Today we wrap up the outfield with a look at center field. It’s the weakest of the three outfield positions, but there is still more to like here than at some other spots on the diamond. Remember that a list of all three outfield positions combined is coming next, so don’t fret.
As for the previous rankings in the series, check out first basemen, second basemen, third basemen, shortstops, catchers, left fielders, and right fielders. Now, here are the changes to this year’s ranking system:
- Players are no longer ranked by number (the 1-20 system). Instead, I am implementing a tiered system using stars (five stars is the best, one is the lesser of your options). These stars are equal across positions to make comparisons between them easier-for example, there are three five-star first basemen, but there may be more or fewer than that at other positions-if it comes to it, the first player at a position may be a four-star option. You can derive positional scarcity from the number of four- and five-star players available and make decisions from there. Players are loosely ordered within tiers, with my first preference to my last.
- I am no longer just covering 20 players per position-each list may be a bit different in length. This should let players in AL- or NL-only league be as prepared as those in mixed leagues. There are two things I did to make this happen. First, I used the depth charts as my guide (this is also where the projections listed come from) and picked the starting player for every team at the position, giving me a minimum of 30 guaranteed choices. Second, for players with multiple position eligibility, I included them in the list for each position. It is possible they will have different star ratings at different positions, though, so make sure you reference the correct set of rankings. Victor Martinez is a three-star first baseman-it’s a very crowded position, and his numbers are very average for it-but at catcher, where the talent pool is shallower, Martinez is worth more. This allows me to show you at which position a player is most valuable. If there is anyone I missed that you want to know about, please ask me about them via e-mail or in the comments, and I’ll get back to you with my thoughts.
I’ve already written about quite a few of these players in the left- and right-field rankings, so I’m going to stick to covering those who we have yet to discuss.
Five Stars Player PA AVG/ OBP/ SLG R HR RBI SB Matt Kemp 662 .302/.354/.487 89 22 81 28 Grady Sizemore 678 .279/.389/.502 94 28 78 23
Kemp is a five-category beast. I like him for a little more power than that in 2010, but this is close enough to merit his ranking. Sizemore is just as good. I could go either way with this one, but Kemp was healthy in 2009 and Sizemore was not, so I’ve given the nod to Kemp. You can’t go wrong with either player, though, as they are the best that center field has to offer.
Four Stars Player PA AVG/ OBP/ SLG R HR RBI SB B.J. Upton 633 .279/.370/.452 83 20 69 37 Andrew McCutchen 678 .281/.363/.439 88 16 64 25 Curtis Granderson 598 .273/.358/.503 89 25 61 14 Jacoby Ellsbury 533 .301/.358/.430 78 8 47 45 Carlos Beltran 623 .278/.381/.485 82 23 84 18 Shane Victorino 582 .296/.360/.458 83 12 52 21 Nate McLouth 662 .277/.370/.479 102 23 80 23 Adam Jones 623 .295/.350/.509 93 24 85 14 Nyjer Morgan 598 .288/.347/.381 73 4 40 34 Michael Bourn 678 .276/.346/.390 95 7 38 47 Denard Span 678 .295/.378/.421 92 9 64 24 Josh Hamilton 567 .294/.366/.532 77 27 91 7 Dexter Fowler 598 .283/.382/.444 82 8 49 23 Torii Hunter 556 .283/.351/.494 72 24 75 16 Rajai Davis 551 .284/.341/.415 68 7 51 41
Unless, of course, Upton plays at the level his talent allows. Then we’ve got three five-star players at this position. Upton admitted to dealing with shoulder trouble all year long that kept him from rebounding. This ranking is based on assumed health-he has 30/30 potential, though I would like to see him start to hit homers again before I guarantee that sort of thing. McCutchen’s forecast is a little low to me-I like his 70th percentile of .291/.370/.460, and his .299/.387/.484 90th percentile is believable as well.
Granderson should see a power boost and more R/RBI support by playing in Yankee Stadium 2.0 and in that Yanks lineup. He’s almost a five-category guy as well, but not quite there because of his struggles against lefties. That split is awful in head-to-head leagues. Beltran didn’t seem to have any problems performing despite Citi Field last year, though injuries kept him out of the lineup. As long as he’s healthy, you know he’s good to produce, but he is likely to miss the first of this season while recovering from knee surgery. Victorino has a bit more value than shown here, as that Phillies lineup will drive him in far more times than 83. McLouth’s projection seems to think 2009 was a bump in the road that can be ignored-though the R total strikes me as high, the ISO is definitely possible, and another 20/20 year wouldn’t shock me.
Jones is a fantasy monster waiting to break out, and PECOTA thinks that time is now. I would be surprised if he hit with that much power, but I can see him finishing with that line. Fowler doesn’t dominate any one category, but he’s useful in the non-power categories-I expect his steals and runs to pick up beyond what this projection calls for, hence his four-star spot. Hunter will be five-star worthy if I put him in the three-star tier, so I’m putting him in the fours and hoping he doesn’t feel slighted enough to make me look bad again. I’m going to mention Davis again, because I said he was platooning in right field last time out-that’s incorrect; he’s platooning in left with Gabe Gross and filling in for Coco Crisp in center if he’s injured or just because. I’m still iffy on Davis’ PA total and this four-star ranking, so this spot assumes he will get the PA listed above.
Three Stars Player PA AVG/ OBP/ SLG R HR RBI SB Carlos Gonzalez 428 .280/.340/.475 69 16 69 14 Franklin Gutierrez 582 .276/.338/.457 82 21 70 14 Alex Rios 650 .275/.333/.456 80 20 69 18 Cody Ross 573 .277/.344/.502 68 25 82 5 Mike Cameron 499 .257/.351/.465 61 19 59 8 Cameron Maybin 632 .266/.354/.441 86 15 56 14 Chris Young 582 .251/.338/.468 76 21 63 14 Brett Gardner 453 .272/.364/.384 78 6 38 38 Lastings Milledge 607 .278/.344/.422 66 16 62 18 Coco Crisp 467 .267/.355/.405 62 8 44 20 Julio Borbon 598 .286/.340/.399 75 9 46 28 Scott Hairston 422 .255/.314/.453 49 17 51 7 Colby Rasmus 662 .253/.333/.434 89 23 65 10
I think PECOTA may be picking on Cameron for his age a bit too much here-moving to Fenway Park and reaping the benefits of that OBP-tastic lineup and the park should be enough to counter his switch to the AL. Cameron Maybin’s slugging strikes me as off base-I’m thinking more in the .430-.440 range there, and maybe with a lower on-base percentage as well, which would effectively kill his runs scored total, too. Sorry to be such a downer, Fish fans.
Chris Young, could you please, for once, do what your projection and the analysts know you’re capable of? And I don’t mean over the course of three weeks at a time. I would love to rank you higher than this, but you leave me no choice until you prove you deserve it. You’ve been Milledge’d. Crisp is a solid source of steals as long as he’s in the lineup, and he should pick up more runs than that as well despite playing for the A’s. PECOTA doesn’t like Borbon for much power despite playing in Arlington, but he looks to make up for it with R and base thievery. Rasmus is an intriguing enough name due to his ceiling to warrant a ranking his production hasn’t quite earned him yet.
Two Stars Player PA AVG/ OBP/ SLG R HR RBI SB Rick Ankiel 519 .255/.314/.456 68 22 69 4 Elijah Dukes 563 .249/.362/.435 63 17 67 12 Vernon Wells 623 .262/.320/.429 76 19 70 11 Austin Jackson 638 .262/.321/.404 70 12 60 17 Aaron Rowand 598 .277/.343/.442 68 18 66 2 Carlos Gomez 566 .257/.315/.385 71 9 50 29 Marlon Byrd 578 .288/.355/.441 64 14 71 6 Drew Stubbs 638 .237/.320/.360 72 10 45 28 Ryan Church 507 .271/.349/.414 55 12 61 5 Melky Cabrera 442 .273/.341/.404 50 10 53 9 Ryan Sweeney 530 .286/.354/.424 63 11 55 7 Tony Gwynn 378 .262/.336/.345 47 2 21 11 Jordan Schafer 214 .236/.316/.391 21 4 16 4 Kosuke Fukudome 539 .260/.383/.394 69 9 47 6
This line for Wells looks right to me-if the three outfield positions weren’t so loaded, he might rank in the three-star tier, but there are just too many other options for him to be anywhere but here. Jackson isn’t set to hit for any kind of power, but if he can lift his batting average out of that .260 range, then his line will look a bit more attractive. If his weighted mean equals Wells’, his ceiling should put him a bit higher. Rowand is pretty unexciting-I would be shocked if he matched that forecast, given his past two years in San Francisco. Gomez is good for steals and that’s about all-I have a hard time trusting the R total from a guy with a .315 OBP.
Gwynn Jr. might be a more attractive option due to his legs if he were playing more often, but with Scott Hairston and Will Venable around-plus Jerry Hairston Jr. doing everything short of pitching and catching on a daily basis-his PA will stay down. Schafer has lost some of his shine thanks to the rise of Jason Heyward, but he’s still worth a look in deep leagues just in case he can wrest some PAs from anyone in that Braves lineup.
One Star Player PA AVG/ OBP/ SLG R HR RBI SB Felix Pie 333 .270/.326/.445 46 10 42 5 Gerardo Parra 338 .281/.337/.413 37 5 35 6 Michael Brantley 308 .277/.347/.367 46 4 33 18 Scott Podsednik 479 .275/.337/.381 54 5 36 14
There’s a reason these guys keep popping up in these lists, despite being one-star guys: they are available at each outfield position, which does have some value as long as they utilize that on the field.
There you have it-all three outfield positions, individually wrapped for your drafting needs. As I’ve said in the past, there will be a unified list of all outfielders for you soon, so please don’t fret.