As is typical around this time, MLB Network is taking inventory of players and putting together lists of the stars position by position. In this series various analysts along with “The Shredder,” which is a projection-based system put together by MLB’s research team, rank players at every position. On The Shredder’s top center fielders list is none other then Alex Verdugo at number four! Only the Angels’ Mike Trout, Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger, and free agent and former Astro George Springer are ahead of the Sox normal right fielder.
MLB Network Analyst Mark DeRosa said of Verdugo: “I think people will be surprised where I have him on my list. I look at a guy who’s gonna hit in the middle of any order he’s on. Listen, he was playing centerfield pretty much every day before he went down in 2018-19 and then Cody Bellinger kind of took over there and the rest is history. He gets traded for Mookie Betts. But a guy who owns his at-bats, kind of knows he’s a darn good ballplayer and acts accordingly.”
High praise indeed.
During his first year in Boston, Verdugo led the team in bWAR (2.2 to then-center fielder Jackie Bradley’s 2.1), slashed for .308/.367/.478 and chipped in six homers and 16 doubles during 53 games on the short season. He even stole four bases, tying in number in 106 games the year before.
In the outfield, Verdugo has posted +14 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) in left field and +5 in right field. Over his career he has a +2 rating in center field as well, though he didn’t play much there in 2020 so most of that comes from his days in Los Angeles.
As the roster stands right now with Jackie Bradley Jr., among others, still out there in free agency, Alex Verdugo is indeed the everyday center fielder. They still need outfield help whichever way you slice it, but maybe they’re not as hurting here as we thought.
1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
2. Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers
3. George Springer, Free Agent
4. Alex Verdugo, Boston Red Sox
5. Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets
6. Kyle Lewis, Seattle Mariners
7. Ramón Laureano, Oakland Athletics
8. Trent Grisham, San Diego Padres
9. Starling Marte, Miami Marlins
10. Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins