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Top 10 Center Fielders of the 2023 Season

In 2023, center field featured some of MLB’s most exciting players.

As we enter the final stretch of the 2023 series, Pitcher List is ranking the top 10 at every position in baseball.

Previous entries in the Pitcher List 2023 Positional Rankings Series: Catcher, 1B, 2B. 3B, and Relievers.

In 2023, baseball fans were treated to the work of some exceptional center fielders. This year’s list brings back some familiar players, including an impressive career revival.

 

The Center Fielder Not on This List that You Should Know: Brenton Doyle, COL

 

Doyle didn’t make the list because, look, a player with a 35 wRC+ doesn’t make top 10 lists. But he is arguably the best defensive centerfielder in MLB this season.

UZR? 19.4. (The next closest? Michael Harris II at 5.5.) ARM? 10.0. (The next closest? Again, Harris II with 5.7.)  DRS? Doyle’s 15 is second only to Kevin Kiermaier’s 17. Arm Value? He ties for first with Adolis García and Lane Thomas at 6. Outs Above Average? His 12 is second only to Luis Robert Jr’s 13.

Fielding Run Value? That’s Baseball Savant’s overall defensive measure that facilitates comparisons of all MLB players? Doyle leads everyone at 17.

He’s also a rookie playing half his games in the most challenging MLB outfield.

Doyle’s not on this list, but he should win a Gold Glove. Remember you read it here first.

 

10. Trent Grisham, SD

 

Grisham’s defense has always been his calling card, but in 2023, he bounced back offensively from a rough 2022. This season, he hit 13 home runs, 29 doubles, and stole 14 bases while earning a 92 wRC+.

In terms of defense, he had a FRV of 7 while earning 7 OAA by making catches like this:

Always a workhorse, Grisham logged 1,206 innings in center this season, the second-most of all center fielders. (When it comes to playing this position, durability matters.)

The 2023 Padres were a disappointment, but their center fielder was not.

 

9. Leody Taveras, TEX

 

An experienced veteran in 2023, Taveras had another solid season: In 1,115 innings, he earned a wRC+ of 98 and was worth 2.0 fWAR. Add to that 14 stolen bases, 12 home runs, and 30 doubles — the second-most hits by any center fielder.

His defense has slowed down a bit this year (0 DRS and 7 OAA), but Taveras remains a solid center fielder.

 

8. Jack Suwinski, PIT

 

Getting a center fielder who can rake is always a plus, and on this front, Suwinski did not disappoint. He hit 25 home runs, stole 12 bases, and earned a 110 wRC+.

The defense, however, remains a work in progress. He has -6 DRS in 854 innings but is still worth 2.3 fWAR.

 

7. Michael Harris II, ATL

 

There really are no weak spots on the Atlanta baseball team, and Harris is not an exception. He’s worth 3.8 fWAR and earned an impressive 118 wRC+. Add to that 18 home runs and 20 stolen bases, and you’ve got a well-above-average center fielder.

He was even better defensively, earning an FRV of 8 and 5 OAA. He has the highest ARM rating on this list at 5.7. Harris II did this while logging 1,088 innings and never slowed down.

 

 

6. T.J. Friedl, CIN

 

In his first full MLB season, Friedl distinguished himself on both sides of the plate, earning an impressive 3.5 fWAR. He hit 14 homers and stole 24 bases for a wRC+ of 108. In addition, Friedl had eight triples, second-most of any center fielder.

His defense was equally solid. He earned 4 DRS and a UZR of 0.2.

In addition, Friedl had an impressive 7 FRS as well as four OAA in 877 innings. He’s been a very good outfielder for a contending Reds team.

 

5. Brandon Nimmo, NYM

 

After signing an eight-year, $162 million contract, Nimmo made sure the Mets got their money’s worth. His fWAR? 3.6. His wRC+? 128. Add to that 23 home runs, and the Mets have a powerful offensive force.

Defensively, he was less effective, earning a discouraging -8 DRS and -4.8 UZR. To his credit, Nimmo stayed healthy in 2023, logging 1,103 innings in center field.

 

4. James Outman, LAD

 

The Dodgers’ rookie made a big impression early in the season, hitting seemingly endless homers. He cooled off a bit, however, and has 21. Add to that 15 stolen bases and a 118 wRC+, and it’s the makings of a well-above-average center fielder.

His 0.9 UZR ties him with Luis Robert Jr. for the highest on this list. Add to that an FRV of 8 and 8 OAA accumulated in 999 defensive innings, and you’ve got a 4.0 fWAR player.

Not bad for a rookie.

 

3. Cody Bellinger, CHC

 

If there’s a thing baseball fans love, it’s a comeback story, and surely Bellinger’s was one of the best in 2023. The former Dodger, non-tendered at the trade deadline, went to Chicago to reestablish his value.

If there were any questions about his skill, they have been answered. Bellinger’s worth 4.0 fWAR and has earned a wRC+ of 136. That includes hitting 25 home runs, 25 doubles, and stealing 20 bases. A Cubs team that has surpassed expectations surely owes much of its success to Bellinger’s renaissance.

In his 664 innings in center field, he’s earned an FRV of 5 and has 4 OAA. Bellinger has always been an above-average, if not stellar, defender, and this year was no exception.

 

2. Luis Robert Jr., CHW

 

The White Sox were a disappointment in many ways, but Robert’s play was not one of them.

Offensively, he’s hit a stunning 35 home runs while stealing 17 bases, all leading to a 125 wRC+ and an fWAR of 4.6.

His defense was equally good. Robert’s DRS of 6 is the highest of all players on this list. His UZR of 0.9 ties him with Outman for the highest score on this list.

Add to that, his FRV of 12 and an OAA of 13, which leads all MLB center fielders. In more than 1169 innings spent in center field, Robert has been outstanding.

 

 

1. Julio Rodríguez, SEA

 

Surely, there is not a more exciting player in MLB than Rodríguez. His 5.9 fWAR leads all center fielders. Add to that a 133 wRC+ built on hitting 30 home runs and stealing 36 bases. When he strolls through the Mariners’ dugout holding their home run trident, it seems like the most natural thing in the world.

Defensively, he has a UZR of 0.3, an FRV of 8, and 11 OAA. And he’s done that in more than 1,200 innings, more than any other center fielder.

Rodríguez is so good that he gets two videos, including this one, a defensive highlight of 2023.

He’s here, and he’s perfect.

Renee Dechert

Renee Dechert writes about baseball and fandom, often with a focus on the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks. (She's also an English professor, but the baseball is more interesting.) Follow her on Twitter (@ReneeDechert) or Bluesky (@ReneeDechert.bsky.social).

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