The Determinator: Center Fielders 2022 (#5-1)
For the last two years, I have been ranking every starting player in the MLB by position in a system I’ve dubbed The Determinator. I don’t worry about projection systems, I look only at how well a player did that last year, analyze the data, and showcase who was and will be the best for the upcoming season.
Welcome back to The Determinator.
Today we continue with the #5-1 Center Fielders!
The Determinator: My General Methodology
The Determinator is a ranking system that is built upon the analyzation of 16 carefully chosen stats through a very simplistic system of comparisons. Some of these stats are more classical (Games Played, Home Runs, etc.), others are more advanced (wRC+, WAR, etc.). From this come 7 offensive stats, 4 defensive, 2 baserunning, and 3 general stats, set to contribute towards the importance of each part of the game.
The Offensive stats are: AVG/OBP/SLG, wRC, wRC+, HR, and Off (Fangraphs)
The Defensive stats are: Fielding, DRS, UZR (or Framing for Catchers), and Def (Fangraphs)
The Baserunning stats are: Stolen Bases and BsR (Fangraphs)
The Overall stats are: Games Played, Innings at Position, and fWAR (Fangraphs)
After determining this list of statistics, I then had to input each into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet I sorted how each player did in each statistic from best-to-worst. If you were top 5 in a category, you got ranked as a ‘Green’. Top 6-10 was a ‘Yellow’. And, Top 11-15 was labelled as a ‘Red’. The number of each ranking was counted- so it was possible to come out with a score of zero- and given values of 5, 3, and 1 respectively.
Key Note: If player/s across a statistic had the same numbers across a border- for example the 5th and 6th players with the most Home Runs- then they would both be counted as the better ranking- in this case both ‘Green’ or 5 points- and replace one spot from the following ranking- in this case a ‘Yellow’ or 3 points. This could also stretch some statistics to include more ‘Red’ players who had equal stats to the 15th best.
Additionally, if no stats were recorded in a counting statistic that could fit into a ranking- as is seen with Catchers and Stolen Bases- then no ranking is given to those players. This would greatly increase the number of points given out, and lessen the value of each point. This is not true for advanced metrics that can produce negative values- as also is seen with Catchers and BsR.
The results were then tallied, sorted from greatest to least, and a ranking was created.
Finally, player age, 2022 salary, and contract status, were all not considered in this experiment. This is entirely statistic-based.
In order to quality for ranking by The Determinator, a player must’ve had at least 250 plate appearances during the 2021 season and at least 500 innings played at the position in question.
Number 5: Starling Marte, New York Mets
Top-5: AVG, OBP, SB, wRC, BsR, Off, WAR
Top-10: SLG, wRC+, Innings
Top-15: UZR, Def
Total Score: 46
The prized (offensive) possession of the New York Mets offseason, Starling Marte is a player who I have a hard time projecting. For starters, it is impossible to know how his 2017 PED suspension from testing positive for Nandrolone (an injectable anabolic steroid) has had an impact on his career. He also just had his best ever offensive season as a 32-year-old in a position that takes a big toll on the body.
For the Mets, however, this is a great gamble…if it even is a gamble. Marte has long been an above-average hitter and a solid defensive center fielder. Yes, the age and wear-and-tear will likely slow him down, but for now he’s still an upper-tier center fielder.Embed from Getty Images
Number 4: Myles Straw, Cleveland Indians
Top-5: Games, SB, BsR, Fld, Innings, UZR, Def
Top-10: AVG, OBP, wRC, WAR, DRS
Total Score: 50
Speed and defense. That was pretty much Myles Straw’s calling card to make it to the major leagues. And hey, when you have top speed, play good defense, and happen to also be the center fielder, well it pays off. I guess it also pays off to get traded to Cleveland halfway through the season? Regardless, Straw was an above-average hitter over his final 60 games in 2022 after being traded from Houston to the AL Central.
With many other center fielders ranked by The Determinator, as long as Straw can keep up a decent offensive profile, he’s going to be a valuable center fielder into the immediate future. Speed and defense play up here.Embed from Getty Images
Number 2 (Tied): Bryan Reynolds, Pittsburgh Pirates
Top-5: Games, AVG, OBP, SLG, HR, wRC, wRC+, Off, WAR, Innings
Total Score: 51
While speed and defense will play up at a position where speed and defense are incredibly necessary, that isn’t always the case and Bryan Reynolds is here to prove it. He ranked in just one defensive/base-running statistics (that being a Top-15 finish in BsR) with that lone point being the difference between a tie for 2nd and 3rd place (with Myles Straw).
It should also be said that Reynolds had the top WAR (both bWAR and fWAR) across all center fielders in the MLB in 2021. Such is the case when you put up .300+ AVG, (nearly a .400 OBP),.500+ SLG, (nearly 25 HR’s), and play in all but 3 games over the course of a season.Embed from Getty Images
Number 2 (Tied): Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins
Top-5: AVG, SLG, wRC+, BsR, Off, WAR, DRS
Top-10: OBP, HR, Fld, UZR, Def
Total Score: 51
If playing games was important, nobody told the $100 Million Man: Byron Buxton. He played just 61 games in 2021 (a number which would’ve been very impressive from the day before) but in those games he was not only one of the best center fielders, but overall players in the whole MLB. He put up 4.2 fWAR (4.5 bWAR) last season, which is an 11-12 WAR pace over a full season. To put that into perspective, there have been just 9 seasons since 2000 where a player had an fWAR at 10.0 or better (and just 8 by bWAR). Byron Buxton was on another level.
However, as good as he was by rate metrics, Buxton does miss the top spot by playing the least innings and games across every player that qualified for The Determinator this year. This also isn’t a one-time thing for Buxton, which is telling. He’s great when he’s on the field, but when he is on the field is always a question.Embed from Getty Images
Number 1: Cedric Mullins II, Baltimore Orioles
Top-5: Games, SLG, HR, SB, wRC, BsR, Off, WAR, Innings
Top-10: AVG, OBP, wRC+
Total Score: 54
I wrote extensively about why the Yankees should pursue Cedric Mullins II as their center fielder for the current and immediate future. He proved that he was a star last year and has all the necessary tools to succeed in the Yankees outfield. He’s a top offensive player for center field and while his defense does lack, he is easily supported by top gloves Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo. Above all else, Mullins- if available- should be (have been) one of the Yankees top targets this offseason.
The center field position is huge in its competitiveness for the top spots. There’s a good mix of great hitters and great fielders at the top (15 players scored 20+ points) and above all else, Mullins was the best overall. If the Orioles have a player to build around for the future, Mullins is a great bet alongside Adley Rutschman while building a dominant force up the middle. (Hey, they were apparently in on Carlos Correa before he signed too!)Embed from Getty Images
The Determinator is a way I used to determine the best players at each position. Like any metric or formula, I am sure it has flaws. No statistical compilation is perfect. That being said, The Determinator, seems pretty effective at assigning player values. I’m pleased with what I have found using this method and hope this is a conversation starter for many.