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Thursday, January 31, 2013

HOW THE YANKEES STACK UP: CENTERFIELD

It's been an interesting journey for BYB.  Our series HOW THE YANKEES STACK UP is insanely popular. It's because of you, but it's also because of the creator, Steve Skinner.  So far we've examined Catcher, First base, Second base, Shortstop, Third base and Left Field.  Now... we examine Centerfield.  Keep enjoying this series... I am.

--Casey
Centerfield
  
It is one of the most storied positions on the most storied team.  Center field in the Bronx has been occupied by the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Bernie Williams.  Names that lie close to the heart of every Yankees fan.

The current keeper of center field is Curtis Granderson.  Whether or not his name gets mentioned with the others may very well depend on his performance in 2013.

Following this season, Granderson is a free agent, and he is coming off a somewhat disappointing 2012 where he hit a career-low .232, but remained productive by slugging 43 HR with 106 RBI.  It seems that in 2012 it was an all-or-nothing proposition for the multi-talented outfielder.


Between 2010 (when he came to the Yankees) and 2011 it looked as though Granderson’s work with hitting coach Kevin Long was paying off as he raised his average 15 points (from .247 in 2010 to .262 in 2011) and added power (24 HR in 2010 to 41 HR in 2011).  While his power has stayed, the 30 point fall in batting average last year is concerning, and given the team’s self imposed salary cap ($189 million) it means that the Yankees will most likely look elsewhere for a center fielder in 2014 – unless Granderson can make himself invaluable during 2013.

The potential for Granderson is still there at age 32.  We have caught glimpses of his speed (he stole 25 bases in 2011) and he certainly has proven that he can deposit balls beyond the outfield wall with regularity (84 HR the past two seasons).  With consistency at the plate, he could give the team some help at the heart of the order.   As bad as his average was in 2012, he still was one of the better hitters  with runners in scoring position (hitting .254).  

This year will determine if number 14 will remain in pinstripes, and I’m betting that one of the genuine good guys in Major League Baseball will prove his worth.

Here is what the rest of the division will look like in center field:

Toronto Blue Jays:  27-year old Colby Rasmus will be the primary center fielder for the Blue Jays.  Like Granderson, he has shown decent power (25 HR in 2012) but inconsistency at the plate (hitting .225). He is solid in the field (7 assists in 2012, including a double play) and can hit in the clutch (.276 with RISP).

Baltimore Orioles:  The Orioles most talented player will occupy center field in 2013.  Adam Jones at age 27 is just beginning to enter the prime years of his career and will be trying to build on a 32 HR, 82 RBI, 103 runs scored performance from last season.  He is decent in the field (Gold Glove winner) and smart on the base paths (stealing 16 bases in 2012), and will remain the player at the heart of the order for the O’s for years to come.

(In Photo: Sam Fuld)
Tampa Bay Rays: As of this writing it would appear that some sort of combination of Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyer will play center field for the Rays in 2013.  Fuld is 31 years old and hit .255 with seven stolen bases in 44 games for the team last season.  Guyer is 27 and has played in a total of 18 games with the big league club.

Boston Red Sox: In 2011 it appeared that center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury’s career was taking off.  That season he hit .321 with 32 HR and 106 RBI in an otherwise disappointing campaign for the team.  Last year was riddled with injuries, and rather than building on 2011, he took a step back.  The 29-year old still has his best years ahead of him and should greatly improve (if healthy) upon the .271, 4 HR performance (in 74 games) from 2012 – especially since it is a contract year (he’ll be a free agent in 2014).

Here is how we see the AL East center fielders stack up:

  1. Baltimore: Adam Jones’ star only continues to rise.
  2. New York: “Grandy” will become more consistent at the plate and put up numbers similar to his 2011 season with the “Bombers”.
  3. Boston: If Ellsbury stays with the club – and healthy – for the entire season, he could be mentioned as an MVP candidate.
  4. Toronto:  Like Granderson, Rasmus needs to improve his batting average to be considered a legitimate threat in the Blue Jays lineup.
  5. Tampa Bay: Only time will tell if Fuld or Guyer is the answer for the Rays in centerfield.
Let us know what you think!


 
--Steve Skinner, BYB Guest Writer
Twitter: @oswegos1





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