In our preview of the NL East we now move to John Fogerty's favorite position, centerfield...
Atlanta Braves- Nate McLouth
McLouth came to the Braves from Pittsburgh mid-year in 2009, and put up almost identical numbers in both stops (.256/9/34 with Pittsburgh, .257/11/36 with the Braves). While the average is constant, the compiler numbers don't look so hot in Atlanta given that McLouth played 39 more games for the Braves. McLouth in a lot of ways is the centerfield version of Matt Diaz. He gets on base, has a little pop and steals some bases for you, but at the end of the day, he's Nate McLouth and is only an average to good major league regular. His nine outfield assists are a good number, but his range is nothing special. Even so, he did bag a Gold Glove in 2008.
Offense- 3... a Major League regular
Defense- 3.5... makes plays
Florida Marlins- Cameron Maybin
While Cameron Maybin was anticipated by some to contend for the 2009 NL Rookie of the Year award, fellow Fish rookie Chris Coghlan took home the honors. However, Maybin was terrible in '09, so much so that he earned himself a trip back to AAA in May, and didn't return until rosters expanded on September 1st. Maybin is only 22 years old (23 on Sunday), and is a classic case of why most players that young shouldn't be rushed to the majors. He struggled terribly before being sent down, hitting only .202 and striking out 31 times in 95 plate appearances. He posted decent numbers after his recall, but one could assume much of this production was compiled against other AAA level players, teams playing out the string, or both. Until he proves he belongs, Maybin will remain a 'toolsy' player who hasn't quite been able to put those tools to good use on a major league diamond.
Offense- 1.5... has to prove he can hit major league pitching, or he'll be back in AAA quickly
Defense- 3... can run and throw, which should lead him to be a decent outfielder
New York Mets- Carlos Beltran
Beltran will spend a considerable portion of time on the disabled list to start 2010, but he is the best centerfielder in the division when he plays. He gets on base and hits for power from both sides of the plate, as well as patrolling centerfield at a very high level. He's a bit like Bobby Abreu, with a lower batting average and more power. Like Jose Reyes, Beltran is gaining a bit of a reputation of a guy who acts like he has rings, but in actuality hasn't ever won anything. He parlayed a nice playoff performance with the Astros in 2004 into riches in Queens, but like the other stars of recent Met teams (Reyes, David Wright), seems unwilling to be THE guy to make the big play in the big situation, preferring instead to comfortably fit in. He's a very good offensive player, but not a great one. He wins Gold Gloves. And misses lots of games.
Offense- 4... high OBP and good power from both sides is no joke
Defense- 4.5... has rightfully earned multiple Gold Gloves
Philadelphia Phillies- Shane Victorino
Victorino is the rambunctious child of the Phillies, the overly-energetic kid that can't sit still, which sometimes gets him in trouble, but other times stirs action where none previously existed. He fears no one and nothing, and has managed to combine his baseball talents with his best tool, speed. Victorino, like Jimmy Rollins, steals bases with an alarming success rate, thanks in large part to Phils first base coach Davey Lopes. Victorino also uses his speed to leg out triples (NL leading 13 in 2009), track down fly balls in center, and generally put pressure on the defense. Like Rollins, a more patient approach may benefit him, but a move in the order from second to seventh may be more suited to Victorino and provide some punch to the lower third of the already dynamic Phillies' offense. Victorino runs down everything in the outfield, and possesses a rightfielder's arm, earning him a Gold Glove each of the last two seasons.
Offense- 3.5...Very similar to Rollins, and the move to seventh should benefit him
Defense- 5... arm strength gives him slight edge over Beltran
Washington Nationals- Nyjer Morgan
Nyjer Morgan, like McLouth, left Pittsburgh in mid-season in 2009, and the Nationals are the beneficiaries. Morgan hit .351 and stole 24 bases in 51 games after the move to DC, finishing the season with a .307 average overall in what really was his first full-time season in the bigs. (I thought his performance in Washington had to do with the excitement of being near Alexander Ovechkin, as Morgan, who played major juinor hockey in Alberta, is a big fan of the pucks). Now 29, Morgan fits nicely into the mix for the emerging Nationals offense. A classic singles hitter, Morgan can run, but is getting thrown out too much right now and has to improve that number. Either way, his speed won't slump, and this is something that opposing pitchers have to take into account ahead of the likes of Dunn and Willingham. Morgan is a pretty good outfielder, but not at the level of Beltran and Victorino just yet.
Offense- 3.5... run more, get caught less
Defense- 4... willing, solid, good arm
Centerfield Wrap Up
Best CF- Carlos Beltran... when he plays
Best Offensively- Beltran... when he plays
Best Defensively- Shane Victorino
Just A Guy- Nate McLouth
Most Potential to Bust Out- Nyjer Morgan
Best in Five Years- Victorino