CBSsports.com’s Evan Brunell has an interesting story out there quoting our precocious #1 draft pick Bryce Harper about a possible position change coming. Apparently the plan is to move the kid to Center Field and groom him there instead of at Right. And it is music to my ears.
I initially thought that Jayson Werth would make way and move to Left when the kid was ready to come up. But that really makes little sense for Werth and for the team. Werth is a plus defender in right, has a good arm and can man that position for most of his 7 year contract. You can “hide” poorer defensive players in left field (see Ramirez, Manny) since they don’t have to stop the first to third base runner. Meanwhile, we clearly have an issue in Center field in terms of productivity and there are not a lot of upper-end defensive centerfielders in this league who can also hit. Certainly there are very very few who can hit for power. If Harper can play a serviceable center field that might be the best possible move for him.
Using rotoworld.com’s depth chart rankings, here’s the canonical list of starting centerfielders in the league right now, organized by their hitting prowness:
Light Hitting speedster types: Jacoby Ellisbury, Alex Rios, Austin Jackson, Lorenzo Cain, Peter Borjous, Denard Span, Coco Crisp, Julio Borbon, Rajai Davis, Dexter Fowler, Chris Coughlan (if he can transition to the position), Carlos Gomez, Nyger Morgan, Michael Bourn, Cameron Maybin, Andres Torres,
Slightly better than light hitting guys: Shane Victorino, Andrew McCutchen,
Medium Power (20 homer guys): Adam Jones, Curtis Granderson, Franklin Gutierrez, BJ Upton (maybe), Nate McLough (when he’s not in AAA), Chris Young, Marlon Byrd, Drew Stubbs, Colby Rasums (if LaRussa will play him).
Power hitters/30-30 guys: Grady Sizemore (if healthy), Carlos Beltran (when he was younger), Matt Kemp.
So, basically there’s ONE center fielder in the game who seems to be a safe bet to hit 30 homers on a regular basis. More than half the starters in Center in baseball will be lucky to hit more than a handful of homers this year.
If Harper shows up in the league with 40 homer power, he could be a very special guy.