 64 Runs, 67 RBI, 36 BB, 0 SB)
Ozuna began the season in the Marlins doghouse but the leadership of Don Mattingly and Barry Bonds have brought him back to life. He still is not an elite fantasy producer, but he is a shade under it at this point. Notice how many undrafted players we have seen in the top group again. Punting on outfielders is not the worst thing in the world.
- Andrew McCutchen—Pittsburgh Pirates (Preseason #3)
(.252, 18 HR, 67 Runs, 56 RBI, 51 BB, 6 SB)
Considering Bryce Harper is really a right fielder, McCutchen was actually the second center fielder off most people’s boards. That makes this season that much more frustrating for McCutchen owners. He was a first round pick, but hasn’t performed like one. Yet, he hasn’t performed badly enough to dump. McCutchen fans have patiently waited for a hot streak to come and it just hasn’t happened yet.
- Dexter Fowler—Chicago Cubs (Preseason #28)
(.277, 10 HR, 66 Runs, 39 RBI, 59 BB, 8 SB)
Dexter Fowler is a conundrum. Advanced metrics say he is a really good offensive player, but he has never made it through a season completely healthy. So, the fantasy numbers tend to underwhelm. That being said, while he is healthy is a productive enough to be a fantasy regular. If paired with another productive center fielder then he could be a valuable member of a fantasy team.
- Denard Span—San Francisco Giants (Preseason #35)
(.276, 8 HR, 55 Runs, 45 RBI, 42 BB, 12 SB)
Span’s fantasy prospects were similar to his prospects in free agency. He had to wait for a legitimate offer despite being a solid regular for a number of years. Much like Herrera, he contributes across the board, so nothing looks elite, yet he does enough of everything to be a legitimate fantasy regular.
- Lorenzo Cain—Kansas City Royals (Preseason #13)
(..288, 9 HR, 52 Runs, 53 RBI, 27 BB, 11 SB)
Add 100 plate appearances to Cain’s total and you will get the kind of production he offered the Royals last season and the season why he ranks so high before the season. Some crazy people even suggested that he should have been an MVP candidate last season. Much like the Royals as a whole, the overall production simply hasn’t been there.
- Jacoby Ellsbury—New York Yankees (Preseason #15)
(.263, 6 HR, 56 Runs, 43 RBI, 39 BB, 18 SB)
Given the number of players that don’t play center field that are listed as fantasy center fielders, Ellsbury’s preseason ranking was actually appropriate. There used to be a time when Ellsbury was a dynamic power/speed combination. Those days appear to be over as Ellsbury represents the downside to signing players to long-term deals. He isn’t a bad option for someone that punts outfield though.