The Great Backup Centerfielder Debate

The last spot on the roster will, presumably, go to somebody who can play centerfield. I suppose it’s possible that the Braves would go into the season with nobody on the roster to back up Nate McLouth except Joe Mather, but this would be a strange thing to do since (a) McLouth isn’t any good, or at least wasn’t last year; (b) Mather hasn’t hit at all in the majors; (c) Mather has played little center and is not particularly a centerfield “type” physically; and (d) it’s not like there’s any particular reason to get Brooks Conrad or Brandon Hicks on the roster.

There are two players who are putatively centerfielder on the 40-man besides McLouth, Jordan Schafer and Matt Young. Former hot prospect Schafer is now 24 and there was a flurry of stories about him during the winter, with the team talking him up. On the other hand, he hit .201/.268/.255 last year and was demoted from Gwinnett to Mississippi for extreme ineptitude. There were basically no signs that he could make contact consistently or hit the ball hard when he did, and his wrist may be permanently fouled up. At any rate, if the Braves consider him a backup centerfield option, that’s a sign that they’ve totally given up on him as a regular prospect. At this point, he appears to be on the Chris Snelling career path.

Matt Young was an undrafted free agent out of the University of New Mexico signed back in 2005. After essentially wasting a year in Rome — there’s no point in starting out a 22-year-old college player in the Sally League — he torched Myrtle Beach for a couple of years, had some growing pains upon reaching the higher levels, but has been solid in AA and AAA since 2008. His career line is .289/.390/.385, .294/.375/.404 for Gwinnett, which shows his problem, a lack of home run power, which can be crippling for a player trying to make it on the major league level. Now, he has a lot more power than Gregor Blanco did, and doesn’t strike out as much, but Blanco was really the exception, as most players with low power levels don’t survive in the majors. Also, Young lacks Blanco’s raw speed (though he’s been a fairly successful basestealer) and centerfield skills. A converted second baseman, his tools in the outfield are questionable at best and he’s played more left than center. Very small (listed at 5-6), throws better than Blanco.

Several outfielders got NRIs. Brent Clevlen, who played briefly in the big leagues for the Braves before getting hurt, has played a little center in the minors, but has usually been in a corner and after a knee injury his chances of playing there are pretty slim. Similarly, Wilkin Ramirez has played some center in the minors, but sparingly, and none for Gwinnett last season. Jose Constanza, a former Indians prospect picked up this offseason, is a true centerfielder and a sort of Blanco type, a career .287/.365/.356 hitter who is 210 of 260 career stealing bases. He’s a natural fifth outfielder, which doesn’t mean he isn’t possibly the best centerfielder in the organization, just like Blanco was. He might post a .620 OPS in the majors, but that’s what McLouth did last year, and Constanza seems likely to be the better fielder. The centerfielder of the future, I guess, is Mycal Jones, who has been moved to the position according to reports. Jones has some secondary skills, particularly power, but strikes out a bunch and has hit .261 in his brief minor league career. Basically, he’s a young, righthanded McLouth right now. He’s listed as an infielder on the NRI list.

148 thoughts on “The Great Backup Centerfielder Debate”

  1. and his wrist may be permanently fouled up

    Has this been intimated by anyone in the organization?

  2. Boy, when you compare someone to a guy who has been traded for Ryan Langerhans, thats really a low blow!

  3. Heyward has been talked about in center by Fredi and Wren. It wouldn’t hurt to give him some innings there in the spring and see what he can do.

  4. @5
    I know that was talked about last year, but I havent even heard that leaked this year. Have the link?

  5. #5 – which that would be fine if you want to bring in another RF’r. Braves dont have the budget and therefore there is zero reason to move Heyward to CF.

  6. I repeat what I said last week: how can an organization that is ostensibly a top system have so much trouble finding,not just a regular, but a backup centerfielder? It makes no sense.

    As for Heyward, I would much prefer to leave him in RF and concentrate on his offense. No need to start moving him around at this point in his career.

    From last thread: If UGA had an Honor Code that involved sex, males would have to be eunichs to survive.

  7. 3- C’mon. I think you need to have a greater appreciation for feeling “like f****** success!”

    I feel very confident in saying that he and Charlie Sheen would be mutual admirers.

  8. @10
    You’re right, Ethan. I’m back on the bandwagon. New nickname: Jordan “F*cking Success” Schafer. Long live unwarranted arrogance.

  9. Hmm. I get more the impression that the Braves are secretly hoping Schafer will have an awesome spring and turn back into the prospect they once thought he was. I’m highly skeptical that will happen, but it would be nice if it did.

  10. #12 – Im sure they all are so excited that he’s there. There’s nothing like showing up to a place where you know that no one wants you around.

  11. Our inability to find a backup centerfielder is not the the farm system’s fault. It’s Wren’s fault. There are always plenty of Dewayne Wises and Charles Thomases and Willie Harrises and Gregor Blancos floating around, whom you can invite to spring training for little more than the cost of a minor league contract. Hell, the Braves had Gary Mathews Jr. in camp a few years ago.

    I mean, I’m secretly hoping Schafer has an awesome spring, too, but I’m not so foolish as to think that has any likelihood of happening.

    I think Joey’s slightly unfair to Garret Anderson in the last thread; I’m not sure that “he was a sub par corner outfielder for 13 of his 16 years.” He had five seasons with more than 2 WAR, eight seasons with between 0 and 2 WAR, and four seasons with negative WAR. During the five good years, he was a legitimately above-average player. During the eight mediocre seasons, he wasn’t good, but he wasn’t killing the team. He actively killed his team during the negative years, especially the last two with the Dodgers and Braves, but it’s not his fault for being old and getting signed by dumb GMs. I think it’s fair to say that he was around or below average for 12 of his 17 years. So… Joey’s being slightly unfair, even if only slightly.

  12. Hey, ACHE won a WS & got the game-winning hit in Game 7 vs. the Giants. Not everybody’s done that.

    Delusional as he may seem, I believe Charlie Sheen is more self-aware than Jordan Schafer.

    But, what the hell? Be cocky, Jordan. Use that everyone-is-against-me approach to the game. Then you can silence the critics & continue to internalize every cliche—all the way to a 700 OPS.

  13. sigh… and now I’ve lost my fun and positive distraction. BYU will now get bounced early like it usually does. Sure, they can rotate in some dudes to take up space and give some fouls, but they won’t go as far as they could have.

    However, I stand by the school and its honor code.

  14. Good for you, c. shorter. It’s not much of a code if you’re whining about its effects, IMO.

    I’ll be pulling for you guys even more than I already was. (Unless you’re in VU’s Region and standing in the way of our Final Four run. ;))

  15. As much as I’d like to rip on an honor code that I would’ve batted 0-4 on the first day of school (coffee with breakfast, tea with lunch, had long hair and had a girlfriend I was having premaritals with), I’m guessing you don’t show up to the BYU front door without knowing what all that entails. Same reason why I get infuriated with Georgia players who speed on scooters and such…yeah, the charges they rack up are pretty bogus, but that’s the game. Play it.

  16. C. Shorter,

    Got that info off a friend of mine that’s a player on the basketball team, so I would think that it was true. But maybe not.

    I’m happy that we have the honor code and that 80% of people live it; not so happy that we’re going to be missing our third best player for the tournament.

  17. Yes, fire the agent that got you the mega ocntract that over pays you. Mark Douche-iera

  18. PS: I still believe in Schafer, as I’ve said. I’d be a lot more excited about the season, actually, if he were named the starter and McLouth were named the reserve.

  19. @29,

    Sometimes these things actually make you a better team. When Tyler Smith got the boot last year, Tennessee went to a different level.

    I think you guys will go small and be able to go up and down the court better.

    Plus, you got the Jimmer.

  20. #5 – If we had two really good centerfielders, we could put Jason in center and the two cfs in the corners.

  21. When Tyler Smith got the boot last year, Tennessee went to a different level.

    Yeah, because nobody feared for their safety, anymore. They could just enjoy Brian Williams’ weed, in peace.

  22. #33 – lets not get ahead of ourselves. When was the last time we had two good OF’rs? I just want one ok CF’r at this point.

  23. Seeing Andruw in a Yankees uniform is rather unsettling. And I’m not even a Yankees-hater.

  24. Well, Skip Bayless is defending BYU’s honor code. Everything’s ok. Wait a second…

  25. heh heh. He also said that Vandy can’t win in the SEC (football) because of their academic standards. But they can win in basketball.

  26. It’s not just academic standards — in my opinion, the insistence on ethical behavior is the biggest “impediment” — but I agree that it’s much, much easier to overcome in basketball than it is in football. (Our history shows this, of course.) In basketball, you can win with 7 or 8 good players; you need at least 60, in football.

  27. I agree that is is hard for Vandy to win in football, but I think they aren’t as dedicated to football as they could be.

    I think Vandy should be able to make a bowl game more than once every 20 years.

  28. The douche of my enemy is my friend. Defending Boras is championing evil.

    Does Vandy have a T. Boone Pickens?

  29. The honor code thing is hard to argue. The guy knew the rules when he signed up. Tough break for him and for his teammates that he let down.

    And even if he was shacking up with his old lady, getting one past the goalie is really an easy thing to avoid.

  30. Cornelius made a one-time donation of $1 million (in 1873) and never set foot on campus. (He was, of course, “directly tied to” the university.)

    No, we don’t have a Pickens. John Ingram and John Rich (not the country music douche) are the two biggest-name donors, and I’m thankful for them — but they’re not in that class.

    Speaking of which, it’s starting to sound like Phil Knight’s program is about to get nailed.

  31. According to MLB The Show ’11, the Braves are the number 10 team in baseball behind the Cards and Rockies.

  32. Ed Lucas is having a very good spring thus far (offensively) and is playing all around the infield.

  33. @30, Yes, fire the agent that got you the mega ocntract that over pays you. Mark Douche-iera

    Boras still gets the money, and now somebody else gets to take care of Teixeira. Tex gets to excise “Boras Client” from the front of his name for PR purposes. Sounds like a feature not a bug – heck, I’d bet it was Boras’ idea, and a service he cheerfully offers to all clients.

  34. Hopefully Lucas and Young can be decent backups. I have no hope for Schafer or Conrad, or really for Sea Bass or Louth.

  35. Vinny Castilla age 33
    .260 .308 .467 .775

    Alex Gonzalez age 33
    .250 .294 .447 .741

    Vinny Castilla age 34
    .232 .268 .348 .616

    Let’s hope that Alex Gonzalez age 34 is more like
    Vinny Castilla age 35
    .277 .310 .461 .771

  36. Whatever, Tex will rejoin with Boras right before his next contract. He’s just making sure that his name is still getting thrown out there.

    Yeah, Lucas is off to a nice start. I was listening to the game earlier and Schafer pulled up limping between 1st and 2nd. They brought in Young to PR for him, but I havent heard any more updates.

  37. 57 – I am hoping for Lucas and Young, too.

    But, I want Schafer to get ABs in AAA. It ain’t over, I tell ya.

  38. @57
    My preferred last 4 of the 25-man roster would have Lucas, Young, Conrad, and Marek. In my opinion, AAG is going to play SS every inning, unless he’s injured. If he gets injured during the game, surely Lucas can perform well enough to hold SS down through the rest of that game, then the Braves can call up a defense-first SS from Gwinnett. Diory or Hicks, in my opinion, is a wasted roster spot.

    Viscaino is in and has recorded 2 outs with 3 pitches. He then gave up an infield hit, and retired the last batter.

    Edit: Another note, I’ve noticed that the broadcasters are really pumping up Conrad’s defense. Just now, there was a ball hit between 2nd and 1st, Conrad got to it, but didn’t get the runner. The announcers then proceeded to go on about how great of a play it was just to get to the ball.

  39. Lucas with another good at-bat and gets another single. 3-3, 1bb, 1 r, 1 rbi. Diory who?

  40. Probably an unwarranted accusation, but I don’t trust the Braves to NOT put Diory on the roster regardless of how well Lucas does.

    They did pay Proctor more than $0 to associate himself with the team..

  41. @61+62
    I absolutely agree. until AAG shows us that he can’t be counted on to play 9 innings 24 out of every 25 games, I don’t see why we need a second “true” shortstop on the roster when Gwinnett is just down the road. The team may be better off letting it’s minor league shortstops get plenty of ABs and Defensive innings, considering there’s a good chance one of these guys will have a prominent roll in 2012 and beyond.

  42. 52 – Stu, that’s good news, but I am sure most of it is invested in Salcedo. His outcome as a prospect will most likely define how well that money was spent.

  43. @66,

    Plus I would like to have another infielder on the team that is at least a decent defender. Chipper, at this point, is not. Uggla is only slightly better than Conrad. AAG’s range isn’t Ozzie Smith or anything. If that damn Hicks kid could only hit a little…


    Best lines:


    Kawakami showed some promise in 2009, when he went 7-12 with a respectable 3.86 ERA. Through the 41 starts that have encompassed his first two Major League seasons, he is 8-20 with a 4.30 ERA.

    In comparison, Derek Lowe has managed to go 31-22 while posting a 4.33 ERA in the 67 starts he has made for the Braves over the past two seasons.

    “As a starter, I wasn’t giving them quality starts or quality pitching to help the team,” Kawakami said.


    I didn’t realize their ERAs as Braves are the same.

  45. @66
    Mac, that wasnt my point. My point was that Alex is not going to be replaced in any game due to defensive reasons, and he probably won’t sit unless he’s injured. In 2009, he had 2 stints on the DL, otherwise he was an everyday player.

  46. Any word on who is starting the Tigers game tomorrow? I have family in the area and they are heading to the stadium.

  47. He doesn’t seem like a complete spaz when he moves around — a bit awkward, maybe. But in every still photograph he looks like the the first baseman on the Lambda Lambda Lambda softball team.

  48. Boy, LSU is bad. They can’t even make an entry pass without it getting swatted away.

    Now if UGA can win in Tuscaloosa on Saturday—a big if, for sure—it has an outside shot of getting a bye in the SEC tournament. (Dogs would still need UT & UF to win this weekend.)

    And if they get seeded #3, they’ll probably face LSU & Bama again next week. Looks like the Dogs will have a lot to say about Bama’s NCAA tourney hopes.

  49. Re: Kawakami

    CHEERS theme parody-

    “…sometimes you wanna go
    where everybody thinks
    you’re lame…”

  50. This is rich

    What Baseball Team Should I Root For?

    Oddly, mine turned out exactly right.

  51. @86

    There may have been some initial bias, but I honestly think I would have ended up at the Bravos anyways also.

  52. I love that BYU stands by their principles. However, they are getting battered by NM.

  53. @85, mine turned out right, too. It’s the racism question. It’s early, and it peels off the Braves and Indians fans. If not for that, I’d end up in the Giants/Padres area.

    Strangely, however, I cringe a little bit at the Redskins’ name. I guess I think of the Braves’ name kind of like the Vikings’ name.

  54. #85
    Yup, pretty weird.

    Will certainly send to my Yankee friends tomorrow. My Met friends have enough trouble these days.

  55. LSU’s coach looks and sounds like he could play a significant role in “Blade IV”.

    Jurgens goes today. Fingers crossed, but if he returns to his better form, we’re going to be beastly.

    Sure would like to put Minor between Lowe and Hudson. Is that rushing him?

  56. @94,

    I think the rotation will get changed around as the season goes (always does). I would imagine that Minor won’t make his first start until the second or third week of April.

  57. They need someone in between Hudson and Lowe’s starts. I always thought it was a poor idea to have them follow each other.

  58. Whatever anyone says about how good or lousy Garrett Anderson was I can always say this: Even at his “peak” with the Angels I’ve never seen such a boring and impassive baseball player. He looked absolutely miserable trying to help his team win.

  59. Maddux didn’t “look” all that interested either, and yet he was the most exciting baseball player I have ever seen.

  60. Maddux also swore a lot, which left me with the impression he was at least mildly interested in the outcome.

  61. Tom, I think Glavine is an even better example. Maddux could get pretty intense sometimes. Glavine just seemed stoic.

    I wonder why it is that we, having no idea whatsoever about either man’s feelings or motivations, describe Garret Anderson’s manner as “impassive” and “bored,” yet we’d describe the same mannerisms in Tom Glavine as “stoic,” and “businesslike.” I wonder why that is?

  62. Beause Tommy G was great while he wore a Braves’ uni and ACHE sucked. That’s why.

  63. Maddux & Glavine were both pros, never showing up the other club, but I always thought that they looked very involved, though in subtle ways.

    Maddux was more like a poker player who could count the cards & was mildly pleased with himself when he put down his winning hand—as in, “Of course I can do that every time.”

    Glavine would get in trouble, then just lock down & get gritty. And when he’d get out of a jam or even just lessen the damage, he’d stay businesslike, but he’d walk back to the dugout a little more purposefully, like he’d just won that fight.

  64. @100 I never claimed to know the man’s feelings. However, I have watched baseball my entire Life and he was the most boring player I have ever seen. He looked like he didn’t care at all. When I was living in LA he was constantly ridiculed by fans and press alike for his lack of emotion. He looked completely apathetic out there. Does that mean he was a bad player? Not necessarily, the numbers were there. Does the fact that he appears completely apathetic mean he actually is? No. But does it make him fun to watch? Not for me, probably not for a lot of people when he’s on your team and someone hits a double down the left field line and he strolls over to the ball like it’s a inconvenience. When he came to Atlanta and people accused him of “loafing” I had to say “He did that for Anaheim too, that’s just how he is”.

    Also, Maddux was a fierce competitor who managed to maintain his composure on the mound MOST of the time. I do remember being at a game in the late 90’s and hearing him yell the “F” word after releasing a pitch- before the ball even made it to Jeff Bagwell’s bat.

    And I never described Glavine as business-like, if that “we” you’re referring to is me.

  65. Hey, remember when Detroit traded John Smoltz to Atlanta and then, 20 years later, traded Jair Jurrjens to Atlanta?

    Tigers, LOL.

  66. Apparently Cabrera doesn’t understand right from wrong. No wonder he was drinking a bottle of Scotch while driving.

  67. They should trade Zumaya to Atlanta. Just because I like to watch him throw. When his elbow isn’t exploding in horrifying fashion.

  68. Maddux and Glavine once urinated in a semi truck gas tank as a joke. That truck is now known as Optimus Prime.

  69. Maddux was more like a poker player who could count the cards & was mildly pleased with himself when he put down his winning hand—as in, “Of course I can do that every time.”

    That is exactly what I meant. I wish I had the words, thanks.

  70. Jim Leyland’s son, Patrick Leyland, is in camp with Detroit even though he is a 19 year old who was drafted in the 8th round and had an incredibly subpar year in Rookie ball. That’s a bit ridiculous.

  71. @116

    Jim Leyland has earned some time with his boy. it’s not like he is hurting anyone.

  72. “Practice lets people know you’ve been practicing.” — Bobby Valentine

  73. @119

    Not sure who it was, but I was amused by the talk of Heyward’s huge groin.

  74. And Young hits the game winner! I like this guy. I hope he makes the roster.

  75. Matt Young with the game winner and a great catch. Stephen Marek with a good inning of work. Good Spring day for the guys I’m pulling for to win 2 of the last 3 spots.

  76. I too have decided to invest myself totally and inexplicably in the fates of Matt Young and Stephen Marek. Spring Training Rules!

  77. @128
    I’ve read the first 2 and thoroughly enjoyed them. Took a break for a bit because I didn’t want to commit to something of that size ’til summer.

  78. No, they did say that his reasonably good year with the glove was a fluke. But they didn’t act like he was playing third with a machete his entire career.

    Goldstein is higher on Freeman and Minor than anyone else I’ve seen. Braves prospect ranks:

    Teheran 5 (1st pitcher)
    Freeman 20
    Minor 26
    Vizcaino 50
    Kimbrel 56
    Delgado 58

  79. Freeman seems to be slowly becoming this year’s hot pick. I wonder how much is Heyward hangover, but it’s nice to see. Dom Brown is getting some not nice things said about him lately too, which I find a bit odd.

  80. Here’s another thing from BP: despite limited innings, George Sherrill led all of baseball in allowing inherited runners to score. The Grybo King!

  81. Going to see Book Of Mormon on Broadway tomorrow. Does anyone have any recommendations for a good place to eat. I’ll have plenty of time to get to the show, so I’d prefer to eat somewhere off the beaten path, either Harlem or the Lower East Side.

  82. @136, I’m seeing that in a few weeks! I haven’t been so excited to see a show in a long time. Let us know what you think. I here it’s very good and surprisingly thoughtful.

    If you don’t mind spending some money, Blue Water Grill is excellent. It’s right next to the Union Square train stop and the pad thai and filet mignon sushi rolls are out of this world. They have live jazz in the downstairs area later in the night, but you may be heading out too early for that. If you like good bar food and microbrews, check out Heartland Brewery for a cheaper option (by New York standards anyway). Great cheesesteak and great beer.

  83. …the pad thai and filet mignon sushi rolls are out of this world.

    I may book a flight just to try this.

  84. #1376
    Word. Both those places are worth the quick subway ride.

    If you’re at all pressed for time, wanna stay somewhat near the theater zone & you like German, there’s a place on 9th Ave btw 50th & 51st called Hallo Berlin.

    Real German food, real German beer. The weather probably won’t call for it yet, but there’s a real beer garden out back, too.

  85. Hallo Berlin is insanely good (if you like German food and, more importantly, German Beer).

    Pork Knuckle there is almost as good as it is in Berlin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *