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March 4, 2010

Fantasy Focus

Center Fielders

by Marc Normandin

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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.

27 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Fantasy Article Team Health Reports: M... (03/04)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Right F... (03/03)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Draft E... (03/05)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (03/04)

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