Positional Power Rankings: Center Field

For an explanation of this series, please read Dave Cameron’s introduction from Monday. All the posts in the series can be found here.

Center field is a glamour position. Think Willie Mays. Mickey Mantle. Joe DiMaggio. Ken Griffey, Jr. For some teams in 2012, center field will feature strong, glamorous players. Think Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, and Phillies. For other teams in 2012, center field will feature not-quite-there and been-there-done-that guys. Think Astros, Indians, Blue Jays, and Nationals. The other teams feature players — or platoons– that fall somewhere on the lackluster-to-glamorous spectrum.

As my colleagues have noted in their positional power rankings, this is an art, not a science. We do our best with the information we have, to which we add our analysis and judgment. I have not projected anyone to have more than 600 plate appearances as a center fielder, even though a number of  players have seen 650-plus plate appearances for several seasons. Things happen. Injuries happen. It just made sense to me to be conservative, particularly with a position that requires a great deal of athleticism.

And now, on to the show.

30. Houston Astros

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Jordan Schafer L 350 .224 .291 .320 -2 0.5
Reserve Jason Bourgeois R 300 .273 .311 .351 2 1
Prospect J.B. Shuck L 50 .259 .328 .326

Jordan Schafer appears to be the Astros’ choice for starting center fielder, but it’s not clear why. After coming over from the Braves in the Michael Bourn trade, Schafer did almost nothing with either his bat or his glove. ZIPS projects Schafer as the least productive center fielder in the majors this season.

Understudy Jason Bourgeois hits better, fields better and is just as fast, if not faster, than Schafer and may soon replace him as the starting center fielder. Prospect J.B. Shuck may get some playing time in center as the Astros continue to evaluate their young talent.

29. Cleveland Indians

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Grady Sizemore L 200 .243 .319 .434 -4 1
Reserve Michael Brantley L 350 .270 .330 .367 -2 1
Reserve Ezequiel Carrera L 75 .263 .329 .327

Grady Sizemore’s back injury is expected to keep him out of action until mid-summer. That’s thrown a monkey wrench in the Indians’ plans in center field. Michael Brantley, who was slated as the starting left fielder, will take over for Sizemore in center. While Brantley doesn’t have the power potential expected from Sizemore, he’s projected to get on base at a slightly higher rate, and rove center field with a slightly more secure glove.

Although Brantley will get most of the playing time while Sizemore rehabs his back, we can expect to see some of Ezequiel Carrera in center, as well. Carrera doesn’t have much power, but is fast and a good defender.

28. Toronto Blue Jays

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Colby Rasmus L 500 .250 .322 .454 1.5
Reserve Rajai Davis R 100 .259 .299 .365 -2
Reserve Travis Snider L 100 .247 .304 .407 4 0.5

Another season, another series of questions about Colby Rasmus. He was dreadful after coming over from the Cardinals in the multi-player trade last season, batting just .173/.201/.316 in 140 plate appearances for the Blue Jays. ZIPS sees a bounce back to his career slash, which portends good power and league-average on-base skills. I’m being conservative with Rasmus’ expected playing time in line with his career numbers.

I expect Rajai Davis and Travis Snider to fill in the remaining time in center field for the Blue Jays. Even with his injury-riddled and poor-performing 2011, Snider still projects to have a decent bat with some pop, especially if he’s healthy. His above-average defense will also come in handy late in games. Davis doesn’t add much over Snider, other than speed, but he does bat right-handed, providing a change from Snider and Rasmus, who both bat from the left side.

27. Washington Nationals

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Roger Bernadina L 150 .240 .302 .374
Reserve Jayson Werth R 300 .245 .342 .418 2 1.5
Reserve Rick Ankiel L 250 .231 .293 .386 0.5

Center field is in flux for the Nationals. Part of the problem is the incumbent, Roger Bernadina, who is average at defense and below average at the plate. Another issue is whether and when Bryce Harper makes the 25-man roster. When that happens — and manager Davey Johnson seems to want that sooner rather than later — Jayson Werth will move to center field and Harper will play right. ZIPS expects a better season from Werth than 2011, but still not at the level he produced with the Phillies. The Nationals also signed Rick Ankiel to a minor-league deal, but he seems certain to make the team out of spring training. Ankiel adds good value on defense but not much at the plate. None of these players are perfect fit for the Nationals in center, and will likely share the time there until a more permanent solution is found.

26. Seattle Mariners

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Franklin Gutierrez R 450 .248 .299 .358 15 2.5
Reserve Casper Wells R 100 .219 .293 .403 5 0.5
Reserve Michael Saunders L 75 .220 .298 .339 3
Reserve Chone Figgins B 25 .242 .303 .305 1

The Mariners find themselves in somewhat the same position as the Indians, having lost their starting center fielder — Franklin Guitierrez — to an injury. Gutierrez has a strained pectoral muscle and is expected back in May. If he comes back fully healthy and plays center for the rest of the season, he’ll bring good value to the Mariners, largely with his glove. Casper Wells, Michael Saunders and Chone Figgins are likely to rove center at Safeco Field while Guitierrez is out. Wells has some power and is  solid on defense, so he should get the bulk of the playing time.

25. Kansas City Royals

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Lorenzo Cain R 500 .259 .314 .370 5 2.5
Reserve Jarrod Dyson L 100 .237 .290 .302
Reserve Mitch Maier L 100 .246 .324 .353 0.5

Everyone’s saying the only thing missing from the Royals is good pitching. I’d add a good center fielder. Lorenzo Cain is expected to get most of the playing time, and while Cain has a good glove, he doesn’t bring much value at the plate. Mitch Maier and Jarrod Dyson are expected to vie for some playing time in center. Both are lefties who can fill in for the righty-batting Cain against a right-handed pitcher. Dyson is the superior defender but Maier has more pop in his bat. None is going to add much value to the Royals this season.

24. Miami Marlins

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Emilio Bonifacio B 600 .263 .326 .347 -2 3
Reserve Chris Coghlan L 50 .264 .335 .392 -5
Reserve Aaron Rowand R 50 .236 .290 .370

The Marlins, along with the Reds, Giants and Cardinals, will get above-average value in center field, putting them ahead of the teams ranked 25-30.  The Marlins’ depth chart shows Emilio Bonifacio as the expected starter with back up help from Chris Coghlan. Bonifacio hasn’t played much center, but he’s versatile and a good defender. Bonifacio had a career year in 2011 offensively, but even with some regression, will be a nice compliment to the Marlins lineup.

Coghlan is a former Rookie of the Year who was demoted to the minors last season and now will fight for playing time. Veteran Aaron Rowand signed a minor league contract with the Marlins, but seems like a good bet to make the team out of spring training.

23. Cincinnati Reds

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Drew Stubbs R 600 .240 .317 .388 4 2.5
Reserve Chris Heisey R 100 .258 .317 .446 2 0.5

Drew Stubbs played nearly every game in center field for the Reds in 2011 and looks to do the same in 2012. Stubbs doesn’t hit for average but has decent power and good speed. He’s also an above-average defender in center. Chris Heisey, the Reds starting left fielder, will back up Stubbs in center. If he plays 100 innings there, he’ll add good value to what Stubbs already brings to the table.

22. San Francisco Giants

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Angel Pagan B 600 .270 .322 .405 2 2.5
Reserve Melky Cabrera B 100 .284 .330 .435 -5 0.5

I was surprised to find the Giants ranked below the Mets. Those teams traded center fielders in the off season, with Angel Pagan going to San Francisco and Andres Torres going to New York. Pagan is an upgrade over Torres offensively, but Torres is by far the better defender. Pagan is likely to get most of the playing time in center field, bringing 2.5 WAR to his new team. New Giants left fielder Melky Cabrera will back up Pagan, as the Giants have more fill-in options for left field (Brandon Belt, Aubrey Huff) than in center.

21. St. Louis Cardinals

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Jon Jay L 550 .282 .335 .402 2.5
Reserve Carlos Beltran B 75 .279 .366 .467 -4 0.5
Reserve Skip Schumaker L 75 .272 .328 .352 -6

Jon Jay did a nice job in center field for the defending World Series Champions in 2011 and ZIPS projects a repeat performance. Good on-base average, some pop and decent defense from Jay gives the Cardinals solid value in center. Carlos Beltran may play a bit for Jay against tough left-handers, adding more value to the mix. Skip Schumaker will get some innings as well.

20. Detroit Tigers

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Austin Jackson R 600 .259 .321 .375 9 3
Reserve Andy Dirks L 50 .261 .305 .383
Reserve Don Kelly L 50 .256 .302 .378

As in 2011, Austin Jackson will be the Tigers main center fielder. And as in 2011, much of his value will derive from his superior defense. Andy Dirks and Don Kelly will take some at bats from the left side but not enough to make much of a difference in value for the Tigers.

19. Chicago White Sox

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Alejandro De Aza L 500 .271 .308 .406 7 3.5
Reserve Brent Lillibridge R 75 .230 .299 .378
Reserve Alex Rios R 50 .259 .301 .404 -1
Reserve Koskume Fukudome L 75 .241 .343 .376 -4

Alejandro De Aza played only 54 games in the majors in 2011 but ZIPS likes what it saw. No, De Aza isn’t going to slug over .500 in 2012, but a slash of .271/.308/.406 will give the White Sox good offensive value in center field. De Aza is also an excellent defender, which pushes his expected WAR production to 3.5.

De Aza’s never played a full season in the majors, so I expect to see some reserves roving center for the White Sox on occasion. I’ve penciled in plate appearances for Alex Rios, Brent Lillibridge and Koskume Fukudome, but none will add much value to the position.

18. Texas Rangers

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Craig Gentry R 250 .247 .309 .334 8 1
Reserve Josh Hamilton L 150 .289 .392 .487 4 1
Reserve Julio Borbon L 250 .276 .319 .363 1.5

Don’t look now but Craig Gentry looks to be in the mix for starting center fielder for the Rangers. Gentry doesn’t have much in the way of on-base skills or power but when he gets on he can make things happen with is legs. He was a perfect 18-for18 in stolen bases in 2011. His speed also makes Gentry a plus-plus defender. Julio Borbon will likely take as many plate appearances in center as Gentry, hitting from the other side of the plate. I expect Josh Hamilton to get significant time in center as well, particularly if the Rangers conclude he’s likely to sign elsewhere in 2013 and which leads the team to take fewer precautions with Hamilton.

17. New York Mets

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Andres Torres B 450 .234 .313 .391 10 2.5
Reserve Scott Hairston R 250 .246 .308 .423 1

As noted above in the discussion on the Giants, I was surprised to find the Mets rated higher than the Giants, as I view Pagan an upgrade over Torres. But I’ve projected Torres for only 450 innings, as he has a hard time staying healthy for a full season. His back up, Scott Hairston, should see some decent playing time in center. ZIPS projects decent pop from Hairston, giving the Mets an offensive boost when he plays over Torres.

16. Baltimore Orioles

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Adam Jones R 600 .278 .322 .447 -5 3
Reserve Endy Chavez L 100 .270 .301 .361 3 0.5

There was a lot of trade chatter about Adam Jones in the offseason but nothing materialized. Good for the Orioles, as Jones is one of Baltimore’s top offensive players, along with Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy. Jones does take a hit to his value with below-average defense. Endy Chavez will get some at bats, too, and will add some value with his above-average defense.

15. Chicago Cubs

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Marlon Byrd R 550 .273 .324 .412 2 3
Reserve Tony Campagna L 100 .273 .317 .328 7 1
Reserve Reed Johnson R 50 .261 .310 .385 -1

Marlon Byrd is a good center fielder. Hits for average, has power and flashes the leather. An overall solid value for the Cubs. Reserve outfielder Tony Campagna is much more glove than bat, but a very good glove at that. Adds a lot of value with his defense.

14. Oakland A’s

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Yoenis Cespedes* R 400 .270 .331 .435 3
Reserve Coco Crisp B 225 .264 .320 .391 2 1
Prospect Collin Cowgill R 75 .243 .312 .360

I wanted to rank the A’s higher, given all the hoopla over Yoenis Cespedes but there is a lot we don’t know. The ZIPS projection for Cespedes, for example, don’t take into account park factors, as they were calculated before he signed with the A’s. O.co, the current name for the Oakland Coliseum, tough on all batters, but especially right-handed ones. So these projections might be optimistic for Cespedes.  Or not. It’s also unclear how much Cespedes will play in center vs. Coco Crisp, who brings less offense but a better glove. Prospect Collin Cowgill will get some time later in the season, but not enough to make much of a difference.

13. Colorado Rockies

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Dexter Fowler B 550 .264 .360 .418 -2 3
Reserve Carlos Gonzalez L 100 .294 .352 .521 1 1
Reserve Eric Young Jr. B 50 .258 .339 .358 -1

After fits and starts last season, it looks like Dexter Fowler now firmly has a grip on center field for the Rockies. And that’s a good thing for Colorado, according to ZIPS. Fowler looks to improve his on-base skills (mostly be decreasing strikeouts) and maintain the flashes of power he showed late in the 2011 season. The Rockies will also get a boost in center for any time Carlos Gonzalez plays there, shifting over from ususal spot in left. Even 100 plate appearances for CarGo while playing center will add 1 WAR for the Rockies in that position.

12. Milwaukee Brewers

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Nyjer Morgan L 450 .266 .324 .353 8 3
Reserve Carlos Gomez R 200 .243 .296 .374 9 1
Prospect Logan Schafer L 50 .262 .318 .357

Nyjer Morgan will get the lion’s share of the playing time in center for the Brewers, but Carlos Gomez will see a good number of at bats against left-handed pitchers, who just kill Morgan. Both are very good defensively, adding value to Milwaukee regardless of which one plays on any given day. Prospect Logan Schafer looks to get some playing time toward the end of the season.

11. San Diego Padres

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Cameron Maybin R 600 .255 .324 .383 6 4
Reserve Will Venable L 100 .239 .308 .396 3 0.5

For the Padres, it’s all about Cameron Maybin, who just signed a a five-year/$25 million contract extension with San Diego. His offensive numbers take a hit, of course, because he plays half his games in Petco Park, but his defense is stellar and brings considerable value to the position.

10. Minnesota Twins

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Denard Span L 550 .273 .342 .367 8 4
Reserve Ben Revere L 100 .276 .322 .325 10 0.5
Reserve Joe Benson R 50 .227 .308 .378

Denard Span gives the Twins what Cameron Maybin gives the Padres: decent offensive production and exceptional defense. Span did suffer a concussion at the end of last season, but all reports suggest he’s clear of symptoms and ready to play a full season. Nevertheless, I’ve penciled Ben Revere in for 100 plate appearance, just in case. It’s a drop in offense from Span, but not by much, and defense remains stellar. Prospect Joe Benson should see a bit of playing time in September.

9. Arizona Diamondbacks

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Chris Young R 500 .242 .332 .435 7 3.5
Reserve Geraldo Parra L 200 .279 .336 .411 8 1

Chris Young declined offensively last season, with drops in on-base percentage and power. But his exceptional defense more than made up for it. ZIPS projects a season somewhere between his 2010 and 2011 numbers. If his defense remains tops, he will continue to bring very good value to the D’Backs. I’ve penciled Gerardo Parra in for 200 plate appearances because Parra lost his starting job in left field to Jason Kubel, and I just can’t imagine Parra sitting on the bench for long. Nice problems for Arizona manager Kirk Gibson to have.

8. Atlanta Braves

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Michael Bourn L 600 .270 .331 .354 6 4
Reserve Jose Contanza L 100 .263 .310 .322 0.5

A full season of Michael Bourn will benefit the Braves in more ways than one. What Bourn lacks in power he makes for with speed once he gets on base, which he does at a fairly good clip. His legs also propel his very good defense. Just a solid, all-around center fielder. Jose Constanza won’t add much when he’s filling in for Bourn.

7. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Peter Bourjos R 600 .261 .309 .412 10 4.5
Reserve Vernon Wells R 50 .255 .298 .422
Prospect Mike Trout R 50 .267 .338 .414 6

The Angels have a lot going on with their outfield this season, but Peter Bourjos is lock for the bulk of playing time in center. If Bourjos could improve his on-base skills, he’d be an elite center fielder, with his plus-plus speed and defense. As is, he brings a lot of value to the Angels, leaving little room for uber-prospect Mike Trout to make any headway in center.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Andrew McCutchen R 600 .274 .361 .455 3 5
Reserve Nate McLouth L 50 .243 .340 .391 -6
Reserve Alex Presley L 50 .275 .324 .426

It’s all about Andrew McCutchen for the Pirates in center field. For 2012 and many years after that, thanks to a shiny new contract. And if McCutchen continues to improve his power — like he did last season — it will be a big win for Pittsburgh. He does everything well, at the plate and in the field. Just an all-around excellent center fielder.

5. Tampa Bay Rays

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter B.J. Upton R 600 .240 .329 .411 4 4
Reserve Sam Fuld L 50 .245 .322 .348 7 0.5
Reserve Matt Joyce L 50 .254 .342 .453 2 1

McCutchen is better than Rays center fielder B.J. Upton, at least at the plate. But Upton has better reserves backing him up, which is why I ranked the Rays higher. Upton has never hit for average, and ZIPS doesn’t see much change for this season. But Upton has some power and steals bases. Oh, and he plays very good defense. Backing up Upton will be the always-diving Sam Fuld and perhaps some innings by Matt Joyce, both of whom add value for the Rays in center field.

4. Philadelphia Phillies

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Shane Victorino B 600 .274 .342 .450 2 5
Reserve John Mayberry R 100 .246 .300 .427 2 0.5

Now we’re into the elite of the elite. Yeah, it’s hard to think of Shane Victornio in the same league as Matt Kemp, Curtis Granderson and Jacoby Ellsbury, but he’s getting there. Well, at least he got close in 2012 with career-bests in walk rate and home run rate. ZIPS sees another big year for Victorino. If he stays healthy, that leaves little playing time for John Mayberry in center, just the way Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel likes it.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Matt Kemp R 600 .280 .348 .503 -4 6
Reserve Tony Gwynn L 100 .258 .319 .350

Matt Kemp had a break out year in 2011 and was, in many observers’ eyes, the best player in the National League. He’s promising better things in 2012, like getting into the 50/50 club — 50 home runs and 50 stolen bases.  That’s unlikely, as is matching his production from last season, but ZIPS doesn’t see much of a drop at all. Kemp’s defense has also improved, and there’s no reason to think that bump in value won’t be sustained.

2. New York Yankees

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Curtis Granderson L 600 .256 .346 .495 -1 5.5
Reserve Brett Gardner L 100 .260 .352 .370 18 1

Why Yankees over Dodgers in the ranking? Because Brett Gardner is a better center fielder than Tony Gwynn. So while Curtis Granderson falls just short of Kemp’s value, Gardner makes up for it, assuming he sees about 100 plate appearances-worth of time in center.

Granderson put it all together in 2011, dramatically improving his hitting against lefties, which made all the difference to his overall offensive production. And while ZIPS sees some drop off in power, Granderson looks to be one of the best of the best in center in 2012.

1. Boston Red Sox

Role Player Bats PA ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Jacoby Ellsbury L 600 .290 .345 .457 10 7
Reserve Cody Ross R 50 .254 .319 .426 -1
Reserve Darnell McDonald R 50 .250 .305 .411

Jacoby Ellsbury. The total package. Hits for average. Doesn’t strike out much. Has power. Steals bases. Plays every-superlative-you-can-think-of defense. A superstar that anchors the best center field combination in the majors. Cody Ross and Darnell McDonald are each penciled in for 50 plate appearances, but if Ellsbury stays healthy, he’ll take those away. An exciting and productive player to watch.

Print This Post

Wendy's baseball writing has also been published by Sports on Earth. ESPN.com, SB Nation, The Score, Bay Area Sports Guy, The Classical and San Francisco Magazine. Wendy practiced law for 18 years before beginning her writing career. You can find her work at wendythurm.pressfolios.com and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.

110 Responses to “Positional Power Rankings: Center Field”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Dan in Philly says:

    I think you should doc Granderson at least 1 WAR for the fact that every time I listen to ESPN Radio and I hear a highlight where he hits a home run, I have to listen to their announcer with his “The Grandyman can, the Grandyman can!” song.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Randy says:

    My feedback on the top 2 of this list is similar to my criticism of your rankings for 1B ( Prince and Cabrera both being elite 1B).

    Gardner is at least as good defensively as Granderson and an argument could be made they should swap positions. There aren’t many teams that could have their star CFer injured and not see a decrease, at least defensively, in CF performance.

    Injury aside, Carl Crawford has always been viewed as someone who could play CF, but simply has been on teams that already had good defensive CFers (Upton and Ellsbury). He may not be listed as the backup CF, but the fact that he is at LEAST capable defensively, when healthy, means he should probably be included.

    Conclusion: Your rankings of 1 and 2 are correct, but the gap between them and the 3rd team is very large, and you should include Crawford on the depth chart for Boston, which is the factor that I think actually makes them the easy #1.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Yirmiyahu says:

      This isn’t a depth chart, or a list of people who can play CF. This is a projection of who will actually play CF for each team, and how much production they will get out of each of those individuals.

      I think Carl Crawford would make a great CFer, but I highly doubt he sees any time there in Boston this year. Even if Ellsbury gets injured for an extended period of time, they’d use Ross/Sweeney/McDonald/Kalish/Lin rather than Crawford. Not sure if the same is true of NY and Gardner.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Yirmiyahu says:

        But why is Ellsbury being projected for +10 runs of defense in CF?

        For his career (3419.1 innings of data), his cumulative CF defense is +4 according to TZ, -1 according to DRS, +4.3 according to TZL, and +6.2 according to UZR. Averaging the different systems together, you get about +3 runs, or about +1 run per full season.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Yirmiyahu says:

        Ah, crap. I was looking at his UZR/150. But even accounting for the mistake, he still looks like +2 runs/season.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. wily mo says:

    we got some extra U’s creeping into names up there – bourbon, coughlan – that’s what happens when you drink too much bourbon too fast, i guess, you cough

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • wily mo says:

      ok good fixed in the tables – they’re both still wrong in the writeup paragraphs, though, and it killed the player page links


      this business will get out of control, it will get out of control and we’ll be lucky to live through it (plane crash smoldering in background)

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Mario Mendoza of commenters says:

    Leonys Martin for Texas?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Wendy Thurm says:

      Ron Washington said yesterday that Martin likely will spend the year in AAA.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Mario Mendoza of commenters says:

        Surely he must be considered “depth.”

        If he was up for several weeks LAST year, there’s no reason they wouldn’t call on him if needed this year. They haven’t added any new candidates since then. Ron Washington is just posturing.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. marcello says:

    Matt Joyce putting up 1 WAR in 50 PA’s seems…optimistic. Obviously anything can happen in 50 PA’s, but I have my doubts that he’s a ~13 WAR player.

    +22 Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. lexomatic says:

    I’m confused by Rasmus ranking.
    1) Rasmus doesn’t have a fielding number listed. Does this change the projection at all?
    2) You mention that his ZIPS projection is to return to career levels, but his career WAR is more like 2.6 /season, including last year’s disaster

    I’ll take the over, and I’m not particularly a fan.

    +14 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Garold says:

      I’m also confused by the Toronto backup CF’s and writeup. Snider played some CF last year out of absolute necessity (Davis was hurt) but I doubt he gets any AB’s in CF this year. If he doesn’t win the LF job, he’s likely in AAA. Also, his fielding in LF tends to be under-rated IMO, but I don’t think even the most biased observer would claim him to be an above-average CF.

      I think a more realistic player to list in the 3rd spot is Anthony Gose but he’s only likely to get a Sept call up.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • VJO says:

      Did Rasmus’ stock drop that much? Only 2 teams with worse CF rotation than the Jays?

      +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Mark says:

      I still don’t understand why anybody is judging Rasmus based on his play time in Toronto. He was injured and missed several weeks and then comes back without any rehab games and people are surprised he struggled when he returned (283 OPS after return from the D/L).

      Before he was traded he had a 110 wRC+. If he’s even a league average defender with that production he’s a 2.5-3 WAR player.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. wont let me post without a name says:

    “Brent” Gardner? C’mon man.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. JT says:

    There is something seriously wrong if Jordan Schafer is rated as having -2 defense in CF. He is truly one of the best defensive CFs in baseball. He has unbelievable range, a cannon for an arm, makes great reads and gets great jumps. I think Schafer will surprise a few people this season. If he can just stay healthy I think he could make the Astros forget Michael Bourn.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Nate says:

    Minor detail to the overall picture (big detail to Franklin Guitierrez),
    It’s a Pectoral Injury, not a Lat injury.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. jrogers says:

    I have a tough time seeing how McCutchen falls behind Victorino while beating him by 20 points in OBP and slightly ahead in SLG and defense. (Presley seems better than Mayberry, too, and McLouth at least has the OBP edge).

    +14 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Andy says:

      Worth noting, too – Depending on how the Pirates are competing, Starling Marte could start seeing a few at bats come late July, which might push Cutch either to RF or LF.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. BJ says:

    Surprised at the Angels being that low. Guess I would take Bourjos over Upton. Trout seems like a better option than Fuld.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • drabidea says:

      Agreed. I think Tampa should drop 2 spots personally but I am a BoSox fan.

      I would take Bourjos or McCutchen over Upton anyday.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. Kerry W says:

    Shouldn’t the fielding numbers add up to zero at each position? Are they versus average (which is what I thought fielding is usually pegged to) or replacement level? Or maybe the fielding numbers shown are for a full season and they need to be pro-rated for playing time. The CF’s have a net +169 in fielding — it looks like you should subtract 5 or 6 from the CF fielding ratings for each team to properly normalize them.

    This was a lesser problem for the power rankings at other positions (C was +51, 2B +38, and SS +47). Only the 1B and 3B fielding ratings seemed to average about zero (totals -10 and -2, respectively, which is close enough given the roughness of the numbers).

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • CardinalRules says:

      I believe they are derived from fan projections and not a formal projection model. Also, since the aim appears to determine ordinal rank at a given position, subtracting the same amount from each team would not change the results.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jon L. says:

      I imagine it’s an artifact of the nature of playing center (along with the fact that typically good fielders play center). Good play behind the plate is subtle, errors and misplays are really obvious in the infield, but meanwhile even lousy centerfielders glide around looking smooth and athletic.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. Max says:

    My guess is Kemp regresses much for than ZIPS has him pegged. If I remember right, Pecota isn’t too sweet on him.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Bip says:

      Why? Kemp’s projections are basically identical to his career averages, and he’s right in the middle of his prime, and the main thing dragging down his career averages is his 2010, which represents a larger outlier from his career numbers than 2011 does. Also, having followed him over that time, it’s likely his poor performance was due in large part to mental issues. This year his attitude is much more similar to how it was going into 2011 than it was going into 2010. I see no reason to take the “under” on Matt Kemp reaching his career averages.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. Wendy Thurm says:

    For those asking about the Fielding number — as explained in Dave Cameron’s initial post, the Fielding number comes from the FAN projections on each player’s page.

    As for the WAR number, it’s an estimate based on the ZIPS and FAN projections. It’s not exact, of course. Just a best estimate based on the information we have.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Al says:

    The fielding numbers should be prorated…seeing reserves and prospects as +/- 6-10 in 100 PA’s is ridiculous.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. Natedawg says:

    Well this ranking is going to look ridiculous come September.

    Jays 28th?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • stan says:

      Well, Rasmus isn’t very good and the guys behind him aren’t really center fielders. What did you expect?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • TtD says:

        Common sense when adjusting playing time would go some way. If your going to limit Davis to 100PA that means he’ll be coming in against LHP as a backup. Davis had a .360 wOBA vs LHP last year, and has been solid his whole career vs lefties, and thus would provide more WAR in a role he’s suited to rather than the everyday role he had to carry last year.

        You throw in any consideration that Snider will get 100PA in CF and you get a prediction that is laughable at best.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • YanksFanInBeantown says:

        “Rasmus isn’t very good”

        The man was an elite prospect and had a .366 wOBA as recently as 2010…how quickly we forget

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • TammyBeth says:

        Let’s compare using the numbers here:

        #13 Dexter Fowler
        .264/.360/.418/.778/ -2 = 3 WAR
        #14 Yoenis Cespedes
        .270/.331/.435/.766/ xx = 3 WAR
        #16 Adam Jones
        .278/.322/.447/.769 / -5 = 3 WAR
        #21 John Jay – 550 PA
        .282/.335/.402/.737/ xx = 2.5 WAR
        #24 Emilio Bonifacio – 600 PA
        .263/.326/.347/.673/ -2 = 3 WAR

        #28 Colby Rasmus – 500 PA
        .250/.322/.454/.776/ xx = 1.5 WAR

        Note particularly the comparison with Jones – something is most certainly amiss.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • TammyBeth says:

        Rats. Forgot to include PA for all. since I can’t delete that one I’ll have to repeat:

        Let’s compare using the numbers here:

        #13 Dexter Fowler – 550 PA
        .264/.360/.418/.778/ -2 = 3 WAR

        #14 Yoenis Cespedes – 400 PA
        .270/.331/.435/.766/ xx = 3 WAR

        #16 Adam Jones – 600 PA
        .278/.322/.447/.769 / -5 = 3 WAR

        #21 John Jay – 550 PA
        .282/.335/.402/.737/ xx = 2.5 WAR

        #24 Emilio Bonifacio – 600 PA
        .263/.326/.347/.673/ -2 = 3 WAR

        #28 Colby Rasmus – 500 PA
        .250/.322/.454/.776/ xx = 1.5 WAR

        Note particularly the comparison with Jones – something is most certainly amiss.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. kick me in the GO NATS says:

    Nats are 26th, your kind!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  18. John says:

    ” Lorenzo Cain has a good glove, he doesn’t bring much value at the plate.”

    Many experts say the exact opposite, in respect to both.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  19. Marver says:

    I am very confused why Cutch is rated behind Upton.

    +10 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Bob R. says:

      He isn’t. In fact, he is rated higher than Upton (5-4 WAR). The higher ranking for the Rays is based on the view that the backup CFs for the Rays are better than those for Pittsburgh.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  20. Matt Z says:

    Tony Campana* for the Chicago Cubs

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  21. thomas says:

    What are the chances that the Rockies and Brewers would be center field equals!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  22. d_i says:

    if Cespedes is a 3 win player in Oak this year, I’ll eat my hat.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Dexter Bobo says:

      I hope you’re wearing one of those nacho sombreros with cheese in the middle like Homer got at the football game he went to with Flanders.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  23. Dreamin says:

    Gerardo Parra, as studly as his LF defense is, is simply not the defender Chris Young is for the DBacks in CF. He is definitely gonna get a lot of playing time in CF, mostly against tough righties that can give Young fits, but it’s hard to see him saving more runs in the field than Young does.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  24. Big Jgke says:

    Your spot for the Jays is crazy. Rasmus, Davis, Gose/Marisnick is a better group at centre than a majority of the teams listed. If Mike Trout lifts the Angels to near the top of the list, then surely a Toronto squad with a slightly worse prospect in Gose and a far superior starter in Rasmus should be ranked in the same neighbourhood, at least.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  25. CircleChange11 says:

    Here’s what I don’t get …

    Starter Jon Jay L 550 .282 .335 .402 2.5

    Starter Alejandro De Aza L 500 .271 .308 .406 7 3.5

    How is this WAR% figured?

    Jay has better offensive numbers and over more PA. De Aza has 0.7 more defensive value, but shouldn’t these guys be roughly equal, with Jay being ahead due to his data sample being 3-4 X’s the amount of De Aza’s?

    Also, 25 CF project to be league average or better? That doesn’t make sense to me, but am willing to admit that I might be missing something or not understanding the process.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • MikeS says:

      I don’t see how DeAza puts up 3.5 WAR. I think last year was a fluke. In more service time over parts of three years he posted -0.2 WAR prior to last year’s 2.8 in about 170 PA.

      Also, Lillibridge is being listed at every position. Yesterday I thought he was going to be credited with 0.5 WAR at each one leading to an equally silly 3 – 4 WAR season. These guys just are not all that good.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  26. stan says:

    I had to rub my eyes twice and recheck when I saw the White Sox ranking. You’re projecting a career journeyman with 61 career starts that well? De Aza’s really unlikely to hit or field that well over an entire season and that would be true even if he wasn’t entering his fifth year. I just can’t believe the Sox aren’t in the bottom five with that crew.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Baltar says:

      Wendy’s not projecting De Aza at all. She’s just taking other projections and adding it together to see where teams rank.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  27. Kerry W says:

    Wendy, thanks for the clarification, I should have read the intro (my bad).

    But the fielding numbers aren’t self-consistent, and in some cases (CF especially) the fielding values need to be adjusted. If you believe the relative values are OK (I know, big if), a simple subtraction fielding points from each team would work (5 or 6 for CF).

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  28. Kerry W says:

    that should be “a simple subtraction OF fielding points”…

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  29. Jim Lahey says:

    Can we really take the projections of a LF and say they’re going to field the same in CF? Namely how the hell is John Mayberry jr and matt joyce plus 2 in defense? I don’t think they’ve ever played a CF inning in their career but suddenly they’re better than Matt Kemp, Dexter Fowler etc? Cargo isnt better at CF than Fowler…. Sigh

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Baltar says:

      Well, you can’t, of course. Feel free to develop an algorithm for converting LF numbers to CF and re-calculate every players WAR. That would improve precision while hardly changing accuracy at all, let alone these rankings.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Phrozen says:

      John Mayberry Jr played 246.2 innings of above average defense in CF in 2011.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  30. Jeremy says:

    Shouldn’t Brett Jackson be mentioned?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  31. Dwight says:

    I’m thinking there must be a mistake with the way Rasmus’ numbers were crunched. .250/.322/.454 line at 500PAs gives him a 1.5WAR, where Cain’s .259/.314/.370 at the same PAs gives him a 2.5WAR. Is his +5 fielding worth +1 win?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  32. count123 says:

    Wendy — a lot of very valid comments made. perhaps a “do-over” is in order.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Wendy Thurm says:

      There are a lot of good comments. Mostly about the Blue Jays and Astros (too low) and White Sox (too high). Fair enough.

      I reviewed multiple depth charts for each team. Folks may want to see a particular player at a particular position, but I did the ranking based on the information available: team depth charts, ESPN depth charts, mlbdepthcharts.com, and reviews of stories and blogs on each team. Am I wrong about some? I’m sure of that.

      That’s why these exercises are fun. But they are based on projections, together with judgment and analysis, and based on the information available. I don’t think a re-do is necessary. We can come back to his mid-season and end of season and see how close (or far) I was from what actually happened on the field.

      +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Snowblind says:

        Wendy, I think the griping on here just reflects that there’s a bunch of fangraphs readers who don’t get what a projection is and how to use it, so they pounce on anything that doesn’t fit with their gut feel.

        I don’t think you need a re-do at all, I think there just needs to be a Fangraphs article by one of the senior writers to drill it into people’s heads that no projection system – none – is really accurate or scientific at all, and that this is just an amusing exercise to quantify everyone’s gut feel (as well as pass the time until the season hurries up and freakin’ starts already…).

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • TtD says:

        Maybe for consideration of all the people involved in this then that the MLB charts especially don’t include prospects as depth until they have reached the big leagues, which will affect your start point. It’s not going to change the starters much, but when assigning playing time for the backups/injury stand-ins, their depthcharts are likely to be pretty inaccurate.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  33. Hurtlockertwo says:

    The most interesting part of this analysis is the real lack of great centerfielders
    these days.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  34. Andrew says:

    Don’t totally ignore Che-Hsuan Lin, he can’t hit a lick but he apparently plays GOAT type defense (including a rocket arm).

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  35. Os Fan says:

    Adam Jones/Orioles seem too low. You’d really take the total wild card (Cespedes) or the head case (Nyjer Morgan) over Jones? Byrd and Fowler seem worse, too. I’d have him in the 9-12 range mixed in with Maybin, Span, and Young.

    Oh and what happened to #11?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  36. Snowblind says:

    It’s hopefully academic, as hopefully Guti comes back healthy and without missing a beat in late April or so. But I think you have Wells and Saunders flipped.

    Even though I personally would rather see a lot more of Wells and have had my fill of SAAAAunders, the buzz out of camp is that Saunders went through a lot of work in the offseason to retool his swing, and even though his hitting has been abysmal, he is legitimately better on defense than Wells, in center.

    Unless Wedge gets his hate on for him in spring training for some reason, I’d expect Saunders to get most of the CF time and Wells (righty) to platoon with Carp (lefty) in LF. I.e. poor Casper is still stuck as a 4th outfielder until or unless he breaks out at the next opportunity.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  37. Steve says:

    When you have 25 center fielders producing as much WAR (unadjusted for PA) as an average MLB starter (2+ WAR), maybe the positional or fielding adjustments should be, well, adjusted.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Baltar says:

      The weighted average for MLB players is about 2 WAR; the average starter is probably more like 3.
      Wendy (and Dave before her) explained where the projections come from. The writer’s job is not to substitute her own judgement for every players ZiPS and Fans projection.
      If Fans projections are too high (Imagine that! Overoptimistic fans!), it doesn’t really matter at all.
      This exercise is for a ranking of teams for all of us to take pot shots at, not to get an accurate WAR projection for every team, position and player.
      I find the series, and this article, very informative and entertaining.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  38. Simon says:

    What team is #11?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  39. Dan M. says:

    “batting just .173/.201/.316 in 140 plate appearances for the Blue Jays”

    Are you sure you didn’t mean to write “batting .173/.201/.316 in just 140 plate appearances for the Blue Jays”?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  40. Jason461 says:

    I’m curious about your Stubbs prediction. He’s had a 4.0 WAR year and a 2.6 WAR year. Given the he’s entering his prime years, 2.5 seems awfully conservative. Not that I expect him to be all-world or anything, but I’d have gone a bit higher there.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  41. Perhaps a better methodology would be what Tango does with his back of the envelope calls where he figures up batting runs, fielding runs, base running and positional and then multiplies by the expected number of PA.

    For example if a player is expected to get 80% of the PT, he gets 80% of the WAR.

    It seems like it could go in a spreadsheet formula nicely as batters are calculated the same with the differences being in positional & defense.

    Bat + Field + Position x %PT = projected WAR.

    The %’s for each position would add to 100%. Then we’d have a projected WAR by position for each team.

    Just discussing, not criticizing.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  42. YanksFanInBeantown says:

    I’m not a Jays fan at all and Rasmus is ranked far too low. A 24 year old former elite prospect one year removed from an excellent season is not the 3rd worst CF in baseball.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  43. Franco says:

    How can almost every CF including backups and emergency shoe horns all be on pace to produce 3+ WAR over the course of 600 PAs?

    I know this is supposed to be more of a fun exercise than a science but something is screwy. Apparently Jordan Shaefer is the only replacement level CF in baseball.

    Are the fans really modest on their defense ratings for every other position but all overly optimistic for their CF?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Doug Lampert says:

      Most teams put their best outfielder in center. Outfielders move from position to position often enough that the positional adjustments are probably pretty good.

      I suspect most replacement level outfielders play right field or get moved to first base, there may be some bad hitters playing center because they’re defense makes up for it, but there probably isn’t a single bad defender at major league shortstop, what team doesn’t have even ONE good defensive outfielder?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • todmod says:

      Well teams really shouldn’t be starting a replacement level player. Those should be bench players. With actual results it happens every year (or below replacement), but that’s rarely the plan.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  44. gabriel says:

    Part of the defensive rating problem is that some of the backup CF are rated for their primary position, most commonly LF; naturally, those are higher nominal fielding marks than if they had been evaluated for CF. The other part is the typical optimism of fan ratings.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  45. DeliBlue says:

    Would like to note that Tony Gwynn Jr. got all of 19 PA as a CF last year (to Kemp’s 679). Projections are nice, but maybe a version without backups (or 3rd stringers) would be better. Platoons and semi regulars would be the exceptions.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  46. bstar says:

    Good to see Michael Bourn ranked so highly. I think he’s got a chance to put up a 5 WAR season; he’s come close before. Last year, he surprisingly underperformed defensively in his time with Houston(-12.1/150 UZR) after putting up 3 straight positive d numbers in Houston at ~+12/150. Then he goes to Atlanta and underperforms offensively for about a third of a season, putting up a 91 wRC+. Despite both of these, he still posted 4.2 WAR last year, and he proved his defense may just score fine in Atlanta as he put up a +7.3 UZR/150 in his third of a year there. If he can put it all together, he just might end up leading the Braves in WAR this year.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  47. everdiso says:

    yeah, 28th is pretty low for a team that has one of the youngest and most talented CFs in baseball, who also happened to be the very best offensive CF in baseball just the year before last, at age 23.

    That’s likely not going to look like a good call when all is aid and done.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  48. everdiso says:

    after reviewing the list again, i think it’s pretty clear that the FANS fielding numbers are for all intents and purposes useless.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  49. mtucache says:

    I get that we’re really splitting hairs here, especially in the middle third…and that this site is all about numbers, but some of these really stand out as bold calls. Maybin and Austin Jackson are projected for strikingly similar seasons and equivalent playing time, but end up 10 spots different.

    Of course, maybe that’s just the Tigers fan in me being sensitive about our ONLY plus defender.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  50. Jon L. says:

    Okay, here’s my unique complaint about this entire series:

    It’s too much material to roll out in just a few days. With articles like these, Fangraphs should roll out one per day. This is especially true on a site in which new articles are heavily read and commented, and articles a few days old are hard to run into unless you’re really looking for them.

    Or is Fangraphs going to produce this much material every day? In which case those of us who find it interesting should just quit our day jobs…

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • bstar says:

      Good points, and I agree. These studies were well-done, sparked debate, but were gone the next day as 10 new articles went up on the board.

      One way to change this would be to include ACTUAL popular stories(most commented) on the Popular Stories board. I dont know what Fangraphs thinks popular means, but to me I’ve tired of looking at “A New Old Idea for the Kansas City Royals” and its 25-odd comments for the last month. What is that thing still doing on there? Why not put the recent stories that have generated the most debate in this box?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  51. Steve says:

    Marlon Byrd is a good centerfielder? haha funniest fangraphs sentence yet.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>