If Josh Hamilton were a centerfielder every day, he’d rank first with 136.2 Total Runs Productivity – well above everyone else on this list. On the other hand, it would likely be lower because he no longer has the range to play center and, when he does, he gets hurt.
Torii Hunter – LAA (103.9 Runs Created, 5.9 Runs Saved = 109.8 Total Runs Productivity)
Don’t let that Runs Saved number fool you – he was great as a right fielder, but marginally below average in center. The move to right is the right move, and Hunter remains a formidable offensive weapon.
Austin Jackson – DET (91.7 Runs Created, 4.6 Runs Saved = 96.3 Total Runs Productivity)
A fine rookie season. Sure – he struck out nearly as often as he got a hit, but he got a lot of those, turning many into doubles and triples. Has room for improvement, and time to do it.
Alex Rios – CHI (87.6 Runs created, 8.0 Runs Saved = 95.6 Total Runs Productivity)
The change of scenery did him well, and getting to be a regular centerfielder, Rios had a very good season. As a player, a dead ringer for Adam Jones, only with more experience and a tad more speed.
Vernon Wells – TOR (99.3 Runs Created, -7.4 Runs Saved = 91.9 Total Runs Productivity)
Heading to LA where he won’t be asked to play centerfield very often, which is good because Wells hasn’t been a league average fielder in center since the first George W term. Rajai Davis gets the job in 2011, and I’m not sure that’s going to be an improvement.
B.J. Upton – TB (90.0 Runs Created, 1.8 Runs Saved = 91.8 Total Runs Productivity)
Has bat speed and foot speed that anyone would die for, and knows the strike zone. And yet, he’s a disappointment. He strikes out a LOT. Now dogged for dogging it, and yet a very valuable player for the Rays.
Adam Jones – BAL (80.5 Runs Created, 7.9 Runs Saved = 88.4 Total Runs Productivity)
A good, but not great player – decent average, good power, some speed, above average glove. Wish he were more patient, or could take it up a notch. I was listening to a Baseball Prospectus podcast and Kevin Goldstein noted that, with the end of Ken Griffey’s career, we really haven’t had a big time centerfielder for a while – and that remains true.
Denard Span – MIN (78.9 Runs Created, 3.9 Runs Saved = 82.8 Total Runs Productivity)
Good baserunner, gets on base, but has little to no power. Above average range in center. Not a horrible centerfielder, but not making anyone forget Kirby Puckett.
Franklin Gutierrez – SEA (74.4 Runs Created, 1.1 Runs Saved = 75.5 Total Runs Productivity)
Wonder if the struggles of the Mariner season got to Gutierrez? Fell off offensively and defensively in 2010 to the point he was just a league average player. He will have better seasons.
Rajai Davis – OAK (74.4 Runs Created,-2.1 Runs Saved = 72.3 Total Runs Productivity)
Speedster, stats hidden by playing in Oakland (not that he’s really Mickey Mantle or something). Not an awful player, but he’d help more if he could add something else to his skill set. Your new Blue Jays centerfielder…
Curtis Granderson – NYY (67.3 Runs Created, -5.8 Runs Saved = 61.5 Total Runs Productivity)
Brett Gardner covers more ground, and is a more valuable hitter. I like Granderson, don’t get me wrong, but they should switch and put Granderson in left.
Trevor Crowe – CLE (49.0 Runs Created, 11.4 Runs Saved = 60.4 Total Runs Productivity)
Has speed, but will probably show little growth as a hitter since he’s already 27 and wasn’t a world beater in the minors, Crowe played more centerfield but was just a few innings from leading the Indians in time spent in left field as well. At this point, he’s a much better defensive player than Grady Sizemore, but he needs to increase either his on base percentage or slugging percentage to be worth giving 1000 innings in the field. He’s really a fifth outfielder at best.
Coco Crisp – OAK (51.3 Runs Created, 3.7 Runs Saved = 55.0 Total Runs Productivity)
Would be a remarkably valuable player if he could just stay in the lineup. In 2010, it was injuries to his left pinkie – twice. Last full season? 2007.
Julio Borbon – TEX (46.5 Runs Created, 1.9 Runs Saved = 48.4 Total Runs Productivity)
Slap hitter, fast – but not a great basestealer or defensive wizard. I think he can step forward, though, and has to because when Josh Hamilton is forced into centerfield, he finds the DL.
Melky Cabrera, former Yankee and Brave who signed with the Royals in December, 2010, would rank here (45.3 Total Runs Productivity).
Mitch Maier – KC (47.4 Runs Created, -4.4 Runs Saved = 43.0 Total Runs Productivity)
A fourth outfielder masquerading as a regular because in Kansas City, they need warm bodies. Hits a little, fields some, tries hard. He won’t get 2500 career at bats, though. For 2011, the job will fall to either Melky Cabrera or Lorenzo Cain, a raw talent who arrived in the Zack Greinke trade. Cabrera is a really good fourth outfielder, while Cain might be a shade better than Cabrera these days.
Darnell McDonald – BOS (46.1 Runs Created, -5.1 Runs Saved = 41.0 Total Runs Productivity)
14 years ago, he was a first round choice of the Orioles and was rushed through the system before he was really ready because he just LOOKED like an athlete. Spent a decade as a AA/AAA guy before he was finally given a reasoanble opportunity for playing time. Of course, everyone in Boston’s outfield was injured at the time. He’s not an awful player, but he’s now 32 and probably wishes things had worked out differently.
Peter Bourjos – LAA (19.0 Runs Created, 12.4 Runs Saved = 31.4 Total Runs Productivity)
The new Devon White. Some power, tons of speed, swings at everything. If he can hit anything at all, will become a very valuable commodity. I think he can hit .250 hitting eighth or ninth in this lineup, which would be just fine.
Mike Cameron – BOS (20.7 Runs Created, 0.4 Runs Saved = 21.1 Total Runs Productivity)
Can still play – retaining a huge chunk of his skills as he approaches 40. Always liked him, but if it were me, I think I’d rather play Kalish in center.
Ryan Kalish – BOS (21.2 Runs Created, -.2 Runs Saved = 21.0 Total Runs Productivity)
You want to know how deep the Red Sox farm is? Ryan Kalish is a pretty good player. Great base runner, sneaky power, decent fielder. And, he has no place to play on this team. Still – he’s not far from being a solid fourth outfielder in Boston, and if necessary, wouldn’t be an awful option as a centerfielder for long stretches of time. Other teams would LOVE to have a Ryan Kalish in their system. Turns 23 in spring training.
Michael Brantley – CLE (31.4 Runs Created, -15.5 Runs Saved = 15.9 Total Runs Productivity)
In 100 career games now, he’s hit 3 – 33 – .264, with barely tolerable on base percentage skills, and his defensive skills haven’t yet impressed anyone at the major league level. Too good for AAA, he’s a fifth outfielder hoping to step it up. Stiil a kid – turns 24 in May – so there is room for growth.
Gregor Blanco – KC (24.9 Runs Created, -11.2 Runs Saved = 13.7 Total Runs Productivity)
A fifth outfielder who got too much playing time. Can contribute a little with the bat, but hasn’t been a consistently good fielder.
Grady Sizemore – CLE (11.0 Runs Created, -11.2 Runs Saved, = -0.2 Total Runs Productivity)
Hasn’t been the same since the personal photo shoot. Body has left him, skills haven’t been seen in a couple of years now. I’m not sure he’ll ever be back.