Cheap Seats Chatter Versus: Center Fielder Debate

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Another edition of the Overtime Heroics: Cheap Seats Chatter Podcast is live now on Spotify. This edition features writers Mathias Altman-Kurosaki and Alex Clark as they discuss some of the best center fielders of the semi-modern era.

In this edition of Cheap Seats Chatter, the players that cover the largest areas of the field are up for debate as the hosts break down and rank the best center fielders of the Modern Era. A good center fielder has to have a multitude of abilities, but the players discussed all used a different toolkit to achieve greatness.

Andruw Jones

One half of the Jones boys in Atlanta, Andruw made his name known for having a big bat while also being one of the best defensive center fielders for a decade. A winner of ten gold gloves, five all-star nods and a silver slugger award, his play with Atlanta will be forever remembered as being a threat with both the bat and glove.

The main knock when it comes to Jones is his career after leaving Atlanta. When he left Georgia, the stats took a dramatic downturn and he became a shell of his former self. If he retired after his final year in Atlanta, all of his splits raise as well as his defensive WAR.

Kenny Lofton

Lofton was the prototype of the speedy leadoff outfielder and executed that role to near perfection. All Lofton needed to succeed was to get on first base which he did thousands of times in his illustrious career. Finishing his career with a .299 batting average and a stellar .372 OBP, he knew how to get on base no matter what it took. Adding on, he would wreak havoc on the basepaths. He led the league in stolen bases five straight seasons, including reaching at least 70 stolen bases twice during that span.

Lofton’s biggest weakness was that he was a bit ahead of his time. When he was playing, home runs were at a premium. Lofton only hit 130 homers over his 17-year career with a season high of only 15 bombs. Accolades often eluded Lofton. He only scored four gold gloves and six all-star nods which is the least of everyone on the list. While he did not hit the long ball with efficiency, he defined an entire archetype of player that is still used to this day.

Carlos Beltran

While Beltran is known now for some more scrupulous actions, as a player, he was the model of consistency. While he never had one single area where he was a master, offensively, he did most things to a high level. Finishing his career with a batting average above .270 and 435 home runs, with a bat in his hand, Beltran was a monster. Beltran was the 1999 rookie of the year and is the only one of these five that has a world series ring.

Of the five on this list, Beltran has the lowest defensive WAR. As a fielder, Beltran was serviceable but never played the position at a high level compared to the rest of the people he is being compared to. Although a non-factor with the glove, when he stepped up to the plate, he was a dominant force for 20 years.

On the podcast, this was the end of where the Cheap Seats Chatter crew agreed on the rankings.

Mike Trout

Without a doubt, Mike Trout is the best player in baseball today. He is the definition of a five-tool player and has accolades that show him as one of the best. Through his first ten years, Trout has been a three-time MVP, eight-time silver slugger and an eight-time all-star. To figure out how good Trout is, the things he hasn’t done almost show more. Every year of his career that he has been eligible for the MVP award, he has never finished below fifth in the voting.

Trout would be a lock for the number one spot, if not for one thing that isn’t his fault. He is not done yet. Every other player talked about in the podcast is retired and their stats are set in stone. Trout, realistically, still has at least four to six years of greatness barring any sort of injury or scandal. As long as Trout doesn’t have an incredible down turn in ability, he may be in the conversation for best overall player of all time.

Ken Griffey Jr.

“The Kid” defined a generation of baseball for people in the 90’s and was the face of the game for almost a decade. Griffey had the perfect combination of power, speed, bat control and defensive prowess and was considered the prototypical five-tool player. His career in Seattle is something that major leaguers today still say inspired them to be major league ballplayers. A hall of fame nod tops the list of accolades for The Kid which includes an MVP award, ten gold gloves, seven silver sluggers and 13 all-star nods.

Griffey’s biggest problem was his injuries. After leaving Seattle before the 2000 season, his career took a sharp downturn. The injuries he had sustained from his style of play had really piled up and they just continued as his career went on. One of the biggest mysteries in baseball is what Griffey’s stats would look like if he wasn’t injured nearly as much.

While all five are vastly different in how they played the game, all of them found success and became household names even after most of their retirements. Let us know if there is someone we missed or if your list differs from our lists. Tune in to the Cheap Seats Chatter podcast on Spotify to hear the discussion.

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