Tools, tools, tools. The tale of the center fielder is all about tools. Scouts want to see speed, outfield range, baserunning ability, defensive instincts as well as an ability to hit. Power isn’t as important as contact and the ability to get on base. The Blue Jays have several players who fit that bill and are steadily rising through the minor leagues.
While only two of the Blue Jays’ center fielders on this depth chart were high draft picks, one of them took a long time to blossom and the other is still very raw. The rest of the players come from later in the draft and the Blue Jays have a couple of talented young Canadians manning center field in their organization as well.
2014 Toronto Blue Jays Organizational Depth Chart (projected) — Center Field
1. Colby Rasmus – ML
2. Anthony Gose – AAA/ML
3. Kenny Wilson – AA/AAA
4. Mike Crouse – AA
5. Dalton Pompey – A+
6. D.J. Davis – A
7. Ian Parmley – SS-A/A
8. Chaz Frank – SS-A/A
9. Thomas Collins (Boomer) – SS-A/A
10. Anthony Alford – R+/SS-A?
11. Josh Almonte – R/R+
12. Juan Fuente – R/R+
13. Freddy Rodriguez? – FR
While you might not recognize all of the names on this list, there are several that pop out at you and four, in particular, who have the potential to be in the major leagues at some point. We all know that Colby Rasmus is the incumbent at the big league level and that Anthony Gose has been tantalizing us for years with his incredible speed, range and arm strength. His hitting has been slower to come around, striking out a lot but has shown some aptitude for playing at the major league level, especially when it appears that his head is in the right place.
Gose heads into spring training in a fierce competition with Moises Sierra for a fourth outfielder’s position. Sierra might have the advantage, being a right-handed hitter and out of options however, Gose’s defensive flexibility could be a plus for him. That said, I think that unless he clearly beats out Sierra for the fourth outfielder spot, he’ll likely end up in Buffalo, pushing the next man on the list back to New Hampshire.
Kenny Wilson, a former second-round draft pick, took several years to get his mojo working in the minor leagues but has parlayed a couple of good (albeit injury-shortened) years into an Arizona Fall League assignment and a spot on the 40-man roster. I’m interested to see how Wilson does in today’s spring training game against the Phillies (he’s set to start in center field).
The next man down in the system is B.C. native Mike Crouse. He had a solid season in the Australian Baseball League this year and might just be learning how to translate the power that he shows in BP into game situations. Crouse has been around for a while and needs to take a big step this season. He probably won’t be playing a lot of center field as long as Wilson is hanging around in New Hampshire, though.
Dalton Pompey is another Canadian (from Mississauga) who has been showing a very well rounded game. Earning a Minor League Gold Glove last season, you know that he has the defense but he also hit very well in his first full season of baseball, playing through some nagging injuries. He’s a guy that, with another big year, could be moving up through the prospect lists.
D.J. Davis was the highest-drafted player on this list. The 17th overall selection in the 2012 draft, Davis has been very raw in many areas of the game but shows more power than anyone on this list (save for Crouse).
Moving further down, we have some big questions. There were two players, Parmley and Frank, who split center field duties in Vancouver although neither really has the projection to be a major leaguer. Frank has the better eye at the plate although neither has much power and I’ve heard both are good defenders.
Anthony Alford is the biggest wild card. Because he’s still splitting time between football and baseball, Alford’s window to develop his loud tools into actual skills is closing. 2014 will be a big season for him to see if he’s going to get into game action at a higher level. According to what I’ve heard about his deal with the Blue Jays, he’ll play football again for one more year before deciding whether to make baseball a full-time activity. He transferred to Ole Miss after his freshman season, in which he wasn’t very effective as a quarterback at Southern Mississippi and it looks like he’s going to become a defensive back for his first season at his new school. With some of the best power, speed and overall athleticism in the organization, Alford frustrates fans by selling his baseball career short by pursuing his football dreams.
The last couple of names will probably raise some question marks. Juan Fuente is a 20-year-old Dominican outfielder who had a very strong season in the Dominican Summer League (.409 OBP, 30 steals). I can see him moving over to Dunedin or Bluefield but what position/role he plays will depend on who the Blue Jays draft in 2014. I don’t know if Freddy Rodriguez is a center fielder. That’s why there’s a question mark beside his name. He was the 18th-ranked player in the July 2 International Free Agent market last year (according to Baseball America) and I’m not sure what position he plays.
Don’t forget about The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, available March 31 as an ebook at Smashwords.com, Amazon, Apple iBooks, Kobo and other fine retailers for $7.99. Come back in early March for pre-order information.