Center field is another position where the AL East is in a pretty good place to start the year. Three AL East center fielders have the potential to be elite at their position should they stay healthy, and the other two are young and still have quite a bit of potential.
1. Adam Jones- Baltimore Orioles: Jones had one of the biggest breakouts in baseball last year at age 26, batting .287/.334/.505 with 32 home runs and 103 RBIs, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t keep it up in 2013. Although Jones is not a great defender, his offensive skills play well anywhere as he shows the ability to get on base and produce runs. Locked up to a big contract extension this season, Jones should be part of the next great Orioles team starting right about now.
2. Jacoby Ellsbury- Boston Red Sox: When healthy, Ellsbury is one of the most dynamic players in baseball, but he was certainly not healthy in 2012. He batted only .271/.313/.370 in 73 games, missing large amounts of time due to a shoulder injury. In his contract year in 2013, however, he should be making a concerted effort to be healthy and play his best. It’s unreasonable to expect another 2011, which saw him hit .321/.376/.552 with 32 home runs and 105 RBIs, but a season where he bats .300 with over 10 home runs and over 40 steals isn’t ridiculous.
3. Curtis Granderson- New York Yankees: The race for second between Ellsbury and Granderson was very close, and making it even closer is the fact that they’re very different players. While Ellsbury is a speed and average type, Granderson also runs well but hits for considerable power rather than average. He hit .232/.319/.492 with 43 home runs and 106 RBI in 2012, as Yankee Stadium’s dimensions are a clear bonus to Granderson’s power numbers. Excellent power numbers can be expected of Granderson, but there is some concern as he’s only hit over .250 once in the past four years.
Desmond Jennings- Tampa Bay Rays: Injuries hampered Jennings’ first full season in the big leagues in 2012, but he still managed to put up respectable numbers for a sophomore. Despite a slow start, he managed a .246/.314/.388 slash line with 13 home runs and 31 steals. Jennings played primarily left field, but barring an acquisition, should play center in 2012, a position where offensive expectations are slightly less but defensive expectations are quite a bit more. Jennings should be able to handle it; however, as he was a well above average defender in 2012 and has ample speed to play a major league center field.
5. Colby Rasmus- Toronto Blue Jays: Rasmus was a very highly rated prospect with the Cardinals a few years ago, but his stock has fallen since a good sophomore season in 2010. The toolsy outfielder only managed to hit .223/.289/.400 with 23 home runs and 75 RBIs in 2012. The potential for greatness is still there, as Rasmus is only 26, but as he reaches what should be the prime of his career, the clock is ticking on him. Rasmus will likely get a chance to prove himself as the starting center fielder, but if he fails, he should quickly be replaced by Emilio Bonifacio and maybe not get another chance to start.