Thanks to the efforts of Sean Smith and Jeff Sackmann, we now have TotalZone stats for the minor leagues, which can be found at players' pages at Minor League Splits. You can read up on how useful and reliable these stats are here.
Yesterday we looked at shortstops, today let's tackle center fielders. Charted below are the 2008 stats for the consensus top center field prospects, or at least those who played enough games at the position to qualify.
Colby Rasmus slumped at the plate last year, but his defense did not. He has been a consistent performer in center the last four years, worth +30 runs. Tony La Russa is probably mismanaging his resources a bit; he's pushing Rasmus to left field in favor of Rick Ankiel, who is projected to cost his team 4 runs in center but projects to be +4 in a corner. CHONE projects Rasmus to be +10 in a corner and +4 in center. Not a real big difference, but an extra couple of runs is an extra couple of runs.
- Cameron Maybin on the other hand has been up and down. He was outstanding in 2006 (+18), bad in 2007 (-12) and then around average in '08.
Dexter Fowler has a similar story as Maybin, only with a twist. '06: -16. '07: +18. '08: +1. Could it have something to do with some home park issues going on in Asheville? Anthony Jackson was Asheville's CF in '07, he posted a +6 away and a -15 home. Michael Mitchell was Asheville's regular CF last year and was -17 at home and + 4 away. Fowler was -17 when he was at Ashville, +1 on the road. McCormick Field must be some sort of Bermuda Triangle for center fielders.
Andrew McCutchen has been a rock with +9, +8, +9 for his last three seasons. He ought to push Nate McLouth to a corner spot some point this year.
Austin Jackson is probably the Yankees' future right fielder rather than center fielder. He also was a -14 season in 2006. His bat doesn't profile nearly as well in a corner position. Brett Gardner is not in Jackson's class as far as prospect status, but has posted +13, +1 and +9 at different points in his career.
I've talked about Schafer and Hernandez before. Both have reputations for being superior center fielders, Hernandez has the numbers to back it up. Unreal numbers, actually, and it's not just over one year, he's been worth +53 runs over the last three seasons. Schafer will most likely be the Braves starting CF for 2009, but has been -17 runs since 2005. He had a couple of bad seasons followed by a couple of average ones, so he has improved.
- Greg Halman, Fernando Martinez, Aaron Cunningham and Gerardo Parra all are expected to be corner outfielders in the majors according to their scouting reports. TZ wholeheartedly concurs.
- Julio Borbon and Jon Jay are your speedy, contact-oriented type of center fielders. Neither have drawn raves for the defense, but both are coming off terrific seasons.
- Drew Stubbs' comes with a few questions about his bat, but not his glove. He has been worth +39 runs through '06-'08.
Rally explains that with center fielders, these stats translate well from one level to the next, give or take a run or two. The average center fielder in Low A is about as good as the average major league center fielder.