“Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today. Put me coach I’m ready to play. Look at me I can be center field.” — John Fogerty
It is probably no coincidence that center field has arguably the best player in the game today. Go back to when we were children and there were three positions you wanted to play. In some instances you played all three. We’ve already covered shortstops, so now we come to center field.
We’ve already covered the three year rankings and as we have seen, that leaves out any number of young players. So, we are looking at the Steamer projections for the six main categories. These are guesses as well and probably not as accurate as what we have seen, but we must take a look at some young players to give a full picture of the position.
Mike Trout– Los Angeles Angels
Projection: .300, 37 HR, 112 Runs, 100 RBI, 19 SB, 117 BB
Bill James once said of Babe Ruth that no player evaluation system could be legitimate if it didn’t have him as the top player of all-time. Well, the same could be said for modern projection systems and Mike Trout. Of course, that is hyperbole, but while he is in his prime it is also true.
Charlie Blackmon– Colorado Rockies
Projection: .287, 27 HR, 105 Runs, 79 RBI, 13 SB, 56 BB
The trick is not in ranking players, but in determining the distance between two particular players. Trout is head and shoulders above everyone else. Blackmon is also head and shoulders in front of the next man.
George Springer– Houston Astros
Projection: .263, 26 HR, 95 Runs, 75 RBI, 8 SB, 71 BB
Springer was the World Series MVP in 2017 and had another productive postseason last year. It is easy to get carried and extrapolate postseason performance moving forward. You are almost always better off taking a player for what he has done in the regular season.
Lorenzo Cain– Milwaukee Brewers
Projection: .284, 15 HR, 86 Runs, 59 RBI, 22 SB, 59 BB
It’s too bad that WAR isn’t a category. Cain is a gifted defender on top of being a very good offensive player. He isn’t elite in either category, but when you are very good in both you are an elite performer. It’s too bad they don’t count the defense.
Starling Marte– Pittsburgh Pirates
Projection: .282, 17 HR, 79 Runs, 71 RBI, 34 SB, 35 BB
If you are playing in a standard 5×5 format then Marte is a very good play. He gives you a little bit of everything. In more advanced formats his inability to steal first base is problematic, so you can plan accordingly.
Aaron Hicks– New York Yankees
Projection: .248, 22 HR, 80 Runs, 70 RBI, 10 SB, 76 BB
Hicks came of age last season after bouncing around for several seasons. It almost reminds you of David Ortiz. Both players came from Minnesota where they did not realize their full potential. Of course, Hicks isn’t quite as good offensively, but might be of similar value overall.
A.J. Pollock– Los Angeles Dodgers
Projection: .252, 19 HR, 70 Runs, 62 RBI, 15 SB, 41 BB
There is much talk about the economic downturn in the game. He signed a four year and 50 million dollar deal with an option for ten million in a fifth season. This is all for a guy that has played in more than 113 games once since 2013.
Victor Robles– Washington Nationals
Projection: .274, 12 HR, 69 Runs, 59 RBI, 27 SB, 38 BB
Every season brings a new phenom in the fantasy landscape. There are a few if we include guys like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. it could be a very exciting season for fantasy baseball players. He is the main reason why the Nats aren’t going all in on Bryce Harper.
Odubel Herrera– Philadelphia Phillies
Projection: .267, 18 HR, 66 Runs, 69 RBI, 8 SB, 44 BB
Herrera doesn’t do anything particularly well, but he doesn’t have any major weaknesses either. He is the kind of boat that rises with the tide. The Phillies will be better next season and he should be too.
Mallex Smith– Seattle Mariners
Projection: .263, 6 HR, 78 Runs, 50 RBI, 40 SB, 54 BB
This was another shrewd trade by the Mariners. Mike Zunino is a below average catcher and they were able to get Smith for him. He won’t make anyone forget Mike Trout, but he is definitely above average.
Ender Inciarte– Atlanta Braves
Projection: .274, 9 HR, 67 Runs, 58 RBI, 23 SB, 46 BB
It is ironic that both Inciarte and Andrelton Simmons were in the same organization, but briefly so. They are essentially the same player at different positions. Inciarte plays because of his defense just like Simmons.
Jackie Bradley– Boston Red Sox
Projection: .248, 15 HR, 65 Runs, 63 RBI, 11 SB, 49 BB
Bradley is another version of Springer. He had a brilliant postseason which would lead some to think he has turned the corner as a player. He may be better this season, but it has little to do with last postseason.
Ramon Laureno– Oakland Athletics
Projection: .252, 16 HR, 69 Runs, 56 RBI, 17 SB, 46 BB
There are the halves and the have nots. While the A’s continue to be a have not they have to put some unproven guys in some key spots. Laureno showed some in the last couple of months of 2018 and could be an under the radar pick this season.
Chris Taylor– Los Angeles Dodgers
Projection: .248, 13 HR, 64 Runs, 61 RBI, 11 SB, 52 BB
The Dodgers have quite a few players that can play a number of positions. Taylor is penciled in as the second baseman next season, but both Enrique Hernandez and Max Muncy can play there as well. Taylor can play all three outfield spots in addition to second base.
Harrison Bader– St. Louis Cardinals
Projection: .245, 17 HR, 59 Runs, 62 RBI, 14 SB, 38 BB
Bader is ultimately the reason why the Cards traded Tommy Pham. Like Inciarte and Kevin Kiermaier, he is mainly there for his fielding. Depending on where he hits in the order he could be an interesting late round pick.
Adam Jones– Free Agent
Projection: .266, 18 HR, 62 Runs, 63 RBI, 4 SB, 25 BB
Jones is really not a center fielder anymore. He may not even be an every day player depending on who gets him. It’s the ultimate gut check moment for him. Do you sign with an also ran and play every day or sign with a contender and play part-time.
Byron Buxton– Minnesota Twins
Projection: .244, 15 HR, 59 Runs, 54 RBI, 18 SB, 33 BB
It’s hard to put an entire division race on one guy, but Buxton is the most important guy on the Twins. He was the number two overall pick in the same draft that saw Carlos Correa go to the Astros. There were many then that thought he was more talented. If he can harness that talent he could be huge.
Scott Schebler– Cincinnati Reds
Projection: .240, 19 HR, 53 Runs, 62 RBI, 4 SB, 37 BB
Schebler has some upside, but he also comes with tremendous risk. He may not be the center fielder in Cincinnati. They have Jesse Winkler, Nick Senzel, and others in line to compete with him. He’s produced more than they have, so he might get the first crack at the spot.
Kevin Kiermaier– Tampa Bay Rays
Projection: .238, 13 HR, 57 Runs, 50 RBI, 15 SB, 38 BB
If only we could count defensive runs saved. Kiermaier will play because they will want his glove in the lineup as often as possible. Last year was a disaster, but he was passable in seasons past. So maybe he will be again.
Billy Hamilton– Kansas City Royals
Projection: .241, 5 HR, 57 Runs, 41 RBI, 36 SB, 41 BB
Someone dig up Whitey Herzog. The Royals will likely steal more than 200 bases this season if everyone is healthy. The Royals will still likely lose more than 100 games, but they will be entertaining while they do it.