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All Time Arizona Diamondbacks: Center Field

No one denies it was a great season, but was A.J. Pollock's 2015 good enough to get him the starting spot? Or will he be upset by one of our great former center fielders, such as Steve Finley, Chris Young, or Devon White?

Two D-backs greats in one picture
Two D-backs greats in one picture
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

For such a young franchise, the Diamondbacks have had a lot of good players in center field. For starters, no regular center fielder has been below replacement level (the same can't be said of any other position.) There's also been a great deal of consistency at the position over the years, compared to other positions. Center Field basically breaks into eras: after a single year of Devon White (who was the franchise's first All Star), Steve Finley manned the position for six years. Following that, there were two years without a solid center fielder, followed by six years of Chris Young. Since Young's departure, Pollock has manned center field when he's been healthy, with Ender Inciarte seeing substantial time there in 2014. To look at it another way, in franchise history only six different players have been the opening day center fielder, and that will likely stay the same in 2016. Every other position (with the exception of starting pitcher) will have had at least 10 different players start there on opening day once 2016 begins, as the other opening day outfield starters last year (Ender Inciarte and Mark Trumbo) have both moved on elsewhere. For the record, Zack Greinke will presumably be the ninth different opening day starting pitcher in franchise history; Luis Gonzalez holds the franchise record for most opening day starts, with 8, and no other left fielder has more than 2.

I thought about looking at careers instead of just seasons, but decided against it. However, if you choose to look at the entire career of a player while voting, that's up to you, since all of these players had careers of a decent length either with the D-backs or in the major leagues as a whole.

Eric Byrnes, 2006

Byrnes has already been featured in this series for his season in left field in 2007, but 2006 saw him playing center field while the team awaited the arrival of Chris Young. UZR liked his defense in 2006, while DRS did not; that meant that while he was worth 2.9 fWAR (good for 10th all-time) he was worth only 1.8 bWAR. He was decent with the bat, hitting 26 home runs while slashing .267/.313/.482. But I'm not going to pretend that he even begins to stack up with the other players on this list. While his 2006 would have been good enough to appear on the ballot at several other positions, center field has been a position of strength on this team since 1998, so let's move on.

Steve Finley, 1999

Ah, here we have a legitimate contender for best at the position in franchise history, and 1999 was his best season in the desert. Finley was one of several big signings that put the team into contention in the NL, and as the Diamondbacks played their way to the best record in the league, he was a big reason why. His 34 home runs rank second among franchise center fielders (behind his 35 in 2000) and were third-most on the team that year (trailing Jay Bell's 38 and Matt Williams' 35.) His defense hadn't started to decline yet, and his 1999 rates as the best defensive season by a center fielder in franchise history, according to Fangraphs. (Caveat that UZR wasn't developed yet, so it's hard to compare his season to Inciarte's in 2014 or Pollock's in 2015.) Despite a low BABIP of .261, Finley slashed .264/.336/.525. If you like RBI, Finley in 1999 was the only center fielder ever to drive in 100 runs, although batting behind the NL leader in hits (Luis Gonzalez) had a lot to do with that. Looking at career numbers, Finley had the most power of any center fielder in franchise history (five of the seven highest center fielder seasons by ISO.)

A.J. Pollock, 2015

We all remember this season. By wRC+ it is the best by a center fielder in franchise history, at 132. His .315 average was not only the highest by a center fielder, it was the first time a full-time center fielder hit .300 in franchise history (sorry, Quinton McCracken.) His 39 steals were also the most by a center fielder in franchise history, and rank fourth among all positions. For that matter, by fWAR, Pollock's season is tied for third-best in franchise history (among position players.) Yeah, it was a good season.

Devon White, 1998

Devon White was the first all-star in franchise history, but unlike many selections from bad teams, White actually deserved his selection. At the break, White was slashing .292/.337/.478, and although he would decline in the second half, he still put together the fourth best season by an NL outfielder, trailing the should-be-when-eligible Hall of Famer Andruw Jones, Ray Lankford, and Darryl Hamilton. White was solid defensively and provided some much-needed offense with 22 home runs. He's also ranked by JAWS as the 29th best center fielder all-time (or almost 100 spots higher than Lloyd Waner), but that's largely because of what he accomplished before coming to the desert. While he certainly has an argument as best center fielder ever to play that position for the Diamondbacks, his 1998 season doesn't really measure up to Finley, Pollock, or Young.

Chris Young, 2011

If there was ever a player that illustrated how perception of statistics has changed, it is Chris Young. His batting average of .236 in 2011 ranks him 17th out of 19 players that qualified for this article. But his OBP of .331 more than made up for it. And he had plenty of power, too, knocking out 20 home runs. But it was his defense that really put him over the top, as he was incredible in the field, with the best season by a Diamondback center fielder according to DRS, and the third best in the UZR era. He was worth 5 bWAR and 4.7 fWAR. And while the purpose of this series is mostly to look back, look for Young to experience a return to stardom in 2016. While his career numbers in Fenway Park aren't quite as good as his numbers in Houston, if there was ever a player made for playing in Fenway, it's CY.