The Rays are an interesting case here. Smith and Bourjos both made a number of starts (47 and 18 respectively) and didn’t have the numbers of the other starts or replacements at the position, although they were respectable.
Of course, most of the replacements for other teams were either starters at other positions (Benintendi, Gardner) or the team’s fourth outfielder (Hicks). Smith fits as the Rays’ fourth outfielder, but not Bourjos.
Kiermaier hit .276/.338/.450 with 15 home runs, 15 doubles, 56 runs and 39 runs batted in in 98 games total. He also added 16 stolen bases, although he was caught seven times.
Kiermaier had a lofty 5.1 WAR, buoyed by a 2.9 offensive WAR and a 2.5 defensive WAR. He was 51 runs above replacement level, and was 36 runs above average. No one else comes close to that.
However, Kiermaier did make six errors for a .976 fielding percentage. But, his range was well above league average, and he was 22 runs saved above average.
Kiermaier’s defensive WAR was fourth best in the American League, while also committing the second most errors at the position in the AL.
Kiermaier is under contract for years to come, now the Rays hope he can stay healthy for a full season and unlock his full potential.
So, again, how are the Rays’ number one? Why did I list them this way?
Pillar was the only center fielder for these purposes, and he had a subpar year. Ellsbury played around 90 games, which means he was the primary center fielder. And, he wasn’t all that good, but not terrible. However, the two guys who spelled him were better than him, and Pillar.
Bradley was the primary center fielder, with Benintendi playing some too. Bradley was better than Ellsbury, and Benintendi was probably second best out of all players named here, behind only Kiermaier.
Kiermaier was the best center fielder in the division, and despite his errors and the relatively weak backups (although not terrible), his play overcomes them. And Jones combines strong play with longevity, but not enough defense to overcome Kiermaier.