“Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today. Look at me I can be center field.” — John Fogerty
It would be an interesting battle between shortstop and center field as to which is the premier position on the diamond. Suffice it to say, the superior athletes are playing one position or the other. It would make sense that the center fielders on our list would put up better numbers collectively than their corner outfield counterparts. However, as we will see with the median numbers we will see that this isn’t necessarily the case.
Instead of ranking players 1-24, we are comparing each with the median at the position. The median is defined as the average between the 12th and 13th ranked center fielder at the position. We will also show the left field and right field median scores in case you want to compare them with the entire outfield universe. Players that meet or exceed the median will be labeled in green font. Players that fail to meet the median will have red font.
Center Field Median: .268/16 HR/78 Runs/62 RBI/21 SB
Left Field Median: .261/20 HR/71 Runs/70 RBI/12 SB
Right Field Median: .263/21 HR/68 Runs/74 RBI/7 SB
Charlie Blackmon— Colorado Rockies
PECOTA: .286/19/90/69/25 (+5)
3 Year: .300/22/95/71/29
It’s hard to call a five category guy underrated, but Blackmon has consistently flown underneath the radar since being a regular. PECOTA may be underestimating him, but they didn’t become the best projection system in the business by being wildly optimistic. Blackmon has gotten better each passing season, so betting the over on these numbers would seem a decent bet.
Jackie Bradley— Boston Red Sox
PECOTA: .251/17/67/65/7 (+2)
3 Year: .237/12/61/53/7
What do you do when a player comes out of nowhere to produce good numbers? You can assume it’s a fluke and the player will turn back into a pumpkin. You can also assume that the great season was just the beginning of something great. There is anecdotal evidence of both, so the question becomes one of odds. Odds are that Bradley will never be as good as he was in 2016 ever again, but he could be a decent depth piece depending on how long he lasts in your draft.
Byron Buxton— Minnesota Twins
PECOTA: .244/17/63/61/16 (+1)
3 Year: .220/6/30/22/6
Paul Bear Bryant famously said, “potential means you ain’t done nothing yet.” The verbiage may make our grammar teachers wince, but there is a lot of wisdom there. Buxton was a very different player in his second stint in Minnesota last season, so there is hope that he will be that player from here on out. If so, he should be a regular fantasy center fielder for the next decade. Admittedly, that will require you to go on faith.
Lorenzo Cain— Kansas City Royals
PECOTA: .274/11/69/62/24 (+3)
3 Year: .298/10/71/60/23
Cain was a trendy MVP candidate in 2015 just like Alex Gordon was the season before. Ironically, both players seem to be in similar positions now. They’ve suddenly jumped the proverbial shark and have become fantasy also rans. Cain is not as far down the hill as Gordon, but he is also less than two years removed from fantasy dominance. He will give you enough of each category to be relevant, but not much else.
Adam Eaton— Washington Nationals
PECOTA: .277/10/77/56/14 (+1)
3 Year: .290/10/88/50/16
Okay, so the projections are a little worse than the three year average, but that doesn’t fully explain the disconnect between the reality and hype. Eaton has consistently been a two win defensive player, so his overall value greatly exceeds what you see above. Still, the White Sox probably made out like bandits here and some Nats fans will find themselves wanting more.
Jacoby Ellsbury— New York Yankees
PECOTA: .263/12/82/55/28 (+2)
3 Year: .264/11/69/53/27
If you look up the definition of the law of diminishing returns you might see a picture of Ellsbury. The Yankees have spent the past 40 years signing guys like Ellsbury to long-term deals. As long as you don’t expect them to be what they were it all works out, but during their most desperate times you can see the wheels spinning: “if he returns to what he was two, three, or four years ago…” Don’t fall into that same trap.
Dexter Fowler— St. Louis Cardinals
PECOTA: .257/14/86/62/15 (+1)
3 Year: .267/13/82/43/15
No single test or methadology ever encapsulates every player and their value. Fowler is better than this, but the five major categories also don’t capture his best skill. Fowler can be very valuable in OBP or walks leagues. When you add that to the fact that he won’t bury in any category then his value comes into focus. He would make an excellent fourth or fifth outfielder in a 12 team league.
Carlos Gomez— Texas Rangers
PECOTA: .258/19/76/70/26 (+3)
3 Year: .257/16/67/61/23
Gomez managed to parlay a solid August and September into a sizeable one year contract. The Houston experience was a disaster. The question is whether that was a blip on the radar or whether his two months in Arlington was the blip on the radar. Watching his approach to hitting is part comedy and part tragedy. He seems to be forever in search of the first 800 foot home run in history. If they had a fantasy category for falling on your backside following a swing he’d be the number one overall pick.
Curtis Granderson— New York Mets
PECOTA: .227/21/73/62/6 (+2)
3 Year: .241/25/86/65/8
It’s hard to believe that this is the same guy that was an impressive power/speed threat in Detroit. Still, Granderson deserves credit for remaking himself when the speed left. Most members of his species would be on the golf course somewhere reminiscing about the good ol’ days. He’s a decent fantasy regular in six category leagues. Still, PECOTA indicates he is in the decline phase.
Billy Hamilton— Cincinnati Reds
PECOTA: .249/9/93/43/71 (+2)
3 Year: .245/4/66/31/57
In my youth it was Vince Coleman. I was certain he would be a Hall of Famer after stealing 100 or more bases year after year. In my defense, sabermetrics was still operating out of the proverbial basement and a young kid couldn’t fathom the way the world really worked. No one will make that mistake again. Hamilton may steal bases and that’s great, but he hasn’t been a very good baseball player overall. He didn’t relentlessly suck last year, so maybe there is some hope.
Odubel Herrera— Philadelphia Phillies
PECOTA: .273/12/66/62/17 (+2)
3 Year: .292/12/76/45/21
The cruel irony of fantasy sports is that a player like Herrera can play circles around a player like Hamilton and still be the same two category guy. Standard five category leagues simply don’t capture the difference. It’s all about stealing first base in the real game, but most fantasy leagues don’t account for that. Sometimes you can think yourself out of a fantasy trophy. Herrera will win you more real games, but he won’t win you a standard head to head.
Ender Inciarte— Atlanta Braves
PECOTA: .280/7/77/51/21 (+2)
3 Year: .291/4/71/34/19
Some day, most leagues will include the on base element or may replace batting average altogether. Maybe they’ll include defensive runs saved as well, but by then Inciarte will be long gone anyway. Inciarte and Herrera are cut from the same cloth. They are valuable baseball players, but their value isn’t captured in a standard 5×5 league. If healthy, he could be a decent fourth or fifth outfielder in a standard league.