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Top 10 Defensive Centerfielders of All-Time: Who is the Greatest Ever?

Publish Date: 05/07/2024
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

Willie, Mickey and the Duke! I know everybody has heard that song, and this list will confirm why that song was written about those three immortals. Who else belongs in that pantheon of great Centerfielders, today we will look at just that. Check out the all-around 20 best centerfielders in Baseball history!

Criteria

This is about defense, but the offensive stats are included, but offense does not get you on this list. Making defensive plays in big situations will, gold gloves and setting defensive records will also get you included.

10) Kirby Puckett, Twins

Kirby Puckett played center fielder for the Minnesota Twins over 12 seasons and became their all-time hits and runs leader.

He made his MLB debut for the same team in 1984 and continued playing until 1995, amassing an outstandingβ€”318 batting average with 2,304 hits and 207 homers during those 12 seasons.

Puckett appeared in 10 All-Star games between 1986 and 1995 and won two World Series championships. He earned Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards six times each and was honored with the Roberto Clemente Award.

At 36 years old, he was forced to retire due to vision loss in one eye, leading him to being honored with induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame on his very first ballot after garnering 82.14% votes on that first ballot.

Video: 1991 WS Gm6: Puckett's amazing leaping grab at the wall

1991 WS Gm6: Puckett’s amazing leaping grab at the wall

9) Bernie Williams, Yankees

Bernie Williams was an esteemed New York Yankees baseball player for 16 seasons, beginning his career in Minor League Baseball (MLB) before eventually signing with MLB in 1991.

Bernie appeared at Yankees Stadium during Monumental Monday on May 1, 2023. Bernie amassed 2,336 hits and 287 homers over his baseball career before retiring in 2006. He made five All-Star games appearances and was part of four World Series Championship teams.

In 1996 he won the AL Championship Series Most Valuable Player Awards, the Gold Glove Award, and the Silver Slugger Award for outstanding performances that year.

Video: Bernie Williams makes game saving catch

Bernie Williams makes game saving catch

8) Duke Snider, Dodgers, Giants

Duke Snider made his MLB debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 and played most of his career there – helping them win World Series championships in 1955 and 1959.

Duke amassed 2,116 hits and 407 home runs over his MLB career. He made eight All-Star teams and led the National League home run race in 1956.

After 16 seasons in major league baseball, he retired playing for the San Francisco Giants before receiving 86.49% on his 11th ballot and being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980.

Video: Duke Snider Highlights

Duke Snider Highlights

7) Andruw Jones, Braves

Andruw Jones is a retired MLB player who played 17 years in MLB. He held down centerfield for the Atlanta Braves for over ten years.

Andruw was honored to receive this distinction from the Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame.

Jones made five All-Star appearances and won Gold Glove awards from 1998 to 2007, receiving them each year until 2007. In 2005, he also won a Silver Slugger Award. Additionally, he became NPB Japan Series Champion that same year.

Video: 2002NLDS Gm1: A. Jones robs Bonds of home run in 4th

2002NLDS Gm1: A. Jones robs Bonds of home run in 4th

6) Ty Cobb, Tigers, A’s

Tyrus Raymond Cobb made his MLB debut for the Detroit Tigers in 1905 as a center fielder, setting an impressive 90 records during 22 seasons of major league play for both Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Athletics.

He held six American League Stolen Base Leader titles and four RBI leadership roles, was a twelve-time AL Batting Champion, including winning a Triple Crown year (in 1909), and also became AL MVP in 1911.

He still holds the record for most stolen home bases ever with 54 and retired while playing for the Athletics in 1928. Many nasty rumors about the kind of man and player Cobb existed, and the truth about Ty Cobb is different from the stories.

Video: History in Five: The Real Ty Cobb

History in Five: The Real Ty Cobb

5) Tris Speaker, Indians, Senators, A’s

Tris Speaker was known for his exceptional defensive capabilities and held records in assists, double plays and unassisted double plays by an outfielder. He made his MLB debut with the Boston Americans in 1907.

His career batting average of.345 ranks sixth all-time and amassed 3,514 hits; these feats place him fifth among major league hitters.

Tris is only the fifth MLB player to get 3,000 career hits.

With all this being said, he managed only to hit 117 home runs and have 792 doubles. Additionally, he served as manager for the Cleveland Indians from 1919 to 1926.

Tris was honored to receive an 82% vote on his second ballot and be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937.

He won three World Series championships in 1912, 1915 and 1920 with various teams such as Cleaveland Indians, Washington Senators and Philadelphia Athletics.

Video: Who is Tris Speaker? The Most Forgotten Legend in the History of Baseball (Baseball Storytime #4)

Who is Tris Speaker? The Most Forgotten Legend in the History of Baseball (Baseball Storytime #4)

4) Joe Dimaggio, Yankees

Joe posted an impressive.325 batting average with 2214 hits and 361 homers over 2his career and won 9 World Series rings; second only to his teammate Yogi Berra who won 10. He made 13 All-Star Games appearances and was American League MVP three times during his career.

He was honored with induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame with an 88.84% vote on his third ballot. During that time he held two major league batting championships – 1939 and 1940 – and led both leagues in home run production during those same years.

Video: Joe DiMaggio Highlights

Joe DiMaggio Highlights

3) Mickey Mantle, Yankees

Mickey Mantle excelled as a multi-position player for seventeen years with the New York Yankees, playing center fielder, right fielder, first baseman and switch hitter – including having one of the highest stolen base percentages and highest World Series on-base percentages and slugging percentages ever.

He amassed 2,415 hits and 536 home runs to earn himself selection to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999. Additionally, he appeared in 20 All-Star games and seven World Series Championships.

Mickey won the Triple Clown in 1956. Additionally, he became AL MVP three times: 1956, 1957, and 1962.

Video: How Good Was MICKEY MANTLE Actually?

How Good Was MICKEY MANTLE Actually?

2) Ken Griffey Jr, Mariners, Reds

Ken appeared in 13 All-Star games won seven Silver Slugger Awards and was a American League home run leader four times. Additionally, in 2016 (his first year of eligibility), he was honored with induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Griffey held an average batting average of.284, collecting 2,781 hits and 630 homers over his entire career. Additionally, he holds the record for most consecutive games with home runs – eight – tied with Don Mattingly and Dale Long.

He played for the Mariners and Cincinnati Reds he was with his home town Reds his last eight years.

Video: Ken Griffey Jr.'s MOST INSANE catches! The Kid was one of THE BEST outfielders EVER

Ken Griffey Jr.’s MOST INSANE catches! The Kid was one of THE BEST outfielders EVER

1) Willie Mays, Giants, Mets

Willie had a batting average ofβ€”302, amassing 3,282 hits, 338 stolen bases and 660 home runs over his lifetime. From 1954 to 1973 he appeared in 24 All-Star Games within MLB; twice nominated as National League MVP (1954 and 1965).

Willie became the National League Batting Champion in 1954 and twelve-times Gold Glove Award recipient from 1957-1968. Additionally, Willie earned four times National League Home Run Title. Many of the players on this list are in our best hitters in baseball history!

Mays set the record for four home runs in one game in 1961. He was honored with induction into the Hall of Fame’s Class of 1979, making him its oldest living member.

Video: The Legendary Life of Willie Mays

The Legendary Life of Willie Mays

Honorable Mentions

Mike Trout

There’s little doubt that Trout already belongs among our greatest center fielders; having won three AL MVP awards and amassing an astounding 82.4 WAR through 12 seasons he already makes an impactful case for that claim. But there is much work ahead in order for his legacy to live on in future generations of baseball players.

Kenny Lofton

His career concluded with an on-base percentage of.372, making him an invaluable component in some stacked Cleveland lineups during the 1990s and his 1,528 runs scored placing him 64th on baseball’s all-time list.

Add his Gold Glove defense in center field, as well as his 11 postseason appearances during his 17-year career, and it becomes clear: He was unquestionably one of the most impactful all-around players from the 1990s.

Jim Edmonds

Over his first six seasons in St. Louis, he posted an OPS+ of 154 while averaging 35 home runs, 98 RBI and 6.1 WAR per season. During that span he won an NL Gold Glove each season as well as three All-Star selections and two 40-homer seasons.

Dale Murphy

Dale Murphy made his professional debut shortly after his 20th birthday in 1976 as a catcher, spending several seasons both behind the plate and at first base before transitioning full-time into center field where he would earn five Gold Glove Awards.

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