Reviewing the AL East 2015 Projections: Center Field


Sep 19, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones (10) hits a RBI single during the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

While left field is a weak position in the AL East, center field is quite different. Three players broke out in 2015, three that weren’t even expected to be starters. But each of them were, and each had good-to-great offensive seasons to go along with really good years defensively.

However, I kept the mainstay at the top of the division. But the one who fell to the cellar is a different story.

Rankings will include anyone who started more than 10 games during the season.

Preseason Rankings

  1. Baltimore Orioles – Adam Jones, David Lough
  2. New York Yankees – Jacoby Ellsbury, Chris Young, Mason Williams
  3. Boston Red Sox – Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr.
  4. Tampa Bay Rays – Desmond Jennings, Mikie Mahtook
  5. Toronto Blue Jays – Dalton Pompey, Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera, Chris Dickerson

End of Season Rankings

1. Baltimore Orioles – Adam Jones, David Lough

Adam Jones played his fewest games since 2009 for the Orioles, but continued to be one of the best outfielders in the American League. Jones finished with a line of .269 with 27 HRs, 82 RBIs, 74 R, 25 2B, and an All-Star appearance.

Jones also had the second most assists by center fielders in the American League, behind only fellow AL East member Kevin Kiermaier. And this came with a shoulder injury that lasted much of the year.  The O’s held Jones out of many games at the end of the year, as his injuries mounted up over the season. Jones continues to be the undisputed leader of this team, and his productivity is so important to the offense.

Lough played in just over 10 games, over two separate stints for the O’s. Lough was sent down in the second half of the year, as he failed to take advantage of his opportunities as a regular player.

2. Boston Red Sox – Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley

It is really hard to separate Mookie Betts, Kevin Pillar and Kevin Kiermaier. All had great defensive seasons. All had breakout seasons. So, I’m going with the player who had the best offense, because the defense is so close. I know in the world of advanced stats, some might say I should go off WAR, or dWAR, or oWAR.

Also, I’m going off the eye test.  Seeing a lot of AL East play, these players were close, but who would you trust more in a clutch at-bat? I would go with Betts.

Mookie finished with a line of .291, 18 HR, 77 RBIs, 42 2B, 94 R, 21 SBs, 286 total bases. Betts finished with a total WAR of 6.0, 7th in the AL among position players. Betts was third in the AL in doubles, and is only 23 years old. Center field is in great hands in Boston moving forward.

3. Toronto Blue Jays – Kevin Pillar, Dalton Pompey

I projected the Jays ‘ CFs to be the worst in the AL East, because I didn’t trust Pompey as the starter. Well, that was smart. But I don’t know that anyone would have guessed how good Pillar would be.

Kevin Pillar may not have been the projected starter, but he quickly took control of center field. He was a regular on the highlight shows with his defense in center.

Pillar finished with a .278 average, 12 HR, 56 RBIs, 76 R, 31 2Bs, 25 SBs, and a fabulous WAR of 5.6. It is arguable that Pillar had a better year than Jones, but when you factor in that Pillar’s numbers came in 159 games, and Jones in 137, Jones gets the edge.

It is safe to say the Jays won’t have to worry about who their center fielder is to start 2016. Pompey played in only 34 games, and struggled for the Jays. At only 22 years old, Dalton may still need a little more seasoning before ready for the big leagues.

4. Tampa Bay Rays – Kevin Kiermaier, Brandon Guyer

I had the Rays’ CFs ranked fourth, mainly because I didn’t think Kiermaier would see time at CF. I knew what we would see from Desmond Jennings (not much) and went with him as the starter.

More from Baltimore Orioles

Kevin Kiermaier was another player who was expected to be a utility player, but had a fantastic first season as a starter. The 25-year-old was another regular on the highlight shows, and finished with the best defensive WAR in the American League at 5.0. Any kind of defensive statistic for center fielders, Kiermaier was in the top 5, if not the top 3. He was fantastic.

Offensively, Kiermaier put up a .263 average, 10 HR, 40 RBIs, 62 R, 25 2B, 10 3B and 18 stolen bases. A very complete line for Kiermaier for the season. Guyer, as discussed at left field, also had a good season for the Rays, backing up at numerous positions.

5. New York Yankees – Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner

Ellsbury made $21 million dollars in 2015, and finished with the fewest games played among starting center fielders, as staying healthy continues to be an issue. He had a line of .257, 7 HR, 33 RBIs, 21 SBs, 15 2Bs, 66 R and a WAR of only 1.9.

At 31 years old, Ellsbury is also the oldest CF in the AL East. Gardner, of course was the starting left fielder, but played in center field when Ellsbury was out.

Orioles Outlook

Center Field is the most stable position the O’s have. Adam Jones is a leader of the team, and will have the offseason to get healthy and prepare to lead the team in 2016.

Next: Looking back at preseason predictions for left field