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January 5, 2010

Fantasy Focus

Center Field Rankings Review

by Marc Normandin

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Center field was frustrating in 2009. It was supposed to be one of the deepest positions available, but thanks to either brand-new injuries or lingering ones, the entire top of the list was decimated and center field ended up losing some of its depth. Today we'll get into which rankings were due to problems with the thought process and which ones had more to do with trips to see the trainer.

Before diving in to the rankings, I also want to start some discussion about what it is we should do about the lists themselves. Should the format change? Should it stay the same? Would you prefer something like star ratings and tiers, like those that Kevin Goldstein uses in his Top 11 Prospects list, or do you want to retain the basic 1-20 ranking system? For that matter, are 20 players at each position enough? Let's get all of these ideas out in the open now so that there's plenty of time to accommodate requests by the time ranking season rolls around. That way, I provide you with the service you ask for, and still have time to do the things I plan on doing for you outside of that. Reply in the comments, ask me in chats, e-mail me, or talk to me via Twitter (@Marc_Normandin) over the next few months with your thoughts; I may not respond to all of you, but I will keep track of your replies for the purposes of 2010's rankings.

1. Carlos Beltran (.293/.385/.513 PECOTA) .325/.415/.500: Beltran's season was cut in half by a knee injury that could have been much worse than it ended up being. He hit very well while healthy, in fact, a little too well thanks to a BABIP that drove his batting average up. If he had been healthy, there would be little need for justification of this ranking.

2. B.J. Upton (.267/.367/.424 PECOTA) .241/.313/.373: I felt PECOTA was cheating Upton in its projection, because he played with a shoulder injury throughout 2008, one that was supposed to have been cleared up by 2009. "Supposed to" is the operative phrase here, as Upton admitted in September, while dealing with other injuries, that his shoulder was "not fully there... sometimes it aches, sometimes it feels tired-it's just never that consistency I'm looking for." I received a lot of negative feedback about ranking Upton as the second-best center fielder, and my main argument had to do with how his shoulder kept him from his potential all year. If that, plus other injuries, kept him from driving the ball once again in 2009, then I'm tempted to think he's going to be very undervalued in 2010. Now let's just hope that his shoulder is actually healed next year, and not just supposed to be.

3. Grady Sizemore (.269/.368/.494 PECOTA) .248/.343/.445: Sizemore was another center fielder who had to put up with a slew of injuries during the year, starting with an abdominal injury in spring training and ending with arthroscopic surgery on his elbow in September. His line looked similar to his normal output, except with a lower batting average (and lower BABIP). This may have been due to a career-low line-drive rate.

4. Josh Hamilton (.284/.351/.483 PECOTA) .268/.315/.426: Seriously, was there some kind of elite center fielder plague going around this summer? Hamilton dealt with a bruised left rib cage, hurt himself again after crashing into another fence, went on the DL with an abdominal strain, and missed most of September with a pinched nerve in his lower back. Unsurprisingly, his season did not go as expected.

5. Nate McLouth (.285/.365/.492 PECOTA) .256/.352/.436: McLouth hit more balls on the ground this year than in the past, and it sapped some of his power production. It doesn't help that his BABIP and batting average also dipped, especially when the latter is a category in many leagues. He stole 19 bases though, and managed to hit 20 homers even with the drop in power, so overall his season wasn't bad. Ranking him fifth may have been a bit overzealous, though.

6. Matt Kemp (.293/.352/.480 PECOTA) .297/.352/.490: Kemp was as advertised, and if the top of this list hadn't shattered like glass, his ranking would make more sense. If he holds onto the power he showed in 2009 and continues to steal 30-plus bases, though, he's going to find himself with the elite. (As an aside, if this plague I spoke of turns into an annual thing, I'm sorry in advance for designating Kemp as elite and therefore eligible for the carnage that's to come.)

7. Jacoby Ellsbury (.291/.348/.409 PECOTA) .301/.355/.415: His forecast was on the mark, except for in one detail: he stole 70 bases instead of the projected 42. Considering he also hit over .300 and was driven in 94 times, he had himself quite the fantasy season. My one concern with Ellsbury is that if he doesn't hit .300, and doesn't bring up his walks, his runs scored numbers are not going to climb, and will keep his value down (especially since he has absolutely no power).

8. Curtis Granderson (.267/.344/.470 PECOTA) .249/.327/.453: 30 homers, 20 steals, 91 runs. That's pretty solid from a center fielder, but he also hit just .249 and drove in 71, and if you were in a league with OPS, he didn't even crack the 800 mark. I expect bigger things from him in Yankee Stadium, but I still feel like if you're in a position to sit him against lefties in leagues with daily changes, you want to have a backup handy, especially if you're in a head-to-head setup. That sounds like he's slightly ahead of a middle-of-the-pack ranking to me.

9. Lastings Milledge (.281/.352/.442 PECOTA) .279/.323/.373:

Dear Lastings,

I've waited a few years for you to change your ways and become the player I thought you could be, but it seems as if my feelings were misguided. I wouldn't say I wasted my time, but looking back I feel like I could have lavished my attention elsewhere. We should see other people.

Best,

Marc

P.S. Let me know if you plan on hitting in 2010 so I can pretend I never gave up on you and always believed in you.

10. Chris Young (.268/.341/.487 PECOTA) .212/.311/.400: His first half was putrid, and his second half was promising. Once again, it's tough to know what to make of Young. He has too much talent to give up on, but he never seems to put it all together. The good news is that the general opinion of him is so low that you can draft him late in many leagues. It would be nice if he brought steals back to the fold, considering his batting averages are so low. That could hurt his value going forward.

11. Cody Ross (.272/.343/.497 PECOTA) .270/.329/.469: Ross' weighted mean forecast had him at 404 plate appearances, but prorating it to 600 gave him 81 runs, 27 homers, 91 RBI, and nine steals. He had 73 runs, 24 homers, 90 RBI, and five steals, so he came pretty close on all accounts. That's a pretty solid year from a guy who can be picked up on the cheap, especially after his .217/.250/.361 April.

12. Shane Victorino (.291/.352/.430 PECOTA) .283/.358/.445: Victorino kept up his power rate from 2008 despite PECOTA thinking he would fall back a little, but it was pretty close with his steals (26 forecasted, 25 actual). Victorino is useful thanks to the average and steals, but his runs are his best stat, and he once again crossed the 100 mark. Like many players on the back of the list, his ranking looks bad in retrospect due to the failings and injuries of the first four, but I'd be comfortable with ranking him 12th if those four were healthy.

13. Cameron Maybin (.265/.347/.429 PECOTA) .250/.318/.409: His forecast was pretty accurate, but he also didn't play long enough to outperform it. He also dealt with injuries-one of which was surgically repaired in November-which may have kept his numbers down a bit. His ranking was based on the fact he would play daily, even if he didn't do well at first, but the Marlins didn't utilize him that way.

14. Mike Cameron (.254/.345/.472 PECOTA) .250/.342/.452: I felt like Maybin's ceiling (for 2010, anyway) was Mike Cameron, and that Cameron was the safer pick, since he was a known quantity. If you went with the safe route, you got what you expected, but you also had a center fielder who produced. One note, though: he did drop to just seven steals from 17, his first season in single digits in his career. Given his average, you would like him to keep stealing a few more bases than that per year.

15. Jody Gerut (.302/.365/.500 PECOTA) .230/.279/.376: I convinced myself that if Gerut's projection wasn't on the money, he was still worth a flyer just in case he put together 80 percent of it. He didn't come even hit 80 percent of that on his way to a poor season, though a lot of his problems were related to limited playing time and BABIP (.243, which is low even for someone in Petco, and he spent time with Milwaukee to boot). He could rebound in 2010 if someone gives him a shot, but that projection is still too high as far as ceilings go.

16. Adam Jones (.278/.331/.470 PECOTA) .277/.335/.457: I was worried about Jones' power, since he put up a .130 ISO in 2008, but he brought it up to .180 and almost hit his projection. He even snagged the 10 bases forecasted for him in right around the same number of plate appearances. I played it safe given the circumstances, but he ended up with a better year than Maybin when all was said and done. Here's an example when tiers would have come in handy, since I thought of Jones and Maybin as similar players, but had them four ranks apart.

17. Torii Hunter (.274/.330/.447 PECOTA) .299/.366/508: I described Hunter as "boring" since you knew what to expect out of him, so he did his best to put up a season akin to 2007, another uncharacteristically strong effort. His BABIP was his highest since 2000, and he was especially strong against fastballs, which is normally not a strength for him (but is probably part of the reason his BABIP was so high). Given the circumstances, I don't feel as bad about ranking him this low at a position that was supposed to be deep, but I'll give it another look come 2010 ranking time to see where he belongs.

18. Aaron Rowand (.276/.336/.431 PECOTA) .261/.319/.419: Rowand, unlike Hunter, did what was expected of him, and performed around the average. His counting stats don't look so hot thank to his being on the Giants, which is why he's down this low to begin with.

19. Vernon Wells (.267/.323/.435 PECOTA) .260/.311/.400: He didn't hit as well as PECOTA expected at the weighted-mean level, but you weren't looking at anything special there to begin with. Wells is a name more than anything, and he'll probably be more famous for his contract than his production going forward, if he isn't already there. That sounds like someone who should be 19th, right?

For 20th (and the Just Missed) I named off a few players who had similar numbers, like Willy Taveras, Michael Bourn, Carlos Gomez, and their ilk. Bourn ended up being more like the 2007 version of himself than the abysmal 2008 one, and though he still can't hit for power, he does get on base often enough, hit for a decent average, and swiped 61 bases. He's kind of like Jacoby Ellsbury Lite, since he won't pick up some of the same RBI or power numbers but should match him (or come close) in steals and runs. I totally missed on him, relying on his most recent work possibly too much and deciding that he wasn't worth the flyer.

I was far from perfect with my center field rankings, thanks to a ton of injuries at the top and some off-base ideas of what guys like Nate McLouth, Cameron Maybin, Chris Young, and Jody Gerut would do. I can't beat myself up too hard for the injury stuff, but it's good to go back and see where I went wrong in some of my assumptions about forecasts and recent performances. It will be a useful reminder as the 2010 rankings are put together, which will benefit everyone involved.

35 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

tmul06

Marc,

Love your work. I would, however, admit that I enjoy tier-style listing than not. It makes it more of a true "who's better than whom" feature. We need to know how much better Kemp is than Granderson -- two spots but how much is two spots? Is Kemp a whole "level" ahead of Granderson or are they on the same level but Kemp is a touch ahead?

See my point? Keep up the good work!

Jan 05, 2010 09:40 AM
rating: 3
 
HalfStreet

Did you not consider Nyjer Morgan a center fielder?

Jan 05, 2010 10:40 AM
rating: 0
 
Marc Normandin

McLouth was still the center fielder when this was done, and Morgan hadn't done anything to warrant inclusion at a deep position yet. That's a different story now of course, Morgan was a great fantasy player last year (one I was lucky enough to scoop off of waivers early on).

Jan 05, 2010 11:40 AM
rating: 0
 
wonkothesane1

I think he was just skeptical of a guy with less than 300 ABs with no power and a very promising rookie in AAA behind him. I don't recall anybody else considering him a viable fantasy option last March.

Jan 05, 2010 12:22 PM
rating: 0
 
Marc Normandin

Bingo. Pittsburgh wasn't treating him like a legitimate candidate for playing time. He was still in "earn it" mode. Once he did, they dealt him.

Jan 05, 2010 14:22 PM
rating: 0
 
Shawn

Another vote for tiers/star ratings in your rankings. As you yourself said, knowing that #11 and #15 are closer than #15 and #16 is more important in fantasy evaluation and tiers help that.

As far as how many to list, it would be helpful to make the number listed per position vary based upon the strength of that position. If the 25th center fielder is roughly the same as the 15th right fielder, I'd rather see 25 center fielders and 15 right fielders. Also, make sure that you have at least a certain number of AL and NL players in your rankings. While I know the trend is combined leagues, some of us still play in NL or AL only leagues and thus if a position is skewed towards a league, might get less information.

Jan 05, 2010 10:57 AM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

CF definitely was a challenge during the season... once the best players were snatched up early in my draft, I felt great waiting for Maybin in the 20th round. The feeling didn't last, however.

When Florida sent him down, I scrambled for a while (ill-advised trades, etc.) until McCutcheon was brought up. [My league uses OBP and total bases instead of AVG and HR, so McC's his walk rate and triples were very welcome.]

I hadn't considered it until now, but one added feature you might consider is to include a few notable prospects who we might see come up from AAA, and where they might rank in the tiers once they come up. Could help for those unexpected in-season moves.

Jan 05, 2010 11:03 AM
rating: 1
 
HeavyHitter

Marc, I enjoy your work. I'd prefer that you expand the rankings to at least 25 per position and that you also group the players into tiers. You're using every tool available to make educated guesses, which is all we can ask you to do; the "thinking aloud" aspect of your work also allows the readers to draw their own conclusions and provides a valuable service to fantasy owners.

Jan 05, 2010 11:08 AM
rating: 3
 
yoramb

One more vote for tiers. Thanks for all the good work, Marc.

Jan 05, 2010 11:27 AM
rating: 0
 
Luke in MN

Was this a bad year for PECOTA or just PECOTA-informed fantasy baseball drafts? I can't imagine I'm the only one who leaned on BP and ended up with a team of McClouth, JJ Hardy, Kelly Johnson, Chipper Jones, Lance Berkman, Matt Wieters, Milton Bradley and other relative disappointments. Or was it just me?

Jan 05, 2010 13:02 PM
rating: 2
 
Marc Normandin

I've noticed by doing this that I didn't do as bad of a job with the rankings as I thought, I just happened to draft every person I screwed up on. At least I paid for my mistakes :-)

Jan 05, 2010 14:20 PM
rating: 0
 
hessshaun

Agreed on the bats but the pitching was another story from my point of view. I wish I knew why.

Jan 06, 2010 10:37 AM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

Of these, I drafted only Chipper. Packaged him with some pitching in a trade-deadline deal to get Youkilis and Hoffman.

Jan 06, 2010 14:46 PM
rating: 0
 
Rob Moore

I think we drafted the same team.

Jan 06, 2010 23:33 PM
rating: 0
 
DDriesen

Wouldn't dollar amounts (based on some standard league measurement) be as good or better than tiers for comparative purposes? Include counting stats too, as they are generally what roto leagues are based upon. Also, as someone mentioned in the LF comments, since most leagues mix OF's, why not just the top 100 or so. And yes, many of us are in leagues that deep, especially when considering players with multiple eligibility.

But again, excellent work. Thanks.

Jan 05, 2010 13:09 PM
rating: 1
 
Marc Normandin

Everyone always asks for a unified outfielder list, and I always deliver one. Do people not notice or do they forget? I'm asking honestly here, because I want to make sure everyone gets to see it.

Jan 05, 2010 14:20 PM
rating: 0
 
Sharky

Not notice. As for depth, 20 is not enough. For those who play in "only" leagues, it's woefully inadequate. Content is very good so far though; just not enough.

By the way, LOVED your letter to Milledge.

Jan 05, 2010 20:11 PM
rating: 1
 
BurrRutledge

Ooh, ooh, I remember that you do a consolidated list!

Maybe you should publish your consolidated list first, and indicate their eligible positions...

Jan 06, 2010 14:40 PM
rating: 0
 
davezahniser

I like the idea of doing the rankings like KG does the top 11 prospects. I also would like to see overall outfield ratings in addition to the by position ratings.

Jan 05, 2010 13:36 PM
rating: 0
 
vtadave

I'd go 30 deep with four tiers give or take one. I know I'm stating the obvious here, but with 30 teams, you should try and project the 30 starting center fielders and then perhaps include an "other" section, "guys to watch", etc.

Jan 05, 2010 13:44 PM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

Out of curiosity, Marc, what fantasy leagues and formats do you play in?

Jan 05, 2010 17:05 PM
rating: 0
 
Marc Normandin

I tend to play in a head-to-head and a roto league each year. I used to play in a keeper league but haven't found a new one yet, so I may just start my own to scratch the itch.

Jan 05, 2010 17:24 PM
rating: 0
 
onegameref

It must be embarrassing to be a Chicago GM when they can't get a CF on the list. Did Fukudome not qualify since he was a RF in his first year? He seems to fit near the end of the list at best. Rios could surprise if Ozzie uses him there on a consistent basis and leaves Pierre in LF (a scary thought).

Jan 05, 2010 23:18 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Well, it was a pre-2009 list, so you're basically talking about Cubs center fielders from 2008 which would be Reed Johnson, Jim Edmonds or Felix Pie.

Jan 06, 2010 00:32 AM
rating: -2
 
R.A.Wagman

No - you're talking about who were expected to start as CFs in 2009.

Jan 06, 2010 04:36 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Even in that case, Fukudome hadn't played enough games in CF in 2008 to be CF eligible for 2009. This kind of dovetails to the earlier discussion about how people with multiposition eligibility were only on one of Marc's lists and not on multiple lists.

Jan 06, 2010 08:28 AM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

Marc, just want to re-state my preference to please include players with multi-position eligibility (or expected eligibility) in the multi-tier system (though you only having the full write-up once...).

Jan 06, 2010 14:43 PM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

^^^^ at each of their eligible positions ^^^

Jan 06, 2010 14:44 PM
rating: 0
 
Adam Madison

I enjoy most of your work, but I do feel that you tend to take less accountability for your rankings. For example:

"Kemp was as advertised, and if the top of this list hadn't shattered like glass, his ranking would make more sense."

While the ranking would make more sense, that doesn't mean your ranking of Kemp still wasn't off (or at least doesn't require some justification -- most people were bullish heading into Kemp last season, so his season wasn't much of a surprise). Even without the benefit of hindsight, ranking McLouth and Hamilton ahead of Kemp, and Upton well ahead of Kemp, is highly questionable -- questionable enough that your readers deserve a better explanation imo.

Jan 06, 2010 15:00 PM
rating: 0
 
Marc Normandin

Less accountability for my rankings than whom? I'm sorry if I wasn't clear enough in the article, but I feel that if Hamilton and Upton had been able to play through 2009 without injury that both of them would have been ahead of Kemp. I can see your argument with Hamilton, since he doesn't have the SB numbers of Kemp, but I figured between the R, RBI and Arlington that he would be able to put up a ridiculous line for the other stats.

McLouth, I will give you that one. Kemp should have been ahead of him, even back before 2009.

Jan 07, 2010 08:18 AM
rating: 0
 
MightyMoGreen

Marc - just can't see leaving Franklin Gutierrez off of that list. I know UZR/150 isn't a standard fantasy category, but he has some power and speed, yes?

Jan 07, 2010 12:27 PM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

I think according to PECOTA's prediction for him going into the season, he would have been right on the cusp of making the list or being in the just missed category.

Will be interesting what PECOTA thinks about him for 2010.

Jan 07, 2010 15:08 PM
rating: 0
 
greenfrog

I was as disappointed as anyone in Wells's subpar 2009, but it is worth noting that he had wrist surgery in the off-season. I'm hoping a full return to health could bump up his numbers a bit (say, to 270/330/450), but I'm not holding my breath. It wouldn't be so bad if his defence hadn't taken such a hit as well.

Jan 07, 2010 16:08 PM
rating: 0
 
ramin

What about Colby Rasmus seems primed to have a better year 2!

Jan 10, 2010 13:26 PM
rating: -1
 
hirsch92

Great work. Would it be possible to rank OF as a single position for those of us who play in leagues that don't distinguish between rf/lf/cf? It's far easier to break a consolidated list down by position than it is to combine several lists.

Feb 07, 2010 16:11 PM
rating: 0
 
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<< Previous Article
State of the Prospectu... (01/04)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Left Fi... (12/28)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Right F... (01/08)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Transaction Action: Go... (01/05)

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