Minor League Matters: Center Field depth chart

I'm back from hiatus- finally- to wrap up depth charts. Today is center field, and corner outfield should be done by the end of the week (I'm aiming for Friday). I've split up CF and LF/RF because the skillsets for the two are so different. I'm going to be using a lot of discretion regarding player assignment- this list will include some players at other positions because they'll probably end up in CF in the end.

Before we get to the depth charts- a request. Pitchers are coming up soon, and I don't want to write a mile long post on relievers/starters. Does anyone have any idea on how they should be broken up? I'm thinking RH starters, RH relievers, LH starters and LH relievers, but I think that could be too much. Thoughts are appreciated.

Now onto the charts!

(Oh, and a handy rubric for statlines: Plate Appearances, Batting Average/On Base Percentage/Slugging Percentage, BABIP, K/BB)


Clete Thomas- 26 years old

2009 (MLB): 310 PA, 240/.323/.385, .309 BABIP, 77/33 K/BB

2009 (AAA): 205 PA, .291/.390/.417, .400 BABIP, 49/26 K/BB

I like Clete Thomas- he's a good speedy fourth OF type with a very good glove. His strikeout rate is high, but a walk rate around 10% is pretty nice, and he's got enough pop to be a little dangerous. That being said, his primary job should be defensive caddy for Ordonez/Guillen/Damon- maximizing his value by allowing his great glove to get as many innings as possible while keeping his mediocre bat out of the lineup.

Ryan Raburn- 28 years old

2009 (MLB): 291 PA, .291/.357/.533, .324 BABIP, 60/26 K/BB

Yes. I'm putting Raburn in the center field category. I told you this was going to be arbitrary. I've been a big advocate as Raburn as super-sub for the 2010 Tigers- it's because his glove is mediocre, if versatile. What isn't mediocre is his bat. That average is a bit high for Raburn, but .280/.350/.500 is within reach- yes, Ryan Raburn could have a 850 OPS. I don't buy the whole "he was used in advantageous situations arguments"- sure, it's a little true, but he's still got skills and a good mix of bat tools. He's also not exactly a platoon bat- Baseball Prospectus seems to believe he can hit RHP reasonably well, and his minor league splits do bear that out. Raburn can provide the most value for this club by being a jack-of-all trades and an insurance policy for all three OF positions and 2B/3B, as well as serving as emergency catcher.


Austin Jackson- 23 years old

2009 (AAA): 556 PA .298/.353/.404, .388 BABIP, 123/40 K/BB

Austin Jackson is not ready for the major leagues despite what DD and the Tigers organization may think. I therefore refuse to put him in the MLB category. His glove is great- BA raves over his athleticism, range and arm. His bat, on the other hand, is... well, he barely broke a .750 OPS in AAA even with a high BABIP. He's got good gap power, but he'll probably never hit more than 20 HR in a single season. He can steal bases, but he's not really fast- he's more smart (24 SB to 4 CS). He's got good contact skills and should have a high BABIP even in the majors- but more like .330 high, not .390 high. Jackson has some potential to be an above-average CF, but he NEEDS. MORE. TIME.

Casper Wells- 25 years old

2009 (AA): 365 PA, .262/.370/.492, .342 BABIP, 101/43 K/BB

This is the guy I want to start in CF to begin the year. He won't, of course. Wells suffered from a hamate bone injury early in the year, and had to have surgery. While hamate bone problems normally sap power, Wells still hit 15 bombs and slugged .492. The big problem was a 6% increase in strikeout rate. While that sounds problematic, Wells's strikeout rate was trending downward until his injury (21.1% in 2008, a full point drop from his earliest days in High A). His batting average was also worse than in 2008- even though his BABIP was 16 points higher in 2009. I honestly think he was pressing way too hard due to the injury, which may explain the drop in average and increase in strikeouts. On the plus side, Wells is good at taking walks (11.8% rating), above average speed and has a great glove and stellar arm. His swing does have holes, and is on the long side, but I have lots of faith- .250 with 20-25 bombs and double-digit steals while providing solid defense in CF or great defense in RF is definitely possible.

Andy Dirks- 24 years old

2009 (AA): 408 PA, .255/.321/.349, .293 BABIP, 61/36 K/BB

2009 (A+): 117 PA, .330/.410/.379, .370 BABIP, 11/13 K/BB

Dirks is a speedy CF who was boxed into LF this year because of the presence of Casper Wells. It's hard to determine whether Dirks is a prospect- he's old at 24, and that AA line is not exactly awe inspiring. Dirks is supposed to be fast, but only had 10 SB at Erie to 5 CS. He's also supposed to have good discipline, and while his walk rate was okay, it's unimpressive for a guy hitting .255. 2010 will be a make-or-break year for Dirks, and my instincts tell me he's going to end up as depth or a fourth OF.


Ben Guez- 23 years old

2009 (A): 438 PA, .275/.317/.483, .333 BABIP, 95/18 K/BB

Guez is athletic, toolsy and has speed and power. Kid can steal some bases, hit some bombs and put up a decent average. The problem is that he's Mr. Swing at Everything- he has no discernible plate discipline, and even accounting for the low standards that the Tigers have established for discipline, Guez fails well short. To put that walk rate into perspective, even Cale Iorg walks more than Guez (though Iorg struck out 7% more in 2009). That, plus a high BABIP, plus a high age relative to league, means that Mr. Guez probably won't make it.

Jamie Johnson- 22 years old

2009 (A-): 312 PA, 243/.346/.369, .288 BABIP, 50/41 K/BB

Johnson was a 7th round draft pick out of Oklahoma in the 2009 draft. He's a speedy CF with good discipline, a great glove and a good enough bat to be considered 4th OF material. He's a small guy at 5'9", 185, but he showed some power at Oklahoma. I like Johnson enough to consider him a nice little sleeper, and while his eventual upside may be Clete Thomas, there's nothing wrong with Clete.

Michael Rockett- 22 years old

2009 (A-): 283 PA, .273/.300/.379, .314 BABIP, 41/10 K/BB

I like Rockett more than I should. That's a symptom of him being a reasonably speedy CF named Rockett- how cool is that? He's got several good hit tools- contact being the best, but he's got good power and pretty good speed. He can hold his own defensively, but the organization clearly prefers Johnson- he got moved around at Oneonta. His discipline is atrocious- one reason I shouldn't love him. Kid's fringy at best- he may make the bigs as a reserve if he can learn to take a walk and develops better pitch recognition than Ben Guez or Cale Iorg. But his name is Rockett, so he's got something going for him.

Edwin Gomez- 18 years old

A fourth-round selection in 2009, Gomez was selected as a shortstop. He won't stay at short, however, since he's already 6'4" at 18. He'll probably land up moving to center, since he's fast, athletic and has a pretty good arm (he did play short). His best tool is probably his power, though there's debate to how good it is, with BA saying that it's gap power and other sources (like Andy Seiler) saying it's good raw power that might project out. It's hard to tell exactly what we have in Gomez, but if he can take a pitch (which would be a minor miracle given the system) and fills out, he could be a good one. How good? BA threw out the name Alex Rios, who for a reasonable price is a good player. I'm going to enjoy following this kid.

Final Thoughts

CF is reasonably deep, especially at the top- we have two pretty good prospects in Casper Wells and Austin Jackson, and some toolsy young kids that have loads of potential. There are a few too many fourth outfielder types here, and center field shows the Tigers have a weakness drafting and developing players with plate discipline, but for a system that gets billed as weak, this is a reasonably bright spot- and one that may add another good prospect in Daniel Fields (though I'd rather have him at 3B).

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the <em>Bless You Boys</em> writing staff.