Like shortstops are to the infield, center fielders are the captains of the outfield. Players in the middle of the deep grass have a special skill set like no other spot in baseball. Usually, they have the best wheels, an uncanny defensive ability and an above average arm. Centerfield calls for some of the best players in the game.
This season there is no lack of talent in the middle of the outfield. While some of the older players have moved to corner outfield positions, it seems like a new generation is trying to make its name in centerfield. Mike Trout was a prime example last season and trust me, he’ll be high on this rankings list. But there still is a few unknowns, so here is Couch Side’s official top 10 center fielder of 2013:
10. Chris Young, Oakland Athletics (.231 BA, 14 HR, 41 RBI, 1.9 WAR): This could be the worst pick I’ve made while doing these fantasy baseball rankings, but Chris Young still shows some serious potential. The new change of atmosphere could benefit the 29-year-old as he should see a lot of at bats. Although Coco Crisp will be in this lineup, Oakland likes to shake things up a lot and I think Young will find a promising role this year.
9. Denard Span, Washington Nationals (.283 BA, 4 HR, 41 RBI, 17 SB, 4.8 WAR): I was extremely surprised that Span wound up with the Washington Nationals. However, it just may produce a career year for the 29-year-old as he still proves to be one of the best center fielders in the game. He is a perfect lead off hitter and the bottom of the Nats’ lineup is so good that he could score a lot of runs.
8. B.J. Upton, Atlanta Braves (.246 BA, 28 HR, 78 RBI, 31 SB, 17, 2.6 WAR): There’s a huge reason Upton earned an enormous contract with the Braves this offseason. Although he stikes out a lot, Upton is one of the best center fielders in the game because of his uncanny power, incredible defense and surprising speed.
7. Dexter Fowler, Colorado Rockies (.300 BA, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 2.6 WAR): It’s weird that Fowler isn’t a speedster, but he definately makes up for it in plenty of other areas. Last season, the 26-year-old set career highs in RBIs and home runs. If he cant repeat that performance this season, Fowler may make next year’s top five. Obviously, Colorado believes in that after giving Fowler a contract extentison in one of their very few moves this offseason.
6. Adam Jones, Colorado Rockies (.287 BA, 32 HR, 82 RBI, 3.4 WAR): By far, Jones had a career year last season. Don’t let that cloud judgements, though. One-year-wonders usually don’t last when it comes to fantasy baseball. Sure, he was a great player last season, but it was probably the first time he was more than a waiver wire pickup.
5. Michael Bourn, Cleveland Indians (.274 BA, 9 HR, 57 RBI, 42 SB, 6.0 WAR)
Many might think Bourn is the fastest center fielder in the game, but then came along Mike Trout. This 30-year-old is showing signs of his age. Yet, he set a career high in homeruns last year. Bourn’s power seems to be improving. He also always seems to get better on new teams. The Indians will be his fourth, so the potential for more career seasons could be waiting for Bourn. Plus, that speed is definitely still there.
Outfield has always been a crucial position in fantasy baseball leagues. From the outfield spot you can grab some of the best players in the league. When analyzing just right fielders, there are several big name players who may be selected ahead of projections because many of them are entering their prime, or due to potential. Here’s a look at my top right fielders this fantasy season.
Right fielders just outside of my top five stack up as the following: Alex Rios, CWS, Carlos Beltran, STL, Nelson Cruz, TEX, Ben Zobrist, TAM, Nick Markakis, BAL, Nick Swisher, CLE.
5. Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds (.252 BA, 34 HR, 99 RBI, 1.4 WAR)
If the right field class wasn’t so stacked, Bruce would be higher up.The 6-foot-3 lefty oozes potential. He’s hit at least 25 home runs since entering the league in 2010, with 34 last year. He knocked in 99 RBIs last year, and should improve on that. As he enters his prime, Bruce will be a 40 home run candidate, and a sleeper to lead the league in home runs. Be careful though, he’s a .255 career hitter who strikes out a lot and walks very little. Also, his career high in steals is just nine.
Editor’s note: Couch Side is very pleased to bring back its annual MLB preseason position power rankings. This year, we will offer two positions every Wednesday and Friday. Each blog ranks the top 10 players at each position and is written by some of Couch Side’s best bloggers. The following is part one of what will be a 12-part series. Enjoy!
BY BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow.com senior blogger
It’s not too hard to identify who the top starting pitchers in baseball are. High strikeout, high innings counts are the biggest factor when ranking the elite talent in the game. Taking age and past performance to account is extremely important when compiling a list, especially since pitcher health can be extremely volatile.
I’ll start off my briefly mentioning by 6-10 on this list. Names I had to leave off, but probably fit into 11-15 are CC Sabathia, Matt Cain, Yu Darvish and RA Dickey.
10. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels (20-8, 2.81 ERA, 188 IP, 142 Ks, 3 WAR — 2012 stats) – Excellent control pitcher who generates a lot of fly ball outs.
9. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies (17-6. 3.05 ERA, 215 IP, 216 Ks, 4.5 WAR — 2012 stats) – Great veteran lefty with an even greater change up.
8. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies (6-9. 3.16 ERA, 211 IP, 207 Ks, 4.9 WAR — 2012 stats)– Don’t let 2012 record fool you, Lee still has pinpoint control.
7. David Price, Tampa Bay Rays (20-5. 2.56 ERA, 211 IP, 205 Ks, 5 WAR — 2012 stats) – Reigning AL CY Young award winner is only 27 and getting better every year.
6. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies (11-8. 4.49 ERA, 156 IP, 132 Ks, 0.7 WAR — 2012 stats) – An injury ached 2012 doesn’t erase recent dominance from a future Hall of Famer.
5. Zack Greinke, L.A. Dodgers (15-5, 3.48 ERA, 212 IP, 200 Ks, 5 WAR)
I’m willing to take some flak for this one, but I’m betting highly on Greinke’s upside to put him in my top 5. He has elite stuff, can hurl it up to 95 with a devastating change up and slow curveball. One problem with defending Greinke is that he’s had recent years of ERAs nearing 4, despite his high strikeout output (career 8 strikeouts-per-9); some of it can be explained by the stat Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP). FIP calculates ERA based solely on pitcher walks, strikeouts, and home runs allowed, without factoring things out of the pitchers control like the play of his fielders behind him. So in theory, FIP says what your ERA should be in a perfect world, even while admitting that baseball is never perfect. Here are Greinke’s ERA and FIP the past three seasons.
2010: 4.17 ERA, 3.34 FIP
2011: 3.83 ERA, 2.98 FIP
2012: 3.48 ERA, 3.10 FIP
His ERA being consistently higher than his FIP despite his ability to get strikeouts is odd. For some reason Greinke hasn’t been able to prevent blowup innings, which some might chalk up to his mental fragility. I’m not going to play this card, because Greinke received a massive contract to pitch most of his games in Dodger Stadium, and other favorable pitchers parks in the NL West. Getting to face some weaker lineups can easily boost his numbers to the point where he’s looked at as a true elite pitcher.