While lost in endless pondering about how the Cincinnati Reds can improve in 2021, I keep trying to find ways in which the offense, which has languished in the doldrums the last two seasons, can resuscitate itself. The problem, though, is that there are so many entrenched veterans on the roster that are mostly known quantities, and that doesn’t exactly lend itself to massive year over year improvement at this stage.
We’ve probably seen the best of Eugenio Suarez and Mike Moustakas at this point in their careers. That doesn’t mean they can’t still replicate it, but we know their upside. Joey Votto’s on the back-end of his career, and isn’t just going to turn back into 2012 Joey. And as I scan the roster, the lone spot where I can possibly envision greatness bursting out from within comes in CF.
Nick Senzel is one of the youngest players on the team, still. He’s probably the fastest, certainly the most unproven, and has the potential to be the best baserunner. If he can somehow find a way to stay healthy, and begin to tap into the potential he showed through his minors career at the plate, that’s the makings of the closest thing to a five-tool player the Reds have at this juncture.
(Not saying it’s going to happen ever, or this year - just saying he’s got the greatest ‘ceiling’ on this club as currently constructed.)
That got me thinking about upside, looking back on the best CFs I’ve had the chance to witness since my brain became capable of forming memories. Not a mere listing of career WAR, per se, but some combination of career, peak, talent, propensity for playing for teams I liked and didn’t completely despise, how cool their haircuts were, how good their defense was, how often they actually played the position, their favorite Starburst color, their ability to occasionally step on the mound and retire opposing batters, and a variety of other factors.
With that said, here is my list of the best CFs of the last three decades of Major League Baseball:
- Mike Trout
- Ken Griffey, Jr.
- Carlos Beltran
- Andruw Jones
- Kenny Lofton
- Kirby Puckett
- Grady Sizemore
- Bernie Williams
- Andrew McCutchen
- Devon White
Honorable Mentions are due to: Skip Schumaker, Mike Cameron, Johnny Damon, Carlos Gomez, Cody Bellinger, Lorenzo Cain, Marquis Grissom, and decidedly not Jim Edmonds
Leaving Skip just outside the Top 10 was a tough one, I’ll admit. His .306 average and .366 OBP while playing CF stacks up comparably to the .291/.370 marks posted by Junior! You’d certainly take .306/.366 from Senzel, wouldn’t you?