Today let's review the upcoming free agent market for center fielders.
- Scott Podsednik is your OBP leader at .352 (he's got 353 innings in center field this year). Mike Cameron is next at .351. Coco Crisp (.336, club option), Reed Johnson (.327), and Marlon Byrd (.324) follow. Byrd, Johnson, and Crisp reached base more frequently last year. Rick Ankiel was useful at .337.
- Byrd's .476 SLG leads the group. Cameron (.445) is the other power consideration. Andruw Jones has not played center field this year, but he owns a .477 SLG in 303 plate appearances. Last year, Ankiel's .506 SLG was second among all center fielders. Dealing with groin and shoulder injuries, Ankiel has limped to a .233/.285/.392 line in 376 PAs this year.
- Defensively, Crisp leads in UZR/150 in a limited sample. Cameron comes up a positive, and Byrd about average. Heading into the season, John Dewan of The Fielding Bible ranked Corey Patterson, Cameron, and Jones among his top ten defensive center fielders in the game. Patterson hit .292/.333/.478 in 113 Triple A games this year.
- Rocco Baldelli, Ankiel, Crisp, and Patterson are the youngest in this group. Baldelli has played only 56 innings in center for the Red Sox. He has a .456 SLG in his 149 PA sample.
- Ankiel and Jones are represented by Scott Boras.
- Byrd, Cameron, and Johnson profile as Type B free agents (there are no Type As).
- He'll turn 37 in January, but Cameron appears to be the best all-around free agent center field option. Ankiel might be interesting on a one-year deal. Byrd has a respectable bat and can handle all three outfield positions. Crisp has something to prove after undergoing surgery on both shoulders this summer. The Royals will decide between his $8MM option and a $500K buyout, once they examine his medical records.
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