Other than shortstop these are the darlings of major league baseball. Everyone is looking for the next Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle or Michael Trout. Below are the top ten players named by Baseball America as the best centerfielders in the minor leagues before the start of the 2016 season. Myworld will take a look at their season to see how their prospect status has progressed or regressed.
1. Byron Buxton (Twins) - The Twins are waiting for him to put his tools together. Former number one picks Denard Span and Aaron Hicks were slow learners. This is the second major league season for Buxton and the second year he has struggled. A September hot streak gives the Twins some hope that perhaps he is starting to figure things out. If he can make a little more contact he has the potential to be a five tool player. There is nothing more he can prove in the minor leagues.
2. Andrew Benintendi (Red Sox) - The Red Sox are loaded in centerfield. Andrew is not going to supplant Mookie Betts or even Jackie Bradley from the position. But he has the bat to fit in left field. Scouts expect him to hit over .300 with 20 plus homeruns. A late season callup has seen him take over the troubled Red Sox left field slot. Average speed prevents him from being a five tool player.
3. Lewis Brinson (Rangers) - If the Rangers do not resign Ian Desmond there will be no tears shed by management. Lewis appears to be ready to take over the position. Ideally the Rangers would like him to play half a season in AAA after only hitting .237 in AA with just 11 homeruns. He lacks big time stolen base speed, but his instincts and routes make him an excellent centerfielder. There is enough power in his bat to hit in the double digits in homeruns.
4. Anthony Alford (Blue Jays) - A quiet year for Alford. His body is built for football, but his swing does not incorporate over the fence power. He should fit in centerfield. Alford hit just .236 in High A with 9 homeruns. He needs to do better to reach his potential.
5. Bradley Zimmer (Indians) - Myworld was not impressed with what we saw of him in centerfield. With the trade of Clint Frazier to the Yankees in the Andrew Miller trade Zimmer appears to have won the centerfield job. He strikes out a lit (over 150) but carries some pop in his bat. Myworld is convinced the corner outfield position is best for him, with the arm to play right field. With vanilla AAA offensive numbers he will probably see at least half a season in AAA.
6. Victor Robles (Nationals) - Michael Taylor’s inability to make contact set the stage for Victor Robles to be the Nationals centerfielder of the future. That was until Trea Turner took over the position. The resume for Victor is tremendous speed to cover ground in centerfield and steal bases, but the power is lacking to fit in a corner. Victor Robles played half a season in High A so he is still a couple years away from forcing the Nationals to make a decision of who to commit to for centerfield.
7. David Dahl (Rockies) - His .300 plus batting average in a late season callup has already sealed his position for next year. The Rockies may have to trade Carlos Gonzalez or Charlie Blackmon to make room for him. The outfielder who lacks a spleen should hit for double digits in homeruns, compete for batting titles in the thin Rocky Mountain air and play enough defense to fit in centerfield. His biggest challenge will be to avoid injuries that have forced him to miss almost two complete seasons.
8. Trent Clark (Brewers) - The 2015 first round pick of the Brewers slumped with the bat this year playing in a full season league. His average dropped more than 70 points and his slugging was absent (.344) in 2016. There is enough speed in his legs to cover the ground necessary to play in centerfield. If his power does not pick up that will be the position he will fit best at.
9. Manuel Margot (Padres) - One of the players the Padres acquired for Craig Kimbrel to juice up their farm system. The potential four tool player has earned a September callup for the Padres after his success in AAA. The one tool he is lacking is power, though that may develop as he matures. Expect him to win the centerfield job for the Padres next year, if not at the start of the season, then by mid-season.
10. Brett Phillips (Brewers) - One of the players the Brewers stole from the Astros for Carlos Gomez. While he can play centerfield his average speed makes a corner outfield position his best bet. The Brewers minor league outfield depth is growing and Brett will need to hit better than .229 to get one of those major league opportunities. An inability to make contact (154 K’s) has been the big reason for his low average.