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Greatest Center Fielders of All Time

The Ten Greatest Major League Center Fielders of All-Time

By Loot, MLB Handicapper,

1. Willie Mays: Not only is Mays the top center-fielder of all-time, but a pretty decent argument can be made for Mays being the best player of all-time--regardless of position. He had it all at the plate and his fielding was off-the charts. He won 12 straight Gold Glove awards and even led the league in stolen bases for 4 straight seasons. With 660 homers, his power was indisputable. Despite playing years past his prime, he still registered a lifetime average of .303. He had it all.

2. Ty Cobb: Times have changed and the baseball Cobb played may bear little resemblance to the modern manifestation of the sport. Nevertheless, Cobb still stands out as one of the best players to have ever stepped on the field. Sure, numbers were inflated in Cobb’s era, but dominance is dominance and you don’t win 12 batting crowns in 13 seasons by accident. His .366 lifetime mark is still the gold-standard and will never be touched.

3. Joe DiMaggio: A terrific fielder and an even better hitter, Joe D’s name still rings loudly when baseball greats from the past are discussed. If not for the 3 seasons he lost in the war, his stats would be even more incredible, but he still managed a .325 lifetime average. In only 13 seasons, he put up 361 homers and an incredible 1537 RBI. The 3-time MVP was one of the greatest run producers of all-time.

4. Mickey Mantle: In his prime, it’s hard to have asked more from a player. One of the greatest pure talents and hitters of a baseball to ever walk the earth. Mantle hit 538 home runs lifetime and won the triple crown in 1956. He led the American League in runs scored 5 times and homers 4 times. His career on-base percentage of .421 also stands out, as the 3-time MVP is one of the greatest-ever Yankees and center fielders of all-time.

5. Ken Griffey, Jr.: With one of the prettiest swings in baseball history, Griffey’s standing might only get better as time goes on. In the end--he did it the right way, using talent and hard work to forge a great career. While others from his time are shrouded in scandal, Griffey rose above it, putting up power numbers that only a few greats from the past have equalled or surpassed. Throw in 10 Gold Gloves and you have one of the more complete players of his or any other era. From 1997-1999, he hit 160 home runs in just 3 seasons. He would retire in 2010 with 630 lifetime homers.

6. Tris Speaker: A name that should come up more when the greatest players in history are discussed, Speaker was a gem on the baseball landscape. Even if Cobb’s stats were an iota more impressive, Speaker may have been an even more valuable teammate. The Boston and Cleveland star hit .345 lifetime and is still the all-time leader in doubles all these years later with 792. Throw in 3514 hits and a lifetime on-base percentage of .428 and you’re dealing with one of the greatest to ever play the game.

7. Duke Snider: One of the greatest all-time Dodgers, Snider was a top-notch player and power hitter whose name is forever etched in baseball lore. The Brooklyn and LA Dodgers star was a guy you could count on in his prime to hit well above .300, 30-45 homers, and well over 100 RBI. From 1953-1957, he hit 40 homers for 5 straight seasons. At one point or another, he led the league in hits, runs, home runs, RBI, on-base percentage, slugging, and total bases. One of the greats.

8. Kirby Puckett: One of the more unique players in modern history, Puckett’s career went through different manifestations. In his rookie year, he hit zero homers in 557 at-bats, but by his third season, he hit 31 homers. He played for only 12 seasons and had 2304 hits, meaning he averaged nearly 200 hits per season. The 6-time Gold Glove winner had a robust lifetime batting average of .318. What he lacked in longevity, he made up for with unquestioned all-around excellence on the field. He passed away at the tender age of 45, but leaves behind a legacy that is sure to withstand the test of time.

9. Andre Dawson: With the modern era of power hitters riddled with asterisks and uncertainty, a lot of us place more value on the era directly preceding that. When doing that, Dawson’s name shines brightly as one of the supreme players of the 80’s. Though remembered mainly for his bat, Dawson won an amazing 8 Gold Glove awards. He also stole 314 bases and was a major threat on the base-paths in his younger days. Making his bones with the Expos and later the Cubs, Dawson was a highly-versatile and explosive player.

10. Eric Davis: History might not be that kind to Davis, whose career failed to live up to others on this list and some who may be ranked below him, as well. For those of us who saw him play, however, the memory remains clear of how unique a player Davis was in his prime. He had great power and speed and to the detriment of his longevity, was a fearless center fielder on defense, with one highlight play after the next. He won 3 consecutive Gold Gloves from 1987-1989. In his first full season, he hit 27 homers with 80 stolen bases. You won’t see that very often. He added two 30-30 seasons to that and though his prime was short, it was explosive and quite unlike anything seen in baseball in recent memory.

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