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Jays Listed – Top 10 Blue Jays Center Fielders

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“Look at me, I can be center field.” Only a select few Toronto Blue Jays can say those words originally sung by John Fogerty. Because of that putting together the Top 10 Blue Jays center fielders was harder than one might expect. If you don’t believe just try to named 10 players that have played center field for Toronto off the top of  your head. Not easy huh?

The reason it;s so difficult is because the overall list is a short one. Over 35 seasons only 11 different players have started in center field for the Blue Jays on opening day. Three different players started 22 of those 35 season openers. And, if you were to do up a list of players that played the most games in center during each season for Toronto that list would also only include 11 names. From those two lists two players on them, Rajai Davis and Barry Bonnell don’t belong in center under the rules. Putting together a Top 10 list can be quite difficult when you can barely come up with 10 name that even played the position.

For that reason you may find the first few names on the list lacking any really star power. In fact, you may not even remember them putting on a Blue Jays uniform to begin with. So, with that being said let’s get on with it. Here we go.

 

10. Brian McRae 1999/Sil Campusano 1988

There are so few players that have played center field for the Blue Jays over the years that even Brian McRae and Sil Campusano crack the Top 10. Since neither player played a full season for the Jays and really don’t belong on the list I lumped them together at No. 10.

We’ll start with McRae who arrived in Toronto for a short stay with the Blue Jays in August 1999. He was traded to Toronto from the Rockies for a player to be named later, who eventually turned out to be minor leaguer Pat Lynch. In 31 games with the Jays McRae hit a paltry .195 with a .340 OBP and a .706 OPS. He hit three home runs with 11 RBI, 11 runs scored and a disappointing OPS+ of 81. To put it bluntly trading for McRae didn’t do much good for the Jays who were 63-51 at the time of the trade and in second place in the AL East. Following the trade the Jays went 3-9 in their next 12 games and posted a 14-14 over final two months of the season. I’m not saying McRae was to blame of course, but his -0.4 WAR didn’t help matters much.

Campusano was signed as a amateur free agent by the Blue Jays in 1983. He made it to the big leagues in 1988 and saw action in 73 games for the Blue Jays. This included 35 games in center field. In those 73 games Campusano hit .218 with a ,282 OBP and a .641 OPS. He hit two home runs, had 12 RBI and 14 runs scored with a 79 OPS+. His WAR was also unimpressive at -0.2.

Campusano spent the 1989 season in the minors and following the season he was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the Rule 5 Draft. After a couple seasons with Philadelphia he spent a number of years playing in Asia.

 

9. Jacob Brumfield – 1996-97, 1999

Jacob Brumfield spent parts of three seasons with the Blue Jays, arriving in Toronto on May 16, 1996 via trade from Pittsburgh in exchange for minor leaguer D.J.Boston. In his first season with the Jays he appeared in 90 games, hitting .256 with a .316 OBP and a .764 OPS. He clubbed 12 home runs, had 52 RBI and posted a solid 92 OPS+ for a backup outfielder. The following season his numbers took a nose dive, and so did his playing time, as he played in only 58 games, hitting .207 with a .268 OBP and a .550 OPS. His OPS+ also bottomed out at 45 and he struck out in 31 times in those 58 games.

Brumfield was released by the Blue Jays during spring training in 1998.After short stints with the Marlins organization and with the Dodgers he returned to the Jays for a short run during the 1999 season. In 62 games with the Jays that season his bat failed to show new life, as he hit only .235 with a .307 OBP and a .660 OPS. His OPS+ that season was 69 and his WAR was 0.1. That was his final season in the big leagues as he finished out his baseball career in the minors for Toronto and the White Sox.

 

8. Rick Bosetti 1978-1981

Bosetti joined the Blue Jays prior to the 1978. He was traded from the Cardinals in exchange from Tom Bruno. In his first season he appeared in 136 games, hitting .259 with a .299 OBP and a .645 OPS. He hit five home runs, had 42 RBI and scored 61 runs while posting a 81 OPS+ and a 2.0 WAR.

In 1979 he played all 162 games, all of them in center field. He led all American League outfielders in putouts and assists, but he also led them in errors with 13. At the plate Bosetti hit .260 with a .286 OBP and a .648 OPS. He hit  a career-high eight home runs with 65 RBI and 13 stolen bases with a 73 OPS+ and a 0.2 WAR.

Bosetti’s playing time declined considerably in 1980, as he gave way to Barry Bonnell in center field. Bosetti appeared in only 53 games, hitting .213 with a .277 OBP and a .601 OPS. The following season after appearing in 53 games Bosetti was claimed by Oakland. After two seasons with the Athletics, in which he played in only 15 games, he was released and retired. His slash line in four season with Toronto was .252/.289/.348.

 

7. Otis Nixon 1996-1997

The Blue Jays brought in Nixon to play center field in 1996. The slap hitter known for his speed provided just that, hitting .286 with a .377 OBP and a .703 OPS. He stole 54 bases in 67 attempts that season while also scoring 87 runs and posting a 1.0 WAR. Despite his speed Nixon was somewhat of a defensive liability with a -0.6 defensive WAR that season.

The following season in 1997 Nixon started the season in center field again, but was traded to the Dodgers in August for Bobby Cripps. Before the trade, in 103 games he put up similar numbers to 1996 with a .262 average, a .343 OBP and a .647 OPS. He was very active on the base paths again with 47 steals in 57 attempts with 54 runs scored and another 1.0 WAR.

 

6. Mookie Wilson 1989-1991

At the 1989 trade deadline the Blue Jays acquired Wilson from the Mets for Jeff Musselman and Mike Brady. He made an immediate impact with Toronto helping the Jays clinch the AL East title. In 54 games with the Jays that season he hit .298 with a .311 OBP an a .681 OPS. He had 17 RBI and scored 32 runs with 12 steals in 13 attempts while posting a 96 OPS+.

In his first full season with the Jay Mookie appeared in 147 games, including 133 of them in center field. At 34 years of age Wilson wasn’t able to maintain the pace from the small sample he put up for the Jays in 1989, but he still hit .265 with a .300 OBP and a .656 OPS. He scored 81 runs and stole 23 bases in 27 attempts while posting a 79 OPS+ and a 1.6 WAR.

After Devon White was acquired prior to the 1991 season Mookie lost his starting job and started the season in left field. After the Blue Jays acquired Candy Maldonado Wilson was relegated to the fourth outfielder on the team. In 86 games that season Wilson’s average fell to .241 with a .277 OBP with a .626 OPS. His stolen base total dropped to 11 and his OPS+ to 70. He also posted the first negative WAR of his career at -0.5. Following the 1991 season Mookie retired.

 

5. Colby Rasmus 2011-present

Rasmus hasn’t been with the Blue Jays very long, but he’s done enough and shown enough so far at the plate and in the field to deserve the half way point on the list.

Rasmus was traded to the Blue Jays near the 2011 trade deadline in a rather large trade that also saw Trever Miller, Brian Tallet and P.J. Walters come to Toronto, while Octvio Dotel, Edwin Jackson, Corey Patterson and Marc Rzepczynski get sent the St. Louis. The next two months in Toronto were forgettable for Rasmus. Despite finally getting out of Tony LaRussa’s doghouse Rasmus only hit .173 with a .201 OBP and a .517 OPS is 35 games. Rasmus was never able to get comfortable at the plate in Toronto in 2011 and a wrist injury that landed him on the DL in late-August didn’t help matters. Upon returning from the DL Rasmus had only four hits in 45 at bats in the month of September.

In 2012 Rasmus began to turn it around at the plate. After making a few adjustments to hit batting stance and his leg kick the power he had showed as a prospect in St. Louis started to materialize. Through 107 games this season Rasmus is hitting .251 with a .314 OBP and a .781 OPS. He’s hit 20 home runs, drove in 66 runs, while posting a OPS+ of 105 and a WAR of 2.5.

 

4. Jose Cruz Jr.1997-2002

Jose Cruz Jr. was acquired from Seattle at the trade deadline in 1997 in exchange for MikeTimlin and Paul Spojaric. In 55 games the rest of the season Cruz  hit .231 with a .316 OBP and a .778 OPS. He hit 14 home runs, had 49 RBI and posted a 101 OPS+. Those number combined with the stats he put up in Seattle allowed him to finish second in AL Rookie of the Year voting.

A mediocre average and OBP with above average power proved to be the norm for Cruz while with the Blue Jays. He was at times aggravatingly inconsistent, but he did have more than a few big season in Toronto.

First, in 2000 he topped the 30-homer plateau for the first with 31 home runs and 76 RBI. He also hit .242 with a .323 OBP and a .789 OPS. Despite hitting 31 homers Cruz’s OPS+ that season was only 95.

Arguably his best year in Toronto was in 2001. That season he joined the 30-30 club with a career-high 34 home runs and 32 stolen bases. He also hit a career-best .274 with a .326 OBP and a .857 OPS. His OPS+ that season climbed to 119, also a career-best, but his WAR was still only 1.9. That was mainly due to a underwhelming -1.9 defensive WAR as his offensive WAR was 4.0.

In his final season in Toronto in 2002 Cruz’s power numbers took a dip and he hit only 18 home runs, while hitting .245 with a .317 OBP and a .754 OPS. His OPS+ dropped down again as well to 95. Despite his defensive WAR improving his overall WAR that season dropped to 1.6.

In six seasons with Toronto Cruz batted .250 with a .331 OBP and a .793 OPS. He hit 122 home runs, had 355 RBI and stole 85 bases in 106 attempts. His 102 OPS+  and 10.0 WAR tell the story of a player that couldn’t to live up to the hype he brought with him after the trade from Seattle.

 

3. Devon White 1991-1995

The Blue Jays acquired Devon White from the Angels in December, 1990 in a lop-sided trade that also netted Willie Frase and Marcus Moore in exchange for Junior Felix, Luis Sojo and Ken Rivers.

His first season with the Blue Jays was arguably White’s best with the team, at least offensively. He hit a career-high .282 with a .342 OBP and a .797 OPS. He also hit 17 home runs, had 60 RBI, 33 steals and 110 runs scored. His OPS+ that season was a career-best 116 and he posted a 6.2 WAR. He also won his first of five consecutive Gold Glove awards after posting a 2.2 defensive WAR while leading all American League outfielders with 439 putouts.

White’s offensive numbers dropped a bit in 1992, as he hit .248 with a .303 OBP (quite low for a lead off hitter) with a .693 OPS. He still hit 17 home runs and had 60 RBI, bit his OPS+ dropped to 90. He was still a defensive whiz in center fielder, winning another Gold Glove while posting a 3.8 defensive WAR, the best of his career.

In the World Series that year hit only .231 and scored only a pair of runs, but he made quite an impact in Game 3 with what could the best and most important catch in Blue Jays history. This one right here. That should have been a triple play if the umpire hadn’t blown the call and it was all started by White’s amazing grab. In fact, if that ball isn’t caught there’s a good chance the Braves put at least a few runs on the board in the inning and the Jays would have been in big trouble.

In 1993 White rebounded at the plate, hitting .273 with a .341 OBP and a .779 OPS. He clubbed 15 home runs had 52 RBI, 116 runs scored and 34 steals. He made the All-Star game that season, but that was mostly due to the fact that Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston chose the reserves. He also moved out of lead off spot temporarily after the Jays acquired Rickey Henderson at the trade deadline. In the 1993 World Series White hit .292  and had seven RBI and eight runs scored. His OPS in the series was a stout 1.101!

White’s final two seasons in Toronto were both shortened by the 1994 strike. In 1994 he hit .270 with a .313 OBP and a .770 OPS. In 100 games he hit 13 home runs with 67 runs scored and a 96 OPS+. He put up similar numbers in 1995, hitting .283 with a .334 OBP and a .765 OPS. His OPS+ was below 100 again at 99, while his WAR was a disappointing 0.9. In is first three seasons in Toronto his WAR was always 6.0 or higher.

After the 1995 season White signed with the Florida Marlins where he won another World Series title in 1997. He made stops with the Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Brewers, which included another trip to the All-Star game with Arizona, before retiring following the 2001 season.

Despite his speed and above average power White wasn’t you prototypical leadoff hitter. With a low on-base percentage it can be argued that White would have made a better No. 2 or No. 3 hitter. Even with his usually strong bat, White’s greatest was his glove in center field. White didn’t make a lot of flashy or diving grabs, but that’s because he was so quick to the ball and always made the correct read that he didn’t need to. If five seasons with Toronto White’s defensive WAR was 8.7. By comparison, 10-time Gold Glove winner Ken Griffey Jr. recorded an 8.6 defensive WAR in 13 years with Seattle.

 

2. Vernon Wells 1999-2010

Wells may get a lot of flack from some Blue Jays fans these days, and he’s a complete bust with the Angels, but he put together some great seasons during his 12 years with Toronto.

The Blue Jays drafted Wells in the first round of the 1997 draft with the fifth overall pick. He made his Major League debut  just two years later during a short 24-game cup of coffee in 1999. Over the next two season he appeared in 33 games before finally cracking the everyday lineup in 2002.

Wells began the 2002 season as the Jays starting center fielder and in 159 games hit a solid .275 with a .305 OBP and a .762 OPS. He also hit 23 home runs and had 100 RBI, but only posted a 96 OPS+ and a 1.6 WAR.

The following year Wells posted the best season of his career. He posted a lot  of career-high numbers including hitting .317 with a .359 OBP and a .909 OPS. He hit 33 home runs, had 117 RBI and set a franchise record with 215 hits. His OPS+ that season was a fantastic 132 and his WAR 4.2. For his efforts Wells went to the All-Star game, won the Silver Slugger and finished eighth in MVP voting. The only unfortunate thing was this masterful season set the bar so high Wells would never be able to completely live up to it.

In 2004 Wells won his first of three consecutive Gold Gloves. However, his numbers at the plate fell, as he hit .272 with a .337 OBP and a .809 OPS. His power number dipped to 23 home runs, 67 RBI, but his OPS+ was still 105 and his WAR 4.3.

After another mediocre season in 2005 Wells’ bat showed new life again in 2006. He returned to the All-Star game after hitting .303 with a .357 OBP and a .899 OPS. He clubbed 32 home runs, had 106 RBI and his OPS+ climbed back up to 129. His WAR that season was career-best 6.0. That big season earned Wells a huge contract at the end of the season to the tune of $126 million over seven years.

The 2006 numbers didn’t last though. Injuries started to catch up with Wells depleting his offensive stats. In 2007 Wells hit only .245 with a .304 OBP and a .706 OPS. His home run total plummeted to 16 and after the season Wells had shoulder surgery that many blamed for his total decline at the plate and overall poor season.

In 2008 Wells was limited to only 108 games by numerous injuries, including a fractured wrist and a lingering hamstring problem. He still hit 20 home runs and had 78 RBI while hitting .300 with a .343 OBP and a .840 OPS.

Many had hoped for a bounce back season in 2009, but instead it was filled with frustration. Despite playing in 158 games Wells hit only 15 home runs and had 66 RBI. He hit only .260 with a .311 OBP and a .711 OPS. His OPS+ was only 86, while his WAR bottomed out at 0.5.

The bounce back season many had hoped for in ’09 finally arrived in 2010. That season Wells made his third All-Star appearance after hitting .273 with a .331 OBP and a .847 OPS. He topped the 30-homer plateau again with 31 blasts and had 88 RBI. His OPS+ soared back up to 125 and he posted a WAR of 3.6.

That strong season boosted Wells value and allowed Alex Anthopoulos to move his mammoth contract to the Angels for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera. Since arrived in Los Angels Wells numbers have plummeted again and with his salary rising he’s considered by many to be the most overpaid played in the game. Better that happening in Los Angeles in Toronto.

Over 12 seasons with Toronto Wells had both some poor and strong seasons at the plate. In seven of his 12 seasons he had an OPS+ of over 100 and a WAR of 2.9 or higher in five seasons. His career slash line in Toronto was .280/.329/.475 with 223 home runs, 813 RBI and 26.0 WAR.

 

1. Lloyd Moseby 1980-1989

Shaker was one of the Blue Jays first big stars. As part of the star-studded outfield of the 1980s Moseby was a five-tool player who could do everything good, but nothing great.

Moseby was drafted by the Blue Jays with the second overall pick in the 1978 draft. Moseby was rushed through the minor league system pretty quickly, making his Toronto debut in 1980. He looked pretty over matched at time in his first three seasons in Toronto, his average hovering around the .230 mark while he flashed occasional power and speed.

In 1983 it started to come together for Moseby both at the plate and in the field. That season Moseby hit .315 with a .376 OBP and a .875 OPS. He hit 18 home runs, had 81 RBI and stole 27 bases. Moseby’s posted a 134 OPS+ and a 5.7 WAR, was awarded the Silver Slugger and finished 14th in MVP voting.

The following season Moseby continued to shine. He hit .280 with a .368 OBP and a .837 OPS. He led the league in triples with 15, hit 18 home runs and had 92 RBI. He also stole 39 bases in 48 attempts and posted a 127 OPS+. Moseby also had a career-best WAR of 7.0, bolstered by a very strong 2.2 defensive WAR that should have had him in the conversation for a Gold Glove Award. The defensive WAR for the three AL Gold Glove winners that season didn’t even come close with Dwight Evans at -1.6, Dave Winfield at -1.2 and Dwayne Murphy at -0.1.

Moseby went through a few downs years following the 1984 season, but even down years were still productive and included 39 home runs, 156 RBI, an OPS+ of at least 100 and his first All-Star game appearance in 1986. Moseby also was very dangerous on the  base paths in 85 and 86, stealing 76 bases.

In 1987 Moseby’s average climbed back up to .282 and his OBP was .358. His OPS also shot up to .831 as he cranked a career-high 26 home runs and had 96 RBI. He also matched a career-best with 39 stolen bases while posting a 117 OPS+ and a 3.7 WAR.

Injuries slowed Moseby in his final two seasons with the Jays, as he began developing lingering problems in his legs and his back. This also affected his defense, as his defensive WAR dropped off considerably and entered negative territory. In 1989, his last season with Toronto, Moseby hit only .221 and his OBP dropped to .306. He still hit 11 home runs and stole 24 bases, but his OPS+ fell to 89, below 100 for the first time since 1982.

After the 1989 season Moseby signed with the Detroit Tigers as a free agent. After two sub-standard years in Detroit in which he playing time continually decreased, he played in Japan in 1992 and 1993 with the Yomiuri Giants. Following the 1993 season he retired. At the time he held a number of franchise records most of which have since been broken, but he does still hold the franchise record for steals.

In his 10 years with Toronto, Shaker posted a slash line of .257/.333/.415 with 149 home runs, 651 RBI, 255 steals and a WAR of 23.7.

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