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2016 Update

2016 Update, Center Field

carlos-beltran-magazineI don’t even count center field as a position these days. It’s the place Mike Trout plays until they move him to a corner. It’s Troutland, Troutville, Center Field brought to you by Mike Trout. My generation of baseball fans has been delighted on the mound by Clemens, Pedro, Unit, Maddux, Mariano, and now Kershaw. Amazing hitters include Bonds, A-Rod, Pujols, Rickey, and Griffey. Now we have Trout. It’s scary to think how far up that list he might climb. And you’ll see below just how far up the center field list he already has.

The rest of the position is a guy who might not get the love he deserves, a guy who until a year ago was clearly on a HoME trajectory, and a few who also made the list.

Today our series continues with Mike Trout and friends. Please check out earlier posts in this series at 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, and LF.

Carlos Beltran
2016 BBREF WAR:
2.0

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 12
Eric: 11

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 12
Eric: 9

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Nobody.
Eric: Jim Edmonds and Paul Hines

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: With one more of these, both Andruw Jones and Jim Edmonds would go down.
Eric: No one

Current career trajectory:
There can’t be much more time left for a guy turning 40 in April. Jobs are limited at his age, even after a 29 HR, 93 RBI season. Then again, he’s not a total loss in right field. I don’t know. I’d let a guy with an OPS+ of 119 and 122 the last two years have a crack at my roster. Maybe he doesn’t get to be the tenth best center fielder ever. Maybe he does.

HoME Outlook:
He’s a HoMEr. There’s no question about it. As far as the Hall of Fame, I’m worried. The guys closest to him on my all-time list are Edmonds, Jones, and Kenny Lofton. None of them received much consideration.

Mike Trout
2016 BBREF WAR:
10.6

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 49
Eric: 53

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 20
Eric: [Giggles…] 23

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Steve Finley, Andy Van Slyke, Earle Combs, Devon White, Ellis Burks, Edd Roush, Fred Lynn, Lenny Dykstra, Earl Averill, Roy Thomas, Dale Murphy, Mike Cameron, Torii Hunter, pete Browning, Wally Berger, Vada Pinson, George Van Haltren, Jimmy Ryan, Larry Doby, Kirby Puckett, Hugh Duffy, Fielder Jones, Johnny Damon, Brett Butler, Willie Wilson, Chet Lemon, Cesar Cedeno, and Cy Seymour.
Eric: Got some time? OK, OK, here’s the highlights—Andrew McCutchen, Johnny Damon, Larry Doby, Dale Murphy, Kirby Puckett, Hugh Duffy, Brett Butler, and on and on and on

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: He’s be comfortably into the HoME, passing Mike Griffin, Willie Davis, Max Carey, Jimmy Wynn, George Gore, Duke Snider, and Kenny Lofton. With two more of these and then retirement, he’d pass Carlos Beltran, Andruw Jones, Jim Edmonds, and Paul Hines. With three more and then retirement, Richie Ashburn, Billy Hamilton, and Ken Griffey would all go down. So with three more years like this one, only DiMaggio, Mantle, Speaker, Cobb, and Mays would be better than Trout in center.
Eric: Would you believe, Jim Edmonds?

Current career trajectory:
I. Can’t. Even. There’s nowhere for him to go but down, right? As Miller recently pointed out, Albert Pujols had a similarly amazing decade in his 20s and has been all too human in his 30s. And yet, Trout is even better than Pujols was. We are in uncharted territory here, especially in the modern game when it’s so much harder to stand out. To give you an idea of what all this means, if Trout played to age 40 and was merely average the rest of the way (2 WAR a season), he’d pile up 78 Wins. On top of the peak he’s already got, he’d become the 8th ranked centerfielder on my list. But let’s be more realistic. Let’s say that we’ve seen his best and he comes down a WAR a year until he hits 5 WAR/year, then half a WAR a year after that until he hits replacement level. He’ll finish up with about 100 Wins and be the fifth best centerfielder in my rankings. What would he have to do to be the number one centerfielder? The answer is simple: be better than Mays and Cobb. Which means he’d have to continue spitting out 9 WAR seasons until he’s 30 and then age with exceptional grace and play into his early forties. And until he demonstrates otherwise, I’m going to believe in his doing it!

HoME Outlook:
Unless he has a year like Carl Crawford did this year, 2017 is his bus year.

Curtis Granderson
2016 BBREF WAR:
2.5

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 50
Eric: 50

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 47
Eric: 46

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Steve Finley, Andy Van Slyke, and Earle Combs
Eric: Those guys and Andrew McCutchen

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Devon White, Ellis Burks, and Edd Roush
Eric: White, Burks, and Torii Hunter

Current career trajectory:
Let’s not get confused by the fact that the Grandy Man passed a Hall of Famer this year and stands to pass another one next year. He’s still quite far from the HoME line. And since he’s going to be 36 when next year starts, I think you know what’s going to become of him.

HoME Outlook:
It’s not looking good. Even if he repeated the third best year of his career at age 36 and again at age 37, he’d only reach 30th in center – in a dead on tie with Kirby Puckett. He’s not going.

Andrew McCutchen
2016 BBREF WAR:
-0.7

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 54
Eric: 48

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 52 (Though he had negative BBREF WAR, my DRA changes gave him a bit of value in 2016).
Eric: 48

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Dom DiMaggio and Eric Davis.
Eric: Steve Finley and Earle Combs

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Nobody.
Eric: No one

Current career trajectory:
Even the greats throw a gear sometimes. Jimmy Wynn, Carlos Beltran, and Rich Ashburn all had a lost year like McCutchen’s mess of a 2016 season. Unless there’s a debilitating injury, it doesn’t necessarily harbinger bad things to come, though it certainly lowers our expectations and increases the downside in anyone’s forecast. That said, McCutchen seems destined to move off of centerfield pretty soon. No defensive evaluation system thinks he’s a good defender or even passable. The Pirates need to get him into a corner soon. That will take a big chunk of his value away, however, because as a centerfielder his bat is even more special. We’ve probably seen McCutchen’s best, but he has some room to grow his case. It’s not hard to see him putting together a resume better than Willie Davis, Max Carey, or similar to Kenny Lofton or Jimmy Wynn.

HoME Outlook:
Answer cloudy, try again after 2017.

Adam Jones
2016 BBREF WAR:
1.1

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 67
Eric: 74

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 61
Eric: 72

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Dwayne Murphy, Dummy Hoy, Hack Wilson, Bill Lange, Bobby Thomson, and Ben Chapman
Eric: Benny Kauff and Cy Williams

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Al Oliver, Ray Lankford, and Amos Otis
Eric: Ginger Beaumont, Willie McGee, and Lipman Pike

Current career trajectory:
Jones became a regular at 22, so that’s good. He’s only going to be 31 next year, so that’s pretty good too. On the other hand, he wasn’t even an average hitter this year despite his impressive(ish) counting numbers. As he ages and slows, he’s going to need to rediscover his bat if he wants to make a run at the HoME or Hall in his 30s.

HoME Outlook:
On one hand, I don’t want to close the book on Jones. On the other, he still can’t really draw a walk in his ninth year as a regular. But let’s squint for a bit. This year’s walk rate was the second best of his career. He still has some power. There’s a shot he puts together a bunch more 3-win seasons. But even with five more like that, he only reaches the mid-30s on the CF list. He’s really unlikely to make it.

Jacoby Ellsbury
2016 BBREF WAR:
2.8

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: I hadn’t charted him.
Eric: Lower than 75th

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 78, though likely a bit lower.
Eric: 70

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Nobody. He’s only ahead of Lloyd Waner on the board.
Eric: Gary Pettis

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Nobody.
Eric: No one because his 2016 stunk

Current career trajectory:
Ellsbury has always been a maddening combination of injured and excellent. But he’s now 32, and even a sustained run of All-Star years wouldn’t quite get him to the borderline. Thing is, where would those seasons come from? His vaunted speed has diminished so that he can no longer adequately cover for the loss of his offensive skills.

HoME Outlook:
Bad.

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