These are players with a strong arm who can hit for pop. We have excluded any player with a strong arm that also has speed to play center. Or at least we tried. We never thought Michael Conforto would get so much centerfield time with the Mets.
1. Eloy Jimenez (White Sox) - Easily the best of the group here. Average speed prevents him from being a five tool player and having the ability to play centerfield. He has a strong arm and the plus pop that should hit for 30 plus homeruns in the major leagues. The Cubs signed him out of the Dominican Republic for $2.8 million in 2013 but then traded him to the White Sox in the Jose Quintana trade. Last year he slugged 19 homeruns playing in three different cities, hit .312 and slugged .568. A promotion to AA did not seem to phase him where he hit .353 with three homeruns and a .559 slugging percentage. The White Sox have Avisail Garcia for right field, but he is not a big impediment for a Jimenez promotion. Expect Eloy to be playing with the White Sox by mid-season 2018.
2. Kyle Tucker (Astros) - Kyle has been playing a lot of centerfield since being drafted in the first round of the 2015 draft. He is more talented than his brother Preston who had a brief cameo with the Astros a couple years ago. Expect Kyle to make a longer stay. While his speed and instincts make centerfield a possibility, the speed is not of the burner variety and at 6′4″ he may lose a step as he bulks up. His bat does carry power as evidenced by his 25 homeruns split between High A and AA. He did steal 21 bases last year but expect those numbers to drop. The Astros outfield is still a bit crowded, though playing centerfield could be his first opportunity to make it with the Astros. Expect him to start the season in AA with a major league promotion in September, unless his numbers are so staggering the Astros need him to compete for the playoffs.
3. Kyle Lewis (Mariners) - A significant knee injury and surgery ended the 2017 season early for Kyle. How will it impact the speed of the 2016 first round pick is not known. His games in the Arizona Fall League were cut short when he appeared to experience some uneasiness in the knee. The arm is certainly strong enough to play right field if his legs are slower. The juice in his bat can carry the ball over the fence to all fields. Last year he hit 7 homeruns in 49 games, slugging .412 at two levels. The Mariners could start the season rehabbing him at Low A or having him play in extended spring training. Once his knee appears ready he could return to High A with the possibility to be promoted to AA. Don’t expect him in the major leagues before 2019.
4. Brett Phillips (Brewers) - The sixth round 2012 pick has one of the strongest arms in baseball. He also has the speed to cover ground in center. The Brewers have Lewis Brinson, a player with better defensive skills slotted for center. Brett doesn’t carry the power ideal for right so that could put him in a fourth outfielder category. Last year his power was good for 23 homeruns, including 4 in 37 games for the Brewers. There does seem to be too much swing and miss in his bats with 153 whiffs in 142 games. Brett had 34 of those whiffs in 87 at bats at the major league level. The 2018 season should see Brett start the season in AAA but a good spring could motivate the Brewers to take him to Milwaukee with them.
5. Dylan Cozens (Phillies) - The second round 2012 pick packs more power than Rhys Hoskins, though when he hit his 40 plus homeruns in AA a couple years ago it was played at the hitter friendly Reading park. The big challenge for Dylan is making contact, with 194 whiffs in 135 games last year. That resulted in a disappointing .210 average, which prevented him from joining Hoskins in the major leagues last year. Myworld expects some improvement next year as he repeats AAA and gets used to the better pitching at that level. His arm is not a cannon but it is good enough to throw runners out from right field. His average speed could actually force him to move to left. The Phillies are rebuilding so a good spring could create opportunities for him.
6. Aristides Aquino (Reds) - The Reds signed him back in 2011 out of the Dominican Republic. He didn’t get his first opportunity to play full season ball until 2015. Since that time he has been moving up a level each year. Next year should be AAA. There is power in his bat, though that power disappeared in major stretches in 2017. In 2016 he hit 23 homeruns with a .519 slugging. Last year he dropped to 17 homeruns with a .397 slugging percentage. He struggled to make contact last year with 145 whiffs in 131 games, resulting in his average dropping 60 points to .216 last year. Those struggles could see him repeat AA.
7. Harrison Bader (Cardinals) - The Cardinals outfield is crowded. The third round pick in the 2015 draft seems to have the best combination of power, arm and speed of those outfielders to slot in right field. Last year he slugged 23 homeruns, three of them at the major league level. His tool box is enough to give him the classification of a five tool player who exhibits attributes that are average or just above in all five tools. The one attribute he could improve on is patience. If he can narrow the 34/118 walk to whiff ratio that could put his average possibilities nearer the .300 mark. A good spring training could give him a shot at one of the outfield spots, but he has a lot of veterans ahead of him to surpass.
8. Alex Verdugo (Dodgers) - Alex was a second round pick of the Dodgers in 2014. He has a rocket for an arm, ideal for a rightfielder. His best attribute is his ability to make contact with a 52/50 walk to whiff ratio last year. The concern is his inability to show his over the fence power. His line drive stroke is good for gap hits, but adding some loft into his swing could turn some of those gappers into homers. That switch could impact his ability to make contact. His speed is not quick enough to cover the ground he needs for centerfield. Last year he saw some major league September action, hitting .174 in 23 at bats. Yasiel Puig currently has right field occupied so if Verdugo is to play next year he could have to fit in centerfield where the Dodgers lack a consistent bat.
9. Socrates Brito (Diamondbacks) - Socrates has had his opportunities but injuries have held him back. Injuries limited him to 78 games last year and no major league appearance. Socrates has the speed to play center and the arm to fit in right. The bat has not shown a lot of power so his best bet could be if he could win the centerfield job. His most likely role could be as a utility fourth outfielder. Last year in the 78 games he played his OPS was .785 with a .449 slugging average and a .291 batting average. At 25 years old, if he is going to make an impact in the outfield his time would be in 2018.
10. Austin Hays (Orioles) - The third round 2016 pick seemed to come out of nowhere to hit 33 homeruns last year. One of those homeruns came in his major league debut where he hit .217 in a September callup. The Orioles outfield situation is not crowded. Mark Trumbo plays right field but he should spend most of his time at DH next year. What myworld has seen of Hayes is a decent arm that can play in right field, not like the rockets of Verdugo or Phillips. While he showed power last year, whether he can maintain that against major league pitching is open to question. In the minor leagues he has shown the ability to hit in the .300 neighborhood. Time will tell whether the power and batting tools the Atlantic Coast Conference star has shown is a mirage or part of his daily repertoire. The right field job is there for the taking if he has a good spring training.
Others to Note
Khalil Lee (Royals) - The third round 2016 pick has a better arm for throwing out runners than the speed in his legs for catching fly balls. This does not mean he does not have the speed for centerfield, just that his overall tools may be better suited for right. Last year he slugged 17 homeruns in Low A, evidence of his power. He also struck out 171 times in 121 games, indicative of his capability to swing and miss at a lot of pitches.
Seuly Matias (Royals) - The 19 year old Dominican has perhaps the best arm on the Royals. His average speed and power in his bat makes right field the best fit.
Brandon Marsh (Angels) - At 6′4″ with a cannon for an arm makes right field the best fit for Brandon. His legs also are quick enough to cover ground in center. Can’t imagine him usurping Mike Trout from his position so we will fit the second round 2016 pick for right.
Tristan Lutz (Brewers) - The 2017 supplemental first round pick has the arm for right and the bat for the position. He also has decent speed to play center. The Brewers do have a crowded deck of outfielders. The Brewers can start Tristan at Low A and show patience with him as he develops his skills for the major leagues.
Austin Beck (Athletics) - Beck was a first round pick of the Atletics in 2017. He had a prevalence to swing and miss in his professional debut with 51 strikeouts in 41 games, limiting his average to .211. His arm was one of the best in the draft last year.