Our look at the best MLB players at each position continues, as we have now moved to center field. After last season, it’s quite obvious that the league is filled with talented center fielders. But, only five could make our list for the best in the game entering the 2023 season. So, who made the cut? Let’s start off with a former NL All-Star that could be a very popular name come the Trade Deadline.
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5. Bryan Reynolds
Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds has been among the league’s best hitters since his debut in 2019. A career .281 hitters, Reynolds displayed an impressive mix of contact ability and power over his first four seasons in the league. The Pirate outfielder posted back-to-back 20+ home campaigns in 2021 and 2022, and ranked as one of the game’s better hitters in batted ball metrics this past season. Defensively, Reynolds posted a paltry -7 Outs Above Average in center last season. It was a sharp departure from precedent for Reynolds, who has showcased good speed and arm strength in his career thus far.
Reynolds reportedly asked for a trade earlier in the offseason, a move that has cast doubt on his future with the Pirates. If Pittsburgh is willing to deal the 27-year-old, a number of teams make sense for the former All-Star.
4. Byron Buxton
Now we move to Twins outfielder Byron Buxton. When healthy, it’s hard to a center field that is as toolsy as Byron Buxton. Despite a low .224 batting average last season, Buxton cracked a career-high 28 home runs over 92 games for the Twins. The 29-year-old has hit double digits in home runs in each of the past three seasons, including in Buxton’s short, yet monstrous 2021. Buxton looked like a potential MVP candidate that season, as hit 19 home runs and posted a 1.005 OPS across 61 games. A series of injuries, though, cut that campaign short.
Buxton can make in impact both at the plate, and on the field. The former Gold Glove winner has proven to be elite in both aspects of his game, but the struggle has been to get the 29-year-old on the field. Injuries have cost Buxton more than 50% of the last two seasons.
3. George Springer
A World Series champion with Houston in 2017, Blue Jays outfielder George Springer has been as good as advertised in his first two seasons in Canada. The four-time All-Star hit 25 home runs for Toronto last season, the seventh time in his career that he hit at least 20 in a single season. The Connecticut native has a knack for driving the ball thanks to his impressive strength, but Springer doesn’t just impact the game at the plate. Springer has also proven himself to be a valuable defensive asset in the outfield.
Springer makes this list for the 2023 season, but it’s quite likely that will change come a year from now. Toronto inked defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier in free agency, a move that is poised to shift Springer to a corner outfield position.
2. Julio Rodríguez
Mariners outfielder Julio Rodríguez showed baseball fans around the world last season just why there was so much hype that surrounded the youngster in the Minors. In his first season with Seattle, Rodríguez hit 28 home runs and drove in 75 runs. “J-Rod” also showed off his elite speed last season, as he swiped 25 bags for the Mariners. Defensively, the 22-year-old ranked in the top 10% of all players in both Arm Strength and Outs Above Average.
Rodríguez’s dominant 2022 ended with a AL Silver Slugger and the American League Rookie of the Year award. After that torrid campaign, Rodríguez will look to continue his rise among the best in Major League Baseball.
1. Mike Trout
It shouldn’t be much of a shock that Angels star Mike Trout tops the list. The three-time AL MVP missed most of 2021, but came back this past season looking a lot like the superstar we’ve seen over the past decade. Trout cracked 40 home runs last season, which marked the third time that the ten-time All-Star hit at least 40 in a single season. Trout’s .999 OPS in 2022 ranked as the third-best figure among qualified MLB hitters.
Over the last 10 years, it’s hard to make the argument that Trout has not been the league’s best player. Entering 2023, the star center fielder will look to push the Angels to its first postseason birth since 2014.