The rankings of the positions in the AL East chugs along to center field, an area where there is tight competition at the top. One of those players has traded a World Series for pinstripes, but is he first on the list…
Also, I included most of the backup outfielders in the LF rankings, but some guys are certainly more suited for CF. They will be included among the backups. And if you are looking for the past rankings, they are all located at the bottom.
1. Baltimore Orioles
Jones takes the top spot for the Orioles in a very close competition with Jacoby Ellsbury. I saw another ranking recently, and someone asked, would you trade Jones for Ellsbury straight up. I think Brian Cashman would say yes every time. Both are above average defenders, but Jones provides some of the best power from the CF position in the AL, as evident from his silver slugger award in 2013. Jones has only missed two games over the past two seasons. His batting average over the last four years has been between .280 and .290 each year, but Jones does not take a lot of walks. So you have to live with the low OBP, but the number of home runs he hits, 30+ the last two seasons, makes up for it.
Peguero came to the Orioles from the San Francisco Giants and is fighting for a roster spot, while Berry, a close friend of Jones as detailed here, was signed to a minor league deal; and Borbon was a minor-league Rule 5 pick, despite having major league experience. Chances are with the O’s wanting to keep Delmon Young that none of these three make the team, and David Lough would shift to CF if Jonesy needs a day off.
2. New York Yankees
Ellsbury comes in a close second after leaving Boston for New York. While Jones brings power to the center field position, Ellsbury brings speed. In his career year of 2011, Ellsbury did hit 32 home runs on his way to being a silver slugger, gold glover, All-Star and second in the MVP race. However, every other year he has hit less than 10 home runs. He has been in the top 10 in stolen bases three times, including 2013 when he swiped 52 bags. However, there are concerns about his durability. The Yankees are paying him over 20 million a year for a player older than Jones, so they hope he can stay healthy. Ellsbury’s average numbers have been a bit inconsistent, but his career average of .297 is certainly quite high, and anytime he gets on base he makes it tough on opposing pitchers.
If Ellsbury was to need a day off, or get injured, the capable but aging Ichiro is the backup, and at his age playing CF he would be a liability.
3. Tampa Bay Rays
Stop me if you have heard this before, Jennings numbers aren’t overly impressive. It seems like there are a number of Rays about whom I have said the same, but he fits their offense. Only a career .250 hitter, Jennings supplies plus speed and some power in the Rays’ OF. Another very sound defender in center, Jennings typically bats in one of the first slots in the Rays batting order and sets the table for their offense.
4. Toronto Blue Jays
Colby Rasmus is a player, like many on the Jays, that they are hoping puts it all together. In five big league seasons, he has played more than 100 games each year. He has two seasons with a batting average of .276, two seasons with a batting average of .225 and .223 and one at .251, which was his rookie year. That all averages out to .248 batting average. Rasmus also doesn’t take many walks, but does have the ability to hit with some power, as evident by having 20 plus HRs three times in five years. Not a big stolen base guy, Rasmus has the required speed for a center fielder, but is also likely the worst defensively out of all the CFs in the AL East.
Gose is his backup, and many think could someday force Rasmus to a corner outfield position as he was considered one of the Jays top prospects. Gose came to the Jays in the Roy Halladay trade and has appeared in over 50 games each of the last two years, starting 49 and 37 in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
5. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox were alright with Jacoby Ellsbury leaving because they weren’t going to give him the outrageous contract the Yankees did, and they have Bradley ready for the majors. Bradley Jr. was drafted in the first round in 2011, and at 23, is another young player ready to make his mark on the Sox. Just like Xander Bogaerts, I have to rank him last because it is hard to tell what to expect. He started 26 games in 2013 and struggled, hitting to only a .189 average with 18 hits and 31 strikeouts. Bradley has some speed, as evident by his 24 stolen bases in the minors in 2012. But he isn’t a big home run guy, and his numbers in the minors are largely uneven.
If Bradley struggles in the majors, Sizemore is attempting to prove he can be a major league player again this year. Otherwise, the Red Sox may be stuck moving Shane Victorino to center field and being weaker in the outfield.
As always, feel free to sound off if you disagree. And for the previous rankings, check out the links below: