If I would’ve started this list before last season, there is a good chance that I would’ve put Kyle Lewis (2.5 fWAR) into the top five. The 2020 ROY had a great season for the Mariners that year and showed great signs of being the Center Fielder of the future for the team.
However, with the injuries and uncertainty about his position going forward, I decided not to go too crazy in putting him in the top 5. A couple of good seasons could easily get him there, especially if he plays as he did in the 2020 short season. Remember, even though he “only” had a 1.7 fWAR, that would translate to a 4.6 if he could keep that going for a full year. I think there is a good chance he can make it into the top 3, but we are going to need to see him stay healthy for a while, first.
Near him is the trio of Leonys Martin (2.0), Jarrod Dyson (2.4), and Jeremy Reed (2.8). The Jeremy Reed name is likely a bit surprising to people. He had a great season in 2005 but was never able to figure it out after that. The 2.5 fWAR he had that season was the 21st best mark ever by a center fielder for the Mariners, but he is just one of seven to ever have that mark while playing center.
Barely missing the list is The Condor, Michael Saunders. He’s one of my favorite Mariners, as the potential he displayed was super high, and he seemed like a happy guy and very likable. Everything you would want from a center fielder, especially for a long line of jovial Mariners to man the spot. He had a WRS+ higher than 100 his last three years in Seattle and actually amassed all 6.0 of his fWAR those three years.
He was increasing his walk rate, decreasing his strikeout rate, and showing a nice combo of speed and power. It was most evident in 2012 when he was a homer short of a 20/20 season. We would trade him after the 2014 season for JA Happ. Happ would disappoint, and Saunders would slip on a sprinkler head and tear his knee.
Alas, bad things happen sometimes. Saunders did have a nice 2016 for the Jays, so at least he had one more good year. Let’s get into the top five Mariners now though, starting with someone most fans are more familiar with from his time in the broadcast booth.