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Deep Dive: center field edition, part 4

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A snapshot of the top free agent center fielders, as well as the best projected center fielders in next year’s draft

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Arizona Diamondbacks
A.J. for a New Generation: Pollock has the highest bWAR of all available center fielders in this year’s free agent class.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the White Sox organization. Each position will be a four-part series:

  1. Depth in the lower levels (Dominican through Kannapolis)
  2. Depth in the higher levels (Winston-Salem through Charlotte)
  3. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  4. Free-agent options at that position, plus sneak peeks into available players in the upcoming 2019 MLB Draft.

So, finally, let’s take a look at free agent centerfielders, as well as those who could be available in the first few rounds of the upcoming MLB draft.

Free Agents

With Adam Engel’s struggles offensively, the White Sox may be looking for a stopgap until the higher-end prospects are ready for their ultimate promotion — guys like Luis Basabe, Luis Robert, Luis Gonzalez, or Alex Call. Of course, some feasible free agent options may be also be listed in the Deep Dives for left field and right field as well. Also, some of these center fielders could move to right field, especially if Avi Garcia is not tendered arbitration. There certainly aren’t many primary center fielders from which to choose from. With that said, this is a list of this year’s free agent class of center fielders in descending order of bWAR.

(age as of April 1, 2019)

A.J. Pollock
Arizona Diamondbacks
2018 bWAR: 2.5
Slash/power: .257/.316/.484, with 21 HR, 65 RBIs and 13 SB
Age: 31

Was given a qualified offer by the Diamondbacks, so the White Sox would relinquish a second-round pick and $500,000 international bonus pool money if they sign the oft-injured star.

Adam Jones
Baltimore Orioles
2018 bWAR: 2.5
Slash/power: .281/.313/.419, with 15 HR and 63 RBIs
Age: 33

Also played right field and left field.

Rajai Davis
Cleveland Indians
2018 bWAR: -0.4
Slash/power: .224/.278/.281, with one HR and six RBIs
Age: 38

Also played left field and right field. Stole 21 bases and was nearly the hero of the 2016 World Series.

Eric Young, Jr.
Los Angeles Angels
2018 bWAR: -0.4
Slash/power: .202/.248/.303 with one HR and eight RBIs
Age: 33

Also played left field.

Austin Jackson
New York Mets
2018 bWAR: -1.8
Slash/power: .245/.299/.326 with three HR and 32 RBIs
Age: 32

Also played left field. And, we’ve been down that road before.

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2019 MLB Draft prospects

I will be doing a more comprehensive list next year, so this is just a preliminary look at center fielders the White Sox could draft in the first round and beyond. The number in parentheses before the name is where FanGraphs ranked each player as of November 2. Of course, players may move up or down the charts depending upon how well they do in various offseason tournaments and upcoming collegiate/prep seasons. The center field class this year seems far stronger from the prep side.

College

(38) Quin Cotton
5´11´´
190 pounds
School: Grand Canyon

Cotton slashed .390/.462/.573 in his sophomore season for the Antelopes, with 19 doubles, five triples, five homers, 43 RBIs, 13 stolen bases, 22 walks and 30 strikeouts in 241 at-bats. Most tools grade average or better, but his hit tool currently rates as 60.

(44) Wil Dalton
6´0´´
180 pounds
School: Florida

Dalton is considered one of the top power-hitting options in center, but still needs work on his hit tool. In his sophomore year with the Gators in 2018, he slashed .262/.338/.542 in 275 at-bats, with 18 doubles, one triple, 19 homers, eight stolen bases, 25 walks (8.04%) and 74 strikeouts (23.79%).

Jonny DeLuca
5´11´´
180 pounds
School: Oregon

DeLuca had a rough year at the plate for the Ducks in 2018, but the tools are there. According to Baseball Draft Report, DeLuca has an above-average hit tool with plus speed, arm and range. He’d have to improve, though, to be considered in the upper few rounds, as he slashed just .212/.270/.325 last year in 203 at-bats, with five doubles, six homers, 32 RBIs, six stolen bases, 18 walks (7.59%) and 28 strikeouts (11.81%).

Kameron Misner
6´4´´
210 pounds
School: Missouri

Misner was having a great year with the Tigers in 2018 until he suffered a broken foot. As a result, he was limited to 125 at-bats, but slashed .360/.497/.576 with nine doubles, three triples, four homers, 25 RBIs, 13 stolen bases, 32 walks (20.00%) and 26 strikeouts (16.25%). He’s athletic enough to play all three outfield positions, his speed and arm are both above-average, and his power if off-the-charts but relatively untapped.

Austin Langworthy
5´11´´
175 pounds
School: Florida

Another Gators outfielder, wow. Langworthy doesn’t have the power of Dalton, but he does have better plate discipline. In his sophomore year, Langworthy slashed .290/.404/.403 in 231 at-bats, with 10 doubles, two triples, four homers, 29 RBIs, five stolen bases, 43 walks (15.03%) and 47 strikeouts (16.43%).

High School

(4) Corbin Carroll
5´10´´
165 pounds
School: Lakeside H.S., Seattle
Verbal commitment: UCLA

Carroll established himself as one of the best pure bats in the class over the summer, after dominating at the plate in every high-profile event he attended. The diminutive outfielder has a keen understanding of the strike zone and a patient approach in the left-handed batter’s box. Carroll is more than willing to take a walk, and then cause havoc on the bases as a plus runner, but he also has sneaky pop in his bat that allows him to hit for extra bases.

(23) Maurice Hampton
6´0´´
210 pounds
School: Memphis University H.S., Memphis
Verbal commitment: LSU

A team may have to pay him over-slot cash to pry him from LSU, as he’s also a cornerback recruit as well. Hampton has more than enough power and speed potential to make an impact at the plate. Defensively, Hampton has natural arm strength, but he’ll need to work on cleaning up both his arm action and footwork, and also improve his jumps and routes on fly balls. He’s a little bit raw right now, but the power/speed combo is definitely there.

(37) Jerrion Ealy
5´9´´
180 pounds
School: Jackson Prep H.S., Jackson, Miss.
Verbal commitment: Mississippi

Like Hampton, Ealy is another two-sport athlete, as he’s also a four-star running back. Arguably the fastest runner in the class, Ealy ran a 6.49-second 60-yard dash at an event in August. He also brings a plus arm, plus bat speed and elite hand-eye coordination to the table. Ealy rarely swings and misses at the plate, and while he might be a touch aggressive in the box now, has all the tools to become a dynamic offensive player if he ever decides to focus exclusively on baseball. He also gets excellent jumps in the outfield and could be a plus defender in the future.

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Summary

Acquiring a center fielder, at least short-term, could well be one of the priorities for the White Sox this offseason. Due to the plethora of center field prospects who’ll begin this year at Winston-Salem or higher, at least one of them should be ready to play for the White Sox in a couple years (if not sooner). Unfortunately, there are only two available free agents this year whose primary outfield position was center with a positive bWAR (and one of them, Pollock, was given a qualified offer). If necessary, the Sox could seek a corner outfielder with hopes that he could play adequately in the center. Of course, if all else fails, Adam Engel and Leury Garcia could patrol the spot for one more year, but the results may not be pretty.