2015 Positional Power Rankings: Center Field

What do we have here? For an explanation of this series, please read this introductory post. As noted in that introduction, the data below is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems, with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position.

Yes, we know WAR is imperfect and there is more to player value than is wrapped up in that single projection, but for the purposes of talking about a team’s strengths and weaknesses, it is a useful tool. Also, the author writing this post did not move your team down ten spots in order to make you angry. We don’t hate your team. I promise.

If you are interested in learning about every Major League Baseball team’s center field situation entering 2015, you have clicked your way on the internet to the right spot. Here is a graph using the FanGraphs Depth Charts ranking every team’s center field WAR as we start the season.


Center field boasts two of the game’s best players in Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen. The projected WAR for the Angels and Pirates added together is the same as the projected WAR for the bottom nine teams combined. There are a few good players after Trout and McCutchen, and then there are a handful of players who cannot hit, but do enough on the field and on the bases to make themselves valuable. Then there are a handful of players who cannot hit and do not do enough other things well enough to make a positive contribution to their teams.

#1 Angels

Mike Trout 644 .299 .396 .557 .411 51.7 3.8 0.3 8.6
Collin Cowgill 56 .233 .294 .340 .286 -0.9 0.1 0.4 0.2
Total 700 .294 .388 .538 .401 50.8 3.9 0.7 8.8

Three years ago, Mike Trout’s career line was .220/.281/.390, his career WAR was 0.7, and a mysterious illness caused him to lose 10 pounds. Fast-forward three years, and his career line is .305/.395/.549. His wRC+ of 165 is nearly identical to teammate Albert Pujols (164) three years into Pujols’ career. At 23 years old, Trout’s 29.5 WAR ranks 38th among active position players, and he could be in the top 25 by the end of the season.

Mike Trout is the best player in baseball, and it is not particularly close. Trout’s 8.6 projected WAR sits 2.6 more than the second-ranked position player, which is the same difference between the number two player on the list and the 48th ranked player. The 23rd ranked player and the 24th ranked players’ combined projected WAR are less than Trout’s projected WAR for 2015. Over the last three years, Trout has been worth 193 runs above average on offense. Only eleven other players have even half that much. Collin Cowgill also plays for the Angels.

#2 Pirates

Andrew McCutchen 630 .296 .387 .501 .386 35.8 1.5 -3.6 6.0
Starling Marte 56 .273 .329 .433 .336 1.0 0.2 0.8 0.4
Jaff Decker 14 .221 .303 .348 .292 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .293 .381 .492 .380 36.6 1.7 -2.9 6.4

The figures above were determined based on Andrew McCutchen’s play with long hair. Since cutting his locks, McCutchen has failed to record a single hit in a regular season game, but that information is not factored in above, and McCutchen is projected to be the second-best position player in all of baseball. His 27.5 WAR over the past four seasons is ahead of Miguel Cabrera and second only to Mike Trout during that time period.

During his time with the Pirates, Barry Bonds had a wOBA of .383 and a wRC+ of 145. Since debuting for the Pirates in 2009, the 28-year-old McCutchen nearly matches Bonds with a .382 wOBA and 145 wRC+. If he reaches his projections in 2015, McCutchen will likely pass Bonds. With two more good years, McCutchen could past Bonds for most WAR as a Pirate over the last 40 years. Starling Marte figures to do most of his damage in left field, but he has proved to be a capable backup in center field as well.

#3 Brewers

Carlos Gomez 616 .269 .329 .461 .347 12.8 2.5 8.4 4.8
Logan Schafer 63 .230 .292 .342 .282 -1.8 0.0 0.0 0.0
Elian Herrera 21 .245 .297 .330 .280 -0.6 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .265 .325 .447 .339 10.3 2.5 8.2 4.9

The Brewers’ window for contention appears to have closed after occupying first place in the National League Central for much of 2014, but the 29-year-old Carlos Gomez continues to put up strong numbers in Milwaukee. Carlos Gomez is overshadowed on his own team by Ryan Braun and in the NL Central in center field by Andrew McCutchen, but Gomez’ 13.3 WAR over the past two seasons in fourth among all position players behind only the two players above him on the present list as well as Josh Donaldson.

Gomez’ defense was well ahead of his offense early on in his career, and in 1678 plate appearances through 2011, his batting line of .243/.291/.357 netted him a wRC+ of just 72. His offense has improved to the point he is one of the best players in the game. He was the only player in baseball last season to hit more than 20 home runs and steal 30 bases after being the only player in baseball to hit 20 home runs and steal 40 bases in 2013. Logan Schafer is not to be confused with Twins outfielder Jordan Schafer, although very few people would notice if you did.

#4 Yankees

Jacoby Ellsbury   595 .277 .333 .421 .332 6.8 4.0 2.8 3.8
Brett Gardner 35 .258 .330 .399 .325 0.2 0.2 0.6 0.2
Chris Young 35 .226 .304 .402 .312 -0.1 0.1 0.4 0.2
Mason Williams 35 .223 .269 .318 .263 -1.5 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .271 .328 .414 .327 5.4 4.2 3.8 4.2

The Yankees guaranteed Jacoby Ellsbury $153 million dollars one offseason ago to man center field amid concerns that he would stay healthy after playing full seasons in just two of the previous four years. He had few problems last year playing in 149 games. He was above average with both the bat and the glove on his way to a four-win season. He is expected to do much of the same this season as the Yankees try to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

The 31-year-old Ellsbury has yet to recapture the form that saw him hit .321/.376/.552 and a wRC+ of 150 in 2011. In the last decade, the only players to eclipse Ellsbury’s 9.4 WAR from that season are Mike Trout in his first two years and Alex Rodriguez in 2007. Ellsbury is still a very productive player and his 3.8 projected WAR is second on the Yankees to Chase Headley. Brett Gardner, a decent center fielder in his own right, now plays left field. If Ellsbury goes down, Chris Young could take over in a scenario that would be less than ideal.

#5 Orioles

Adam Jones 644 .277 .313 .468 .341 12.2 1.6 -2.6 3.8
David Lough   35 .252 .293 .372 .294 -0.6 0.0 0.4 0.1
Alejandro De Aza 21 .262 .321 .395 .317 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.1
Total 700 .275 .312 .461 .338 11.6 1.6 -2.2 4.0

Adam Jones figures to be worth about half of Mike Trout’s value in 2015, and that is not at all a bad thing. Jones’ 5.5 WAR in 2014 is slightly misleading as his defensive numbers are out of line with the rest of his career, but only slightly as his 14 WAR over the last three seasons suggest Jones has been roughly a five-win player for the Orioles. Jones, heading into his Age-29 season, is likely not the first person that comes to mind when thinking about home runs, but his 94 dingers over the past three seasons ranks sixth in all of baseball. Adam Jones has never been one for a high walk rate with just a 4.3% career walk rate, but he took his aggressiveness at the plate to new heights in 2014. Jones’ 2.8% walk rate was the worst in the American League among qualified hitters, and there were 281 players with more walks than Jones’ 19. Even with a low walk rate, Jones manages to remain well above average and the projections for 2015 have him matching last seasons 117 wRC+. Jones has missed a total of five games over the past three years, and that is why I have not mentioned any other player in the Orioles’ section for center field.

#6 Red Sox

Mookie Betts 420 .276 .343 .418 .338 6.3 1.5 -0.4 2.5
Rusney Castillo 245 .274 .324 .404 .323 0.8 0.1 0.5 1.1
Jackie Bradley Jr. 35 .231 .302 .344 .290 -0.8 0.0 0.3 0.1
Total 700 .273 .334 .409 .331 6.3 1.6 0.5 3.7

Two springs ago, Mookie Betts had yet to take an at bat at a level higher than the Low-A New York Penn League. One spring ago, Betts had never taken an at bat a level higher than the High-A Carolina League. Betts enters this spring with just 464 plate appearances in the minors above the A-level. All indications pointpoint to that number never getting any higher. Betts had a fantastic cameo in 213 plate appearances last year with a 130 wRC+. None of the typical fluke indicators were present as Betts walked at a good rate (9.9%), his BABIP (.328) and Line Drive percentage (20.9) were not unsustainably high, and just five of his 18 extra base hits were home runs. Expecting a full season of last season’s sample is overly optimistic, but the projections indicate he will hit well.

At one point, it appeared Cuban signee Rusney Castillo would be in center field for the Red Sox. Castillo got eight games in the minors and 10 games with the Red Sox last season, but has been slowed by injuries this spring. Castillo could split time with Betts in center field with both players candidates to take time away from Shane Victorino in right field. The 22-year-old Betts is the most exciting option in a crowded Red Sox outfield, although how much you appreciate the media coverage of Betts this season will be very dependent on the level you enjoy generally terrible puns.

#7 Diamondbacks

A.J. Pollock 490 .272 .322 .428 .330 3.2 1.1 6.3 3.0
Ender Inciarte 140 .265 .306 .357 .295 -2.9 0.3 2.0 0.4
David Peralta 70 .277 .312 .433 .326 0.2 0.0 -0.3 0.2
Total 700 .271 .318 .414 .323 0.6 1.4 8.0 3.7

Every September, it is generally a good idea to be slightly skeptical of performances out of line with the rest of the season. The competition level is not uniform with callups diluting the quality at the highest level. Assuming that a player will pick up where they left off after a hot September has the potential to make a person look foolish…unless they made that claim about A.J. Pollock at the end of 2013. Pollock moved into the final month of his rookie season with a .253/.299/.353 line and a wRC+ of 87, but closed the final month with a .407 BABIP-aided 152 wRC+. He then spent the first two months of 2014 hitting .316/.366/.554 with six home runs. Unfortunately, a pitch from Johnny Cueto broke his hand and he missed most of the rest of the season. Pollock did come back in September, and heads into the season as the likely leadoff hitter for the Diamondbacks.

Playing time in Arizona’s outfield is very much up in the air. With Mark Trumbo, Cody Ross, Ender Inciarte, and David Peralta all outfielders with major league experience, and Yasmany Tomas potentially a part of the mix. If Inciarte ends up losing time in the corners, he could find himself in a timeshare or modified platoon with Pollock. Despite being the lefthanded option, Inciarte figures to get less playing time than Pollock after showing a below average bat and above average glove in center field last season.

#8 Rays

Kevin Kiermaier 560 .251 .303 .385 .304 -0.9 0.6 4.9 2.7
Desmond Jennings 105 .242 .318 .380 .312 0.5 0.5 0.3 0.6
David DeJesus 35 .236 .318 .362 .306 0.0 -0.1 0.1 0.1
Total 700 .249 .306 .383 .305 -0.4 0.9 5.3 3.4

In 2012, Austin Jackson had 16 home runs, 29 doubles, and 10 triples. While five National Leaguers have achieved double figures in every type of extra base hit in a season over the previous two seasons, no American League player has achieved the feat since Jackson three years ago. Kevin Kiermaier will have a shot to end this poorly publicized drought. In 364 plate appearances last season, Kiermaier hit 10 home runs, 16 doubles, and eight triples.

The power came as a surprise as Kiermaier, taking over for Desmond Jennings in center field, hit just 12 home runs in four minor league seasons. Kiermaier has a reputation as an elite defender, and it is his glove that is likely to provide value in 2015. The 119 wRC+ from 2014 is expected to drop down to merely average, but the glove along with some decent numbers from Desmond Jennings puts the Rays in the top third of center field production this season.

#9 Marlins

Marcell Ozuna 630 .259 .307 .444 .329 5.9 0.6 0.5 3.1
Christian Yelich   35 .274 .349 .415 .339 0.6 0.1 0.4 0.2
Ichiro Suzuki 35 .272 .307 .345 .289 -0.8 0.1 0.1 0.1
Total 700 .260 .309 .437 .328 5.7 0.8 1.0 3.4

The three Marlins starting outfielders signed contracts this offseason averaging around $125 million per player. Ozuna, the Marlins starting center fielder, accounted for around half a million of that amount as Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich signed big extensions. Ozuna is likely worthy of a raise, putting up a .269/.317/.455 line good for a 114 wRC+ and nearly a four-win season.

Ozuna’s 23 home runs and .186 ISO from 2014 are repeatable as he hit more than 20 home runs in three different minor league stops. The projections have Ozuna taking a small step back offensively, but still above average with solid defense has him looking at a three-win season. Yelich will get a vast majority of his starts in right field, and Ichiro can keep playing as long as he wants as far as I’m concerned.

#10 Mets

Juan Lagares 595 .257 .297 .361 .291 -8.2 0.3 14.1 2.9
John Mayberry 35 .226 .292 .377 .297 -0.3 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Matt den Dekker 35 .237 .295 .364 .293 -0.4 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Kirk Nieuwenhuis 35 .221 .290 .382 .297 -0.3 0.0 0.2 0.1
Total 700 .253 .296 .363 .292 -9.2 0.3 14.0 3.1

It has often been said that a run saved is just as good as a run scored, and my understanding of basic mathematics seems to confirm that maxim. For those who prefer to watch the run-saving types more than the run-scoring types, the Mets have the ideal center fielder. Juan Lagares is not a very good hitter, with a career .262/.302/.362 line good for an 89 wRC+. He was a little better than that in 2014, but with a 4.4% walk rate and little power to speak of he will need to maintain a high BABIP to be valuable with the bat.

Fortunately for Lagares and Mets fans, a below average bat is playable with excellent defense. With Michael Cuddyer in one of the corners, Lagares should be covering a lot of ground at Citi Field. The Mets 26-year-old center fielder needs to stay healthy because those behind him are just as bad with the bat as Lagares and worse in the field.

#11 Royals

Lorenzo Cain 322 .272 .316 .382 .309 -1.5 1.1 5.5 1.8
Jarrod Dyson 308 .248 .308 .324 .284 -7.2 3.6 4.6 1.3
Terrance Gore 35 .206 .264 .247 .236 -2.1 0.2 -0.1 -0.1
Reymond Fuentes 21 .243 .304 .340 .289 -0.4 0.1 0.1 0.1
Lane Adams 14 .225 .279 .338 .276 -0.4 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .257 .309 .348 .293 -11.7 5.0 10.0 3.1

What was said at the beginning of the Mets entry is repeatable for the Royals. The playoffs served as an exhibition for the Royals and their incredible outfield defense. Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson are both very good center fielders, but are not likely to add much on offense. Cain was good on offense in 2014 with a .301/.339/.412 line and 111 wRC+, but the projections do not see this line as sustainable. Cain’s .380 BABIP topped everyone in the majors with at least 500 plate appearances. Cain wears number six, but his favorite number might be 24 as that is how many walks and infield hits he had in 2014. Another five-win season might not be realistic for Cain, but with good defense and solid base running (28 for 33 on steals), Cain should be a positive for the Royals in 2015.

Jarrod Dyson, now 30 years old, is also fast and helpful on defense. Dyson also stole bases at a high rate (36 for 43) and his 100 steals over the last three years is seventh in baseball despite receiving just 859 plate appearances. Cain should get more playing time in 2015, but plan on seeing both flying around outfields this summer.

#12 Dodgers

Joc Pederson 574 .232 .319 .406 .323 5.3 0.3 0.4 2.8
Chris Heisey 84 .236 .279 .379 .291 -1.2 0.1 0.2 0.2
Enrique Hernandez 28 .245 .293 .371 .295 -0.3 0.0 0.1 0.1
Andre Ethier 14 .260 .334 .394 .321 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .233 .314 .401 .318 3.9 0.4 0.6 3.1

Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier have previously served as center fielders for the Dodgers. They had the advantage of being veterans and at some point in timetime were proven hitters, but had the disadvantage of not being adequate fielders. Joc Pederson does not share those characteristics with his predecessers. Pederson is unproven, but should be adequate in center field. On a team with a payroll around $275 million, Pederson accounts for roughly 0.2% of those salaries.

Kiley McDaniel named Pederson the number 11 prospect in baseball. Pederson has shown an increasing appetite for walks as he rose through the minors going from 10.2% in 2012 to 13.5% in 2013 to 18.1% in 2014. A season close to average in 2015 is reasonable for Pederson in his first full year in the majors. Despite the veteran presence, last season’s Dodgers center fielders accumulated just 1.9 WAR, and 2015 should be an improvement in Los Angeles.

#13 Rangers

Leonys Martin 595 .268 .321 .393 .315 -2.7 2.2 5.9 2.9
Delino Deshields 70 .223 .288 .322 .275 -2.5 0.1 0.0 0.0
Michael Choice 35 .240 .309 .383 .308 -0.4 -0.1 -0.3 0.1
Total 700 .262 .317 .385 .311 -5.6 2.3 5.6 3.0

Leonys Martin is a below average hitter, but he also has the second-highest projected WAR on the Rangers. Those facts are related two other facts. The first is that the Rangers do not figure to be a very good team this season with just a 2% chance to make the postseason. The second is that Leonys Martin is very fast. Martin brings a lot of value on defense and on offense his 18 bunt hits were tops in the American League.

We should not sell Martin short offensively just because he is not a good hitter. Despite a wRC+ in the upper-80s in each of the last two years, he has been an average offensive players due to being 14 runs above average on the basepaths. Center field has a few of the very best players in baseball at the top of this list, but there are quite a few defensive-first players providing positive value to their teams.

#14 Cardinals

Jon Jay 420 .280 .347 .375 .322 2.7 -0.2 -1.8 1.6
Peter Bourjos 245 .244 .303 .378 .303 -2.0 0.8 3.5 1.1
Randal Grichuk 35 .241 .279 .415 .304 -0.3 0.0 0.1 0.1
Total 700 .265 .328 .378 .314 0.4 0.5 1.8 2.9

The Cardinals traded for Peter Bourjos in the previous offseason after Jon Jay’s disappointing 2013 at the plate and troubling performance in field during the playoffs. Bourjos entered 2014 as the starter, but held onto the role for just two weeks as Mike Matheny-favorite Jon Jay was given the starter role. On offense, Jon Jay does not hit for power, failing to exceed a .100 ISO in any of the last three years. He does not walk a lot, but does supplement his hitting by not getting out of the way on inside pitches. His 20 HBP in 2014 was first in the majors and only Shin Soo-Choo has more than Jay’s 49 HBP from 2012-2014. Jay is a good player, averaging 2.5 WAR per season over the last four years despite consistent threats to his playing time, but he lacks upside.

Bourjos has never been able to match his .271/.327/.438 line from 2011, but he continues to play great defense and will always be the player who pushed Mike Trout so briefly off of center field. Bourjos had hip surgery in the offseason and will still be just 28 years old at the beginning of the season. He will need to prove his health and hitting to receive more playing time. Randal Grichuk has a lot of power and is very athletic, but he has not yet delivered consistently, pairing his power with poor pitch recognition.

#15 Nationals

Denard Span 525 .281 .333 .387 .320 1.4 1.5 1.9 2.4
Michael Taylor 140 .226 .286 .362 .289 -3.0 0.1 1.1 0.3
Nate McLouth 35 .236 .311 .353 .298 -0.5 0.1 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .268 .322 .380 .313 -2.0 1.7 3.0 2.8

Denard Span has been a consistent performer, putting up 3.4, 3.4, and 4.0 WAR over the last three years, with the biggest number coming last season. The 31-year-old has received a lot of playing time over the past two years, going over 660 plate appearances in both seasons. If Span gets another 660 plate appearances, he will likely approach three wins again.

Michael Taylor has a big power-speed combination with 32 home runs and 85 steals over the past two minor league seasons. The projections do not show Taylor’s minor league prowess transferring to the majors, with just an 81 wRC+ in 2015. The Nationals should have a very good team in 2015. Center field is not a hole for the team, but there is not a whole lot of upside at the position.

#16 Astros

Colby Rasmus 483 .235 .301 .424 .319 2.4 1.0 -2.5 2.0
Jake Marisnick 161 .237 .281 .361 .284 -3.5 0.3 1.5 0.4
George Springer 35 .237 .329 .459 .346 0.9 0.1 -0.1 0.2
Alex Presley 21 .255 .304 .384 .305 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .236 .298 .410 .312 -0.4 1.3 -1.1 2.7

Jeff Luhnow traded away Dexter Fowler for a third baseman in Luis Valbuena, and then signed an equivalent replacement for Fowler in Colby Rasmus as part of his strategy to acquire all of the strikeouts. A draft pick of the Cardinals when Luhnow was with the organization, Rasmus got his first shot at free agency after 2014, but the market was not strong after striking out 33% of the time in 2014. He managed a 103 wRC+ on the strength of 18 home runs in just 376 plate appearances. Rasmus has been, on the whole, an average fielding center fielder in his career and he looked to be building momentum heading into his free agent years after a 2013 where he hit .276/.338/.501 and a 130 wRC+.

In his six-year career, Rasmus, now 28 years old, has been worth 14 WAR, an average of 2.3 per season and he projects for about the same this season. Rasmus’ backup are not really backups but starters at other positions who could see some time in center field as well. Still just 24 years old on Opening Day, Marisnick figures to get a lot of opportunities to prove himself this season in Houston.

#17 Indians

Michael Bourn 588 .255 .313 .354 .298 -5.3 2.5 0.3 2.0
Michael Brantley 77 .294 .351 .432 .344 2.0 0.2 -0.1 0.5
Tyler Holt 35 .225 .290 .282 .262 -1.3 0.1 -0.3 0.0
Total 700 .258 .316 .359 .301 -4.6 2.7 -0.1 2.5

The Cleveland Indians are a young, exciting team, and Michael Bourn can be the latter. From 2009-2012, Bourn stole 216 bases and had an on-base percentage above .340 in all four years. His speed and ability to get on base made him a very valuable player, averaging nearly five wins a season in the four years before arriving in Cleveland. The first two years of his four year deal with Cleveland have been somewhat disappointing. His OBP dropped to .315, he has stolen fewer bases, and as he lost a step in the outfield, his fielding is not as beneficial as it once was.

Fortunately for Bourn, he had a high baseline to fall from and the rebooted version with the Indians is still close to average. The 32-year-old is expected to maintain his OBP from the last two years, which is pretty close to the league average for non-pitchers of .318. Add in decent defense from center field and the Indians have an average player. Brantley emerged as a star last season and will get most of his playing time in left field, but his cameos in center bump the Indians up about five slots in these rankings.

#18 White Sox

Adam Eaton 560 .271 .345 .374 .323 2.1 1.0 -2.4 2.3
Emilio Bonifacio 126 .248 .303 .329 .284 -3.3 0.8 -0.3 0.2
Trayce Thompson 14 .207 .273 .379 .290 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .266 .336 .366 .315 -1.6 1.9 -2.7 2.5

Newly-minted millionaire Adam Eaton looks to be another one of Rick Hahn’s solid moves in building the White Sox. Eaton has shown doubles power in professional career with just one home run in 538 plate appearances last season. The 26-year-old did manage 26 doubles, ten triples, a .300/.362/.401 line, and a 115 wRC+. He walks at a solid clip, but nothing extraordinary. The projections expect the batting average from last season to drop a little, making him roughly an average player.

We do not have enough statistical information to make a firm judgment on his defense, but he is much more likely to hurt himself in the outfield than the White Sox, making two trips to the disabled list in 2014 after missing much of 2013 with an elbow issue. Emilio Bonifacio will backup all three outfield positions and fill in if there is an injury. If you are like me, you cannot believe he has not yet turned 30.

#19 Athletics

Sam Fuld 420 .232 .306 .328 .286 -7.5 1.1 0.5 1.0
Craig Gentry 245 .254 .320 .325 .291 -3.6 1.8 4.1 1.2
Coco Crisp 35 .252 .327 .388 .318 0.2 0.1 -0.1 0.2
Total 700 .241 .312 .330 .289 -10.9 3.0 4.5 2.4

The A’s gave up on Sam Fuld early last season only to reacquire him later in the year from the Twins. Oakland looks to hold onto him this year as he is the likely starting center fielder. Fuld has never done much in terms of batting average hitting just .236 for his career, but has walked his way to relevance with a 10.2% walk rate, slightly exceeding that in 2014. He knows when to run, having been caught stealing just four times in 25 tries in 2014.

The 33-year-old Fuld is a solid fourth outfielder who might get a bit more playing time than he should in Oakland this season. Craig Gentry will take the right side of the platoon in center field where he has shown himself a roughly league average hitter with a 105 career wRC+ against lefties. Crisp had over 100 games in center field each of the last two years, but will see most of his playing time from the corners in 2015.

#20 Mariners

Austin Jackson 595 .251 .315 .365 .304 -2.3 1.3 -1.5 2.1
Justin Ruggiano 84 .237 .300 .386 .306 -0.2 -0.2 -0.1 0.3
James Jones 21 .234 .278 .325 .269 -0.6 0.1 -0.3 0.0
Total 700 .249 .312 .366 .303 -3.2 1.1 -2.0 2.3

Austin Jackson heads into his free-agent year at 28 years old, and he could take advantage next winter with a good 2015. From 2011-2013, Jackson was a good player, averaging 3.6 wins a season, hitting double digits in home runs with a decent .149 ISO. His power fell off in 2014, hitting just four home runs and his ISO dipped below .100. The projections have Jackson slightly below average with the bat and roughly average in the field.

Last season was a disappointing one for Jackson, and a slight rebound is realistic, but expecting him to get back to his old form is likely asking too much. There is not a platoon situation present in Seattle as both Austin Jackson and Justin Ruggiano hit right-handed, but Ruggiano could get some plate appearances against lefties in center as he has a career .266/.329/.508 line against them in 443 career plate appearances.

#21 Padres

Wil Myers 490 .257 .327 .422 .329 7.8 0.2 -8.9 1.7
Cameron Maybin 161 .238 .299 .350 .289 -2.4 0.5 0.0 0.4
Will Venable 49 .243 .299 .387 .303 -0.2 0.1 -0.3 0.1
Total 700 .251 .318 .403 .318 5.1 0.9 -9.3 2.2

Using a bold strategy, the Padres decided to trade for a whole new outfield without getting rid of anyone in last year’s outfield. While Justin Upton figures to be a big upgrade in left field, and Matt Kemp should hit well while taking over in right field, less clear is the impact in center field where Wil Myers could be playing out of position. Myers went through a difficult season in 2014 and hit just six home runs with an on-base percentage below .300.

Myers is only 24, and his 2013 numbers, .293/.354/.478 with a wRC+ of 131, were very impressive. The projections on the hitting side suggest Myers will come around, but the transition to center field where has made just six starts in the majors, could be difficult. An average season with the glove would vault the Padres well up this list, but at this point, Myers might not be a significant improvement over Cameron Maybin, who is still hanging around and capable of solid defense and little offense.

#22 Reds

Billy Hamilton 525 .253 .304 .356 .294 -9.6 4.9 8.9 2.4
Skip Schumaker 35 .242 .301 .317 .279 -1.1 -0.1 -0.5 0.0
Yorman Rodriguez 70 .228 .274 .343 .275 -2.3 0.0 -0.9 -0.1
Jason Bourgeois  70 .247 .285 .320 .270 -2.6 0.0 -0.3 -0.1
Total 700 .249 .299 .349 .289 -15.5 4.8 7.2 2.2

Billy Hamilton is fast. He uses that speed on the bases and in center field. He has even used his speed to get to first base with 19 infield hits and 17 bunt hits in 2014. Unfortunately, he has not been able to help himself with the bat. He posted some robust walk numbers in the minor leagues, but as he moved up and the pitching got better his walk numbers declined.

A few extra times on the bases would help Hamilton much more than most hitter because of his excellent speed. His stolen base percentage was not ideal in 2014 (71%), but if he could get on base just a little bit more and steal with more efficiency, his speed and defense could make him a star. Admittedly, those are difficult things to do.

#23 Cubs

Dexter Fowler 560 .258 .360 .389 .337 7.8 1.3 -11.4 1.8
Arismendy Alcantara 70 .243 .290 .408 .307 -0.6 0.2 0.1 0.2
Ryan Sweeney 35 .258 .313 .380 .307 -0.3 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Junior Lake 35 .240 .281 .376 .291 -0.7 0.0 0.1 0.1
Total 700 .255 .347 .390 .330 6.1 1.5 -11.4 2.1

Impending free agent Dexter Fowler should buy some of the young Cubs players a little more time to develop. There is a lot to like about Dexter Fowler. He walks at a very high rate, 13.2% in 2014, and he is a very good base runner (3+ BsR in each of the last three years). However, he does not appear to be a very good center fielder and his lack of power would likely not play well in the corner.

Fowler is a placeholder. The Cubs could contend if they get a few breaks, but 2015 looks to be a transition year and Fowler is emblematic of that transition. He is a veteran who can still produce and his contract runs out at the end of the year. He is not going to block someone ready for major contributions now, but will be forced out eventually. He is far from a problem on a club looking to gain credibility, but he is also not the type of player to push the Cubs into the playoffs. Alcantara is an athletic 23-year-old who struggled in 300 plate appearances last season, but could move his way from super-utility player to starting center fielder as early as this season.

#24 Giants

Angel Pagan 420 .275 .324 .383 .313 2.0 1.5 -4.2 1.5
Gregor Blanco 133 .247 .324 .345 .301 -0.6 0.1 -0.1 0.4
Juan Perez 98 .232 .270 .339 .271 -2.7 -0.1 0.3 0.1
Gary Brown 49 .226 .273 .323 .267 -1.5 -0.1 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .260 .313 .366 .301 -2.7 1.5 -4.2 2.0

Angel Pagan could still be a pretty good player. In his last three seasons, his wRC+ has been 115, 115, and 112. Unfortunately, his plate appearances declined due to injuries the past two seasons. Pagan is 33 years old and this could be the year age and injuries finally catch up to him. The projections have Pagan dropping down to merely average on offense and no longer an asset in center field.

Gregor Blanco is still out there to backup all three outfield positions, although he will likely be covering for Hunter Pence in right field for the first month of the season. If Pagan cannot go for any reason early in the season, the Giants outfield situation will not be pretty with just Juan Perez and Gary Brown as potential starters.

#25 Rockies

Charlie Blackmon 420 .276 .323 .423 .328 -3.8 0.9 -2.6 0.9
Drew Stubbs 210 .262 .323 .415 .326 -2.2 1.3 -0.7 0.6
Corey Dickerson 70 .287 .336 .510 .365 1.4 -0.1 -0.4 0.3
Total 700 .273 .324 .430 .331 -4.6 2.1 -3.7 1.9

Charlie Blackmon seems like he is a really good player. His batting average is a solid .288. He hit 19 home runs last year to go along with 28 stolen bases, and he plays an important defensive position in center field. The reality is not quite as rosey. Blackmon does not take many walks with just a 4% career walk rate, he was caught stealing ten times for a decent 74% success rate, Coors Field blunts much of the affect of his power, and he does not appear to be average as a defender.

Drew Stubbs is an older, right-handed version of Blackmon with a better stolen base rate (37/42 the last two years). Stubbs is not exactly a lefty masher with a 112 career wRC+ against them, but he is far better against lefties than righties, with a career wRC+ of just 80 without the platoon advantage. Corey Dickerson has a lot of power, but he will be doing most of his damage from left field in 2015.

#26 Tigers

Anthony Gose 420 .245 .305 .345 .292 -7.7 1.2 1.4 1.1
Rajai Davis 245 .266 .310 .376 .304 -2.2 1.8 -2.5 0.6
Daniel Fields 35 .234 .284 .347 .282 -0.9 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .252 .306 .356 .296 -10.9 3.0 -1.2 1.8

The strategy employed by the Tigers and Blue Jays to employ current and former Blue Jays in center field this season does not look to be a very promising one. Like many center fielders who cannot hit well, Gose is fast. Only his plus baserunning and his solid play in center field keep him from dropping down to a replacement-level player. He has yet to strike out at rate under 25% in the majors and has not done so in the minors since 2012. His career walk rate is a decent 7.6% and at 24 years old, there is some hope that he could improve with the bat, but that is not likely to happen all at once in 2015.

Over the last four years, no player has more than Rajai Davis’ 161 steals, but he has accumulated just 2.1 WAR over that time owing to bad defense and poor hitting. Daniel fields. The previous sentence was a complete one.

#27 Blue Jays

Dalton Pompey 420 .237 .295 .352 .290 -9.0 1.4 -0.7 0.7
Kevin Pillar 245 .265 .297 .397 .305 -2.4 0.3 -0.5 0.7
Michael Saunders 35 .246 .322 .420 .327 0.3 0.1 0.3 0.2
Total 700 .248 .297 .371 .297 -11.2 1.7 -0.8 1.6

Circumstances have allowed switch-hitting Dalton Pompey to graduate to the majors, and he should be the starting center fielder in his native Canada. He started 2014 in High-A, but he made it all the way to the majors by the end of the season. Pompey is just 22 years old and ranked 80th on FanGraphs Top 200 Prospect List. Kiley McDaniel wrote Pompey “is the center fielder of the future, but the tools are more solid everyday than star material.”

Dalton is just one of 14 position players entering their double-deuce age season who received playing time last year. This season might be a year or two early for Pompey to be a solid everyday player. The 26-year-old Pillar has just 232 major league plate appearances, and the right-handed hitter could get a shot at decent playing time if Pompey falters. Not much is expected of either player this season.

#28 Phillies

Ben Revere 595 .293 .323 .354 .301 -7.0 4.3 -3.8 1.5
Odubel Herrera 70 .257 .299 .327 .280 -1.9 0.0 0.2 0.1
Cesar Hernandez 35 .257 .303 .339 .287 -0.8 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .288 .320 .350 .298 -9.7 4.2 -3.7 1.5

Of the 146 qualified hitters in the majors last season, Ben Revere’s 2.1% walk rate was the worst. Barry Bonds had as many intentional walks in the 2002 playoffs (13) as Revere had all of last season. Revere was still a decent player last year with a mostly empty .300 batting average because he was excellent stealing bases. Revere stole 49 bases and was caught just eight times for an 86% success rate.

Revere, 26, has speed, but it does not translate to good defense. His baserunning can keep him close to average as a player, but the Phillies center field situation shares its plight of the rest of the team. The 1.5 WAR that center field is projected for in Philadelphia is the fourth highest out of the eight everyday positions for the Phillies.

#29 Twins

Aaron Hicks 210 .224 .308 .342 .293 -3.4 0.1 -0.3 0.4
Jordan Schafer 175 .223 .297 .304 .272 -5.6 1.1 -0.9 0.1
Danny Santana 140 .266 .301 .375 .299 -1.6 0.3 -0.4 0.4
Eddie Rosario 105 .239 .272 .358 .278 -2.9 -0.2 -0.1 0.1
Byron Buxton 70 .247 .305 .378 .304 -0.6 0.0 0.7 0.3
Total 700 .237 .298 .346 .288 -14.1 1.2 -1.0 1.2

When four different players are projected for at least 100 plate appearances and fans are most interested in the fifth playerplayer in the queue, a successful season is not likely in the offing. Aaron Hicks has posted solid walk rates throughout his minor league career as well as an 11.2% walk rate in 538 plate appearances in the majors. Almost everything else in his major league career thus far has not matched up with his minor league track record. He debuted at 23 years old in 2013, but fared poorly with just a .266 wOBA. He was better last season with a .291 wOBA, but he was still well below average with a wRC+ of 84. He will get another shot at improvement in 2014, likely splitting time with Jordan Schafer.

Danny Santana and Eddie Rosario round out an uninspiring bunch as everyone waits for Byron Buxton. Injuries hampered Buxton’s development in 2014, but that performance only dropped him to the number two prospect in all of baseball. Buxton could see the field toward the end of the season, and with Miguel Sano, he helps form a very exciting prospect pair. Whether he plays in the majors or not, expect the Twins to move up this list a lot between now and next spring.

#30 Braves

B.J. Upton 350 .218 .291 .371 .294 -5.7 0.7 -1.9 0.5
Eric Young 175 .239 .304 .323 .283 -4.3 1.5 -1.5 0.2
Zoilo Almonte 70 .237 .280 .383 .293 -1.2 0.0 -0.3 0.1
Todd Cunningham 35 .247 .296 .336 .283 -0.9 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Joey Terdoslavich 35 .243 .296 .383 .300 -0.4 0.0 -0.3 0.0
Dian Toscano 35 .254 .327 .346 .303 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .230 .296 .358 .291 -12.8 2.1 -4.1 0.9

Not again #Barves? The Atlanta Braves are in the bottom three of the positional rankings in five six (my apologies for understating the ineptitude) of the eight positions, finishing last at both third base and center field. Signing Melvin Upton, Jr. has not worked out well for Atlanta. Missing the first month is not likely to be a huge detriment to the Braves, but it might prevent Upton from striking out 150 times for the seventh consecutive season as he is the only current player with an active six-year streak alive. Eric Young entered the Braves’ Training Camp on a minor league contract after the Mets decided not to offer him a contract, but Young is likely to go north as the Opening Day starter. That sums things up pretty well for the Braves.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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8 years ago

Small editing point: This is at least the second preview in which Jason Bourgeois has linked to Jason Bour.

8 years ago
Reply to  Craig Edwards

Without this quirk, who will visit Johan Santa and J.D. Martin’s pages?