A friendly reminder on how this works. I asked three scouts and two front-office members the following question: If you could start your franchise with one player at each position, who do you take? I then asked those scouts/front-office members to submit an MVP-style ballot at each position, with the first-place vote counting for five points, second place for four, etc.

Next up: center field. Everyone reading this knows how important center field is, so I won’t waste your time by telling you that many of the game’s best players play here. I guess I just did, though. The position isn’t as loaded as it once was, but there are plenty of talented options, and as you’ll see from the answers, those players draw a wide variety of opinions.

A note on Byron Buxton: Buxton is without question the best center field prospect in baseball. At the time I surveyed these gentleman, Buxton was in Minnesota, and wasn’t eligible. He’s also back in the majors now, so that is somewhat serendipitous. To quench everyone’s curiosity, I asked all five if they would have voted for Buxton if he was eligible. The answers will not surprise you.


AL front-office member: Manuel Margot, Boston Red Sox

Why: “If [Margot] was in any other system than Boston’s, we’d be talking about this guy a lot more. The hit tool could get to plus, he’s a plus-plus runner and he’s developing some pop with a body that should add some strength. All of the guys in my vote have a chance to be really good outfielders, but Margot is the one I could see becoming a star.”

Would you vote for Buxton? “Yes.”

His top five: 1. Margot 2. Bradley Zimmer, Cleveland 3. David Dahl, Colorado Rockies 4. Brett Phillips, Milwaukee Brewers 5. Austin Meadows, Pittsburgh Pirates


NL West scout: Meadows

Why: “[Meadows] might be the most underrated hitter in the minor leagues right now, and I have no idea why, it’s not like he wasn’t well-known coming out of high school. I love his swing, he stays balanced through the zone exceptionally well, and he shoots the ball to every part of the park. The power is coming and he’s shown more in-game this year, and he’s someone who can steal 20 to 30 bases as well. My only concern is that teams are going to run on him because the arm isn’t great, but he’s going to get on base and hit for power enough to make up for that. He’s a really good player.”

Would you vote for Buxton? “Yep.”

His top five: 1. Meadows 2. Zimmer 3. Margot 4. Victor Robles, Washington Nationals 5. Phillips


AL Central scout: Margot

Why: “The bat-to-ball skills [with Margot] are really impressive, there’s very little swing-and-miss here. He’s the type of guy who can hit .300 just on his natural ability, but because he runs so well and can get on by laying down bunts it wouldn’t surprise me if he won a batting title someday. I can’t say that about any of the other guys that play the position that come to mind. He’s got some work to be done defensively, but that’s the facts with most kids his age, he’ll be fine and probably hit at the top of the Boston order for a long time, assuming they can find a spot for him to play when he’s ready in a couple of years.”

Would you vote for Buxton? “Yes.”

His top five: 1. Margot 2. Dahl 3. Zimmer 4. Meadows 5. Lewis Brinson, Texas Rangers


AL East scout: Zimmer

“How this kid lasted as late in the draft last year I’ll never understand, Cleveland should thank their lucky stars every day that he fell into their laps.

Why: Margot is probably the most athletic and talented option, but the best baseball player is Zimmer. The feel for the strike zone is in the upper echelon, there’s more power than any of us thought and he’s got a cannon for an arm. I guess the question is if his body type will allow him to stay in center field, but you don’t move him until you absolutely have to, and honestly I think the athleticism and his ability to get jumps in the outfield mean he won’t have to move to right for a long, long time.”

Would you vote for Buxton? “Of course.”

His top five: 1. Zimmer 2. Margot 3. Dahl 4. Meadows 5. Phillips


NL front-office member: Phillips

Why: “This was probably the best prospect that was traded over the deadline, him or Daniel Norris I guess, but I’ll take the position player over the pitcher who might not be able to throw strikes.

There are baseball players who are athletic, and there are athletes who play baseball. Phillips is a baseball player with loads of athleticism who has seen every tool take strides over the past couple of years. There are four above-average tools at his disposal, and the run is plus-plus. Whether or not he sticks in center field he’s going to be a weapon for the Brewers, you’re just going to have to be a little patient as everything is still a work in progress. The progress he’s made though is really something.”

Would you vote for Buxton? “Yes.”

His top five: 1. Phillips 2. Margot 3. Meadows 4. Brinson 5. Dahl

Points: Margot 21, Zimmer 16, Meadows 13, Phillips 10, Dahl 10, Brinson 3, Robles 2

Winner: Margot


In addition to the names above, I asked some members of the prospect team which center field prospect they’d start with.

Mark Anderson: With Buxton off the board, the debate becomes much more interesting. I find it easy to be tempted by guys like Manuel Margot or Bradley Zimmer, but in the end I swing back to the potential impact player that is David Dahl. There's a lot of risk in this decision, but if I'm starting a franchise, I want the guy with the gifts to be a star-caliber player, and Dahl offers just that. I'm a huge believer in the hit tool playing to at least a plus level, particularly in light of the strides he has made with his approach this year, and I've seen enough to believe the above-average power can play in games. On top of that, his defense will keep him in the middle of the outfield, making him a middle of the order hitter and quality defender at a premium position. Though not alone in this regard, I have long been extremely high on Dahl, and I'm not about to back off now.

Brendan Gawlowski: It’s probably because of all of the promotions we’ve seen over the last year, but this feels like a relatively weak crop of center fielders to pick from. There isn’t a slam dunk star in the group and most of the obvious choices have serious flaws in their offensive profile. All of that pushes me to take the well-rounded Manuel Margot.

I love the controlled violence in Margot’s swing: he takes a serious hack up there, but his eyes stay on the ball through contact and he has tremendous bat-to-ball skills. He’s not real big right now but he has the kind of build that should translate into decent power at full maturity. 20/20 seasons aren’t out of the question for him, and I’ll sign up for that even if it comes with a low OBP. Plus, even if Margot falls a bit short of his offensive ceiling, he has the speed and defensive chops to carve out a career as a starter in center.

Wilson Karaman: In a battle of two prospects who lost their initial bursts of helium, I'll take David Dahl with an honorable mention for Lewis Brinson. Dahl's ceiling remains unchanged, and it's one that can include five above-average realized tools. The injury history and lost development time is moderately concerning, but he's still just 21 and recent reports indicate the physical potential is still intact on the other end of his gruesome injury this spring. Brinson can be an impact defender in center thanks to premium athleticism, but I have enough questions about his ability to hit consistently that I'll lean with Dahl right now.

My choice: This is the most difficult choice so far, as evidenced by just how close this vote was and how many different answers we received for first place from the scouts, front-office members and prospect team.

If I’m going pure upside, I’m going with Margot. The stat line isn’t as impressive as some of the other names mentioned, but the talent is exceptional, and when you keep in mind how young he is playing at Double-A it quashes some of the concerns of the less-than-spectacular slashes.

As someone who values upside and respects floor though, I have to go with Zimmer. He’s been fantastic, and I loved what I saw once again in my life look at the Futures Game. He may be the least likely of the players who received votes to stay in center field, but I give him every chance, and if he can, he has a chance to be an all-star who helps you win in every facet of the game – there aren’t too many players you can say that about right now.

Thank you for reading

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No Bubba Starling? This list is clearly sus.
Meadows is pretty unlikely to stay in CF since Marte and Polanco are both better there than he is.
Not sure why Nick Williams isn't getting a mention here. The Phils seem determined to at least try him in CF. Not that he would be on the list due to the uncertainty, but no comment?
So it's not at all clear from the it correct to assume that only minor leaguers are eligible?
That's not directly stated but these are all in the minors. What I found interesting is that not only are none of them in MLB, none of them are even in AAA yet... unless I overlooked someone.
Yes, only MiLB players are eligible, hence the intro that explains Buxton...
How about Alford?
Was surprised he wasn't mentioned, but I get that the track-record is a little concerning to some.