These are the athletes of the outfield. The shortstops of the grassy plains, the heroes to the kids who watch their long strides as they race to a ball miles away from them. To make the grade here players need to be fast with good instincts to get good jumps. They need to be moving as soon as the ball is hit. Because of their athletic ability many of the better centerfielders are some of your best hitters, but they don’t have to be. A manager will sacrifice some offense if a player can save a lot of runs with his glove. Below are myworld’s Top Ten centerfielders.
1. Ronald Acuna (Braves) - He is probably considered the best prospect in baseball for 2018. Many compare him to Andrew Jones. The Venezuelan has all five tools in abundance, with power being the least developed, a pretty nice bargain for the $100,000 bonus the Braves paid to acquire him. As he matures the power will get better while the speed may decrease. Last year he slugged 21 homers with 44 stolen bases, becoming one of the rare 20/20 players. At three different levels he hit .325. The one area of his game the Braves would like to see him improve is in his ability to make contact. He struck out 144 times in 139 games last year, an area major league pitchers may be able to exploit to drive down his average. The Braves will probably start him off in AAA in 2018 with a quick promotion to the big leagues if his bat produces. With a good spring he could find himself as the Braves starting centerfielder.
2. Victor Robles (Nationals) - Most fans are talking about Robles taking over for Bryce Harper after he leaves for free agency. They say it with a casualness that no production will be lost with Robles fitting into the outfield. He carries five very strong tools with power being the least developed. Like Acuna that power will come as he matures. The Nationals were so impressed with his development that they put him on their playoff roster. Last year he was more of a gap hitter with 37 doubles and 10 homeruns to construct an impressive .493 slugging percentage. His 27 stolen bases are not a true reflection of his speed but more about him hitting in the middle of the order and not being asked to steal bases. The Nationals outfield is currently crowded so it would not make sense to use him as a fourth outfielder. He will be the first player called up if an injury should force a starter to have an extended absence.
3. Luis Robert (White Sox) - As a 19 year old Luis was in the process of winning the Triple Crown in the Cuban League with a .401 average, 12 homeruns and 40 RBIs. Myworld put him as one of the top young Cuban players to watch, but at the halfway point of the season he defected for the United States. He played mostly the corners for Cuba but he carries the speed to play center, with the arm to fit in right. The power should deliver 30 plus homeruns with an average close to .300. Last year he played in the Dominican Summer League, slugging .536. Myworld would not be surprised to see him start the 2018 season at Low A.
4. Anthony Alford (Blue Jays) - The third round 2012 pick may be one of the more athletic players on this list. His primary sport was football with his first three years in the minor leagues going back and forth between baseball and college football. The 2016 season was his first year focusing on baseball. Injuries have held him back limiting him to 92 games that year and last year he played in just 81 games. The Jays were impressed enough with him to give him a major league callup but an injury ended that debut after just four games. Another five tool player could find himself in the leadoff or three spot, depending on the Blue Jays needs. A good spring could see him on the major league roster, but myworld expects him to start the season in AAA.
5. Leody Taveras (Rangers) - Leody carries a little more power than his cousin Willie Taveras, but his legs carry less speed. The Rangers were impressed enough with the Dominican that they signed him for $2.1 million. At 19 years of age the power is just beginning to show with 8 homeruns at the low A level. Last year he struggled a bit when compared to his 2016 season, his average dropping from .325 to .249. A fifth player with all five tools, Leady should find himself in High A to begin the 2018 season.
6. Jo Adell (Angels) - It may be a bit premature to place the Angels 2017 first round pick so high but his .325 average and .908 OPS were hard to ignore. He runs with the wind, can mash the ball a long way and as a pitcher could throw a fastball in the high 90s. The tools are there to be an impact player. A 14/49 walk to whiff ratio in 49 games is evidence that he needs to improve his patience at the plate. Jahmai Jones may beat him to centerfield in the major leagues but Jo may have the better tools to field the position. Expect him to start the season at Low A in 2018 with a quick promotion dependent upon his performance.
7. Jeren Kendell (Dodgers) - Just a shade up north is the Dodgers first round pick in 2017. He may be one of the faster players among this top ten list. As a college drafted player he should move up quickly through the farm system. In his debut he hit .455 in five games in short season but when promoted to Low A struggled for a .221 average. The swing and miss appears to be his greatest flaw, with 45 whiffs in 40 games. If not tamed that may result in lower averages once he reaches the major leagues. Jeren could repeat Low A with a quick promotion to High A with early success.
8. Estevan Florial (Yankees) - The Haitian born outfielder had a breakout year last year vaulting him into top ten recognition. Last year he hit double digits in homeruns (13) with a .298 average and 23 stolen bases while he covered a lot of ground in centerfield. His bat and legs give him the potential to be at minimum a 20/20 player. To accomplish that he needs to cut down on his whiffs paring down the 148 in 110 games. Next year will be a key to determine if he can replicate his 2017 numbers. A good spring will see him start the season in the Florida State League.
9. Lewis Brinson (Brewers) - The Brewers acquired the 2012 first round pick of the Rangers after trading away Jonathan Lucroy. Shoulder injuries last year limited him to just 78 games but a .331 average and a .928 OPS led to his major league debut. In the majors he flopped, hitting just .108 but with two of his five hits carrying over the fence. While he has the speed to steal bases he has yet to steal over 20 bases in any of his seasons. Because of his major league struggles last season he will probably start the 2018 season in AAA with the Brewers waiting for his bat to get hot before giving him his major league promotion.
10. Lazaro Armenteros (Athletics) - Lazarito came from Cuba with a lot of hype. The tools are there for him to be an impact major leaguer. Some question whether his character will allow his tools to stand out. In his stateside debut he hit .288 with an .850 OPS and 10 stolen bases in 47 games. He has the potential to be a 20/20 player in the major leagues. Like most players his age getting their first exposure to minor league baseball, he needs to cut down on his swings and misses (48 K’s in 41 games). The 2018 season should see him begin the year in Low A with the possibility to perform at High A.
Others to Note
Cristian Pache (Braves) - It will be tough to knock Acuna from his centerfield destination. Pache has more speed than Acuna but his bat carries much less power. Last year he was homerless but he did steal 32 bases.
Taylor Trammell (Reds) - Another two way player who could have played football in college. Taylor has excellent speed and the bat for power. He draws enough walks to hit in the leadoff position but as he matures he may fit better in the number 3 hole.
Jose Siri (Reds) - The Dominican had a break out year with the power, hitting 24 homeruns while stealing 46 bases. He showed flashes of this brilliance in 2016 when he hit 10 homeruns. There is still a little bit too much swing and miss in his swing, but if he can tame that he will be a hitter to reckon with in a couple years.
Greg Allen (Indians) - A little Aztec bias. He runs well to stick in center, but he lacks power. Last year he made his major league debut hitting .229.
Daz Cameron (Tigers) - The son of Mike was able to blast 14 homeruns last year, even though he does not carry the power category. He should follow in his dad’s shoes with gold glove caliber defense.
Jahmai Jones (Angels) - The Angels second round pick in 2012 has average offensive tools but above average when it comes to speed. He covers a lot of ground in centerfield and should hit for double digits in the power category.
Desmond Lindsay (Mets) - His tools have yet to match his performance. Health has kept him off the diamond, but last year he played a career high 65 games.
Dustin Fowler (Athletics) - Last year he had a breakout season with 13 homeruns in 70 AAA games resulting in a major league promotion. In his first major league game, before he could get an at bat he injured a knee sliding into a fence. This didn’t stop the Athletics from trading for him in the Sonny Gray trade. A mixture of speed and power makes him dangerous.
Roman Quinn (Phillies) - Perhaps the fastest player on this list. Injuries have prevented the 2011 second round pick from starting his major league career. An elbow injury limited him to 45 games last year. Not much power in his bat and taking more walks would help him as a leadoff hitter.
Franchy Cordero (Padres) - Franchy had a remarkable breakout season last year with 18 triples, 17 homeruns and a .328 batting average. This led to a promotion to the Padres where he hit .228 and struck out 44 times in his 98 at bats. A 23/118 walk to whiff ratio shows a lack of patience at the plate.
Michael Gettys (Padres) - His defensive tools are gold glove caliber. The big concern is the bat. There is some gap power when he makes contact, but making contact has been a challenge with 191 whiffs in just 116 games in High A.
Heliot Ramos (Giants) - The 2017 first round pick from Puerto Rico has a good combination of power and speed. Strikeouts were a problem for him in the rookie league (48 in 35 games). The 2017 season should see him start in Low A full season where his performance will be tested.
Magneuris Sierra (Marlins) - The Cardinals just included the Dominican in a trade to the Marlins for Marcell Ozuna. He is the typical centerfielder who covers a lot of ground, but has very little power in his bat. His success rate in stealing bases is not great resulting in a drop in total attempts last year.
Jesus Sanchez (Rays) - The lefthanded bat from the Dominican signed for $400,000 in 2015. Last year he made his first start in the full season league, showing power (15 homeruns), the ability to hit for average (.305) and the ability to cover a lot of ground on defense. His speed is plus but not enough to steal bases.