Center of Attention

June 27, 2012 | WNST Staff

Josh Hamilton has been supreme for the past several years, and his career revival coincides with the Rangers recent surge to the baseball elite. This season, his dominant force in the heart of Texas’ lineup has pushed them into another stratosphere, culminating the best record in baseball. Hamilton will most likely walk away with another MVP this season, while becoming the driving force in movement unlike any baseball has seen at any position.

All across the league, dominant centerfielders are springing up quicker than 50 Shades of Grey babies. The position has always been a premium but never has it seen so much talent all at the same time. It is shocking to see so many players with a “5-tool” skill set; an acknowledgement that was once dedicated to the select few who could excel at every aspect of the sport.

A legit argument can be made across the sport that it’s best four positional players in baseball include Hamilton, Matt Kemp for the Dodgers, Curtis Granderson for the Yankees and Baltimore’s own, Adam Jones. The astronomical performances by so many players from the same position are comparable to the turn of the century, when A-Rod, Derek Jeter and Nomar revolutionized shortstop play. Each of them have power numbers that are off the charts this season (even if Kemp’s season has been side tracked with a nagging hamstring injury), driving in the masses for legit playoff contenders while all batting well above the .300 mark. Most importantly, they all have gold glove ability in centerfield, making life miserable at the plate for anyone not playing the same position on the lineup sheet.

Young studs like Kemp and Jones are joined by Andrew McCutchen in Pittsburgh and Jacoby Ellsbury in Boston, as players under 30 with All-Star appearances. And if it weren’t for the Red Sox monumental collapse last season, Ellsbury would have joined Hamilton in the elite class of MVP-ers from the center of the defense.

For the next couple days, everyone in range of MASN’s broadcast should pay attention closely not only to Jones’ heroics but the “man” patrolling centerfield while the O’s are at bat. The hype machine has taken off south of the Beltway for Bryce Harper, but the best young player in baseball is Mike Trout for the Angels. Since being called up on April 28th (the same day Bryce Harper made his way to Nats Park), the 20 year old has out-performed the Nationals phenom in every possible category. His .335 average, 7 HR’s, 29 RBI’s, and 21 stolen bases, matches or exceeds what Harper has done in D.C (and in most categories it’s not even close). But Trout also has touted his big glove, with highlight reel catches, while playing the premium outfield position on a nightly basis; unlike Harper who has struggled at times to perform at the corner outfield positions.

While it is unlikely this season, because of the performance of Hamilton and Jones, Trout has at least moved his name into the AL MVP race in just a few short months. And depth at the position does not just stop at the top; players such as Cameron Maybin in San Diego, Jordan Schaffer in Houston, Chris Coglan in Miami and Drew Stubbs in Cincinnati have the skill set to break through in similar fashion to what Jones has accomplished this season, or what Trout is sure to do in the future.

A common theme has arisen across baseball, with centerfielders set to produce at rates never seen before from any position in league history. So even if the game doesn’t feature Baltimore’s Adam Jones, be sure to pay attention about 200 feet beyond the plate; there’s a good chance of witnessing greatness.