How do you define the best player of the decade? Heck, how do you even decide who is on the ballot? Is it games played? Are those games weighted by performance? Can you include someone who only played a single season at the position? What about less than a hundred games? Is there a character clause? Some times, there are easy answers to these questions, such as the situations with first base and left field. Then you have the curious case of center fielders for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
I’ve spent weeks trying to decide how I’m going to fill out the ballot. The way I see it there are two sure fire choices, one boarderline, two that wouldn’t make the cut for almost any other postion, and then a whole lot of nothing. The two obvious choices are A.J. Pollock and Chris Young. After that, you have Jarrod Dyson. Obviously a center fielder, played multiple seasons in the position, and broke 100 games, but... wasn’t stellar with the bat. Like at all. All three are pretty easy to justify being on the ballot.
Then it comes time to fill out the other two spots on the list. Ender Inciarte and Ketel Marte are in the next two spots in games played. However, Marte only played on season and 92 games. Inciarte played two seasons, but only managed three more games at the position than Marte. Should two players who only played 5% of the games this decade at the position be even considered for the award? But the choices only get worse from there.
I had to put forward five nominees, however, so we will go with the names mentioned above. So without further navel gazing, for your consideration...
Often, I think injuries overshadow just how good AJ Pollock was while he was in a Diamondbacks uniform. While with the team, he put up a triple slash of .281/.338/.467, which was good for an OPS+ of 112. All of this, plus elite defense in one of the biggest outfields in baseball. He won a Gold Glove in one of his rare full seasons, as well as made an All-Star team while with the Diamondbacks.
However, injuries limited the amount of actual production he was able to put up, as he averaged only 91 games per season in Arizona. In addition to that, he also left the team and became a Dodger in both uniform and deed, spending most of his time last season both injured and making snide comments about the team that drafted him and the fans that supported him through numerous injuries. Before you cast your vote, do you really want to choose someone who thinks that you aren’t a good fan?
The center fielder who started the decade for the team. His tenure with the team started 14 years ago in 2006, but for the purpose of this article, we will only consider his final three seasons, 10-12. Arguably, those included his two best seasons, 2010 and 2011, where he put up his second most number of games in both seasons, and put up a slash line of .243/.331./436, just above league average at a 104 OPS+. Top it off with 10 and 11 being his best defensive seasons as well, Chris Young started the decade off on a high note for the team, before injuries derailed his final season with the Dbacks in 2012.
Hands down the best defensive center fielder on the list, and he probably would make the ballot for All-Defensive player for the decade as well. Which is impressive when you consider that AJ Pollock is on this least, and Nick Ahmed and Paul Goldschmidt have both been out magnets defensively for most of the past ten years. He never brought anything to the table offensively but seemed to be a sure fire bet to put up at least one highlight reel play every single night.
Inciarte started off as an amature free agent signing for the Diamondbacks, who then slowly worked his way through the minors, to eventually become a key part of two Diamondbacks seasons, a fan favorite, as well as getting fifth place for Rookie of the Year in 2014. During his time here, he put together a slash of .292/.329/.386, but it just goes to show the offensive environment of the middle of the decade, as that actually resulted in a below league average OPS+ of 95. However, his stepping up to replace the oft-injured Pollock made a significant impact on the franchise and helped ease the pain of those injuries a fair amount.
What is left to say? I feel like Marte’s season last year is the most dissected at least in recent memory. He was phenomenal. Went to center field when the team couldn’t find a real candidate through trade or the FA market. Came back after putting up a seven WAR season, much better than expected defense, and single-handedly filling the void left by the departures of Paul Goldschmidt and AJ Pollock. A phenomenal season, but just that: a single season.
Below you’ll find a Google form with the five candidates listed out. Here is the link for those on mobile. Due to Pollock being an active player for another team in the division, I’m going to preemptively shut down any funny business with the voting and require a valid Snakepit user name. As always, if something does happen, I reserve the right to shut the whole thing down and make Socrates Brito the CF the Decade on strength of name alone. Go!