NL Central Preview: Center Field

In the seventh entry in my NL Central Preview, I move on to center field. Easily one of my favorite positions, center fielders are typically speed guys with good defense and the ability to hit, not necessarily having an abundance of power. Or at least that’s the type of player that comes to my mind.

However, there are several center fielders who dispute my stereotype, much like the Cardinals’ current center fielder Colby Rasmus and Cincinnati’s Drew Stubbs. Both are guys with power.

6. Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee (.247, 5 HR, 24 RBI in 97 games)
Gomez was the Brewers’ center fielder after they traded Jim Edmonds to Cincinnati last year. While in the past he’s done a lot with his glove in the outfield, he had a horrible 2010 posting a .970 fielding percentage in a position that’s mostly just catching fly balls. The Brewers resigned him and traded his closest competition, Lorenzo Cain, to Kansas City in the Zach Grienke trade.

5. Michael Bourn, Houston (.265, 2 HR, 38 RBI in 141 games)
I was a bit surprised with Bourn’s statistics as I thought he was a better player. However, he experienced a bit of a down year from his 2009 stats. He is still the best defending center fielder in the division with his .992 fielding percentage and a 2.78 range. If he had some power, he’d be a little higher.

4. Marlon Byrd, Chicago (.293, 12 HR, 66 RBI in 152 games)
The most expensive member of this crop makes just $5.5 million this year. He had the best average among NL Central center fielders, along with the best fielding percentage. Still, for his performance, he is an extremely good value for the Cubs. Especially when you factor in what the Cubs are overpaying for some of their other players.

3. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh (.286, 16 HR, 56 RBI in 154 games)
McCutchen is a very good all around center fielder for Pittsburgh, and he’s young. Just one more young, talented Pirates player. He showed some slight improvement from his rookie year in 2009 as well. Apparently, at age 23 a group of his similar players is Matt Kemp, Jeremy Hermida, Shawn Green, and Carlos Beltran according to Baseball-Reference. That can mean good things for Pittsburgh if he keeps taking steps forward.

2. Colby Rasmus, St. Louis (.276, 23 HR, 66 RBI in 144 games)
Chalk me up as one who has been surprised this offseason that Colby Rasmus is still a Cardinal. His issues in the clubhouse are well known, but hopefully they will improve their relationship and Rasmus will begin to mature as a ballplayer. Rasmus has shown a bit of his offensive abilities over the last year, but his defense took a step back last season. His numbers were very poor on defense this season, well down from his 2009 season, and at times he looks like he isn’t focusing. He has all the talents to be among the top-3 center fielders in baseball, but he has yet to put it all together. For Cardinals fans that’s frustrating and exciting all at the same time. Frustrating because we have to watch it, but exciting because the idea that when he does put it all together you have to wonder how good can he be?

1. Drew Stubbs, Cincinnati (.255, 22 HR, 77 RBI in 150 games)
Stubbs got the everyday job last season and hasn’t really looked back, hitting 30 homers in his 194 games. He and Colby were neck and neck for the top spot, each showing offensive ability last year. Colby might have more potential, but Stubbs played better last year on both sides of the ball which is something I value over pure offensive performance.

Now, the point totals after seven installments of the NL Central Preview:

Milwaukee — 30 pts
St. Louis — 30 pts
Cincinnati — 29 pts
Chicago — 23 pts
Pittsburgh — 23 pts
Houston — 12 pts

It’s neck and neck at the top, but next up will be Right Fielders and you can look for that on Monday.