The CF wave

Baseball is a highly cyclical environment. Over time, we see shifts in strengths between positions due to seemingly random patterns. In the mid-90s, MLB saw an influx of offensive talent at shortstop that surpassed any that had been seen before – Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, and Miguel Tejada pushed the SS position into new offensive territory.

Then, it shifted, and third base seemed to be the spot where talent was flowing. Adrian Beltre, Aramis Ramirez, Eric Chavez, Troy Glaus, Hank Blalock, and Mark Teixeira all arrived within a few years of one another.

There’s another one of these talent surges in process right now, and it’s taking place in center field. The amount of talent currently playing center field in major league baseball is just astounding. Here’s the list of CFs, aged 26 and younger, who have gotten playing time in the majors during the first month of the 2009 season.

Grady Sizemore, Cleveland, 26
Franklin Gutierrez, Seattle, 26
Michael Bourn, Houston, 26
Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston, 25
Chris Young, Arizona, 25
Denard Span, Minnesota, 25
Elijah Dukes, Washington, 25
Brett Gardner, New York, 25
B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay, 24
Matt Kemp, Los Angeles, 24
Melky Cabrera, New York, 24
Ryan Sweeney, Oakland, 24
Adam Jones, Baltimore, 23
Dexter Fowler, Colorado, 23
Carlos Gomez, Minnesota, 23
Colby Rasmus, St. Louis, 22
Cameron Maybin, Florida, 22
Jordan Schafer, Atlanta, 22

That’s 18 young center fielders headed towards the prime of their careers. Obviously, guys like Sizemore, Upton, Jones, and Kemp are on another level compared toBourn, Gardner, and Sweeney, but it’s still fairly easy to pick 10 or so of the guys off that list and call them future all-stars. Or, in a couple of cases, current all-stars.

This is just a ridiculous amount of talent all coming into age at the same time. Even moreso than the SS/3B waves mentioned earlier, this one contains both elite talents and a lot of depth. Half of the teams in major league baseball are in possession of a young, talented center fielder. Some of them will flame out while others will move to the corner OF spots, but overall, we’re looking at CF becoming a very strong position going forward for the next 5 to 10 years.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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