Other than shortstops these players may be the most athletic players on the field. They need to have speed to cover the ground necessary in the center of the diamond to keep balls from finding grass and a strong bat to make them attractive to a lineup. Speed can also equal stolen bases if a good bat exists to get on base. The challenge is finding speed players who have a solid bat, or solid bats who can cover the massive amount of ground coveted by managers. Myworld could not find too many top prospect centerfielder candidates with the graduation of Byron Buxton to the major leagues to fit those categories so we had to compromise.
1) Manuel Margot (Red Sox) - The Red Sox have a young and crowded outfield, but Margot has only seen half a year in AA. Mookie Betts seems to have centerfield covered and Jackie Bradley is a good alternative. Margot has all the tools to fit the ideal centerfield candidate, with the speed to be a very effective leadoff hitter, but his OBA dropped from .362 to .324 this year. He covers a lot of ground in centerfield and stole 39 bases. A lack of power and a weak arm could move him to left field, which would not be a good fit for him. If Jackie Bradley struggles Margot could move Betts to left field. In a couple years someone will have to be traded to accommodate Margot.
2) Lewis Brinson (Rangers) - If Brinson can improve his ability to make contact he could be a special player. In 2013 he was a 20/20 player for homeruns and stolen bases. He also struck out 191 times that year. Leg injuries limited him to 89 games in 2014. This year he fell two stolen bases short of achieving another 20/20 season. The big bright spot is he reduced his strikeout numbers to 98 which resulted in almost a 100 point increase in batting average (.332). Leg injuries bothered him again, restricting his game out put to an even 100. If he can stay healthy he could become a 30/30 player who covers a lot of ground in centerfield.
3) Bradley Zimmer (Indians) - Zimmer was a first round pick of the Indians in 2014. His older brother Kyle was also a first round pick, a pitcher for the Royals drafted in 2012. While Bradley Zimmer also has an arm like his brother than can throw 90 plus fastballs he chose to play the outfield. The Indians are playing him in centerfield where he lacks the blazing speed to cover lots of real estate. His arm is strong enough to fit in right and his 16 homeruns gives him enough bat to fill the position. Last year he slugged .446 but a propensity to strike out (131 in 127 games) may prevent his average from rising above .300. At 6′4″ the lefthanded bat should develop more power as he matures. That could result in reduced speed and a move to a corner.
4) Brett Phillips (Brewers) - Brett was one of the prospects traded by the Astros to the Brewers for Carlos Gomez. He was a sixth round pick of the Astros in 2012 but blossomed in 2014 with a .310 average with a slugging average over .500 between Low and High A. Last year was a deja vu season for him with a .309 average and a slugging average over .500. His OPS was north of .900. His arm is more suited for right but he has the speed to cover ground in centerfield. That speed does not translate into big stolen base numbers. The Brewers see the same kind of tools in Phillips that they found in Gomez. They just hope it does not take as long for Phillips to find those tools as it did Gomez.
5) Clint Frazier (Indians) - Clint was a first round pick of the Indians in 2013. His tools for playing the position are average across the board. The one big up side for Clint is his power bat. Last year a pulled hamstring at the start of the season put a kink in his season, giving him a slow start. This year he hit 16 homeruns with a .285 average. The reduction in strikeouts (166 to 125) despite more frequent at bats in 2015 led to a 20 point increase in batting average. Clint is a step below Bradley in the minor league system so he may have to settle for a corner outfield if Bradley claims the centerfield position. Neither one has the blazing speed to cover the massive amounts of real estate managers like to see from their centerfielder.
6) David Dahl (Rockies) - Myworld would be more confident in Dahl if he had a spleen. The spleen was removed after a collision in the outfield and it was determined he would be better off without it. The 2012 first round pick got off to a bad start during his second season after missing a flight and making his own reservation. He was held back in extended spring training as punishment but when he returned he injured a hamstring that ended his season after 10 games. He bounced back in 2014 to show off the tools that made him a first round pick slugging 14 homeruns and hitting .305. The outfield collision was another setback that limited his season to just 79 games. His power numbers dropped but his defensive capability in centerfield will be a strength to his game.
7) Demi Orimoloye (Brewers) - We think Demi can be a special player. The Canadian was not drafted until the fourth round of the 2014 draft. He has all the tools to hit for power, steal bases and play a gold glove centerfield. His major weakness is a frequency to swing and miss. In his first minor league season Demi hit .292 with a .837 OPS. He also stole 19 bases in 25 attempts and slugged six balls out of the park in 33 games. A 3/39 walk to whiff ratio has to be improved as he rises up the minor league system. He left the Arizona rookie league to play for Canada in an 18 and under tournament. At 6′4″ he has the ability to scare pitchers as he steps to the plate.
8) Victor Robles (Nationals) - Victor had a bit of a breakout season last year hitting .352 at two levels. He has the speed to play center with the gift to get good jumps off the ball and an arm to fit in right if Michael Taylor should get in his way when he is ready to play in the major leagues. Bryce Harper could be another issue, but by then the Nationals will either have signed Bryce to a long term extension or he will be a Dodger. What is impressive about Robles bat is the 18/33 walk to whiff ratio in 61 games. He makes good hard barrel of the bat contact with the ball. His speed also gave him 24 stolen bases.
9) Andrew Benintendi (Red Sox) - Andrew was a first round pick in 2015. He is a little more developed than Demi, drafted out of college and three years older. He was voted college player of the year after taking Arkansas to Omaha in 2015. His bat has the potential to produce 20 homerun power. He also carries above average speed with good jumps on the ball to make an excellent centerfielder. The speed falls just short of Margot. What was most impressive about Benintendi was the 35/24 walk to whiff ratio. Those type of players generally hit for a high average as evidenced by his .313 average at two levels. His 11 homeruns and .556 slugging average is just icing on the cake. In a couple years the Red Sox will have problems trying to find at bats for five players deserving of them.
10) Anthony Alford (Blue Jays) - If Dalton Pompey continues his struggles with the bat Alford is prepared to take over the centerfield slot that will become vacant when he is ready for the major leagues. Alford is a tremendous athlete with blazing speed. A strong arm makes a move to right field a possibility if Pompey establishes himself at center with the Blue Jays. Last year Alford hit .298 with a .398 OBA. He has the patience to take walks but that also creates a high number of whiffs (109). He only hit four homeruns in 2015 and slugged .421 but the Blue Jays expect those numbers to go up as he gets more experience.