Tag Archive | "Central Position"

Opportunity In Center Field

Last week we began taking a look around the National League Central position by position to see where how the St. Louis Cardinals stack up heading into the 2012 season. We started with right field where St. Louis has the decided edge in both starting talent and depth. This week we slide over to what is for sure the most crucial position in the outfield and possibly on the diamond altogether…center field.

Cardinal nation has grown accustom to excellence in center field over the years. From the likes of Willie McGee to Jim Edmonds it was not just about All-Star selections, batting titles and Gold Gloves. Okay well it was, but it was also about longevity. Since Edmonds left St. Louis following the 2007 the Cardinals have had a revolving door out in center usually reserved for second base. Rick Ankiel, Colby Rasmus and Jon Jay have shagged most of the balls out there over the last four seasons.

Going into this spring Jay looks to solidify the spot and make it his own. For the Cardinals this presents the weakest of the three outfield positions. But perhaps the one with the most upside. Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak views Jon Jay as the team’s everyday center fielder rather than the left-handed half of a platoon.

Jay has certainly held his own against southpaws in his career, sporting a .296/.356/.377 batting line as compared to a .298/.348/.436 line against right-handers. The splits evidently have Mozeliak and the Cards prepared to run Jay out there every day rather than find a right-handed hitting complement for him, which enhances his value.

Here is a look around the National League Central and how Jon Jay stacks up against his peers.

 

Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd finished 2011 with nine homers, three steals, 35 RBIs, 51 runs scored and a .276 batting average. Byrd can supply a solid batting average but his lack of power and speed makes him a weak everyday outfielder. At age 34, it’s hard to predict any improvement in his 2012 numbers.

Reds outfielder Drew Stubbs swiped 40 bases in 2011, to go along with 15 homers, 44 RBIs, 92 runs scored and a .243 batting average. Stubbs reached the 40-steal level for the first time. But, the 27-year-old hit just .233 with four homers in the second half. This isn’t the profile of a leadoff hitter and the Reds could look for other options at that spot for 2012. The first Reds player with 40 steals in a season since Deion Sanders had 56 steals in 1997. Unfortunately, it can’t hide Stubbs’ struggles at the dish.

Astros outfielder Jordan Schafer hit .242 with two homers, 13 RBIs, 46 runs scored and 22 stolen bases in 2011. Schafer was traded to the Astros for Michael Bourn after failing to meet expectations in the Braves organization. The 25-year-old former top prospect had mixed results in limited time last season but remains the club’s best in-house option. Jason Bourgeois will continue to fill-in at all three outfield positions, while J.B. Shuck and Brian Bogusevic are also in the hunt . Schafer has enough speed (24 steals in 469 career at-bats) to warrant attention if he can get a full-time role in 2012. But he can’t steal first base and Schafer’s .228 career batting average could keep the 25-year-old from securing regular work.

Brewers center fielder Nyjer Morgan hit .304 in 2011, stole 13 homers, went deep four times, drove in 37 runs and scored 61 times. Morgan continued to be one of the game’s loudest players also let his bat do the talking with the second highest batting average on his team. Surprisingly, the Brewers didn’t let Morgan run the bases aggressively, as he stole 21 bases fewer than in 2009 despite collecting nearly as many hits.

Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen smacked 23 homers, swiped 23 bases, drove in 89 runs, scored 87 times and hit .259 in 2011. McCutchen posted his first 20-20 season but his other numbers weren’t as rosy. The 25-year-old was caught stealing 10 times, the same number as in 2010, despite attempting 10 fewer base swipes. He also hit .216 in the second half. There is still plenty of upside here, but several holes too.

Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay smacked 10 long balls, drove in 37 runs, scored 56 times, swiped six bases and hit .297 in 2011. Jay’s development was a key factor in the midseason trade of Colby Rasmus, as manager Tony La Russa wanted to get Jay into the lineup more often. Despite struggling at the dish in the postseason, the 26-year-old could be a big asset if he can exceed 500 at-bats in 2012.

Here is how I rank the center fielders heading into 2012.

  1. Andrew McCutchen
  2. Nyjer Morgan
  3. Drew Stubbs
  4. Jon Jay
  5. Marlon Byrd
  6. Jordan Schafer

Looking Ahead

Jon Jay will not be relied on to match the offensive numbers of his outfield mates Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran. Rather Jay will be looked to for defensive support, which he proved more than capable of providing in 2011. However In part-time at-bats, Jay has proven to be a solid offensive player, hitting for a high batting average with at least serviceable pop. If he can average his production out over a full season it will mean good things for the 2012 Cardinals.

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Strength In Right Field

In his position rankings ESPN’s Buster Olney ranked the St. Louis Cardinals outfield as a whole the sixth best in Major League Baseball. Here we are going to break in down a bit further. Today we take start taking a look at the National League Central position by position and where each player ranks amongst his NL Central peers. We’ll be profiling one position a week leading up to that glorious time when pitchers and catchers finally report.

Our first look will take on Right Field. A position of both great depth and turnover within the division, especially within the St. Louis Cardinals. There’s no denying the Cardinals have tremendous offensive potential with its outfield in 2012; Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran finished seventh and eighth, respectively, in OPS among all outfielders.

However the Cardinals do have injury questions, starting with Allen Craig, who will open the 2012 season after having knee surgery. Beltran played 142 games last year, and Giants manager Bruce Bochy said that despite the concern over Beltran’s knees, they were never a problem as Bochy filled out his lineup card in the last two months of the season. Holliday, who turns 32 next month, played in 124 games last season because of a variety of injuries. Jon Jay, the center fielder, who hit .297 last year will also be in the mix should new manager Mike Matheny desire to channel his inner Tony LaRussa.

The Chicago Cubs have a new right fielder in David DeJesus. DeJesus has averaged 33 doubles, eight triples, 11 home runs and 70 RBIs per 162 games in his career, playing for the Royals (2003-10) and Athletics (2011). After a down year in 2011, he’ll be looking to get his career back on track in the Windy City.

Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jay Bruce slugged 32 homers in 2011, to go along with 97 RBIs, 84 runs scored, eight steals and a .256 batting average. Bruce hit .342 with 12 homers in May. But, the right fielder didn’t hit over .256 in any other month and averaged just four homers per month outside of May. At age 24, Bruce has plenty of time to find the necessary consistency for a huge season.

After trading Hunter Pence, Bogusevic became the starter in right field. The Houston Astros should give Bogusevic every chance to show that he can be part of their 2012 plans. As a rookie he put up solid numbers albeit with a small sample size to 2012 will be a test if he can do it on an everyday level. If not look for Houston to platoon Bogusevic with some of their other young talent.

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Corey Hart wrapped up 2011 with 26 dingers, seven base swipes, 63 RBIs, 80 runs scored and a .285 batting average. Hart started the season on the DL but once he got into the lineup he started to rake. The 29-year-old power hitter was miscast as the team’s leadoff hitter in the second half but did well in the role, scoring 49 runs after the break. With Braun most likely out for quite some time and Price gone Hart should see himself in a more traditional power spot in the order.

Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata started the 2011 season slowly, hitting under .260 in April and May and then dealt with injuries in July and September. At age 23, there is still plenty of time for Tabata to improve his skills at the dish and produce bigger numbers. Health will continue to be key for Tabata, who also missed time in 2011 because of hamstring tightness and a quadriceps strain. Altogether, the injuries limited Tabata to 91 games in his first full season in the big leagues. After batting .299 in his rookie season, Tabata hit .266 with 18 doubles, four homers, 53 runs scored and 16 stolen bases in 2011.

A switch-hitting outfielder, Beltran has one of baseball’s most well-rounded offensive games. He is a lifetime .283 hitter with both on-base ability (a career .361 average) and power (.496 slugging percentage). He’s one of the most efficient base-stealers in Major League history, with 293 steals in 334 attempts for an 87.7 percent success rate. In 2011, he put up a combined .300/.385/.525 line in 142 games with the Mets and Giants. He will start while Allen Craig is out due to his own offseason knee operation. Once Craig comes back, Beltran would probably still play plenty of right field. But he also could get more time in center field, spelling Jon Jay against left-handed pitchers and allowing new manager Mike Matheny a great deal of flexibility in making out his lineup.

After taking a look back on 2011 and going on past performance and their career trends here is how I see them stacking up in 2012.

  1. Carlos Beltran
  2. Corey Hart
  3. Jay Bruce
  4. Jose Tabata
  5. David DeJesus
  6. Brian Bogusevic

Look for a healthy Beltran to do well with Matheny spelling him from time to time, keeping him fresh. He won’t play 162 but 140+ is within expectations and his numbers will reflect that. Hart and Bruce both look to rebound from down years and Hart will benefit tremendously from moving back down in the order. Tabata is a legit talent but has missed major parts of two season already due to injury and if he is not performing the Pirates do have Garrett Jones waiting in the wings. With DeJesus and Bogusevic you have two unknowns, one a former platoon guy now taking a full time role and the other a second year player looking to do the same. Look for the daily grind to wear on both a bit and affect their performance.

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