Integrated rankings are difficult as best. It is impossible to be all things for all people. Some people play in five category leagues while others do six category or total points leagues. We are trying to consider all elements at the same time as considering center fielders alone along with comparing them to corner outfielders. So, what we have is a list based a lot on guess work. However, the components themselves are fairly scientific.
Total points is based on a formula based loosely on what you might see on various betting sites. It is my own since all of them do their own. The projections are based on the past three seasons prorated to either 600 or 500 plate appearances. Breakdowns there are based on health history and likely usage in the next season.
Total points= TB + Runs + RBI + SB + BB + HBP – SO – CS – GIDP
Mike Trout—Los Angeles Angels
Points: 1472 (1st)
PPG: 3.56 (1st)
Projection: .312/34 HR/106 Runs/84 RBI/25 SB/111 BB (1st)
Unfortunately, he is no longer the top fantasy player on the board based on total points. One of the reasons why I love total points is that it allows you to compare players easily. It’s not enough to simply rank players. You want to know how much better Trout is than the next best center fielder. Total points does that where standard five category comparisons do not. Charlie Blackmon is pretty close.
Charlie Blackmon—Colorado Rockies
Points: 1470 (2nd)
PPG: 3.21 (2nd)
Projection: .315/28 HR/107 Runs/74 RBI/13 SB/49 BB (2nd)
I don’t care where you produce these numbers. Fantasy doesn’t make such allowances. Sites like Fangraphs, BRef, and Baseball Prospectus will certainly cut him down a peg or two. That only matters if he ever leaves town and after signing an extension that isn’t very likely.
George Springer—Houston Astros
Points: 1080 (3rd)
PPG: 2.44 (5th)
Projection: .269/26 HR/99 Runs/72 RBI/6 SB/64 BB (5th)
The drop off is pretty significant from number two to number three. The trouble with Springer is that the potential is clear to see. He has a 1.026 OPS in 147 postseason plate appearances. If you prorated his numbers over 600 you’d get 44 home runs. Sadly, you won’t ever see those numbers in the regular season. He’s good, but some might overvalue him.
Cody Bellinger—Los Angeles Dodgers
Points: 733 (12th)
PPG: 2.49 (4th)
Projection: .263/33 HR/87 Runs/88 RBI/12 SB/68 BB (3rd)
The difference between Springer and Bellinger is only a couple of years. Bellinger is at the point where he will either take a step forward or stagnate. His sophomore season saw him take a tiny step backwards. Pitchers found a hole and now it is his turn to fill it.
Lorenzo Cain—Milwaukee Brewers
Points: 923 (6th)
PPG: 2.32 (7th)
Projection: .293/12 HR/82 Runs/49 RBI/25 SB/55 BB (7th)
Back in the salad days of the Royals, there was talk of Cain winning the MVP award. He would be a poor man’s Mookie Betts today. Great defense and good offense equals greatness. Betts obviously has more power and that is the ultimate difference. This is where you have to consider the format you are playing in.
Starling Marte—Pittsburgh Pirates
Points: 827 (9th)
PPG: 2.36 (6th)
Projection: .289/15 HR/81 Runs/61 RBI/41 SB/32 BB (8th)
How you feel about Marte depends largely on the format you are playing. He is great in a standard 5×5 league. The steals play up and the walks play down. In any other format you begin to see a lot of warts. Sooner or later you stop pining for the player you think he should be and accept the player that he is. Plan accordingly.
Jackie Bradley Jr.—Boston Red Sox
Points: 880 (7th)
PPG: 2.03 (11th)
Projection: .250/21 HR/85 Runs/78 RBI/13 SB/58 BB (6th)
Bradley is many things to many people. He is the guy that had a very disappointing regular season last year. He’s a guy that was the ALCS MVP with two homers and nine RBI in five games. He’s a guy with a career 93 OPS+ as well. So, picking him this high would seem to be foolish and you can probably surmise that most people don’t have him this high on the list.
Ender Inciarte—Atlanta Braves
Points: 1024 (4th)
PPG: 2.31 (8th)
Projection: .287/7 HR/77 Runs/45 RBI/20 SB/44 BB (15th)
Inciarte is a poor man’s Lorenzo Cain. He is a very good defensive outfielder (+86 runs since 2014). So, anything he produces offensively is a bonus. Fielding is not important until you start considering playing time. You want to keep guys like Inciarte on the field. So, he should get 600 or 700 plate appearances every season as long as he is healthy.
Aaron Hicks—New York Yankees
Points: 743 (11th)
PPG: 2.14 (10th)
Projection: .244/23 HR/81 Runs/75 RBI/11 SB/79 BB (9th)
Hicks exploded last season after finally getting consistent playing time in New York. It’s hard to bet completely on one season, but you don’t see too many players capable of producing 25 home runs and ten stolen bases. If you are a gambling man you can bet on him taking the next step. I wouldn’t quite yet though.
A.J. Pollock—Free Agent
Points: 596 (16th)
PPG: 2.51 (2nd)
Projection: .261/19 HR/74 Runs/61 RBI/19 SB/37 BB
Pollock wants four years and 64 million dollars (or so). It’s hard to imagine him making that kind of money when he hasn’t been healthy. The projection is based on 500 plate appearances. He could easily snap out of it and produce a 600 plate appearance season. In that case he moves up the board considerably.
Adam Jones—Free Agent
Points: 972 (5th)
PPG: 2.19 (9th)
Projection: .277/18 HR/58 Runs/57 RBI/3 SB/23 BB (19th)
No one is really quite sure what will happen for Jones from here. He really isn’t a centerfielder anymore and he probably isn’t a regular (thus the 500 PA projection). Depending on where he lands he could be a good complimentary piece. If he places on a bad team he could end up getting closer to 600 PA. So, I guess there are good and bad points all the way around.
Chris Taylor—Los Angeles Dodgers
Points: 637 (15th)
PPG: 1.92 (15th)
Projection: .267/19 HR/86 Runs/69 RBI/13 SB/53 BB (5th)
The Dodgers are a fascinating team. Every offseason they deal away multiple expensive parts in the interest of consolidating their assets. Yet, they seem to have extra pieces lying around every year. It’s like putting together the children’s bike and having parts left over. No one is really quite sure how that happens. Taylor can fit in multiple spots, so chances are he will wind up with a full allotment of plate appearances in the end.
Odubel Herrera—Philadelphia Phillies
Points: 869 (8th)
PPG: 1.95 (13th)
Projection: .274/17 HR/72 Runs/58 RBI/13 SB/44 BB (14th)
Herrera is a bridge player. He is a solid defensive player and a solid offensive one, but he isn’t good in either facet. So, when a team bridges from being an also-ran to a contender they have to decide whether to continue to invest in that player. In fantasy terms he is very similar. In a generic outfielder format he is probably a fourth or fifth outfielder in standard 12 team leagues. If he starts occasionally for you, you will be fine. If he’s playing full-time you are probably in trouble.
Kevin Kiermaier—Tampa Bay Rays
Points: 574 (17th)
PPG: 1.97 (12th)
Projection: .248/17 HR/77 Runs/52 RBI/23 SB/48 BB (12th)
For a while, there was a tee-shirt that stated, “Two-thirds of the world is covered in water, the other third is covered by (insert name here).” That might as well be Kiermaier. He is probably the best fielding center fielder in baseball. That doesn’t matter much here except that it will keep him on the field and in the batter’s box. He shouldn’t be as bad as he was last year, so he is worth a bench spot in deeper leagues.
Scott Schebler—Cincinnati Reds
Points: 645 (14th)
PPG: 1.95 (13th)
Projection: .248/23 HR/62 Runs/63 RBI/4 SB/39 BB (18th)
Rosterresource.com (a fantastic site by the way) has listed Schebler as the Reds’ Opening Day centerfielder. He spent most of his time in right field in the past. The Reds famously cut ties with Billy Hamilton. You get the appeal of the speed burner, but they are much better off with their new outfield. All three should surpass 20 HR next season if healthy.
Kevin Pillar—Toronto Blue Jays
Points: 816 (10th)
PPG: 1.85 (16th)
Projection: .258/13 HR/67 Runs/53 RBI/15 SB/26 BB (20th)
Sadly, highlight reels aren’t a fantasy category. Pillar is the kind of guy you think should be better than he is. That probably includes defensive metrics as well. He will get to play and play regularly. When you get to this point in fantasy rankings you probably are good with that.
Billy Hamilton—Kansas City Royals
Points: 692 (13th)
PPG: 1.68 (17th)
Projection: .247/4 HR/83 Runs/31 RBI/55 SB/46 BB (17th)
I really don’t hate Hamilton. After all, I don’t know him personally. I hate what he represents. His speed has kept fantasy owners enslaved for years. People draft him way too high because they want all of those steals. They are willing to sacrifice three of the five categories to get it. Total points put steals in their proper context. The Royals are going for 200 steals next season and they probably will sport an OBP near .300. It ought to be interesting to watch.
Mallex Smith—Seattle Mariners
Points: 478 (18th)
PPG: 1.63 (18th)
Projection: .277/4 HR/73 Runs/43 RBI/41 SB/52 BB (13th)
Smith is essentially Hamilton with less speed and more contact. He also walks a little more often. So, he is a better baseball player and somehow a lesser fantasy prospect. I’d rather have him on my bench because he has more potential to grow. We know what Hamilton is at this point, but Smith only has one full season under his belt.
Harrison Bader—St. Louis Cardinals
Points: 220 (21st)
PPG: 1.29 (21st)
Projection: .259/17 HR/82 Runs/54 RBI/20 SB/42 BB (10th)
We know how this story goes. First there was Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk. Then, there was Aledyms Diaz. Finally, we had Paul Dejong. All of them burst on the scene and overachieved in their first season. They also either took a step back or fizzled out altogether. Bader is a better defender than all of them and maybe he has an outside chance of turning into another Tommy Pham.
Byron Buxton—Minnesota Twins
Points: 363 (20th)
PPG: 1.40 (20th)
Projection: .230/16 HR/77 Runs/55 RBI/26 SB/39 BB (16th)
It’s hard to believe that there were some that favored him over Carlos Correa in that fateful amateur draft years ago. He will also be only 25 next season, so the book has not been closed on those two yet. Buxton clearly has upside, but the clock might be running out on his chance to establish himself as the star people thought he would be.