Check the Position: Centerfield

Over the offseason we’ll take a look at each position on the diamond and see how the past season affected the positional rankings and where there might be some potential bounceback value picks going into next year’s drafts. (See shortstops, catchers, second basemen, first basemen, third basemen, right fielders and left fielders.)

These rankings are for 5×5 rotisserie fantasy baseball. Eligibility was determined by where the player had the most at-bats last year.

CenterFielders

There might be some grumblings about putting Matt Kemp into a tier of his own. The fact is, he’s the closest to .300 30/30 out there and that means something. Even with the eventual bounce back that both Grady Sizemore (.276 BABIP in 09, .308 xBABIP in 09, .317 career BABIP) and Curtis Granderson (.276 BABIP in 09, .301 xBABIP in 09, .323 career BABIP) will be getting in the average department, they both should fall short of those hallowed numbers. Kemp just needs a few more fly balls to leave the yard, and with his increasing fly ball totals and HR/FB ratios, it doesn’t take much squinting to get him there.

Carlos Beltran doesn’t quite have the speed to join the top tier, but injury concerns aside, he’s pretty much the definition of the second tier. Before last year, he’d cleared 600 plate appearances for eight straight years, so he’s a decent bet as a value pick once the first two rounds are complete. Jacoby Ellsbury is in the news a lot these days, has more speed than anyone on the list, but also has very little power and may be destined for a new position. You could pick him if you are getting plus power from a position on the infield, though, and not miss a beat.

Josh Hamilton‘s position in the tier may be the most tenuous. The injury concerns are real (469 average PAs over the last three years), and speed is probably not part of the package any more (20 stolen bases and 7 caught stealings career). I would definitely be tempted to wait on him and pick the surging Carlos Gonzalez instead. CarGo rode a .320/.384/.608 second half (with 12 home runs and 11 stolen bases) into our collective consciousness. One of the main reasons for his effectiveness was that he cut down his strikeouts (23.2% in second half, 26% career), and we know he has the tools to continue producing should the refined approach continue. Bucs wunderkind Andrew McCutchen and O’s rising star Adam Jones help fill the Upside Tier, a trough that many knowledgeable readers will be dipping into next year. With Jones’ tiny walk rate (5.6% career) I just see a little more risk there. We’ve written extensively on B.J. Upton, who may yet have books written about him. Suffice it to say that his oscillating power (ISOs ranging from .046 to .209) and BABIPs (.312 to .399) make him risky.

The next tier we might as well call the “No-Power-All-Speed” tier. With his terrible 2008, of course there’s a reason to doubt Michael Bourn, but his walk rate, BABIP and line drive percentage all finally approached his minor league rates. He might have just found himself on the major league level finally, and he looks to have the best speed of this bunch. Otherwise, there’s not really much difference between Bourn, Nyjer Morgan and Rajai Davis. Take your pick.

The last tier is looking for redemption in some cases. Shane Victorino is being grounded slightly by his splits (.749 career OPS vs righties) but also by rumors that Placido Polanco will take his position in the lineup for reasons unclear. He still could provide tremendous value if he gets drafted at this tier position. It’s unclear why he stole fewer bases as his success rate (79.6%) and speed score (7.5) are still elite. Torii Hunter will get some love in the comments, perhaps, but his BABIP was at a nine-year high last year, and if his average drops, his 20/20 prowess looks a little less sexy. If batting average is not a concern, he’s a decent pickup late in the game. Vernon Wells just needs more space than we have here.

This position was deeper than I expected. Young players like Colby Rasmus, Dexter Fowler, and Franklin Gutierrez could all join the big boys with some steps forward in their games. All of them already make decent bench picks even in mixed leagues.




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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.


33 Responses to “Check the Position: Centerfield”

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  1. R M says:

    What do you make of Chris Young’s outburst upon his promotion to the majors at the end of the year? Just a random hot streak, or could it be a sign he’s not done yet?

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  2. James Morton says:

    No love for a possible Alex Rios bounceback?

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  3. Eno Sarris says:

    Rios played more at right field, so that’s where he’s listed.

    R M, I’m sure there will be something about Chris Young, maybe in my Deep League Value piece.

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  4. Andrew says:

    Way too low on Ellsbury. I’d take him over any CF but Kemp

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    • 198d says:

      You Boston fans are cute.

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      • Andrew says:

        I actually hate the Red Sox. Ellsbury was a top ten player last year, and the skills fully support it.

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      • 198d says:

        Jacoby was a top ten *PLAYER* last year? What are you smoking? Statistically, he wasn’t even in the top ten *CF* last year! Personally, I’d slot him in the third tier, which as the author states is the “No-Power-All-Speed” catagory which Jacoby epitomizes. But please, do the rest of your league a favor and draft him as a tier one… ;)

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      • R M says:

        198d, there’s absolutely no fact or fiction to justify saying Ellsbury was not a top 10 Center Fielder last year. That being said, saying he was a top 10 overall player also doesn’t make much sense. I think Eno got it just right….he’s not the best, but he’s up there.

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    • Tom B says:

      would you like to join my money league then? :)

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    • joser says:

      Because of the way 5×5 leagues overvalue steals, he’s a far more valuable fantasy player than his real-life contributions would suggest. It’s possible opposing batteries will adjust a bit to drive that down next year, and there’s also random luck (or niggling little injuries that don’t knock him out of the lineup but reduce his thieving effectiveness), so it’s a risky thing to pin a lot of value on.

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  5. Chun says:

    What about Nate Mclouth?

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  6. Adam Reynolds says:

    There are a lot of interesting late-round options not even mentioned here (McLouth, Rios, Pierre, Cameron, Crisp, Gomez, Span).

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  7. elgringo79 says:

    So Carlos Gonzalez and McCutchen are at the >top of tier 2, but Rasmus doesn’t make the list? That’s quite a large difference considering how similar they are…. and the sample size. Are you sure three good months from the first two didn’t go to your head?

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  8. Eno Sarris says:

    Ellsbury: Going to probably be way over-drafted next year. The poster that says he could go in the no-power tier is correct. Game-changing speed is nice, but it comes with a negative that needs to be worked around.

    Rios, Pierre: Left fielders by my definition

    Cameron, Crisp, Gomez: Fine late-round options in deep leagues, but are they better than anyone on this list? Chris Young could bounce back, but if he doesn’t, these names belong somewhere between Span and Young at the bottom of the list… and squarely in my Deep League Value piece, or the ADP Value pieces to come.

    Last, Rasmus. Oh Rasmus. I love the guy. I like the fans’ projections. Even achieving the fans projections, though, would still fall short of CarGo and McCutchen, imho, and put him in the McLouth tier – in fact, though they will take different routes to their stats next year, I think McLouth and Rasmus will make for an okay comp in terms of their fantasy stats. In other words, Rasmus’ batting average is to suspect to place him just yet. For sure, I will bring him up in the Deep League Value piece.

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    • Adam Reynolds says:

      I’d pay roughly as much for Gomez as Davis/Morgan/Bourn. It looks like the same type of speed player to me. Cameron is still 20 home runs (possibly more in Fenway) and that is good for deeper leagues until he proves otherwise.

      I’d pay more for Fowler, too. Great upside there.

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  9. Joey says:

    Does no one really expect BJ Upton to bounce back? He was hurt in 2008 and he never fully recovered from his offseason injury in 2009. Putting McCutchen or Jones in front of him is one thing, but Carlos Gonzalez? Comon now.

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  10. Eno Sarris says:

    I don’t think I disrespected Upton really. His batting average looks like it will be poor most years, and his power waxes and wanes. He’s in the right tier at least, because he certainly has the same amount of upside as the other guys, he just came off the worst year of the four.

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  11. Dave says:

    Gomez can’t stay on the field, the others can.

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  12. Joey says:

    Your right Eno, Upton did have the worst year of the 4. However, Hamilton had the worst year of anyone in the top 3 tiers and he still is in tier 2. Upton will bounce back, I’m suspecting him to hit in the 270’s again, 40+ SBs guaranteed and the power will come. He’s still only 25 and was hurt the past 2 seasons.

    I want to get a feel for how you value him. Let’s say we are in a 12 team mixed league 5×5. What round should he be taken in?

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  13. jimbo says:

    If you’re talking 5×5, ellsbury was the 6th most valuable player last year. Sixth!

    Don’t know who was ridiculing his stats, but he seems like a very solid 2nd rounder to me.

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  14. Eno Sarris says:

    Joey:
    BJ Upton ADP: 58
    Andrew McCutchen ADP: 94

    Other players around ADP 50-60: Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Beltran, Kendry Morales, Curtis Granderson, Javier Vazquez.

    I’d much rather pick most of those other names over BJ Upton, especially if I know I can wait all the way until the seventh/eighth round to pick McCutchen.

    I don’t assign a particular round to a player before a draft, but it certainly looks like I could find an infielder or more stable outfielder in the fifth round, meaning I wouldn’t pick Upton in that round and probably won’t own him too often next year.

    I’m just not sure the power will come, and picking a low-batting-average speedster without power in the fifth round can be a recipe for disaster. I would much, much, much rather have Granderson in the fifth round.

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  15. Joey says:

    Thanks for your input Eno, but lets not fool ourseleves into thinking McCutchen can perform at the same level as BJ Upton. McCutchen’s power was a fluke this year. He didn’t have much power in the minors and his speed is above average, but not elite.

    Do you think BJ Upton is a keeper in a 12 team mixed, 6 player keeper league? It’s 7×7, the extra categories are OBP and SLG.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      I think we disagree about McCutchen, which is fine. But my point is that I see them as very similar and if I had the chance, I would rather pick that player later rather than earlier.

      In your case, with OBP in the picture, I’d have to think that BJ is probably your sixth keeper, but I’d want to know who else you are looking at.

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  16. Joey says:

    Eno, keep in mind that this is just my first year in the league and I replaced the worst team ever…literally ever.
    I have:
    Matt Kemp
    Matt Wieters
    Jon Lester
    Tommy Hanson……..A-rod
    BJ Upton
    Ben Zobrist

    On a side note, I am very, very close to trading Hanson and picks for A-rod. So you might as well replace Hanson with A-rod on that list

    The odd man out is Jay Bruce. Personally, I love Jay Bruce and I think he will be a superstar. However, many people do not feel this way, and I bet he will slide to the 2nd or 3rd round (8th-9th rounds).

    Zobrist is SS eligible in my league and that adds a lot of flexibility. Also, Matt kemp counts as RF for next year so Upton doesn’t clog up my Util spot.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      Bruce vs Upton vs Zobrist is about the toughest group of possible keepers you could have. Of course you’d have a tough time two-for-one-ing with this group, and you have three guys with immense upside and great positional eligibilities (other than Bruce).

      I love Bruces’ power. I love Upton’s speed. I love that Zobrist is eligible at shortstop.

      I think I personally would take Upton and Bruce, given Zobrists’ history of limp-noodling before the last couple of years. But it’s pretty much a pick-em.

      Good luck.

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  17. Joey says:

    It’s gonna be up in the air who my 6th keeper will be (zobrist-bruce). I love Bruce, and I don’t want somebody else to nab him in the draft. People don’t realize how much success he has had at the major league level at 22 years old. 2010 he will be real good, after that, stardom.

    But here’s my question for you Eno (two parter).

    Would you rather have Wright or A-rod in a keeper league, with OBP and SLG as added categories? Yes, A-rod is in line for a MONSTER year but Wright is 7 years younger and despite his “off” year, he was still really good. Would it surprise anyone if he returns to 25+ homeruns? He had a .530+ SLG in 06,07,08…players have off years.

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  18. EDUB says:

    Any chance we see a tiered ranking of all OF positions lumped together? It would be extremely helpful. After all, this is the fantasy section of the site and many people play with OF positions rather than LF, CF, RF.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      Yes, yes there’s a great chance of that. Just trying to figure out how to graphically represent it. I broke them up because some people play that way and because (yup) it was easier to deal with in shorter blog postings. Coming soon.

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  19. Scott says:

    Honestly, I think cargo is a little high personally. I’m a rockies fan, and while I love cargo’s all around package I personally trust fowler more. I realize he’s got to grow into his power, and granted I play in leagues deeper than 5×5(OBP, walks, or OPS are generally categories). But I think fowler are BJ are actually really similar players. Which is why I’d argue switching cargo/fowler. Average of around .270 is to be expected because of their high K rates, great speed, good patience, and power than could develope in time. I like cargo, dont get me wrong. I just trust fowler to repeat and build off what he did last year more than cargo. CarGo arguably has the higher upside because his skill package is more rounded, but I’m more confident I know what I’m getting in fowler. Just one man’s take tho.

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  20. Eno Sarris says:

    You’re right to set up the Fowler/Gonzalez dynamic as one that will produce a winner and a loser, and that proposition alone should mean more risk for CarGo and a lower ranking. Another risk is that I’m basing much of my enthusiasm on his defensive numbers in center, which have been better for Fowler over their careers – but they both still don’t have three full years of UZR ratings. This is a long way of saying that CarGo’s placement is one of the riskier ones on the list, so you’re right to question it. ON the other hand, CarGo is the one of the two that has shown the best results on the field so far, so there you go. It will be interesting if Hawpe isn’t traded (or Helton doesn’t get hurt), for sure.

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  21. Eno Sarris says:

    I’d think we’d have to move Beltran behind Hamilton and maybe even out of that tier with the recent microfracture news.

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  22. Eno Sarris says:

    Arthroscopic, not microfracture is the news today. I’d put right around Hamilton then because the speed will be a question mark.

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  23. Joey says:

    Hey Eno,
    I sent you messages above about my keepers being:
    Matt Kemp
    Matt Wieters
    Jon Lester
    Tommy Hanson……..A-rod
    BJ Upton
    Ben Zobrist

    It’s almost 2 months later and my keepers are now:

    Kemp
    Wright
    Roberts
    Lind
    Granderson
    Hanson

    What do you think? I have “safer” keepers now, not to mention good power/speed combo players.

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