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B/R MLB 500: Top 40 Center Fielders

Zachary D. RymerMLB Lead WriterSeptember 16, 2013

B/R MLB 500: Top 40 Center Fielders

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    The B/R MLB 500 started its patrol of the outfield by taking a look at corner outfielders. It's now time to take a look at the guys in the middle.

    Center field is similar to shortstop in that it tends to be a home to some of the most talented all-around players. But since it's more of an offensive position than shortstop, we came up with the following scoring system: 20 points for hitting, 25 points for power, 20 points for baserunning, 25 points for defense and, like with all other players, 10 points for health.

    As always, hitting entails more than just what happens after the ball leaves the bat. Results do count for something, but so does the process. Each player's approach will be taken into account.

    Power is less complicated, but results will be taken into account just as much as scouting reports. A player may have tremendous natural power, but his score will be lowered if he has a hard time making it show up in games.

    For baserunning, it's all about whether a guy can steal bases and how well, and whether or not he can get around the bases better (or worse) than the average player.

    Defense is also simple. How well can a guy get after balls in center field, and does he have a good throwing arm at his disposal?

    For hitting, power, baserunning and defense, keep the following in mind: A score that's, say, 10 out of 20 is not a failing score. That's an "average" score. Anything better is above average. Anything below is below average.

    As for health, that's basically 10 free points unless there's a reason(s) to dock points. The scoring is subjective, but the general rule of thumb is that a player is only getting less than five points if he has a potentially career-altering injury.

    Lastly, here's a reminder that the whole idea is to round up guys we'd want on a team in 2014. That means top prospects who could potentially make an impact are in play, and they may be ranked higher than you think. And if there are any ties, the edge goes to the player we'd rather have.

    That about does it, so let's go ahead and make these guys the center of attention. 

     

    Note: All prospect writeups/scores were created by B/R's MLB Prospects Lead Writer, Mike Rosenbaum.

Sources

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    The statistics that informed the following analyses came from all over, so we'd certainly be remiss if we didn't dish out some shout-outs.

    Baseball-Reference.com was the go-to site for basic statistics. FanGraphs provided more complex data, most notably the data concerning plate discipline. Brooks Baseball also helped with that, and the site's tracking of spray charts for hitters is another thing that came in handy. 

    If you're wondering where all the injury information comes from, the credit is owed to the injury databases kept by Baseball Prospectus.

40. Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds

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    Hitting

    5/20

    A switch-hitter, Billy Hamilton has quick wrists from both sides of the plate, which allows him to generate above-average bat speed and be short to the ball. However, his overall inconsistency is concerning, as Hamilton struggles to keep his weight back and will lunge at too many offerings within the strike zone. He controls the zone relatively well, but also makes far too much weak contact for someone who projects as a dynamic leadoff hitter. Still, with his speed, Hamilton could develop into a .270-plus hitter with refinement to his swing(s).

    Power

    5/25

    Hamilton actually does a nice job creating backspin carry by driving through the baseball, especially from the left side of the plate, where he showcases a more leveraged swing. However, the switch-hitter lacks the necessary strength to generate consistent over-the-fence pop. As has been the case throughout his career in the minors, though, Hamilton will always be an outstanding source of doubles and triples in a given season, and probably even some inside-the-park dingers.

    Baserunning

    20/20

    Hamilton is the fastest player in baseball. Hands down. He has the ability to put enormous pressure on opposing defenses; his feet literally never stop moving on the field, and he’s always looking ahead to take an extra base. After setting a professional record last season by swiping 155 bases in 132 games, Hamilton has actually been more efficient on the basepaths this season. The only difference is that the contact and on-base skills that he showed last year have not translated this season at Triple-A Louisville. If he becomes an everyday guy, Hamilton should have no problem surpassing 60 steals in a given season.

    Fielding

    16/25

    After moving from shortstop to center field last fall, Hamilton has made noticeable improvements this year in regard to his jumps and routes to the ball. As one might expect given his speed, Hamilton has plus range in the outfield and can get to virtually any ball provided it’s in the air. He still needs work on his first step, but the wheels help him compensate even when the route is sketchy. His arm action at shortstop was awkward and rushed at times, but it’s played well in center field, where he can afford to have a longer stroke on the backside.

    Health

    10/10

    Despite the fact that he does everything at full speed—as if he had a choice—Hamilton has stayed off the disabled list during his young career. He dealt with a sore hamstring early in the spring, but it hasn’t bothered him since the start of the minor league season.

    Total

    56/100

    With speed that grades as a 90 on the 20-80 scouting scale, Hamilton boasts arguably the most dynamic tool among all prospects. He’s regressed at this dish this season at the Triple-A level, but the bat should continue to come along as he gains experience against advanced pitching. At worst, Hamilton profiles as a high-level fourth outfielder and pinch runner. If he develops as hoped, however, Hamilton has the potential to be one of baseball’s premier top-of-the-order, up-the-middle players.

39. Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins

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    Hitting

    6/20

    Byron Buxton is a rarity in that he’s a teenager with a realistic ceiling of a plus-plus hitter at maturity. While his off-the-charts bat speed and direct bat path will give him a chance to hit at the highest level, it’s the mature approach and pitch recognition that give him the chance to be one of the game’s top hitters. Buxton has a plan each time he steps up to the plate, as he consistently works deep counts and drives the ball with authority to all fields. The bat has exceeded all expectations this season and will only continue to improve as he moves up the ladder.

    Power

    10/25

    Buxton’s power was regarded as his weakest tool when the Twins made him the No. 2 overall pick in 2012. However, his advanced approach and impressive bat have allowed it to develop ahead of schedule this season, as he’s showcased plus raw power to all fields that should ultimately translate to 20-plus home runs annually at maturity. Beyond that, Buxton should always be an extra-base machine and rank among the league leaders in total bases.

    Baserunning

    15/20

    Buxton’s speed is another plus-plus tool and a product of his insanely good athleticism. Despite his lack of experience, he’s already viewed as an elite baserunner capable of taking an extra base with relative ease. His speed also caters to his present ability and future potential as a base stealer, and amazingly, it even plays up thanks to his high baseball IQ. At maturity, Buxton should easily amass 30-plus steals annually.

    Fielding

    16/25

    With all that’s already been said about Buxton’s speed and overall baseball savvy, his projection as an elite defender in center field shouldn’t come as a surprise. While he has the athleticism and wheels to get almost every ball, Buxton’s jumps and aggressive (but direct) routes are especially impressive for a player his age.

    Health

    10/10

    Buxton has avoided the disabled list in the early going of his promising career, which has undoubtedly helped him make an impact on the field and move up the organizational ladder. As long as he can stay healthy, he should continue to enjoy a rapid ascent to the major leagues.

    Total

    57/100

    With potential plus tools to his name, it’s obvious why Buxton is regarded as baseball’s consensus No. 1 prospect. Beyond his eye-popping natural ability, the outfielder possesses secondary skills that are uncommon in a player his age. To put it simply: Buxton has the ceiling of one of the game’s best players, if not the best, in his prime.

38. David DeJesus, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Hitting

    12/20

    David DeJesus has become more and more patient as his career has gone along, and his plate discipline always has been and indeed still is quite good. When you have these things, you can draw your share of walks. But 2013 hasn’t been the best BABIP year for DeJesus, and that has something to do with the fact that he’s been hitting fewer line drives. It’s usually easy to chalk that up to declining bat speed, but the fact that he is suddenly doing more damage against fastballs suggests that’s not the case. A more logical explanation is that there's been some bad luck at play in DeJesus' season.

    Power

    13/25

    By his standards, DeJesus's power is right about where it should be. He's not much for home runs, which is indeed distressing given how many fly balls he hits. But he knows where the gaps are, and he's capable of plugging both the left-center gap and the right-center gap for doubles and triples. He can also still get around quickly enough to lace balls down the right field line. He's good enough at doing these things to save par as an average power hitter for the position.

    Baserunning

    12/20

    DeJesus doesn’t move as well as he used to, and that was never more clear than it was in 2012, when he had more caught-stealings than successful steals. He’s barely been thieving at all this year, but he’s still useful as a baserunner. He can get around the bases well enough and has been more mistake-free on the bases than he’s ever been. That's a perfectly fair trade-off.

    Fielding

    14/25

    DeJesus could easily have been stashed in the corner outfielder ranks, but he’s played center field far more often than he’s played the corners in 2013 thanks to the Chicago Cubs’ lack of a better option. And despite all the miles he has on his legs, DeJesus can actually still play a decent center field. He can be slow to get going, but he reads the ball well and still has enough athleticism to close the distance. He’s also still perfectly willing to give up his body to make a catch.

    Health

    7/10

    DeJesus hurt his shoulder bad enough when he ran into a wall in June that he had to spend some time on the disabled list. But what’s equally concerning is that he’s racked up quite a few injuries over the years—separated shoulder, strained hammy, thumb surgery, you name it—and that he’s now on the verge of turning 34.

    Total

    58/100

    DeJesus has never been a great player, and he’s not about to become one at his age. But he’s a veteran who can get on base and still hold his own running the bases and playing defense. 

37. Alejandro De Aza, Chicago White Sox

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    Hitting

    12/20

    Alejandro De Aza is pretty good at working the count and has solid plate discipline to boot. That’s usually a mark of a high-walk guy, but De Aza has actually seen his walk rates go down each of the past two seasons after walking nearly 10 percent of the time in 2011. Meanwhile, his whiff and strikeout rates are up from where they were last year. And since De Aza isn’t hitting line drives at the rate he did last year, it’s no accident that his BABIP is down. This is how one goes from being an easily above average hitter to only a slightly above-average hitter.

    Power

    15/25

    De Aza’s power is in better shape than his hitting. His HR/FB rate is much closer to the rate he showed in a small sample size in 2011, and he’s still keeping the doubles and triples coming even without an inflated line-drive rate. He does the bulk of the damage to his pull side, but he does have the power to drive the ball over the left fielder’s head. His isn't explosive power, but it'll do for solid.

    Baserunning

    12/20

    Here's the good news: De Aza is a guy who can steal bases and take extra bases when running the basepaths. He has the speed to do so. But this doesn't make him a great baserunner. He stole 26 bases in 2012, but also got caught a dozen times. His efficiency has been better in 2013, but not by much. And while he can do useful things with his speed, he can be careless. De Aza was picked off five times and ran into seven outs on the bases last year, and he's shown the same habits in 2013.

    Fielding

    10/25

    De Aza rated as a poor defensive center fielder in 2012, and the metrics like what they see this year even less. He’s made an inexcusable number of errors for an outfielder, and he looks much more comfortable playing left field than he does playing center field. He doesn’t seem sure of his routes when he plays center, and he doesn’t have elite speed to make up for it by closing quickly on balls.

    Health

    9/10

    De Aza suffered a fracture in his right ankle in 2007 that cost him 102 games. In 2008, he suffered a fracture to his left ankle that cost him the season. One doesn’t want to put too much stock into such injuries, but it’s hard to ignore them. It's also worth noting that De Aza turns 30 soon.

    Total

    58/100

    De Aza has tools, but 2013 has been a rough year for his bat and an even rougher year for his glove. He's not a bad player, but we're about to meet a lot of center fielders who are better than him.

36. Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston Red Sox

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    Hitting

    9/20

    Jackie Bradley’s weaknesses as a hitter were exposed this season in the major leagues, as he demonstrated a tendency to stride early, open up with his front side and try to pull pitches on the outer third of the plate. In the past, he’s been successful when he’s using the entire field, serving line drives from line to line. Bradley’s approach and plate discipline will give him a chance to hit at the highest level, as he’s a patient hitter who has a plan each time he steps up to the dish. Furthermore, he’s a smart hitter who understands how to make adjustments against advanced pitching. For all those reasons, Bradley has the makings of a .280-plus hitter in the major leagues.

    Power

    6/25

    With a swing and approach geared toward hard contact, Bradley will never offer much in the power department—likely seven to 12 homers annually. However, he should be a consistent source of doubles and triples throughout his career.

    Baserunning

    16/20

    Although Bradley is technically only an above-average runner, his speed on the basepaths plays up thanks to a high baseball IQ and superb instincts. He takes aggressive leads and picks his spots to steal bases, and he takes an extra base as well as any player in the minor leagues.

    Fielding

    20/25

    While he stands out for his plate discipline and on-base skills, Bradley’s greatest strength is his defense in center field. The 23-year-old makes it look easy out there with above-average speed and tremendous instincts that result in plus range. He gets excellent jumps and consistently takes a direct route to the ball while showcasing closing speed in all directions.

    Health

    8/10

    Bradley suffered a wrist injury at South Carolina that ultimately delayed the start of his career until 2012. This season, the outfielder missed roughly two weeks in May with right biceps tendinitis.

    Total

    59/100

    Bradley will never wow with his tools, but he’s a consistent, well-rounded player who projects as an above-average center fielder with a hit tool and on-base skills that profile ideally at the top of a lineup. While he’s performed poorly in the major leagues this season, Bradley should settle in nicely once he’s given the chance to play on an everyday basis.   

35. Adam Eaton, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Hitting

    12/20

    Adam Eaton has a patient approach at the plate that he was able to turn into a ton of walks in a small sample size in 2012. He hasn’t been as prolific in 2013, in part because pitchers are simply throwing him more pitches in the strike zone. It’s a good thing he has a BABIP-friendly hitting approach that consists mainly of line drives and ground balls, and he’s perfectly capable of spraying the former to the opposite field. And after a slow start following his activation off the DL in July, the hits have started falling for him since the start of August.

    Power

    13/25

    Eaton is not a power hitter, but he does have some sneaky-good power for a guy whose game is built largely on speed. His home run power only goes to right field, but the left-center gap is definitely in play when Eaton is at the plate. He also has the pop to send the ball whizzing over the center fielder’s head. He has the goods to cut it as at least an average power hitter for center field.

    Baserunning

    12/20

    Eaton was a big-time base stealer in the minor leagues, but that ability hasn’t come through in the majors. He has speed, but he’s barely attempted any steals and hasn’t been successful when he’s tried. It’s a good thing he can handle his own running the bases, as he’s proved to be quite good at taking the extra base and hasn’t run into many outs. If he starts stealing bases, he’s going to be dangerous.

    Fielding

    15/25

    Eaton has tons of speed and an outstanding arm, which should translate into “excellent defensive player.” That’s certainly what the highlight reels make him out to be, but there are holes in his defensive game. It’s fun to watch him fly, but there are times when he doesn’t actually seem to know where he’s going and has to adjust on the fly. There’s still a little rawness in his defense that has to be ironed out.

    Health

    8/10

    Eaton had to sit out the first 89 games with a UCL sprain in his left elbow. Because he’s not a pitcher, that’s not too big of a concern. But since he does throw left-handed, you worry about a Carl Crawford-like incident unfolding.

    Total

    60/100

    Eaton hasn't turned his tools into killer production just yet, but there's no denying the tools are there. He has speed that plays on both the basepaths and in the outfield, and his bat is none too shabby either.

34. Marcell Ozuna, Miami Marlins

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    Hitting

    10/20

    In just about 300 plate appearances over 70 games, Marcell Ozuna proved to be more or less your typical young hitter. He wasn’t bad at working the count, but he freely expanded the strike zone and had trouble with major league breaking and off-speed offerings. Despite these struggles, Ozuna didn’t rack up strikeouts at an alarming rate and proved to be capable of using the whole field. As long as he can do these things, he can cut it as a passable hitter at the MLB level.

    Power

    15/25

    Power was Ozuna’s calling card as a prospect, and he did a decent job of tapping into it at the MLB level. He didn’t hit that many home runs, but he smacked his share of balls over the left fielder’s head and sent some long fly balls to center field that went for triples and doubles. It's also worth noting that Marlins Park helped suppress his power. Realistically, Ozuna has the goods to be an above-average power-hitting center fielder.

    Baserunning

    12/20

    The jury’s out on what kind of base stealer Ozuna is going to be, but he showed that he has the ability to be a better-than-average thief, and he also did solid work when it came to doing the little things. He can take extra bags, and he was very good about not running into outs. A good recipe for success, that.

    Fielding

    15/25

    Ozuna is a natural right fielder, but he won’t be spending much time in right with the Marlins as long as Giancarlo Stanton is in town. As you would expect for a right field prospect, Ozuna has a cannon for an arm. But he has the athleticism to play center field too, and he played it well upon being called up. He doesn’t fly across the outfield, but he does react well off the bat and can run down pretty much anything. He's still largely unproven, but he looks like he could be at least a halfway decent defender in center field.

    Health

    8/10

    Ozuna’s left arm/hand area is pretty mangled. He suffered a forearm fracture in 2010, a left wrist fracture earlier this year and then hurt his left thumb badly enough in July to end his season due to surgery. It's a good thing he still has youth working for him.

    Total

    60/100

    Ozuna isn’t fully formed yet, but his tools are impressive, and he did enough to show that he’s ready to put them to use at the MLB level. He could be a good one very soon if he puts it all together.

33. Junior Lake, Chicago Cubs

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    Hitting

    12/20

    Lake generally isn't in too much of a hurry when he goes to the plate, which is always a good sign with younger hitters. But man oh man does he have a swing-and-miss tendency. He's a can't-hit-'em, can't-lay-off-'em guy when it comes to high fastballs, and he also swings and misses over the top of offspeed stuff an awful lot. The good news is that he absolutely mashes fastballs in the zone, and the inflated BABIP he has in a small sample since his arrival is no joke. Over 25 percent of the balls off his bat are line drives, and he's been using the whole field with those. He has the look of a quality hitter...albeit one who could use a walk habit.

    Power

    14/25

    One thing's become clear enough during Lake's time in the bigs, and that's that he doesn't do power to the other side of the field. He's all pull power. The good news is that his pull power is quite good, as he has the ability to clear the left field fence by plenty. He's also hit his share of screamers to deep left-center. He has the look of a guy who can hold his own in the power department.

    Baserunning

    11/20

    Lake was a big-time source of stolen bases as a minor leaguer, but that skill hasn't translated to the big leagues yet. He's had a hard time stealing bases, getting caught just as often as he's been successful. And while his aggressiveness on the basepaths is admirable, he's been a bit overaggressive at times. Those outs at second and third base hurt. But still, the speed is definitely there, and Lake should gain enough smarts to be even a slightly above-average baserunner.

    Fielding

    13/25

    Lake could just have easily have gone in the corner outfielder rankings given the amount of time he's spent in left field since his arrival, but the bulk of his time has been spent patrolling center. He's only been playing the outfield for a short time, so it's not a shocker that he's looked a bit hesitant at times. He's still learning how to read the flight of balls in the air, especially deep line drives. These complaints aside, Lake definitely has the athleticism to play out in center. And considering how new he is to the position, he's actually played it pretty well. Average defense is in the cards.

    Health

    10/10

    Lake battled a stress fracture in his ribcage during the spring, but he's been fine since then and there's not much else on his injury track record.

    Total

    60/100

    Lake is still raw as an outfielder, and his approach at the plate could definitely use some fine-tuning. But there's no denying the tools are there, and those alone have put him on the radar.

32. Michael Saunders, Seattle Mariners

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    Hitting

    12/20

    Michael Saunders is a patient hitter, and this year he’s shown off some vastly improved plate discipline. He still swings and misses a ton when he does go fishing, but the fact that he’s fishing less often is helping him draw more walks. Even better: More contact within the zone has helped him increase his line-drive percentage. He doesn’t have a high BABIP because he hasn’t had much luck on ground balls, and that's partially because he’s too predictable. He’s a typical left-handed batter who only hits grounders to the right side.

    Power

    17/25

    Saunders’ power has taken a turn for the worse this season. His HR/FB rate has dropped off from where it was in 2012, which looks even worse in light of the fact that he's been hitting the ball in the air more often. But it's not all bad. He's still a lefty hitter with power to both fields, and his power production has been hurt by Safeco Field.

    Baserunning

    12/20

    Saunders hasn’t been stealing bases at the rate he was last year, nor has he been as efficient as he was last year. On the bright side, he’s cut down on the number of outs he’s made on the bases. He’s had to cut down on his aggressiveness in order to do so, but it’s a fair trade.

    Fielding

    9/25

    Saunders has played a lot of center field for the Seattle Mariners, but you can tell he belongs in a corner outfield spot full-time. His instincts are good enough, but he doesn’t have the speed of a Michael Bourn or the route-running savvy of an Andruw Jones. In other words: He basically doesn’t move well enough to play the position adequately.

    Health

    10/10

    Saunders had to spend some time on the DL with a shoulder sprain back in April, but that’s the only DL stint of his career to this point. He’s had some nagging injuries in the past, such as some groin issues last year, but not as much in 2013. 

    Total

    60/100

    Saunders doesn't have the legs to play center field well, nor are his legs useful in terms of generating value on the basepaths. It's a good thing his bat works OK.

31. B.J. Upton, Atlanta Braves

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    Hitting

    5/20

    B.J. Upton’s approach could be worse. He hasn’t been overly aggressive in 2013 and has actually been far more disciplined with his swings than he was in 2012. But the swing-and-miss tendency he developed last year hasn’t gone away, and there’s not any particular pitch that gives him trouble. He’s been whiffing on hard stuff, off-speed stuff and breaking stuff, and not just outside the strike zone. Upton has been among the worst in baseball at making contact inside the strike zone, and it’s not pretty when he does make contact. He’s hit more ground balls than usual, and he's among the MLB leaders in infield pop-ups. And while he hasn't bad as bad over the last six weeks or so, he's still been bad.

    Power

    18/25

    Upton still has plenty of raw power, but hitting the ball on the ground obviously isn’t the best way for him to tap into it, and his fly balls have been going straight up rather than far. What’s worse is that he’s never been a particularly good source of line drives, so his ability to rack up doubles and triples in the gaps has always been underwhelming. He deserves worse than this score based on the season he's had, but his track record and raw power are worth at least some consideration.

    Baserunning

    10/20

    Upton hasn’t been on base that much in 2013, so it’s only natural that his stolen base production would be down. That can be forgiven, but what can’t be forgiven is how poor Upton’s baserunning has been. He’s seldom gone first to third and has taken hardly any extra bases, all while continuing what is something of a tradition to his to run into outs on the basepaths.

    Fielding

    18/25

    Upton has never been a darling of the defensive metrics, but there’s no denying the athleticism is there, and he certainly plays some of the smoothest defense you’re going to see. He rarely looks like he’s going 100 percent, but he reacts well off the bat and uses good routes and long strides to cover ground. In addition, he still has a shortstop’s arm that can be dangerous.

    Health

    9/10

    A bad back landed Upton on the DL for three weeks at the start of the 2012 season. This year, it was a strained right adductor muscle that put him on the DL for several weeks. Given that he’s been a full-time player since he was 22 and is now approaching 30, these are the kinds of injuries that give one pause.

    Total

    60/100

    Upton still has tremendous natural talent, but the warning signs were there in 2012 that his game was falling apart, and he’s done nothing in 2013 to prove that it was all a fluke. He may be paid like one of the top center fielders in the league, but he's been one of the worst this year in terms of his hitting.

30. Jarrod Dyson, Kansas City Royals

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    Hitting

    10/20

    Jarrod Dyson’s approach is patient enough, but his plate discipline has taken a step back from where it was in 2012. His walk rate hasn’t suffered, but he has been striking out more often. Another thing he’s lost from 2012 is the line-drive rate he had. Close to 60 percent of his batted balls end up on the ground, and there’s only so much speed can help there when it comes to maintaining a respectable BABIP. That's obviously not a bad approach for a speedy guy like him, but his hitting potential is only so high because of it.

    Power

    5/25

    This actually hasn't been such a bad season for Dyson's power production, but that's mainly because he's hit a couple of home runs in a small sample size of plate appearances. Ordinarily, his power potential is restricted to balls in the right-center gap and grounders that find their way down the line. As such, he can't be counted on for consistent power production.

    Baserunning

    19/20

    Dyson is as fast as all get-out, and he puts his speed to good use running the bases. He’s an efficient base stealer to boot, with a career success rate close to 90 percent. He’s also shown an ability to take extra bases without running into outs, making baserunning an undeniable strength of his.

    Fielding

    18/25

    Dyson’s speed serves him as well in center field as it does on the basepaths. He’s not the most instinctive center fielder you’re going to come across, but he can catch up to anything, and he’s certainly not shy of the wall. To boot, he has a solid arm for a center fielder who gets by mainly thanks to his speed. If only he didn't have a tendency to boot the ball...

    Health

    9/10

    Dyson suffered a dislocated right shoulder in 2011 and more problems with the same shoulder toward the end of the 2012 season. He was also sidelined by a high ankle sprain for over 30 games earlier this summer. He’s been fine since returning from that, but his recent injury history definitely isn’t pretty.

    Total

    61/100

    Dyson’s game is all about speed. It’s a good thing he does a good job of putting it to use, as there’s not much there if you take away his wheels.

29. Chris Young, Oakland A's

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    Hitting

    7/20

    Chris Young has a track record as a patient hitter, and his patience has only become more pronounced in his part-time role with the Oakland A’s. He’s still good at turning his patience into walks, but non-regular playing time hasn’t helped his plate discipline or, indeed, his tendency to swing and miss. Young is whiffing and striking out even more than usual, and he still has an extreme fly-ball habit that’s bad for his BABIP. Add it all up, and you have a guy who will exit 2013 more than a little out of sorts.

    Power

    18/25

    One thing Young’s fly-ball habit is good for is producing home runs. His home run power is about as good this year as it was in 2012, a product of a steady HR/FB percentage. Over a full season’s worth of plate appearances, he can top 20 homers easily. The catch with Young is that his power is one-dimensional. He can hit the ball with a ton of authority to left field, but not so much to center and hardly at all to right.

    Baserunning

    12/20

    Young has always had speed, but he’s never been the most efficient base stealer with a career success rate in the 70-80 percent range. He’s toned it down in the past two years, with injuries playing a role in 2012 and playing time playing a role this year. But one thing he has been remarkably better about over the past two seasons is avoiding outs on the basepaths. He’s been mistake-free in 2013 but hasn’t given up his aggressiveness to achieve as much.

    Fielding

    17/25

    Young has been more of a rover for the A’s in 2013, but the bulk of his time in the outfield has been spent at his natural position. The metrics don’t approve of his performance in center field, and it’s easy to see why. There have been times when Young has looked a little out of practice in center field, which makes sense in light of the fact that he’s had to split time between center, left and right. But since we know from his track record that he’s much smoother than he’s shown, we’ll give him a slight pass. 

    Health

    7/10

    Young has a notable history of quad injuries, battling them all September last year and landing on the DL with a right thigh strain this April. Not a good look for him, especially given the fact that he’s now on the wrong side of 30.

    Total

    61/100

    Young hasn't been heard from very often during his time as a platoon player in 2013, but he shouldn't be judged by this silence too much. He's a good fielding center fielder with power in his bat and speed to use on the basepaths. Such things come in handy.

28. Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Hitting

    8/20

    A left-handed hitter, Gregory Polanco has a mature approach at the plate with a present feel for the strike zone and mature pitch recognition. Due to his lanky build and long arms, he gets excellent coverage at the plate and utilizes the whole field. Polanco’s bat path is short and quick, and he trusts his hands enough to let the ball get deep in the zone. He’ll get long on occasion, which impedes his ability to handle velocity on the hands and up in the zone, but that’s really only a minor gripe. Overall, Polanco projects as an above-average hitter in the major leagues capable of an annual batting average of .280-plus.  

    Power

    11/25

    Although he has a wiry frame with plenty of room left to add strength, Polanco’s quick wrists and impressive bat speed give him more power than one might expect. He generates outstanding extension after contact, while his high follow-through creates considerable backspin carry to all fields. He won’t be regarded as a power hitter at the next level, per se, but Polanco will continue to surprise with his pop as he moves up the ladder. When all is said and done, he should be capable of hitting 12 to 20 home runs annually.

    Baserunning

    17/20

    Polanco showcases plus speed on both sides of the ball. He’s an aggressive baserunner who looks to swipe a bag and take an extra base whenever he reaches, though he’s still rather raw when it comes to reading pitchers and picking spots to run. Even if he never becomes a prolific base stealer, Polanco should be good for 20-plus steals in a given season.

    Fielding

    17/25

    Polanco’s speed and long strides are ideal for center field, where he showcases natural defensive actions and exceptional range in all directions. More importantly, he’s made significant strides in improving both his reads and routes this season and, in turn, solidified his future as a center fielder at the highest level. Additionally, Polanco’s above-average arm strength is a clean fit at the position.

    Health

    9/10

    Besides an ankle injury that he suffered during the offseason while participating in the Pirates’ Navy SEALs training, Polanco has enjoyed a healthy career thus far.

    Total

    62/100

    Polanco’s tools and feel for the game are both highly impressive for a player of his age and experience. This season, the outfielder’s defense has caught up to his bat, which helps explain why he’s emerged as one of baseball’s more intriguing prospects. He’s still rough around the edges with room to improve in all facets of the game, but the potential is there for a first-division regular at maturity.

27. Ben Revere, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Hitting

    18/20

    Ben Revere is a throwback as a hitter. He doesn’t like to wait around at the plate, as he goes up looking to make contact rather than work the count. It’s fortunate that making contact is something he’s extremely good at. He doesn’t strike out or even swing and miss that often, and he knows his limits. Fly balls off his bat are a rarity. He’s typically one to hit the ball on the ground, but there have been more line drives off his bat in 2013. His .300 batting average is no fluke.

    Power

    1/25

    The number of home runs Revere has hit in his major league career: zero. And since his M.O. is to make contact and do little else, he doesn’t even hit that many doubles or triples. Revere is baseball’s least powerful hitter, and it’s really not even up for discussion.

    Baserunning

    17/20

    Because Revere doesn’t hit for power, it’s a darn good thing he steals bases. He also takes his share of extra bases, as you would expect. However, here’s why Revere is a couple of points shy of a perfect score here: He can be careless on the basepaths. He has a track record of getting picked off and running into outs, and he’s not the most efficient base stealer under the sun.

    Fielding

    16/25

    Revere rated as an excellent defensive right fielder last year in the eyes of the metrics, but not so good as a center fielder in 2013. That may sound like blasphemy in light of the highlight-reel catches (i.e. this one) Revere has made, but it actually makes sense. He’s been slow to react off the bat at times, and his great catches are more products of speed than good route running. He gets a passing score here, but also a score that reflects his relative rawness in center field.

    Health

    10/10

    Revere broke his right foot on a foul ball in early July. The good news is that broken bones tend to heal, so we won't deny him points here. But it’s definitely something that bears monitoring given how much his success revolves around his speed.

    Total

    62/100

    Speed, speed and more speed, as well as a supreme ability to put the ball in play. That's what Revere is all about, and he does these things well enough to earn his keep as a regular.

26. Cameron Maybin, San Diego Padres

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    Hitting

    10/20

    We obviously didn't get much of a look at Cameron Maybin this year due to his injury problems, but we know that he showed some strides in 2012. His plate discipline was a lot better than it was in 2011, as he cut down on his whiffs and strikeouts in a big way. Since he’s a ground-ball hitter, however, he’s always going to be prone to BABIP fluctuation. For his OBP’s sake, he could do with a more consistent walk habit to help combat that. He has yet to develop one of those.

    Power

    12/25

    Maybin’s raw power is pretty good—as he showed on the 485-foot homer he hit in Arizona last year—but tapping into it in games on a consistent basis has always been difficult for him. His ground-ball habit is a factor in that, as it keeps him from racking up as many homers, doubles and triples as he should be hitting and has rendered him a below-average power producer throughout his whole career. His score here is based on the notion that he might still be able to break through, which is not out of the question given the reality that he still has some prime years left.

    Baserunning

    17/20

    With his power inconsistent, it’s a good thing that Maybin is able to get into scoring position by way of the stolen bases. He swiped 40 bags back in 2011 and 26 in 2012. He’s not the smartest base stealer, but he does have more than enough speed to keep up the habit. He’s also a quality baserunner, notably scoring from first on 12 of the 15 doubles that were hit when he was on first in 2011 and 2012 and making only eight outs on the bases that weren’t at home.

    Fielding

    20/25

    Maybin is typically one of the game’s better defensive center fielders. He can take some zig-zaggy routes when he has to go back on the ball, and he never seems like he’s running very hard, but he closes ground with long strides and is hardly afraid of sacrificing his body for the sake of making a catch. He’s one of the more underappreciated highlight-reel center fielders out there.

    Health

    4/10

    This has been a lost year for Maybin because of injuries. He missed 46 games with a right wrist impingement and then hit the DL with a sprained knee shortly after he came off the DL from the wrist injury. The recovery from the latter proved to be difficult, and Maybin's season ultimately came to an early end when he went in for surgery on his right wrist. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the doctor who performed the surgery "found more issues than originally expected." Not good.

    Total

    63/100

    Maybin has never been the kind of game-changing player he was once billed as, and now his health is compromised. But when he’s healthy, he’s a guy who can provide value with his speed both on the basepaths and in the outfield, and that’s been enough to make him a quality regular.

25. Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals

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    Hitting

    12/20

    Lorenzo Cain came into this season with a track record as a patient hitter, and 2013 has seen him turn some of that patience into walks by way of improved plate discipline. He can obviously still be beat—hint: fastballs up—but give him credit for improving with increased playing time this season. Cain’s BABIP should also be higher than it is, as he’s hit his share of line drives but has a relatively low average on them.

    Power

    8/25

    Cain posted a 13.2 HR/FB rate last year, but home runs aren’t really his style. That’s become clear this year, as his HR/FB has gone down, and understandably so given the fact that his deep drives have had a tendency to go out to center field. The power production he has racked up is also slightly misleading, as he’s boosted it with a couple of ground balls down the left field line that just so happened to go for doubles.

    Baserunning

    11/20

    Cain was a perfect 10-of-10 stealing bases in 2012, but he hasn’t been able to carry that efficiency over to 2013. He’s really an average base stealer for the position and frankly isn’t very useful as a baserunner in other things besides stolen bases. He doesn’t go first to third with much regularity and doesn’t take many extra bases period.

    Fielding

    24/25

    Cain’s offensive performance in 2013: hit or miss. His defensive performance, on the other hand: brilliant. He reacts well at the crack of the bat and seems to have gotten better at reading the flight of the ball. From there, it’s all route running and athleticism. As a bonus, Cain has done some legit damage with his arm this year to place himself among the game’s most impactful center fielders.

    Health

    8/10

    Cain’s been pretty banged up over the past two years. He missed 79 games with a left groin strain at the start of 2012 and then another 19 with a strained right hamstring at the end of the year. This year, he landed on the DL in August not with a leg injury, but with a bad oblique. 

    Total

    63/100

    Cain’s not a bad hitter, but he doesn't offer much power and is a surprisingly mediocre baserunner. But he can play some serious D in center field, and that's not worth nothing.

24. Jon Jay, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Hitting

    15/20

    The old “fast high, slow low” approach works pretty well against Jon Jay, as he likes to go chasing both fastballs up and off-speed stuff down and away, and he doesn’t mind expanding the zone to do so. Yet his plate discipline is passable, and he has found ways to work more walks in 2013. His BABIP is down, but he’s hitting more line drives than ever and is still going back up the middle and to left field for the most part. His numbers have regressed, but Jay is still a quality hitter.

    Power

    9/25

    Part of the reason Jay’s BABIP is down from where it was in 2012 is because he’s hitting more fly balls. It hasn’t been in vain, as he’s hitting the ball out of the park at a better rate than he did in 2012. He’s also hitting doubles at a better rate thanks to some hard-hit balls into the left-center gap. All of this doesn’t make him an above-average power threat, mind you, but he’s hardly hopeless when it comes to hitting the ball hard.

    Baserunning

    13/20

    Jay stole 19 bases in 2012, but was also caught seven times. Perhaps he got some sort of message from that, as he’s cut down on his stolen-base attempts this year. But even without the steals, Jay still makes the grade as a quality baserunner. He doesn't run into many outs, and he knows how to take the extra base.

    Fielding

    16/25

    The metrics don’t like what they’re seeing with Jay’s defense this year, but he’s typically a solid defender in center field. He doesn’t have outrageous speed, but he helps himself by generally taking good routes to the ball. While he can be frozen by hard-hit line drives, he does go back on the ball more smoothly than some center fielders. Jay doesn’t wow you with his defense, but he holds his own.

    Health

    10/10

    Jay screwed up his right shoulder pretty bad early in 2012, eventually landing on the DL and missing 35 games. But since then, his body hasn’t taken any additional scratches.

    Total

    63/100

    Jay’s biggest sin as a player is being boring, as he’s not a spectacular hitter, power hitter, baserunner or defender. But his bat is good enough to hold down a job in the majors, and he plays a solid center field to boot.

23. Angel Pagan, San Francisco Giants

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    Hitting

    12/20

    Angel Pagan's approach is generally fine, but he has a tendency to hit too many balls in the air. He doesn’t take enough walks to make up for it, in part because he tends to make contact when he swings the bat. When the BABIP gods aren't on his side, he can be quiet for weeks on end. He gets a respectable score here because his contact abilities bring the BABIP gods around sooner or later, and then he can get scorching hot.

    Power

    14/25

    Pagan doesn’t have a ton of home run power, but he’s one of the best gap hitters in the league—never more so than last year, when he led the league in triples with an assist from AT&T Park’s triples-friendly dimensions. He wasn’t racking ‘em up before he got hurt this year, but in a normal year he’s going to produce enough doubles and triples to grade out as a quality power producer.

    Baserunning

    18/20

    Pagan is one of the best baserunners MLB has to offer. He’s a 30-steal guy when he’s healthy, and he’s also one of the best at taking the extra base. One doesn’t rank second in Ultimate Base Running over a full season by accident. One reason he doesn’t get a perfect score here is because his aggressiveness gets him in trouble on occasion. He was picked off seven times in 2012 and also made a handful of outs at third base. Another is because his legs may have peaked as value producers.

    Fielding

    13/25

    Pagan can make some spectacular plays in the outfield, but his defense really isn’t that great. He can come in on the ball fine and doesn’t mind sacrificing his body. His issues arise when he has to go back on the ball, as he gets tentative and seems to be a little wall-shy. He’s average at best.

    Health

    6/10

    Pagan was able to make it back before the end of the season following hamstring surgery, but such an injury is definitely a concern at his age (Pagan turned 32 in July), especially given the fact that so much of his game depends on speed. 

    Total

    63/100

    Pagan’s bat isn't that much better than the average center fielder's, and he doesn't play that great of a center field to boot. But he's dynamite when he gets hot, and his legs tend to be terrific sources of value.

22. George Springer, Houston Astros

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    Hitting

    7/20

    George Springer’s swing can get long and involves considerable effort with an approach geared toward punishing the ball rather than making consistent contact. As a result, he tends to strike out out as often as he barrels the ball. Therefore, Springer’s ability to hit for average at the highest level will depend on his ability to keep his propensity to swing and miss under control. This season, the right-handed hitter has tightened his approach against more advanced pitching in the high minors and has sustained an impressive batting average by improving both his strikeout and walk rates.

    Power

    15/25

    While Springer has a collection of impressive tools, power continues to be his calling card. The right-hander hitter is loaded with both athleticism and present strength, which caters to his plus raw power to all fields and especially to the pull side. Springer’s pop comes naturally and will inevitably translate at the highest level, where he has the potential to post 30-plus home runs a season in his prime.

    Baserunning

    15/20

    While Springer’s power grades as his best tool, his speed and baserunning doesn’t lag far behind. He’s a plus runner whose wheels and athleticism is obvious on both sides of the ball. Since entering the Astros system in 2011, he’s emerged as one of the better base stealers in the minor leagues with 30-plus stolen bases in each of the past two seasons. It’s a reasonable assumption that he’ll post similar totals in the major leagues.

    Fielding

    17/25

    Despite his overwhelming natural ability and loud tools, there was some doubt as to whether Springer could stick in center field heading into the season. So far, he’s done everything in his power to counter that notion with noticeably improved jumps and routes. With plus speed and range, Springer has the potential to be an above-average defensive center fielder at the highest level. 

    Health

    10/10

    Despite his all-out style of play, Springer has avoided a significant injury over the first two years of his professional career—probably because he’s a ridiculous athlete. As long as he can stay healthy and on the field moving forward, Springer has a realistic chance of reaching his high ceiling.

    Total

    64/100

    Few players in the minors are as naturally gifted as Springer. For that reason, there are even fewer players with as high of a ceiling as the Astros’ future center fielder. More specifically, Springer’s game-changing power-speed combination will make him an impact player in the major leagues. However, the ongoing development of his hit tool and plate discipline will ultimately determine whether he’s an All-Star-caliber player or just a first-division regular.

21. Craig Gentry, Texas Rangers

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    Hitting

    11/20

    Craig Gentry was never really a patient hitter before this season. Now he’s very patient, seeing more than four pitches per plate appearance and using an outstanding eye to turn a good chunk of those into walks. He needs those to save his OBP, because his approach to contact is to do the classic speedy guy thing and hit the ball on the ground. Close to 60 percent of the balls off his bat have been on the ground, and one’s BABIP can only go so high with so many grounders.

    Power

    7/25

    As you would expect for a guy who hits so many ground balls, power hasn’t really been Gentry’s thing in 2013 and has never really been his thing at any point. He can pop liners down the left field line and can occasionally surprise with a fly ball that travels farther than the center fielder can run. But for the most part, he’s a singles hitter to the core.

    Baserunning

    16/20

    Gentry doesn’t pile ‘em up, but he is a good base stealer in terms of efficiency. He stole 18 without getting caught back in 2011 and has been showing off that same sort of efficiency this year. That makes up for some of his absent power, and Gentry is also plenty capable of getting around the bases on batted balls. However, he doesn't take as many extra bases as one would prefer with his speed, and this year he's finally made some outs on the basepaths.

    Fielding

    20/25

    Gentry’s speed is the absolute best tool he has when playing center field, and he certainly has enough of it to make more plays than most center fielders. He covers a ton of ground out in center. What's more, he has himself a pretty good arm. But while he often looks it, he's not quite perfect in the field. He's more about taking off flying and adjusting his route as he goes. He has the speed to get away with that for now, but perhaps not for long with his 30th birthday due up in November.

    Health

    10/10

    Gentry had to go on the DL earlier this year with a broken hand. But broken bones have been known to heal, and that was Gentry’s first notable injury since 2011.

    Total

    64/100

    Gentry's bat doesn't pack a lot of punch. It's his speed that earns him his checks, and it comes in handy both on the basepaths and in the outfield.

20. Juan Lagares, New York Mets

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    Hitting

    7/20

    Juan Lagares is trying out the whole “patient approach” thing in his rookie season, but plate discipline eludes him. He swings at a ton of pitches outside the zone and isn’t great at making contact when he does so. When that happens, you get both a low walk rate and a high strikeout rate. The good news is that he’s maintained a solid BABIP. The bad news is that it’s more solid than it should be, as it’s being fed by an unsustainably high average on ground balls.

    Power

    12/25

    Home runs aren’t and likely never will be Lagares’ thing, but he has shown some solid home run pop to left field and the ability to hit the ball hard into the right-center gap. That’s where his triples have gone, and that’s an encouraging sign. The power hasn't been there for Lagares recently, but there's enough potential for average power production.

    Baserunning

    11/20

    Lagares was a solid source of stolen bases in the minors, and he’s shown that he can be one in the majors as well. One thing that does need to be smoothed over is Lagares’ baserunning itself. Seemingly all New York Mets players are terrific baserunners, but Lagares has run into a few too many outs at third base in the early goings of his major league career. 

    Fielding

    25/25

    One thing that’s already abundantly clear about Lagares is this: holy moly can he play defense. He doesn’t fly across the outfield like a Michael Bourn or a Jacoby Ellsbury, but he gets terrific jumps and it’s amazing how smoothly he goes back on balls hit towards the center field wall. He definitely has a flare for the highlight-reel catch, and his arm is a weapon to boot. There's an argument to be made that he's been the best defensive center fielder in the league this year, which is saying a lot.

    Health

    9/10

    Lagares had some not-so-minor injuries when he was down on the farm, undergoing wrist surgery in 2009 and suffering an ankle fracture in 2010. He's been fine ever since, but we're going to play it on the safe side with this score.

    Total

    64/100

    Lagares’ bat and baserunning needs some polish, but he’s got some pop and can play a mean center field. He was a guy who only prospect nuts knew about not too long ago, but now it looks like he may be sticking around as an MLB regular for a while.

19. A.J. Pollock, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Hitting

    9/20

    A.J. Pollock is patient enough at the plate, and he also has better plate discipline than most. What's odd is that he doesn't have a higher walk rate than the one he has, which naturally means his fortunes this year have depended mainly on his BABIP. He has a solid one, but he's yet another case of a speedy player who mainly keeps the ball on the ground. His biggest problem to that end is that he basically can't hit the ball on the ground to the right side of the field. He's easy to defend.

    Power

    13/25

    Pollock’s M.O. may be to hit the ball on the ground, but he does have some solid pop. Most notably, he’s been known to smack doubles and triples to left- and right-center, and he can definitely put a charge on the ball when he hits it to left field. His power isn’t great, but it is certainly passable.

    Baserunning

    13/20

    Pollock can steal a base, but he hasn’t been overly efficient in a small sample size. However, he certainly gets around the bases well on balls in play, taking plenty of extra bases and not getting caught. We don’t want to go too overboard based on the small sample, but baserunning is clearly a strength of his.

    Fielding

    20/25

    The defensive metrics absolutely adore Pollock’s defense, and he has definitely made his share of highlight-reel plays in center field. In particular, he seems to have a special talent for the diving catch. But some of those have come thanks to the fact that Pollock didn’t read the ball off the bat well and then had to make up a lot of ground in a hurry. He’s undeniably talented, but maybe not as talented as the metrics think he is.

    Health

    10/10

    Pollock suffered a nasty elbow fracture in 2010 that sidelined him for a long while. Ever since then, he’s dealt with a whole lot of nothing on the injury front.

    Total

    65/100

    Pollock’s bat is nothing special, but his legs definitely have a home in the major leagues. They’re what help him get around the bases and make astonishing plays in the outfield.

18. Peter Bourjos, Los Angeles Angels

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    Hitting

    11/20

    We haven’t gotten a very good look at Peter Bourjos in 2013 thanks to his array of injuries, but he’s generally more aggressive than patient, and he has a slight tendency to swing at air. He has halfway decent plate discipline, however, and he does the speedy guy thing by hitting the ball on the ground and using his legs to pressure the defense. MY gripe is that he's been a little bit too successful on ground balls this year, as it's not easy for even speedsters to maintain .280-plus BABIPs on grounders.

    Power

    10/25

    Power has been hard to come by with Bourjos over the past two years, but he actually does have some solid pop in his bat. His home run power is restricted to left field, but it’s not unheard of for him to lace one over the center fielder’s head and then run for a while. But based on his contact habits from this season, the question is whether he hits too many ground balls to be an above-average power hitter.

    Baserunning

    14/20

    Bourjos certainly has speed to spare that comes in handy stealing bases, but he wasn’t very efficient over a sufficient sample size in 2011. He stole 22 bases, but in 31 attempts. I’ll wager he’s better at getting around the bases than he is at stealing them, as he takes the opportunities he’s given and has been good about avoiding outs over the past two years.

    Fielding

    25/25

    Bourjos’ speed absolutely comes in handy when he’s in the outfield, and he rated as a game-changing center fielder in 2011 when he had regular playing time and even did so again in 2012 when he didn’t have regular playing time. It’s no mirage. He gets great jumps on balls, takes good routes and has unreal closing speed. To top it off, he even has a good arm. The best I can say is this: The Los Angeles Angels have a darn good excuse to play him in center over Mike Trout.

    Health

    5/10

    Bourjos is a guy who just can’t stay healthy, and his injuries are of the concerning variety. He had to go on the DL late last year with a sore right wrist, a gift of a hit-by-pitch. In 2013, he’s gone on the DL with a hamstring strain and another right wrist injury, once again a gift of a hit-by-pitch. That ultimately ended his season early due to surgery.

    Total

    65/100

    Bourjos' glove is special and he has the legs to do damage on the basepaths. But his bat is really just OK, and there are obvious health concerns after what's happened to him in 2013.

17. Coco Crisp, Oakland A's

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    Hitting

    12/20

    Coco Crisp has pretty even career splits for a switch-hitter, but not so much in 2013. He’s been markedly better from the left side. His approach, however, is fine. He’s been much more patient than usual this year, and he still has terrific plate discipline that helps him turn this patience into walks. Save for a spike in fly balls, his contact habits haven't changed that much from where they were last year. That means he's still a quality hitter, and that spike in fly balls is OK because...

    Power

    15/25

    Crisp has set a new career-high for homers in 2013, which is his gift for mixing his increased fly-ball rate with one of the highest HR/FB rates of his career. He may only have power down the lines, but he seems to understand that. Whether he’s betting left-handed or right-handed, he’s a pull hitter all the way. But if you think he can be this good at hitting for power, think again. His home run outburst is nice, but it's hard to imagine the guy with the shortest average home run distance in baseball getting as lucky again next year.

    Baserunning

    15/20

    Crisp led the American League with 49 steals in 2011. He’s dealt with injuries to his wheels over the past two seasons, so it’s no surprise that he’s cut back on the stolen bases. But he’s still a threat to go when he’s standing on first base, and he can still get around the bases well on balls in play. He’s certainly the best baserunner on the A’s and one of the top baserunners in baseball.

    Fielding

    16/25

    Crisp’s defensive game in center field is more about speed than it is about grace, as he just takes off running after balls and adjusts on the fly. This can make for some adventurous routes, and it’s not uncommon to see Crisp barely catch the ball after making a last-second adjustment. But while it may not be pretty, it works well enough.

    Health

    7/10

    You can count on Crisp being hurt pretty much all the time. He had issues with illnesses in 2012, most notably an inner ear infection, and in 2013 he’s had back problems, a hamstring strain that put him on the DL, a bad wrist and some lower leg pain. He's never played more than 145 games in a season, nor is he likely to any time soon.

    Total

    65/100

    Crisp’s game is still based largely on his speed, which is not as explosive these days and isn’t going to get more explosive as he gets deeper into his 30s. But he can still hit, is hitting for some solid power and can still run and play defense better than most.

16. Denard Span, Washington Nationals

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    Hitting

    14/20

    Denard Span’s plate discipline has taken a turn for the worse in 2013, especially on off-speed stuff down below the zone. The bad news is that his walk habit is paying the price. The good news is that Span is still a terrific contact hitter, avoiding strikeouts and putting the ball in play with regularity. He also knows to keep his batted balls out of the air, and has done a particularly good job of that in the second half. His BABIP has benefited, hence the reason his numbers suddenly look a lot like they did last season.

    Power

    9/25

    Home runs come rarely for Span, as he doesn’t often hit the ball in the air and doesn’t hit it very hard when he does. He also has limited doubles and triples potential because he can really only hit for power to the gap on his pull side. But here's the good news: he's done a much better job of finding that gap in the second half as his approach and swing have gotten more consistent.

    Baserunning

    11/20

    Span can steal bases, but he doesn’t do so very efficiently. On top of that, he doesn’t bring much to the table as a baserunner. It’s surprising how seldom he goes first to third, and he also runs into too many outs on the basepaths for a guy who’s as tentative as he is. For both a speedy guy and a center fielder, Span is a surprisingly average baserunner.

    Fielding

    21/25

    Span rated as one of the best in the business in center field last year. The metrics don’t love him as much this year, but he still passes the eye test. He reads the ball off the bat well and has the speed to cover plenty of ground. He’s not the best there is out in center field, but certainly one of the best.

    Span was excellent on defense in 2011 and 2012 but has been less so in 2013. This could be a product of him not having the legs to make up for bad reads. That's possible given his issues in other speed-based phases (i.e. baserunning) and plausible due to his age (he turns 30 this offseason).

    Health

    10/10

    Take away some concussion-related scares in 2011, and the scariest injury Span has suffered as a major leaguer was a shoulder sprain that he got courtesy of a diving catch last August. Since he’s still on the right side of 30, his health can be trusted.

    Total

    65/100

    Span can only be so good without power and a good baserunning tool, but he passes for solid as a hitter and is a guy a lot of teams would love to have in center field.

15. Dexter Fowler, Colorado Rockies

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    Hitting

    16/20

    Dexter Fowler has always been good at working the count, and he’s always had the plate discipline to turn his patience into a solid walk rate. He has, however, been more aggressive in 2013, swinging at more pitches both in and out of the zone. The results have been mixed. Fowler isn't having a poor season by any stretch, but he hasn't been enjoying his usual luck on ground balls. It's worth noting that an increased number of swings on pitches below the zone are generating the bulk of those ground balls.

    Power

    15/25

    Fowler’s power was certainly on display earlier in the year, but not so much since. That’s partially owed to the fact that he doesn’t have huge raw power and he’s taken to hitting more fly balls away from the foul poles. He also hits suspiciously few doubles for a guy who plays home games at Coors Field.

    Baserunning

    13/20

    Fowler does have the speed to swipe bases, but he’s never been terribly efficient doing so. The narrative is holding this year, as his success rate is hovering right around 70 percent. One compliment that can be paid is that he goes first to third a ton and hasn’t made as many outs on the bases this year as he usually does.

    Fielding

    14/25

    Fowler has never rated as a particularly good center fielder. Despite his impressive athleticism, he’s always struck me as a guy who moves almost in slow motion in the outfield. It’s like he’s tentative. But the routes he takes are generally good, and he also has a good, if maybe not quite great, arm to work with. He passes for a decent center fielder.

    Health

    8/10

    Fowler had to go on the DL with some right wrist soreness in June, and it wasn’t entirely unprecedented. He battled problems with his right wrist last September too. More recently, he's been battling some pain in his left knee. Add it all up, and he'll have missed over 20 games with injuries by season's end.

    Total

    66/100

    Contrary to what he teased in the early goings this year, Fowler is not a great player, and he’s not even particularly great at any one thing. But he’s good at several things, and that’s good enough.

14. Michael Bourn, Cleveland Indians

29 of 42

    Hitting

    12/20

    Michael Bourn hasn’t been seeing as many pitches at the plate as he did in 2012, a year in which he drew walks a career-best 10 percent of the time. Here are two explanations: he's A) seeing more pitches in the strike zone, and B) he's swinging at more pitches outside the zone. This isn't proving to be a good mix, as Bourn is whiffing more often than he has in years and is working on his highest strikeout rate in years. As if this doesn’t all sound dire enough, Bourn has cashed in some of the line drives he was hitting in 2012 for ground balls this year. But now for the good news: despite some poor numbers, he's spent the second half of the season correcting his various issues. His bat isn't gone yet.

    Power

    7/25

    Bourn hit a career-high nine homers in 2012 and has fortunately carried some of that home run power into 2013 with him. But home run hitting is certainly not hit trade, and Bourn doesn't hit enough liners in the gaps and down the lines for doubles to pass for even a decent power hitter.

    Baserunning

    15/20

    Bourn’s status as one of the most devastating weapons on the basepaths is dwindling. He’s not going to sniff the 40-stolen base plateau this year, and his efficiency hasn’t been good to boot. But while they haven’t gotten the base stealer they paid for, the Indians can rest comfortably knowing that Bourn is still the best baserunner on the team. He’s gone first to third on singles almost half the time he’s had the chance and has taken his share of extra bases besides.

    Fielding

    22/25

    The defensive metrics say that Bourn has lost a few steps in 2013. However, they said the same thing about him in 2011, and then he went on to have a brilliant defensive year in 2012 that very much pleased the metrics. To the naked eye, it does look like Bourn has lost a step or two, which isn’t shocking in light of his age (31). But he can still cover a ton of ground when he gets going, so I give him a slight pass.

    Health

    10/10

    Bourn had to miss about three weeks’ worth of action on the DL earlier this year, but it was with a laceration. Before that, his last DL stint happened way back in 2010.

    Total

    66/100

    Bourn’s stolen base prowess is gone, and with it has gone much of his value. But he can still run, and he can still flash the leather. Not star-level stuff, but it’ll do.

13. Leonys Martin, Texas Rangers

30 of 42

    Hitting

    10/20

    Throw a fastball up in the zone or up above the zone to Leonys Martin, and odds are he’s going to take a hack at it and come away empty-handed. That’s easily the most exploitable part of an approach that clearly needs some work. The bright side is that Martin doesn't have a bad strikeout problem despite his iffy approach, and he's been able to maintain a solid BABIP this year mainly by keeping the ball on the ground. His ceiling can only go so high with a contact approach like that, but such an approach will ensure that he at least maintains a floor as an average hitter.

    Power

    10/25

    When you hit as many ground balls as Martin does, you’re not going to be a big-time power threat. He does have home run pop to right, however, as well as an ability to drive the ball deep into the left-center gap. These habits are going to ensure that he remains a respectable power threat, if not a particularly good one.

    Baserunning

    16/20

    Martin does impress with his base stealing, surely in volume if not in efficiency. He’s been caught red-handed a couple of times on pickoffs and hasn’t been tremendously successful when he’s gotten off clean. Yet he certainly gets around the bases well and is part of an interesting (and, to be clear, official to nobody but me) competition with Elvis Andrus and Craig Gentry to see who the best baserunner is on the Texas Rangers.

    Fielding

    21/25

    Martin is good enough to give Gentry, Texas’ resident outfield defense guru, a run for his money in center field. You occasionally see him take funky routes when he has to go back on the ball, but he gets good jumps and has the speed to close on pretty much anything. He also has a good arm that has been tested a few times too many in 2013.

    Health

    10/10

    The most notable injury in Martin’s history is a herniated disc that sidelined him for a while in 2011. Since then, there hasn’t been much.

    Total

    67/100

    Martin is a guy we’ve been hearing about for a while, and this is the season in which he’s finally (and, admittedly, quietly) established himself. His bat is still a work in progress, but his glove and baserunning skills definitely make the grade.

12. Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees

31 of 42

    Hitting

    12/20

    Curtis Granderson was one of the most patient hitters in the league in 2011 and 2012, seeing well over four pitches per plate appearance both years. He has a frustrating tendency to turn his long at-bats into strikeouts, especially when there’s a lefty with a good slider on the mound. But he also gets on base via the walk, and he’s always been able to maintain decent BABIPs for a guy who hits as many fly balls as he does. He's not much better than an average hitting center fielder, but the word "better" definitely fits.

    Power

    25/25

    Power was Granderson’s calling card in 2011 and 2012, in which hit more home runs than anybody else in baseball. And contrary to popular belief, he didn’t do it all at Yankee Stadium. He is certainly a good fit for Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch, but his home run power generally played fine on the road as well. His success is owed to a consistent ability to get the ball in the air, and then it's all just good, old-fashioned power. Fully healthy, he's the best home run hitting center fielder in the business.

    Baserunning

    12/20

    Granderson eased up on the stolen bases in a big way in 2012, in part because he just wasn’t getting on base as often as he did in 2011. Even without the abundance of stolen bases, however, he’s still an effective baserunner. He’s not one to try to take the extra base every chance he gets, but he also doesn’t run into as many outs as he used to.

    Fielding

    9/25

    It was tough to even qualify Granderson as a center fielder, as the Yankees haven’t been using him exclusively in center field when he’s been healthy in 2013. But he is a center fielder by trade, and that's where he'll be playing the rest of the way this year with Brett Gardner hurt. Either way, his defense in center field was lacking in 2011 and 2012, according to the metrics, and the eye test confirms it made sense. Granderson has more than enough athleticism for the position, but there are times when he doesn’t read the ball off the bat well, and he can be frozen by line drives in his general direction.

    Health

    10/10

    Granderson has spent the bulk of 2013 recovering from broken bones, once after being hit by a pitch in spring training and again after being hit by a pitch in May shortly after he returned from the first injury. But broken bones aren’t a long-term concern, and Granderson’s body otherwise hasn’t shown any real signs that it’s about to break down with his age-33 season looming in 2014.

    Total

    68/100

    Granderson can be a frustrating hitter and fielder to watch, but he has more than enough power to make up for his shortcomings. 

11. Brett Gardner, New York Yankees

32 of 42

    Hitting

    14/20

    Brett Gardner used to be a master of the pesky at-bat. Not so much anymore, as he’s still seeing a ton of pitches but has been more willing to go outside the strike zone and has been striking out as much as the league-average hitter (which is very often for him). His walk rate has suffered, but Gardner has rescued himself with his best full-season line-drive percentage to date. He also hasn’t lost his knack for using the whole field.

    Power

    14/25

    Gardner still has a tendency to slap at the ball, and there are many New York Yankees fans who can no doubt vouch for how annoying it is when Gardner punches harmless fly balls to left field. However, he has indeed been getting around on pitches more often than usual this year, notably taking advantage of Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch. While he doesn’t have legit pop to left field, he has hit some doubles and triples in that direction. It all adds up to a solid, if not great, power-hitting center fielder.

    Baserunning

    14/20

    Gardner stole over 40 bases in both 2010 and 2011. He’s been less prolific in 2013 and also less efficient with a success rate in the 70-80 percent range. He also hasn’t cut it loose on the basepaths as often, though he has indeed spent much of the season hitting in woeful lineups that haven’t given him the chance to do so. He’s still not a guy other teams want on the basepaths.

    Fielding

    18/25

    Gardner was criminally underrated as a defender in left field, and he always did belong in center field over Curtis Granderson. He finally got his chance this year and has surprisingly failed to light up the defensive metrics. It hasn’t been uncommon for him to take questionable routes, and his speed only helps him so much when he has to recover. He makes the grade as a very good defensive center fielder, but not as a great one.

    Health

    8/10

    Gardner missed almost the entire 2012 season with an elbow injury that started small and spiraled into something worse. More recently, he suffered a strained oblique that could sideline him for the rest of 2013. If it does, that's going to make it two straight injury-shortened seasons for Gardner.

    Total

    68/100

    Gardner had better years in 2010 and 2011 when his speed made him a treasure chest of hidden value. His speed hasn’t been as big of a factor in 2013, pushing him down from “criminally underrated player” to “quietly very good player.”

10. Shin-Soo Choo, Cincinnati Reds

33 of 42

    Hitting

    20/20

    No leadoff hitter does the one thing leadoff hitters are supposed to do better than Shin-Soo Choo. He just plain gets on base. He uses a patient approach and an ultra-discerning eye to draw walks, and is doing so better than ever in 2013. When Choo does swing the bat, he’s able to spray line drives and ground balls to all parts of the field to maintain a BABIP well over .300. And while I'm honestly not sure this is a compliment or not, the dude is a master at getting plunked.

    Power

    20/25

    Choo has hit for some good power this year, and not just at the famed power haven that is Great American Ball Park. It helps that he has some legit pop the other way, and not just doubles power either. A good chunk of his home runs have gone out to the opposite field, a feat typically reserved for monster mashers like Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis. Choo obviously doesn’t have their raw strength or regularity, but don’t sleep on his pop.

    Baserunning

    12/20

    Choo isn't much of a burner, and it shows in his stolen base efficiency. His career success rate is right around 70 percent, and has been lower than that this year. Throw in a few pickoffs, and Choo's base-stealing has been downright lousy. But one thing Choo has done is cut down on his baserunning blunders. He made 10 outs on the basepaths last year, and he won’t sniff that total this year despite the fact he hasn’t really toned down his aggressiveness. Mistake-prone though he may be, Choo does enough to make up for it.

    Fielding

    6/25

    Choo was at best a solid defender in right field. In center field, he’s been about as horrible as everyone expected he would be. He’s oftentimes slow to react, and he can be tentative on his routes. These things don’t help range that has it hard enough as is given Choo’s lack of elite speed. He just plain doesn't belong in center field. Fortunately, the odds are good he won't be in center field for much longer.

    Health

    10/10

    Choo’s 2011 season was a bad one for injuries, as he missed significant chunks of time with a thumb injury and an oblique injury. But he hasn’t been on the DL since then and has even managed to avoid nagging injuries.

    Total

    68/100

    This scoring system admittedly hurts Choo, as he gets hurt by the point allotment for defense while the point allotment for hitting really can’t do his extreme talent at getting on base proper justice. So I’ll just leave it at this: If you’re ever in need of somebody to get on base and Joey Votto is unavailable, give Choo a ring.

9. Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay Rays

34 of 42

    Hitting

    10/20

    Desmond Jennings is the kind of hitter who's going to see around four pitches when he goes to the plate, and he also has solid plate discipline to go with his patient approach. Combine these two things, and you get a solid walk rate that helps his OBP. And his OBP needs that help, because Jennings is a frustratingly mediocre BABIP merchant. He doesn’t hit many line drives, choosing instead to conduct his business mainly on the ground. He hits too many balls right at the shortstop to be effective when doing so.

    Power

    16/25

    Jennings has increased his power this year, and he has the right combination to thank for that: fewer balls in the air, yet balls over the fence with the same kind of efficiency. His homers haven’t been cheapies either, as the bulk in 2013 have gone out to left-center and center. He’s also smashed some triples into the right-center gap. He may not be an elite power hitter, but Jennings holds his own.

    Baserunning

    15/20

    Jennings was an extremely efficient base stealer in 2012, stealing 31 bases and getting caught only twice. Luck has caught up to him this year, as he’s been caught more often and has also carelessly been picked off several times. It’s a good thing he still flies around the bases often enough to make the frustration bearable.

    Fielding

    18/25

    Jennings was a downright superb defender in left field last year before making the transition over to center field this year. He hasn’t rated as highly, but the eye test tells a different story. Jennings doesn’t always get a good jump, but once he starts moving he knows exactly where he needs to be and how to get there. With respect to the metrics, Jennings isn't quite as hopeless in center field as they say he is.

    Health

    10/10

    Jennings had to go on the DL with a broken finger in early August, but he didn’t miss much time with that. It’s not something that should impact him long-term. He also hasn’t had any more knee problems after battling a knee sprain in 2012, which is good.

    Total

    69/100

    Jennings isn’t quite a star-level player, but he’s improved his offensive game this year, runs the bases well and plays a very good center field.

8. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers

35 of 42

    Hitting

    19/20

    We know what the real Matt Kemp looks like, and the real Matt Kemp looks nothing like the Matt Kemp who has showed up in 2013. The real Kemp certainly isn’t averse to expanding the zone and will indeed strike out his fair share. But the real Kemp also has astonishing plate coverage and can crush virtually anything. While 2013 is the season that matters most with this project, Kemp gets the benefit of the doubt because of how clear it is that his health (more on that in a moment) is at the root of his problems.

    Power

    25/25

    Another thing the real Matt Kemp has in spades is power. His power goes right back up the middle, and he has more than enough raw pop to send the ball soaring over the center field fence. He also doesn’t have much trouble hitting screamers into the outfield that put the center fielder on his horse to catch up. Fully healthy, he's one of the better power hitters in the league, and is certainly one of the best power-hitting center fielders in the league.

    Baserunning

    15/20

    Kemp career success rate on stolen bases is only 75 percent, and he’s been known to push his luck a bit too much and run into outs on the basepaths. However, he's a perfect nine-for-nine in steals when he's been able to play this season, and it's generally easy to live with the outs because of how many extra-bases he takes. He's not your typical station-to-station middle-of-the-order hitter.

    Fielding

    10/25

    Regardless of his health, defense is easily the weakest part of Kemp’s game. He has plenty of athleticism, and he does make the occasional highlight-reel play, but he also takes questionable routes and just doesn’t get to as many balls as most center fielders. The best thing he has going for him is his arm, which is a weapon for most other center fielders to envy.

    Health

    3/10

    The injury bug just loves the taste of Matt Kemp. Hamstring strains derailed him at the start of 2012, and then, later in the year, he hurt his shoulder bad enough to require surgery over the offseason. He was clearly hampered by that in the early portion of the season and subsequently found himself on the DL on three separate occasions with three separate injuries. His health is an absolute wreck, and there’s some long-term doubt built in with him due to the state of his surgically repaired shoulder. 

    Total

    72/100

    The 2013 season has been even more of a lost season for Kemp than 2012 was. He hasn't been close to 100-percent healthy all year, and hasn't looked like himself when he's been healthy enough to play. Regarding his health, one has no choice but to have doubts. But if a full offseason's worth of rest proves to be just what the doctor ordered, he could be a monster once again in 2014.

7. Austin Jackson, Detroit Tigers

36 of 42

    Hitting

    15/20

    Pitchers have been a bit more aggressive in the zone against Austin Jackson in 2013, forcing him to back off the uber-patient approach that he was using in 2012 and go back to being more of a hacker. But he's been able to salvage some of his improved discipline, and has thus been able to salvage a few walks. And although his BABIP is uncharacteristically low, he’s been a line-drive machine who has been bitten by some bad luck. He deserves better than the numbers he has.

    Power

    15/25

    Jackson broke out a power bat in 2012 to hit 16 home runs in 137 games, but he hasn’t quite had the same punch this year. He hasn’t hit the ball in the air that often, for one, and he’s been punching a few too many balls to deep center and deep right-center. All the same, he does have some solid power for his position, as that line drive habit of his comes in handy in terms of racking up both doubles and triples.

    Baserunning

    15/20

    Jackson has really cut down on the stolen bases over the past two years. Part of that is his power increasing, and another part of it is the fact that he’s had some issues with his wheels. But Jackson is still a very productive baserunner, and he gets a lot of chances to let it loose with guys like Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder behind him in the lineup. Despite that, he’s getting better about not running into outs on the bases rather than more prolific.

    Fielding

    19/25

    Jackson was arguably the best defensive center fielder in the league in 2010 and 2011, but the advanced metrics saw regression in 2012, and they haven’t changed their mind this year. The numbers pass the eye test, as he does seem to have lost some a step in the field. The complaints only go so far, though. Jackson still covers a ton of ground, and he’s one of the smoothest in the league out in center field with a pretty good arm to boot.

    Health

    9/10

    Jackson’s body doesn’t have too many miles on it so early in his major league career, but it’s looking like he might be a one-DL-stint-per-year kind of guy. He spent three weeks on the DL with an ab strain last year and a month on the DL with a hamstring strain this year.

    Total

    73/100

    Jackson was one of the best players in baseball who got no attention whatsoever in 2012. He hasn’t been that guy in 2013, but he still gets on base, hits for some power, runs the bases and plays defense with the big boys.

6. Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles

37 of 42

    Hitting

    15/20

    Adam Jones is one of the last players in the majors you can look to for a walk. He doesn’t go up to the plate looking to work the count and is among the most infamous chasers in the league. He’s not particularly skilled at making contact when he does so, so swings and misses and strikeouts are always going to have a place in the game. It’s a good thing he hits the ball with authority when he does make contact, and his ability to spray line drives all over the field makes for a solid BABIP tendency. He can't do a .350 OBP, but he can do a .300 batting average.

    Power

    23/25

    Jones showed more home run power than ever before in 2012, and it’s carried over to 2013. The ball has a very good chance of going over the fence if he hits it to left or left-center, but he also does have some power to the other side of the field. While he is indeed a great fit for Oriole Park at Camden Yards, his power has been playing just as well on the road in 2013.

    Baserunning

    15/20

    Jones isn’t an elite base stealer, but he can take them. This year, he’s doing so more efficiently with a success rate well above his career norm. He’s also been notably less reckless on the basepaths than he was in 2012, when he made four outs at second base and two outs at third. In all, a part of his game that was already a strength has only gotten stronger.

    Fielding

    12/25

    Jones is a two-time Gold Glove winner—and Exhibit A for why the award is a sham. His athleticism is fine, but he’s not a good defensive center fielder. There were complaints about his route running when he was a prospect, especially going back on the ball. He all too often looks tentative when he has to run back, especially when he gets closer to the wall. The only thing saving him from a below-average score here is his arm, which is quite good and has been a weapon in 2013.

    Health

    10/10

    Jones suffered a bad ankle sprain back in 2009 that put him on the 60-day DL and cost him 29 games. But that’s the only time he’s been on the DL in his career, and he hasn’t even dealt with any legit nagging injuries over the past couple of seasons. At the age of 28, he should still be in his prime for a while.

    Total

    75/100

    Jones’ anti-walk approach at the plate is as frustrating as his defense, but his combination of power and speed makes it all tolerable.

5. Colby Rasmus, Toronto Blue Jays

38 of 42

    Hitting

    13/20

    Strikeouts come with the territory with Colby Rasmus, and such things do indeed tend to happen when a hitter has contact issues both inside and outside the strike zone. For Rasmus, nothing gets him quite like off-speed down and in. But he certainly shouldn’t stop looking inside, as he’s a pull hitter who can do a lot of damage in the direction of right field when he makes contact. It was the story in 2010 when he looked like a promising young hitter, and he’s gotten back to it this year. It’s not pretty, but at least it’s working again.

    Power

    23/25

    Rasmus’ power has been one-dimensional in 2013. As you’d expect given his approach, he hasn’t been able to hit anything with any authority to a field other than right field. But his home run power to right and right-center is definitely legit, and Rasmus has sent an awful lot of screamers down the right field line for doubles. In addition to his approach, he’s rediscovered the power that he had in 2010 as well.

    Baserunning

    11/20

    Rasmus is nothing special as a baserunner, particularly not in light of the position he plays. He doesn’t steal bases, making his best talent his ability to get around the bases well without making outs. That’s something he couldn’t do in 2012, for the record, as he racked up a whopping 11 outs on the basepaths.

    Fielding

    21/25

    Rasmus may not steal bases, but he does put impressive natural athleticism to good use in the field. He doesn’t have insane closing speed, instead relying on his instincts, a good first step and good old-fashioned route running. While he hasn’t gotten many chances to show it off this year, Rasmus does have a pretty good arm at his disposal as well.

    Health

    10/10

    The Blue Jays had to put Rasmus on the DL in August with a strained abdominal muscle. He had been healthy all season before that, however, and his last DL stint had come all the way back in 2011, so we’ll give him a pass.

    Total

    78/100

    The 2011 and 2012 seasons were lost years for Rasmus, making it easy to give up on him as a guy who would ever be worth a darn. But lost in the midst of a disappointing season up in Toronto has been Rasmus’ revival as a power-hitting, Gold Glove-caliber center fielder. He's one of the best the position has to offer these days.

    The 2011 and 2012 seasons were lost years for Rasmus, making it easy to give up on him as a guy who would ever be worth a darn. But lost in the midst of a disappointing season up in Toronto has been Rasmus’ revival as a power-hitting, golden-gloved center fielder.

4. Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox

39 of 42

    Hitting

    18/20

    It still feels like Jacoby Ellsbury rarely walks, but he’s actually been walking more often this year than ever before. That counts as an interesting trend in a season where his plate discipline and patience have basically been par for the course. Where his true talent lies, however, is in his ability to make contact both inside and outside the strike zone, and he has the right idea for a speedster with an emphasis on hitting the ball on the ground. By doing that, using the whole field and mixing in more than a few liners, he’s plenty capable of sustaining a high BABIP.

    Power

    14/25

    Ellsbury’s power surge in 2011 was a fluke brought on by an absurd second-half HR/FB rate. He does have some impressive raw power, but his emphasis on hitting the ball on the ground doesn’t leave much room for it to show up. But to give him some credit, he has lost some extra-base hits to the Fenway Park triangle this year, while on the flip side collecting a few extra-base hits by clanking a couple of balls off the Green Monster. He’s not an elite power hitter, but he is better than an average one.

    Baserunning

    20/20

    Ellsbury is arguably the best baserunner in the business. He’s back to stealing bases at will this year, racking up a ton of them with a success rate over 90 percent. That's 2012 Mike Trout-esque. He also runs the bases very well, with the bulk of his outs on the basepaths coming courtesy of the third base coach’s pinwheeling arm.

    Fielding

    23/25

    There are few center fielders in the game who can cover as much ground as Ellsbury. He got much better at reading the ball off the bat somewhere along the line, and he’s lost neither that nor his elite closing speed in recent years. The one thing he doesn’t have is arm strength, which costs him a shot at being graded as a supreme defensive center fielder.

    Health

    7/10

    Ellsbury is more snake-bit than he is injury-prone, but his tendency to get hurt has to be taken into account all the same. Collision injuries cost him almost the entire 2010 season, and another collision injury cost him a good chunk of 2011. This season was looking like a healthy one for a while there, but then Ellsbury fouled a ball off his foot and suffered a compression fracture. This makes it three injury-plagued seasons out of four.

    Total

    82/100

    When Ellsbury was hitting for power in 2011, he was the best all-around player in the game; Matt Kemp was damn good, but he couldn’t hold a candle to Ellsbury on defense. Ellsbury’s no longer in that discussion without the power, but his speed and hitting abilities still quality him as a damn good player.

3. Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers

40 of 42

    Hitting

    15/20

    Carlos Gomez is undeniably an aggressive hitter. He hacks away at over half the pitches he sees and has no reservations whatsoever about going outside the strike zone. The bad: He doesn’t do walks and strikes out more often than your average hitter. The good: Gomez has been able to find the holes in the defense consistently this season. And now some more bad: Since he hasn’t exactly been a big-time line-drive machine, it’s fair to wonder how much longer Gomez can keep flirting with .300.

    Power

    21/25

    Gomez’s power has been impressive over the past two seasons, particularly since the second half of 2012. He’s simply been swinging with more confidence and has hit the ball on a rope to all parts of the field. But here’s the catch: A huge percentage of his power production has come at Miller Park, a known hitter’s haven. Specifically, that’s where he’s hit the bulk of his home runs. Take him out of Miller Park, and he becomes less than an elite power hitter.

    Baserunning

    18/20

    Gomez has been a stolen-base machine the past two seasons in addition to a power-hitting machine, and he’s been an efficient one too. His success rate is over 80 percent. The one gripe to be made is that he’s run into too many outs at third base this year. There’s a line between aggressive and reckless, and he’s toed it a bit too often.

    Fielding

    25/25

    You’ve seen the highlights, and they’re not at all misleading. Gomez has always been a superb athlete, and he’s put that athleticism to use in the outfield like never before in 2013. He can run down anything, and he has been ready, willing and able to give up his body. On top of it all, he has an arm that must not be underestimated. Right now, he’s the best there is in center field.

    Health

    9/10

    Between 2011 and 2012, Gomez lost 52 games to the DL with shoulder surgery and a hamstring strain, and he’s had some problems with his wheels the past two seasons. Most recently, he banged up his knee making a catch at the wall in August and was hurt so bad he needed crutches. Point being: He’s not a good bet to get through a season healthy.

    Total

    88/100

    Gomez isn’t a perfect player. His approach at the plate makes one’s head hurt, his power isn’t what it seems and he can be too reckless at times. But there’s no denying his all-around talent, and this season has seen him put it to use like never before. In doing so, he's taken his place as one of MLB's elite players.

2. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

41 of 42

    Hitting

    20/20

    Andrew McCutchen was probably too patient for his own good in 2011, when he saw over four pitches per plate appearance and drew a ton of walks only to see his batting average suffer in the long run. He’s been getting less patient ever since, yet has become a master at picking his spots. He’s been able to maintain a walk rate over 10 percent over the past two years and has become more and more of a line-drive machine. And if you think he’s an outstanding hitter now, just wait until he starts making more consistent use of right field.

    Power

    23/25

    McCutchen’s power outburst in 2012 looks like an outlier now, as his power in 2013 has been more in line with what he showed in 2011. He’s realistically less than an elite home run hitter, but it should be noted that he does get robbed of homers by PNC Park. It’s a good thing he can punch balls into the gaps and smash it over the center fielder’s head on a consistent basis.

    Baserunning

    17/20

    There are better baserunning center fielders than McCutchen, but he’s undoubtedly one of the best. He’s having his best base-stealing season since 2010, both in terms of volume and efficiency, and goodness knows he’s still getting around the bases well on balls in play. The one thing that stands out is that he’s made more outs on the basepaths than he has most years, but half of them have been at home.

    Fielding

    22/25

    There have been reasons to nitpick McCutchen’s defense in the past, but he’s actually been playing like a Gold Glove center fielder in 2013. He was already athletic enough for the position, but he’s been more sure of his reads this year and also has been more willing to give up his body. As a bonus, his arm has been a weapon.

    Health

    10/10

    McCutchen has never been on the DL in his career and has barely missed any games with injuries over the past two seasons. His health is in its prime, just as much as his career is in its prime.

    Total

    92/100

    McCutchen hasn’t been hitting for as much power this year as he did in 2012, but he’s having a more well-rounded season. He’s been the National League’s best all-around player this year, and he’s somehow managed to do it quietly.

1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

42 of 42

    Hitting

    20/20

    Mike Trout isn’t perfect. Any pitcher who can spin him a good breaking ball off the outside edge of the plate has a chance of eluding his lightning-quick stroke. Aside from that, Trout’s list of weaknesses is remarkably short. He has both a patient approach at the plate and good plate discipline to go with it, allowing him to avoid walks and, indeed, strikeouts. When he makes contact, he’s a veritable factory of hard-hit line drives and ground balls. It looked early in the season like he had adjustments to make—some moron writer even tried to make the point that he had peaked—but he’s long since made them and has been on a tear ever since.

    Power

    25/25

    Trout hasn’t been sending balls over the fence at the rate he did in 2012, when he had a 21.6 HR/FB rate that helped him get to 30 home runs in a limited number of at-bats. But goodness knows the raw power is still there and that the home runs are still coming, and Trout’s power production hasn’t taken a step back in the slightest thanks to an increased number of doubles and triples. Having legit power to all fields definitely helps.

    Baserunning

    20/20

    Trout isn’t stealing bases at the rate he did in 2012, when he stole a ridiculous 49 in only 54 tries. But he’s still among the game’s more efficient base stealers, and he’s still getting around the bases like a maniac. And here’s an important part: He’s not going to come close to making the same number of outs (12) on the basepaths that he did last year.

    Fielding

    23/25

    Injuries to Peter Bourjos have kept Trout in center field for much of the season, hence the reason he’s under the center fielder category and not the corner outfielder category. The advanced metrics say his defensive prowess has actually been somewhat less this year, but the eye test couldn’t disagree more. He hasn’t racked up the same number of highlight-reel plays that he did in 2012, but we know he takes good routes and has amazing closing speed. The only thing he doesn’t have is a strong arm; otherwise he’d be a candidate for a perfect score here.

    Health

    10/10

    Trout occasionally misses games with minor injuries, most notably sitting out a couple of games with hamstring issues this year. Aside from that, his body is about as sturdy as you’d expect a body made of stone and awesomeness to be.

    Total

    98/100

    Trout is the best overall player in the league, and it’s not even close. Nobody has the kind of impact he has at the plate, on the basepaths and in the field. The man was just plain born to play baseball.

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