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Rays best-ever series, Part VI: LF-CF

We’re giving Crawford left and moving on to a battle royale in center

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

For those who have been following this series, you’ll know that in the last iteration, the decision was made to skip full breakdowns on third base and second base because Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist, respectively, so dominated those positions in Rays history.

The story is the same in left field for Tampa Bay, as Carl Crawford owns the top six seasons by rWAR, and seven of the top eight by fWAR, in franchise history. Again, it’s almost certainly a matter of picking which is your favorite Crawford season. Which you can do right here (again I’ll throw in the contrarian option since a few of you sickos keep voting for them… which I find hilarious):

Poll

Which season from a left fielder was the best in Rays history?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    2004 Carl Crawford
    (4 votes)
  • 6%
    2006 Carl Crawford
    (6 votes)
  • 38%
    2009 Carl Crawford
    (38 votes)
  • 43%
    2010 Carl Crawford
    (43 votes)
  • 7%
    2017 Corey Dickerson
    (7 votes)
98 votes total Vote Now

Moving out to centerfield, the story couldn’t be further from left field. The pool is deep, talented, and filled with totally different types of players and seasons. It made for the most difficult-to-decide position for this writer so far. Let’s meet the candidates for best season from a center fielder in Rays history:

Best seasons from Rays center fielders

Name Year G R HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG wRC+ DRS fWAR rWAR
Name Year G R HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG wRC+ DRS fWAR rWAR
Randy Winn 2002 152 87 14 75 27 0.298 0.360 0.461 119 1 4.6 4.9
Rocco Baldelli 2006 92 59 16 57 10 0.302 0.339 0.533 123 0 3.4 3.2
Melvin Upton Jr. 2007 129 86 24 82 22 0.300 0.386 0.508 137 1 4.5 4.4
Melvin Upton Jr. 2008 145 85 9 67 44 0.273 0.383 0.401 116 -3 4.8 3.3
Kevin Kiermaier 2015 151 62 10 40 18 0.263 0.298 0.420 97 42 5.4 7.3

The very process of settling on five candidates was immensely challenging. Four of the season were must-haves. We needed one Melvin (ne B.J.), one KK, and 2002 Winn was a must. I insisted on 2006 Baldelli for the sadomasochistic reason of “oh, what could have been,” but as far as whether to take a second Upton or KK season (or trying to slip Desmond Jennings in there with no one noticing), I basically channeled my inner Chidi, to (hopefully) less disastrous ends.

I finally settled on 2008 Upton as the final candidate because the rest of the crew was already a bit light in terms of games played, so going with either 2016 or 2017 KK would have meant another barely-over-100-games-played candidate, and we had enough of those.

The easiest to eliminate is Baldelli. His return in 2006 was amazing and gave hope to Rays fans for 92 magical games, but that was it. Ninety-two games. Not enough to be the best-ever season from a Rays center fielder.

Next, you have to decide whether you prefer 2007 or 2008 Upton. The 2008 version played in 16 more games, a definitive factor given prior statements in this article, but not enough — for me, at least. Upton was unreal in 2007. He went 20/20 with a SLG over .500 and easily the best wRC+ of any of the candidates listed here.

Then we get to the best all-around season: 2002 Winn. He played the most games, and he did a bit of everything. He hit homers, he stole bases, he scored runs, he knocked in runs, he played solid defense, he changed diapers, he cleaned the clubhouse — what didn’t the man do in 2002? He’s my pick for this spot.

That being said, I wouldn’t hold a 2015 Kiermaier vote against you. While Winn was all-around great in 2002, KK was ungodly in one specific area: his defense. This is not news to anyone reading this site, but Kiermaier had a defensive season for the ages in 2015, announcing his breakout as arguably (but we here at DRB know there’s no real argument) the best defensive player in baseball. He was right around league-average with the bat, as well, which may not be world-shattering, but it’s better than many a defensive wizard, and more than enough to give him oodles of overall value in 2015.

So who’s your vote? I’m going Winn, but my guess is KK takes this one.

Poll

Which season from a center fielder was the best in Rays history?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    2002 Randy Winn
    (17 votes)
  • 6%
    2006 Rocco Baldelli
    (11 votes)
  • 24%
    2007 Melvin Upton Jr.
    (44 votes)
  • 6%
    2008 Melvin Upton Jr.
    (12 votes)
  • 52%
    2015 Kevin Kiermaier
    (94 votes)
178 votes total Vote Now