“Oh, put me in coach, I’m ready to play today
Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today
Look at me, I can be centerfield”
–John Fogerty (cont’ below)
I’ve been thinking about Center Field today. Perhaps it’s because the Gwinnett TV announcers last night kept calling it “the easiest position to play” in the outfield. I know what they were trying to say, that because you can see the entire field and your view of the ball coming off the bat is truer, it may be the easiest spot to get a read on the trajectory of the hit.
However, I always think of Center Field as a premium defensive position–an “up the middle” spot where a player might be defined by his defense as much as his offense. Indeed, an outfield player trying to make a Major League roster as a bench player will need to prove that he can back up the starter in Center Field. That’s a bit of what’s going on with the IronPigs right now; Jordan Danks, who’s on the Phillies’ 40-man roster, and veteran Brian Bogusevic are manning Center Field most nights as they attempt to make the Phillies’ big club as a utility outfielder–although neither are what you’d call “true” center fielders in the sense that their defensive play defines them as players. Darin Mastroianni was more of a true center fielder, but he was let go earlier in the season to make way for Danks and Bogusevic. We haven’t seen it much, but Chase d’Arnaud can play Center Field as well on a utility level. He’s been mostly at Shortstop with the injury to Edgar Duran.
Historically, for the IronPigs, the defining center fielder was Rich Thompson. He never quite had the bat to spend much time in the big leagues, but he could play excellent center field, lead off a lineup, get on base, and steal bases on the AAA level well enough to hold the job for many years–and become a fan favorite in the process.
It’s not quite clear to me what’s going on with the Phillies right now. Well, I kind of suspect it has to do with where we’re going next, but Ben Revere had been the guy they brought in to man that position. He can hit for average–just missed the batting title last season–and steal some bags. This season, they brought in Odubel Herrera via the Rule 5 draft, a converted second baseman. He’s been in center most nights. The thinking–I guess–is that he may be able to play a little better defense in center compared with Revere, and that he may be able to hit for a bit more power. However, because he hadn’t played above AA before this season, he may be a bit of a work-in-progress.
No, probably the name plate on the center fielder’s locker in Philadelphia is engraved with the name Roman Quinn. Quinn is in Reading right now, and for the most part, he’s been tearing it up. He has speed to burn (!) and the ability to make extra plays in the outfield, and hit the ball from both sides of the plate. He may be able to develop a bit of a power stroke as well. If I’m understanding “Ruben’s Plan for Player Development” properly, he’ll likely spend the entire season in Reading, where top-prospect Shortstop JP Crawford will join him before too long.
In the mean time, another player has had very little chance to develop his game in Center Field. Aaron Altherr, who spent some time in Reading last season as well, has been playing mostly in the corner outfield positions. He has the ability to be, if not a spectacular defensive center fielder, better than a utility-replacement. Ultimately, on the big league level, that might be what he becomes–but he needs the chance to develop both his defensive game as well as his play at the plate. He’s been hitting better this season, taking more walks, and striking out less.
Outfield changes are on the horizon. I don’t know when, because I haven’t been told the details of the “Ruben Development Plan.” I’m not “bitching” about it, you see–and I’m probably smart enough to understand it. I just haven’t been told.
Soon, Dom Brown and Cody Asche will be back with the Phillies, and playing in the corner positions. Odubel will probably remain in Center Field most nights. It will remain to be seen whether Sizemore, Francoeur, and Revere will continue with the team, via trade or otherwise. Bogusevic might get a chance to move up, and Danks might not. We’ll see. But by then, Altherr should be playing center field in Allentown for the remainder of the season.
What’s next? Well, there’s a kid in Clearwater named Aaron Brown. He’s a big lefty drafted out of Pepperdine last season, who had also been a pitcher. He’ll likely start in Center Field for the Reading team in 2016.
“Just to hit the ball, and touch ’em all
A moment in the sun
It’s a-gone and you can tell that one good-bye”
See you at the park–it’s part of my PLAN–
PS: You’ll notice I didn’t quote a bunch of statistics above. They can be quite arbitrary depending on who’s been playing well at any given moment. Also, it’s not clear to me if statistics have any impact on “Ruben’s Plan for Player Development,” so I just left them out. Look them up if you want. Otherwise, I’ll go with the more generic, “playing well” or “struggling.”