Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Meet the Nats: Center Field

When the Royals, Tigers and Mets all give up on you, you probably shouldn’t be playing center field. But, in the case of the Nationals, you give Endy Chavez two full seasons of proving you can’t hit or field.

In fairness, last year wasn’t too bad for Chavez. He had numbers that would make Cristian Guzman jealous: .277/ .318/ .371. For his career, the soon-to-be 27-year old has hit .264/ .303/ .365 in four seasons worth of playing time. He’s simply a slap hitter, a Jason Tyner on steroids. He’ll slap the ball on the ground and try and use his speed to get on base; last year 60% of his at-bats resulted in a ground ball. He rarely walks (just 30 last year) and, as a result, makes a huge number of outs for the amount of production he’s providing.

Baseball Prospectus places his EQA at .244 last year after a season of just .224 before. They also tab him as just 2-2.5 wins above replacement level each year.

Defensively, he’s an average centerfielder. His natural speed should allow him to cover lots of ground in center, but none of the defensive stats really bear that out--they all paint him as average. Again, there’s certainly value in being average, especially at a position like center field. He has nine outfield assists each of the last two years, indicating he has a decent arm in center. He’s certainly not Bernie Williams.

Of the regulars on the team, only Brad Wilkerson and Juan Rivera saw playing time in center. I’m not sure if either of those two is up to playing the position defensively on a full-time basis, but both would be huge upgrades offensively.

With Bowden’s public pronouncement of the need for a big bat in right and the flirtation with Jose Guillen, Rivera might get an extended look in center, particularly as a platoon partner with Chavez. Termel Sledge saw a few games in the field, but I think he’d be one of their last options.

Center field definitely won’t be the strength of this club. There aren’t any viable short-term solutions on the free market either--at least any that would present a large enough upgrade to be worth the price. We’ll have to see what happens and develops among the mini-glut of outfielders. Hopefully their performance will sort them out.


  • I believe Brad Wilkerson may be manning CF next year.

    By Blogger Brian, at 11/17/2004 3:25 PM  

  • I worry about his defense in center. I'm sure he could handle it in short stretches, but I'm not sold on him over the long haul.

    They've got a lot of outfielders without exceptional track records. It'll be interesting to see how things sort themselves out through the year.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 11/17/2004 3:27 PM  

  • Wilkerson doesn't have great range, but he does have nice reads and routes, wich makes him a perfectly correct CF (BProspectus rates him between 97 and 107 on a 100=average scale).

    That being said, Wilkerson is a tremendous asset in LF (much, much more than you stated in your review). He excels at hitting the cutoff man, and he's very, very good at playing doubles along the line. You won't see him cough a ball in the corner vey often, if ever. What you'll see is some lazy asses tagged out at 2nd and plenty of annoyed catchers and slow runners trot back to 1st base.

    I think Ryan Church is going to end up with the Job. But then again, Frank Robinson's the coach, and there's something unhealthy in his usage patterns of swignin' Endy...

    By Blogger Olivier, at 11/18/2004 7:03 PM  

  • 19 Nov 4PM Expos/Angels Press Conference - Let's welcome Jose Guillen ... damn you Bowden

    By Blogger Brian, at 11/19/2004 2:04 PM  

  • You're not allowed to make me throw up my lunch like that.

    Free Juan Rivera!

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 11/19/2004 2:07 PM  

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