Oakland Athletics center fielder Coco Crisp has established himself as a top outfielder in the game of baseball. His tremendous speed and awareness makes him a perfect player to patrol the outfield.
On top of his defense, Crisp has established himself as a top leadoff man in the big leagues. His quick hands help him get on base and quick feet make him a threat to steal every time he reaches base.
When asked to name his top five favorite center fielders to watch, Crisp had a tough time coming up with a list.
"That’s kind of a loaded question," he said. "You put a guy in centerfield and he’s supposed to be the best guy in the outfield. Going through all 30 teams — they all have solid outfielders."
Despite having a little difficulty coming up with a Top 5 list, Crisp did name three that stood out to him.
The 25 year-old outfielder has emerged as a star for the future. Despite only playing 58 games in center field in 2010, Gonzalez has a great combination of speed and talent in the outfield.
His presence at the plate was something that captured Crisp's attention when talking about him.
"Young, talented and is very impressive," Crisp said of Gonzalez's talent.
Gonzalez played in 85 games with the Oakland Athletics before being jettisoned to the Rockies prior to the 2009 season for Matt Holliday. Gonzalez became the team's full-time starter in 2010.
In that 2010 season, he was in the Most Valuable Player hunt and finished third in voting. If he continues to play at that level, he might end up winning it in 2011.
Center fielder Vernon Wells has been an impact player since becoming a full-time player for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2002. In Toronto, Wells averaged 25 home runs per season as the team's starting center fielder.
His power stroke has helped him earn three All-Star game selections and even an entry in last year's Home Run Derby. Wells isn't a one-trick pony. He is one of the game's most established center fielders, winning three straight Gold Glove awards from 2004-2006.
Crisp said that Wells' overall talent has "impressed" him over the years.
After that 2006 season, Wells received a seven-year, $126 million contract extension. This offseason, Wells was traded to the Angels. Crisp will now get to see a lot of him in 2011.
"When Torii (Hunter) was in center, he was one of the best," Crisp said. "He still has to be one of the best if he moves back to center. He’s always impressed me."
Hunter has established himself as one of the best defensive center fielders in the game of baseball. He has won nine Gold Glove awards and is a four-time All-Star.
During his time in Minnesota, Hunter was known for his incredible catches in the outfield and his speed on the basepaths. In 2008, he join the Angels as a free agent and continued to dazzle on the field.
Despite moving to right field and designated hitter for some of 2010, Hunter still can make an impact with his bat. In his three seasons with the Angels, Hunter has averaged 22 homers per season.
It's the consistency from Hunter that continues to amaze Crisp.
"I think when I was coming up, watching Torii play center really helped me a lot," Crisp said.
This past season, Crisp got to see Hunter on a consistent basis again after both were rivals in the American League Central from 2002-05.
MLB Network released their list of the Top 10 current center fielders in baseball and Coco Crisp did not make the list. Both Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter were included while Carlos Gonzalez was left off because he didn't play enough games in center to qualify.
Crisp doesn't put up astounding numbers like the aforementioned players but for the Oakland Athletics, he is perfect player for their approach to the 2011 season. The team has improved tremendously and Crisp's speed is a great fit for center field.
Offensively, the A's have gone more of a small ball approach and having Crisp atop the lineup gives the team the speed they need with the departure of Rajai Davis. Staying healthy will be the biggest key for Crisp and the rest of the A's team.
Crisp might not have accolades or statistics to be considered a top center fielder in baseball, but he doesn't make that an issue for him.
"It’s my goal to help us try to win the division," said Crisp."If we can keep everybody healthy this year; if it’s in our cards to play out that way, we definitely have a better shot than we did last year to win the division."