Throughout this TOC Top Ten series we've been rolling out all week, I've had some tough decisions on where to rank certain players. But I think the center field rankings posted this afternoon were the most difficult I've had to do. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are now left fielders. Josh Hamilton is now a right fielder. Michael Bourn doesn't have a job. Talk about a buzzkill.
Then, you have the injury-related issues in regards to the list. Matt Kemp had an awesome first six weeks, but was pretty pedestrian in the second half after coming back from his strained hamstring. Jacoby Ellsbury was incredible in 2011 for the Red Sox, but played in a total of 92 games in 2010 and 2012. Chris Young was worth 4.6 fWAR in each of 2010 and 2011, but missed 61 games in 2012, and isn't even a starter after getting traded to the A's. How am I supposed to even rank these players?
It's a difficult proposition, especially when considering the overall level of talent at center field going into the 2013 season. A guy like Dexter Fowler had better overall offensive numbers than Austin Jackson, Adam Jones, and Bryce Harper in 2012, but away from Coors Field, he hit like Michael Saunders. But that really isn't Fowler's fault, is it? There are huge home/road splits for nearly every player throughout Rockies history, why should Fowler get picked on more than most? The extreme nature of the splits has a lot to do with it, and the fact that he's not even a league average hitter on the road (like Larry Walker was, which is conveniently getting ignored in his Hall of Fame discussion) is another contributing factor.
Hell, what about someone like Cameron Maybin? He plays his home games at Petco Park, a stadium that absolutely murders hitters. Yet, Maybin actually hit much better at Petco in 2012 than on the road, and his issues last season were related to struggles in the first half that were apparently related to problems with his swing. OK, I can't judge Maybin based on just the second half of his year, which wasn't even that spectacular, all things considered.
Maybe I should have ranked Shin-Soo Choo after he was dealt from the Indians to the Reds, and shifted to center field by Cincinnati. But Choo has played a total of 83 innings in his career in center, and that transition is much more difficult than going from center to a corner like what Trout, Harper, and Hamilton are doing.
There are just so many question marks about center fielders going in to 2013. In fact, there are so many questions about center field that I'm starting to doubt my rankings and wondering just how offbase I am. In 2011, the top five center fielders in terms of fWAR were Ellsbury, Kemp, Curtis Granderson, Shane Victorino, and Andrew McCutchen. Victorino and Ellsbury weren't ranked, and Kemp and Granderson weren't in the top five of my rankings. Filling out the 2011 top ten were Maybin, Young, Peter Bourjos, Melky Cabrera, and BJ Upton. Of those five, only Upton was ranked in my top ten for 2013. Of the top ten center fielders in fWAR from 2010, only Angel Pagan, Michael Bourn, and Upton were ranked by me this year. The turnover in center field is just insane, and I wouldn't be surprised if the top ten at the end of this season were drastically different than the top ten heading into this season.