Position Roundtables: Starting Center Field

Dave · February 26, 2005 at 7:13 am · Filed Under 2005 Roundtables, Mariners 

Dave: Starting CF: Jeremy Reed or Randy Winn

It’s pretty widely assumed that Reed is going to get this job unless
he has a terrible spring or gets hurt, and we just talked an awful lot
about Randy Winn, so I’m going to focus on Reed for this discussion.

The national take on Reed has been pretty strange to watch. He was a
second round pick by the White Sox in 2002, then was immediately
assigned to full-season Kannapolis and hit .320 in his pro debut.
Despite his strong initial performance, he was basically off the radar
for most analysts heading into 2003. He was assigned to high-A
Winston-Salem and continued hitting for a high average, but also
posted a ridiculous 41/17 walk to strikeout rate in his 222 at-bats
before the promotion, though he was still flying somewhat under the
radar. BP hired me in the summer of ’03, and I wrote my
first column
for them on Reed, who I had seen extensively, seeing
as I lived in Winston-Salem. It was the first major exposure Reed had
been given on the national analysis scene, so I became something like
the defacto driver of the Jeremy Reed bandwagon. Then bizarro world
took over.

Reed went to Double-A Birmingham and hit .409/.474/.591 after the
promotion. .409 for 242 at-bats, which is just unheard of. For half
a season in Birmingham, Reed was Ted Williams. And quicker than you
can say Splendid Splinter, the bandwagon overloaded. The statistical
analysis community piled onto the Reed bandwagon in droves. PECOTA
spit out comparisons to Tony Gwynn and Don Mattingly. He became the
poster child for all that a minor league prospect is supposed to be.
When we sat down to discuss the BP Top 50, I suddenly found myself as
the voice of dissent. I drove the Reed bandwagon down the “hey, this
guy’s a pretty good prospect that no one talks about” road, but when
the horde took over and switched over to “he might be a potential hall
of famer”, I got off at the next stop. Eventually, the consensus at
Prospectus won out, and Reed ended up #2 on the 2004 BP
Top 50

This wasn’t just a Prospectus thing. The Hardball Times ranked him #4
overall. John Sickels called him the 3rd best hitting prospect in the
game. Despite my opinion on Reed never really changing, I was
officially a naysayer, the negative voice in the community, the guy
who was “down on Reed”, simply because I thought he was a lot more
likely to be Rusty Greer or Mark Kotsay than Tony Gwynn. It was a
weird experience, and I’m still not totally sure what to make of it.

So, 2004 rolled around, and Reed was pretty mediocre in Triple-A as
his average fell to a more human .289 with his usual lack of home run
power. At midseason, he was traded from the White Sox to the
Mariners, and during September, he got his first call to the big show
and partied like it was 2003 all over again. For 58 at-bats, he hit
.397/.470/.466 and whacked singles all over the park. The hot finish
to the season in his major league debut gave him a strong lead in the
fight for the everyday center field job heading into 2005.

So, where do we stand on Reed in ’05 now? We know he’s perfectly
capable of going on sustained hot streaks where he sprays line drives
and seeing eye singles like our current right fielder. We also know
he’s not much of a power threat at this point in his career, and like
Ichiro, his offensive value will be almost completely wrapped up in
how many singles he hits. So, how confident can we be in a projection
of a guy who is going to pepper the margins of fielder range by
hitting the ball just out of reach?

Like Ichiro (but to a less extreme degree), Reed has a skillset that
can create a wide range of possible performances. I’m guessing he’ll
hit something like .280/.340/.400, but the possibility of
.220/.290/.330 is there, as is the .330/.390/.450 upside. Talk about
a wild card. I could reasonably buy an argument that would have him
winning the rookie of the year in a landslide just as easily as I
could see him back in Tacoma by June. Reed is one of the key guys to
whether the M’s are going to contend in 2005 or not; they have several
wide-range-of-possibility guys on the roster, and they need more than
not to lean toward the optimistic side of the ledger.

Jeff: Jeremy Reed’s arrival in Seattle wasn’t quite like Beatlemania — it
lacked fainting, odd haircuts and Ringo — but there was much in the
way of joyful noise. I know, I made a few of the noises.

Part of the Reed hysteria among Mariner fans can be explained by the
team’s recent dearth of heralded position prospects. The fact that the
M’s acquired someone else’s top minor league talent led to what Alan
Greenspan might call “irrational exuberance.” This understandable
giddiness may have caused some unrealistic expectations. I’ll admit to
being guilty of this myself.

Reed is still a valuable player, though, and I don’t mean to sound
like I’m down on him. Indeed, I’m very excited to watch him play this
season and hopefully for years to come.

Neither Reed nor Randy Winn is the prototypical center fielder; both
lack the range and arm you would like to see. It’s clear (to me at
least) that Reed’s superior arm makes him a better solution, though
not an ideal one, and this statement makes me think of one of the
names Dave mentioned.

Mark Kotsay could wind up being a pretty good comparison for where Reed
is headed. Not a perennial All-Star by any means, but a helpful player
that astute teams value.

Kotsay entered the majors at a younger age than Reed, so he had a
couple of full seasons under his belt before he put up a line of
.298/.347/.443 at 24 years old. This performance was in the unfriendly
hitting confines of Florida, and looks remarkably similar to what
PECOTA suggests for Reed, who will turn 24 in June: .286/.353/.423.

You don’t hear Mark Kotsay and think “star player,” but last year,
only four regular center fielders (sorry, Ken Griffey and Jeff
DaVanaon) had an Equivalent Average higher than Kotsay’s .289.

Whether Jeremy Reed performs toward the lower or higher range of what
we can expect will, as Dave said, have a huge impact on whether the
Mariners can contend this year. Regardless, he is a commodity that
will likely prove very useful over the course of his career.

Maybe Reed won’t be John Lennon or Paul McCartney, but he’s not likely
to be the fifth Beatle, either.

Oh, and one more thing: I can believe I have never before noticed that
Jeremy Reed hails from San Dimas, Calif. — making him that town’s
third most-famous favorite son. Excellent.

Derek: I like Reed a lot, but I agree with Dave. In a way, Reed i’s like Jose
Lopez — in trying to talk people down from “future superstar” to
“future good player” it’s almost as if you’re attacking them, rather
than trying to be realistic about their futures.

Reed’s going to push the Mariners closer to being a contender if he can
stick in center field.

A question for Dave — didn’t Reed play most of his minor league time in
right? I don’t know of any players who were minor league RFers who moved
to center successfully, but I’ll admit that this is the kind of detailed
minor league data I don’t have.

Dave: Yea, Reed spent most of his time in right field in the lower minors.
When he was in Winston, we’d talk about his defense, and he felt most
comfortable in right. I talked to many White Sox personnel guys about
his future position, and they all said they didn’t think he had the
range to play center in the bigs. Then, he starts hitting .400, they
have Magglio in right field, and wam, he’s the center fielder of the
future because that was their glaring weakness at the major league

He’s played a significant amount of center field the past year and a
half, so its not like he’s learning a new position. But Derek’s
right; when just projecting him on his abilities and not “how do we
get him to the show the quicket”, they had him in right field, not


39 Responses to “Position Roundtables: Starting Center Field”

  1. Adam S on February 26th, 2005 8:21 am

    As always, a great writeup. I had two questions about Reed and this seems like the place. If you were Hargrove/Bavasi, would you put Winn in CF and Reed in LF instead of the other way around? Everything I’ve heard says Winn is above average (after his slow start) and Reed is NOT a CF. Second, what kind of speed does Reed have — looks like he stole 25 bases last year but I don’t know how minor league numbers project? Could he be a 25-30 SB guy.

    By the way, the link to Kotsay in Jeff’s comment points to Reed’s stats, though maybe someone was trying to be funny.

  2. Pilots fan on February 26th, 2005 8:40 am

    Great write up, guys. I agree that Reed looks to be a future “good player”, although I’ll hope for better, of course.

    Interesting that he played much of his minor league ball in RF — I did not know that. It doesn’t seem to match with what I have heard about his arm strength — adequate but not a real asset. Is that a fair statement?

  3. Brian Rust on February 26th, 2005 8:59 am

    Part of what will determine whether a player of Reeds’ age and ability will be great, or merely good, is his willingness to continually work on getting better. Old #11 comes to mind. Dave, where do you think his head is at in this regard?

  4. paul mocker on February 26th, 2005 9:01 am

    That was interesting. I enjoyed reading it.

    You seem to say that walks won’t be part of his offensive value. That’s what I conclude from your statement that his offensivie value will be driven by singles. Do singles hitters walk less frequently than power hitters?

  5. Digger on February 26th, 2005 9:02 am

    An interesting history. Thanks. Do you have any insight into his melt-down in the White Sox spring training last year? Is he going to be streaky for his whole career?

  6. paul mocker on February 26th, 2005 9:08 am

    As corollary to my question in #4: Why aren’t walks and singles-hitting usually part of the same skill set? It’s not intuitive since singles hitter have a good eye. I suppose we should differentiate between those who have a looser strike zone (Ichiro) and those who are more discerning in their judgement (perhaps Gwynn).

    What is Reed’s current ability to contol the strike zone? You mentioned the 41/17 several years ago as quite exceptional.

    Can his strike zone control be forecast at this time?

  7. Evan on February 26th, 2005 10:09 am

    So you’re saying that BP and Hardball and Sickels gave Reed that great prospect ranking as a RF? That’s clearly insane, but as a CF the kid has a ton of value if he just develops a bit of power.

  8. paul mocker on February 26th, 2005 10:43 am

    Tony Gwynn – every year except his rookie year he had more walks than strikeouts.

    Ichiro Walks to Ks Ratio
    2001- 30:53
    2002- 68:62
    2003- 36:69
    2004- 49:63

    What was happening in 2002? Intentional walks?

  9. Adam S on February 26th, 2005 10:58 am

    Ichiro’s intentional walks by year — 10/27/7/19.

    So part of it is intentional walks. But he also had 29 walks with the bases empty in 2002 but only 13 and 18 in the next two years. I think he was simply more selective in 2002. I wish he’d do that in 2005.

  10. Paul Covert on February 26th, 2005 11:35 am

    But wasn’t “be selective, Ichiro!” part of Molitor’s mistake that (apparently) delayed Ichiro’s great run of 2004 by a month or so? Regardless of walk totals, I’d much rather say: “Whatever you did in the second half last year, Ichiro, just keep doing it.”

    Incidentally, I did some lineup studies this week that suggested that the M’s optimal lineup begins with Reed, Ichiro, and Beltre in that order (that way you have Beltre batting with Ichiro on base as often as possible). But the advantage is only a couple runs a season over the conventional lineup (with Reed at #2), and given the risk of the added pressure inhibiting the development of Reed’s game, I don’t at all object to the likelihood of Hargrove sticking with conventionality.

  11. paul mocker on February 26th, 2005 11:55 am

    Thanks Adam.

    I’m at work now.

    I’m curious about Gwynn’s intentional walks. What was his high in IBB in one season?

  12. Adam S on February 26th, 2005 12:24 pm

    Paul C, possibly yes. Or at least Molitor has been blamed for that but who knows. I agree that if Ichiro can hit .429 or even .400, I don’t care how often he walks. But given the choice of .330/.400 or .355/.385 (for example), I’d take the higher OBP every time.

    Paul M, Gwynn was intentionally walked 26 times in 1987 when he hit .370 and had 82 total BB, the only year he broke 60. He had 16 IBB in the strike-shortened 1994 when he hit .394, and 20 in 1990 when he hit .309. Other years he had about a dozen IBB those hit playing time (health) varied.

  13. paul mocker on February 26th, 2005 12:33 pm

    I wish BB-Ref showed comparable players for Reed. Does BPro show comparable players?

    Not many people chatting today. Maybe everyone is reading their recently arrived BPRO Annuals!

    Thanks Adam. IIIRC, in 2002 opposing managers started to IBB Ichiro and it caused some commotion. Did opposing managers consciously reduce the free passes? If so, I would love to know more about it.

  14. Digger on February 26th, 2005 12:37 pm

    The year-by-year IBB numbers for Ichiro seem to reflect the performance of the guy hitting in the 3 hole.

  15. Shoeless Jose on February 26th, 2005 1:02 pm

    Frankly, I don’t think any of us are in a position to say what Ichiro! should or should not be doing at the plate. In fact, in light of last year, I don’t think there’s anyone in the history of the game who is qualified to give Ichiro! hitting advice. He’s out there where normal rules don’t apply. Whatever benefit there might be to Ichiro getting more walks is probably offset by what he does to some pitcher’s heads (and pitch counts) when they cannot throw a pitch, good or bad, that he doesn’t get a piece of. If Ichiro! goes into another multi-week slump then I might worry about what he’s doing with a bat in his hands, but the rest of the time I’m happy to turn off my brain and just watch one of the greats.

  16. Jon Helfgott on February 26th, 2005 1:10 pm

    Without giving away too much of BP’s premium content…the comparable players list for Reed prior to 2004 included: Terry Francona at #1, Gwynn at #2, Mattingly at #6, Darrin Erstad at #7, and Matty Alou at #8. Expect the more impressive names to slide down a few ranks when 2005 PECOTA cards come out.

    My BPRO book still hasn’t arrived yet…I’m getting anxious.

  17. paul mocker on February 26th, 2005 2:08 pm

    THanks Jon.

    Gwynn and Mattingly – known for strike zone control as well as some power.

    Another corollary to my earlier questions: I wonder why anyone should care why offensive value should not depend on batting average. Is it because AVG is more variable from year to year? I have read that there is less Y-T-Y correlation with AVG than with OBP or SLG.

    Is inability to control strike zone an indication of slipping skills?

    Does Reed in fact face a choice about strategy: whether to walk or not?

  18. ray on February 26th, 2005 10:26 pm

    Reed apparently still has a great walk to strikeout ration. We witnessed it last year. That won’t change. He won’t need to hit a lot of singles to keep a high OBP. I remember something (I won’t forget) that Reed said last year: AAA pitchers are much more inconsistant than MLB ptchers. I think Reed is very smart and always has very good plan when he goes to the plate. He thus relies of the consistancy that most MLB picthers show. This helped him last year. On the other hand, he might not fair well against a “wildly effective” pitcher as it might throw his mental batting game off. He is not a free swinger like Ichiro.

  19. ray on February 27th, 2005 1:00 am

    To guys at USS Mariner. I’m not sure where to post such things but what do you think of this?

    It’s a bill to get Bush to give congrats to Ichiro for his 2004 success.

  20. Spiegs on February 27th, 2005 8:16 am

    RE: #19-Nothing against Ichiro but don’t our Congressmen have more important things to do with their time?

  21. Rusty on February 27th, 2005 8:28 am

    The wide range of projected performance is an interesting issue. Miguel Olivo’s batting practice performance yesterday is another example of how the overall performance of this team will be difficult to predict. Mariner fans, more than most, know how a season can climb to high heights due to a combination of peak performances from various individuals (see 116 Win season). Texas, with a lot of young players, surprised many last year. I’m anxious to see where the M’s wind up this year.

    And even with all that, this team with a batch of new young players will be fun to watch even if they fall short of their playoff hopes.

  22. Rusty on February 27th, 2005 8:44 am

    BTW, does anyone see any similarities between Reed’s game and Jamal Strong’s game? Yes, I know that Strong has absolutely no power, but beyond that his averages look similar (BB:SO, follows)…

    2002 .278/.366/.336 62:87
    2003 .305/.390/.371 25:38
    2004 .322/.418/.414 38:28

    Strong would seem to be a useful guy as a 4th outfielder/pinch runner/defensive specialist to have on the roster.

    I apologize in advance if this ground has already been covered. I’m guessing that Jamal’s name might come up when we get down to the Extra Outfielder roundtable.

  23. John on February 27th, 2005 1:13 pm

    Re Jamal Strong(# 22)- For the reasons you’ve cited, he would make a good fourth outfielder; but can he also stand around in the infield while holding a glove?

  24. jc on February 27th, 2005 3:13 pm

    This is not really a question because winn is a horrible CF.They have him as average but even my grandmother knows he does not judge the ball off the bat in CF very well at all.Reed i saw play at tacoma alot and he isnt a great cf but way better then the other options.

  25. David J Corcoran on February 27th, 2005 4:36 pm

    Re 23:

    Even I can stand around the infield with a glove, but would Strong need to?

  26. John on February 27th, 2005 7:30 pm

    Re # 15 “…what Ichiro should or should not be doing at the plate:” People are rightly concerned about what Ichiro is not doing at the plate. He’s not watching enough pitches go by.
    There’s a saying, “When the pitcher’s in trouble, don’t give him outs.” Ichiro seems never to have heard of it. He swings at anything, even–and there’s film of this–balls that bounce in front of the plate. He doesn’t seem to realize that the idea is to get on base, not to hit your way on base.

    Re # 25 (Would Strong need to stand around the infield with a glove?)Yes! Recently, the 25th roster spot has gone to a player who can “play” both infield and outfield. If that’s the case again this year…

  27. Darrell on February 27th, 2005 9:37 pm

    So what’s the excuse this year for not moving Ichiro into center?

  28. Scraps on February 27th, 2005 10:34 pm

    Ichiro doesn’t seem to realize that the idea is to get on base, not to hit your way on base.

    Ichiro’s onbase average last year: .414, second in the American League. He led the league in times on base. In four seasons, he has been in the top four in times on base three times. Are you that sure that Ichiro ought to take a different approach at the plate, and would get on base more times if he did as you say? Personally, I’d rather not take the risk of messing with what he already is.

  29. Jon Helfgott on February 27th, 2005 10:36 pm

    John Sickels just put up an “experimental projection” for Reed’s 2005 over at minorleagueball.com.

    He sees Reed putting up a .287/.351/.413 line, very similar to the PECOTA projection, as well as Dave’s guess. Apparently Bill James is in love with the kid, projecting a .307/.378/.446 line with 31 steals. That’d be awesome. While I think the potential’s there for that kind of line, I’m not that optimistic.

  30. eponymous coward on February 28th, 2005 12:11 am

    Ichiro’s OBP, in the AL: .384
    AL average OBP, adjusted for Safeco: .326

    I know the guy’s not like St. Rickey Henderson of the Church of High OBP (Pope Billy Beane presiding) and refusing to swing at anything that’s not down a 2-inch pipe, but even Rickey would have been having an above-average year at .414 OBP (like Ichiro did last year). At some point, you have to just say “hey, it seems to be working for him” and quit obsessing over the perceived violations of classic Ted Williams-style hitting.

    Ichiro’s not the first player to put up HOF-caliber numbers while swinging at bad balls, either. Yogi Berra was famous for it, for one. Sometimes, the rules just don’t apply for the greats. And you know what? It’s a GOOD thing when there are different styles of play in the league, players who are great for different reasons. Getting to see a guy who bloops pitches at will and runs on the basepath every day sure as hell beats waiting to see who’s going to hit the 3-run homer after a couple of walks THIS game every day, with no variety. Baseball’s a better game when we can see some triples, bang-bang plays at first and speed mixed in with power hitting and strike zone judgment.

  31. Marty Lighthizer on February 28th, 2005 4:45 am

    That’s a good way of putting it… “Sometimes, the rules don’t apply for the greats.” Ichiro is the main reason I’m a baseball fan again after a couple decades of non-interest. Leave the artist to his work. He may not be a Rembrandt (actually, there’s a bit of Jackson Pollock in him), but he IS one of the greats, and enormously entertaining to watch.

    Can’t wait for the RF roundtable…

  32. Jerry on February 28th, 2005 6:42 am

    I hope that you guys are right about the Kotsay comparision. He is a way underrated player. If Reed plays to that level, the M’s will be getting a very good player. It might be unlikely that Reed can play CF at the same level as Kotsay, but hopefully his bat will come around before Kotsay’s did. He was pretty mediocre for a few years, and really emerged as a good hitter in the past few seasons.

    It seems like people view the Kotsay comparison as a negative. However, if Reed plays like Kotsay does, the M’s will have a very nice player for the next few years.

  33. ray on February 28th, 2005 7:02 am

    Speaking of Ichiro, I remember once on this blog a write-up about the financial impact of Ichiro on the M’s. I could be wrong but anyway, here is proof.

    It says, among other things, that despite the bigger contacts to Beltre and Sexson, Ichiro is their No. 1 guy. He brings in and will bring in more money than any player on the team. He is also a money bringer for MLB. I think if you basically took all the money he brings in and minused it against his contract, you would find he is a cheap player.

  34. Jeff on February 28th, 2005 7:14 am

    Here’s the post about the financial impact Ichiro has.

  35. Harry on February 28th, 2005 7:15 am

    I think people just fear an OBP that relies on BA too much, figuring it to be more prone to slumps than a high walk rate. But I agree, when you’re dealing with Ichiro, his genius lay in the fact that he can hit anything you throw into his zip code.

  36. Saul on February 28th, 2005 9:12 am

    RE #9: I’d rather see 2004 Ichiro than 2002 Ichiro.

  37. Joshua Buergel on February 28th, 2005 10:21 am

    It’s a GOOD thing when there are different styles of play in the league, players who are great for different reasons.

    Amen to that. While I realize the things that go into an effective offense, an offense based on walks can be aesthetically awful. I only wish there were more guys like Ichiro around, I just count myself lucky that we have him around.

  38. eponymous coward on February 28th, 2005 10:26 am



    Kotsay came up through the minors extra-fast (since the 1998 Marlins, having blown up the team, could make a 22 year old with 131 minor league games a starting OF).

    It looks like Reed has less power than Kotsay, but better average.

    Here’s a proposal for Reed’s upside:


    Except maybe not as fast and a skosh more power (since Brett Butler played before the big power boom of the 1990’s)

  39. AC on February 28th, 2005 5:33 pm

    With all due respect to your opinions, I think it is almost irresponsible to suggest that Reed could potentially hit 220/.290/.330. I guess anyone could theoretically perform at that level, even Albert Pujols or Vlad Guerrero, but based on Reed’s peformance history, is it likely? Absolutely not.

    In fact, your predicted level of performance for him, .280/.340/.400, is, if anything, closer to his low end production potential. I guess it’s all just speculation right now, but I’ll be back at the All-star break and again at the end of the season to say “I told you so”.