After a week off, we are back in action with the State of the Farm series. This week we are going to look at the center fielders. After this week it will only be the starters and relievers among the pitchers that remain in the series. You can see all of the State of the Farm articles here.

For now, Billy Hamilton has center field locked down in Cincinnati. Hamilton has had problems staying healthy, though. In 2015 and 2016 he failed to play in 120 games due to injuries. He’s also entering arbitration and has free agency looming after 2019. That gives the Reds some time to find a long term answer if Hamilton doesn’t sign beyond there. The injury concerns could mean they will look for someone, at least in a backup role, sooner.

Starting at the bottom of the chain with the Arizona League Reds, Michael Beltre began the year as their center fielder. He performed quite well and was promoted up to Billings halfway through the season. The then 20-year-old had a breakout season, hitting .299/.399/.481 with 13 doubles, six triples and three home runs. He also had 26 walks and 39 strikeouts in 219 plate appearances. Defensively he saw time in all three spots between the two stops. He’s got the speed to play center right now, though there’s a chance he could outgrow the position if he fills out his frame a little bit.

Billings had a trio of guys that could profile as future center fielders. As noted above, Beltre joined the team halfway through the season. Jose Siri actually spent the most time in center for the Mustangs, but he was covered in the corner outfield portion of the series. Taylor Trammell and T.J. Friedl both saw time in center for the Mustangs. Trammell was the compensation 1st round pick made by the team out of high school in 2016. He would see more time in the corners, defensively, but right now can still play center field just fine. He may grow out of the position if his frame fills out over the next few years. At the plate he more than held his own. The then 18-year-old hit .303/.374/.421 and improved as the season went along. Trammell doubled nine times with six triples and two home runs. He also added in 24 stolen bases, 23 walks and 57 strikeouts in 254 plate appearances.

T.J. Friedl was the talk of the summer after the draft. Many teams only noticed he was draft eligible after the draft, though some knew he was draft eligible and chose to pass. After performing very well with Team USA over the summer teams began to try and sign him and it worked out well for the Reds who had the most available bonus money to spend. That led to the largest bonus in history for a domestic amateur player. To say that Friedl had a good debut would be an understatement. In 29 games he hit .347/.423/.545. That came along with 11 doubles, two triples and three home runs. He also added in seven steals, 13 walks and 25 strikeouts in 137 plate appearances. Defensively almost all of his time came in center, though he saw four games in left as well. He profiles to remain in center field for the long term with plus speed.

In Dayton there was a revolving door of center fielders. No one played in more than 42 games and six guys played at least 10 games there (and nine guys played the position during the year). Mitch Piatnik and Zach Shields saw the most action (30 games and 42 games) in center. Both guys have tons of speed and can cover plenty of ground out there. Offensively, though, both players struggled. Piatnik spent most of the year in Dayton, but saw 11 games in Billings as well. Between the two stops he hit .252/.295/.346 with 18 walks and 127 strikeouts in 350 plate appearances. Shields was with the Dragons all season long. In 101 games he hit .240/.293/.311 with 24 walks and 82 strikeouts. He also added in 22 stolen bases.

Daytona had one guy man center field nearly all season. Jonathan Reynoso started 112 of the games for the Tortugas. The 23-year-old hit .285/.319/.321 with 17 walks and 91 strikeouts in 412 plate appearances. He added 31 steals, eight doubles and three triples. He’s got plenty of speed and can handle the position fine. At the plate he’s going to need to find a way to improve the strikeout-to-walk ratio and more power would be good to see as well.

Pensacola saw a revolving door of center fielders in 2016. Jeff Gelalich and Phillip Ervin both played 30+ games at the spot. They were both covered in the corner outfield portion of this series. Beau Amaral played in 37 games with the team and another 29 for the Louisville Bats. He missed part of the season after having surgery to fix Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. He would spend two weeks rehabbing with the Billings Mustangs before returning to Pensacola in July. Between the three stops he would hit .260/.333/.366 in 79 games. He had 10 doubles, three triples and five home runs in 335 plate appearances. Amaral shines in the outfield. He’s not the fastest center fielder in the system, but he’s probably the best defender. The routes and reads that he makes allow him to get to tons of baseballs.

A possible wildcard worth mentioning is Cristian Olivo. The now 18-year-old dealt with a shoulder injury last season and he performed very poorly. He’s a long way away at this point, but he signed for $1M in the 2015-2016 international signing period and has plenty of tools to work with.

Overall Thoughts

The Reds have plenty of depth at the position, though it appears that if there’s a starter that will come from the group it’s going to come from one of the guys below full-season ball. A few players listed here and with the corner outfielders may project as solid backup center field types sooner than that group. It’s not the strongest group overall of prospects in the organization, but it’s a good group of guys to have overall.

Grade: B

Top Center Field Tools

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Tool Top Player
Hitting Taylor Trammell
Current Power Taylor Trammell
Raw Power Taylor Trammell
Speed TJ Friedl
Defense Beau Amaral

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32 Responses

  1. Simon Cowell

    With both Trammel and Friedj waiting the wings as a Hamilton replacement I”m feeling like I’m in my safe place with our Center Field position. No complaints, though it would be nice to have a true Center Fielder at Louisville. but I guess that is what the independent leagues are for if we find ourselves in a pinch.

    • Doug Gray

      Beau Amaral can be a true center fielder, at least defensively, if the team truly needs that kind of guy.

  2. Kap

    Have a feeling we either trade Hamilton or let him leave via free agency and friedl or Trammell is our next starting center fielder in the next couple years. Fine with me as I still not sold on hamilton. Yeah he had a good second half of the season but I want to see more from him until I’m convinced

    • Reaganspad

      When Billy hits 300 and has an OBP of 380, we won’t be able to afford him anyway.

      We can only afford to sign our own free agents early in the process.

      I would make a run at him now to see if you can lock him in for 1 or 2 of his free agent years at today’s value. When Billy hits 300 he is an all star lock.

      You might pick up 2 all star years at a good value. No doubt that if he hits

      It will also take 5 years to grow any on this list to be all star caliber

      • Kap

        You seem really confident that he will hit that well. I’m not just yet, but I hope I’m wrong. Another year of solid production plus being healthy will convince me that he is worthy of an extension. Right now, no way in my opinion.

      • Billy

        I agree with the sentiment that the Reds should try to lock him up now. This isn’t a team that can afford to make expensive mistakes. Those two statements may sound contradictory, but they aren’t.

        Signing Homer Bailey was an expensive mistake. At the time, the reasoning was sound. There was no way that the team could know he’d suffer the injury woes since then. But he has, and it has left the team shorthanded and with limited means to replace what is missing. The problem is that they waited for him to reach (or at least come close to) his peak before offering a deal.

        The team needs to be more proactive about signing guys early. Will they miss sometimes? Sure. But they’ll miss sometimes by waiting too. How different would this team’s future be if they’d approached Frazier (2.6 WAR), Cozart (2.5 WAR), and Mesoraco (0.0 WAR) after their 2nd/2nd/1st seasons in 2012 and offered each a 6 year, $24M deal. I think that’s a safer gamble – diversifying the risk with more potential for upside – than offering the big contract to one player and hoping he stays healthy and productive.

      • Billy

        And maybe a better example would have been Homer Bailey (1.5 WAR), Mike Leake (1.5 WAR), and Travis Wood (1.3 WAR) at the end of the 2011 season. All were good, young pitchers with some upside. None were sure things. Offer each of them a reasonable extension and don’t be surprised if they don’t all pan out. In this specific case, it would have been a lot cheaper than signing Bailey to a pricey extension.

      • Wes

        Billy I think that’s a valid point. Cardinals did just that ina bit of a revolutionary move w that pitcher and then he had to have tommy john. Still may work for cards but dude is now damaged goods. I’m not overly critical of meseraco signing but reds kind of did that there and it surely blew up on em.

        u still can’t do that w Hamilton. Reds could afford to let him struggle over last 2 seasons where any contending team couldn’t have him in line up bc he was that bad. I think Billy will hit and his learning curb was just longer than MLB average which isn’t a big deal but just in case- you can’t shell out 8-10 mill again to someone who can’t play.

        My guess is that he hits and stays healthy and he’s the next big contract reds shell out. Then that makes younger guys coming up expendable trade pieces.

    • Simon Cowell

      I second that notion but I will add in my desire to not resign him is that I doubt he will ever stay healthy enough for more than 120 games a season. Sooner or later those injuries are going to pile up and diminish either his fielding or base running skills. Adding a drop in return on those would be unacceptable considering his wiffle bat.

  3. Wes

    I think Billy has his break break out season this year. He hits for average, leads league in steals, is outstanding in center, oh yes- and stays healthy. Just hope the reds don’t rush into signing him if he has a career year

  4. Jonathan

    Tampa Bay just locked up their “All-Defense no hit” CF for 6 years based on his defensive value. I would like to see the Reds do the same thing with BH.

    • The Duke

      Kiermeir has significantly more power than BHam. Over 500 at bats he’ll hit 15+ home runs. His career OPS is over 100 points higher. If we could sign BHam to something like a 5 year, $30 million extension right now, then I’d do it, but anything more than that and we should ride out arbitration the next three years and then hope one of Trammell or Friedl is ready for the job.

      • Jonathan

        I didn’t realize Kiermeir hit that much better than BHam….

        Whose defense better? Bham?

      • Doug Gray

        The numbers say that Kiermeir is, but I’d like to see what the statcast data actually says overall. Right now, we don’t really get that kind of data for all plays. The older defensive metrics all suggest it’s Kiermeir, though.

    • Norwood Nate

      Wasn’t it like 53.5m over 6 years, or something close to that? I wonder how would people feel about a similar extension for Hamilton. I think the years may be too long. I think 4 years with an option on the 5th year may be worth considering. If 2 WAR is worth something like 14-15m, and that’s probably his floor, the Reds should get good value, as long as he stays healthy. Maybe something like 4 years 36m with a 12m option for year 5. Buy out the remaining ARB years at 5.5 and 7.5, with 11m and 12m for the first two FA years?

      • Greenfield Red

        I don’t know guys. He didn’t hit in the minors, and he has only produced for about half a year in the majors. If a move had to be made, I’d rather trade him after only 1/2 of a good year for his increased value than lock him up based off of it. JMO

      • Greenfield Red

        I’m going to correct myself a little. I just went back to look. BH hit better in the minors than I thought. However, I’ll stand by my opinion that I’d rather take a wait and see approach to any extensions for him. As mentioned before, if a move HAD to be made, I’d rather explore younger talent that could be obtained for a soon to be 26 year old speedster who has had 1/2 of a really good season at the major league level.

    • Simon Cowell

      If we can get league minimum sure why not. Bham is going to want mas pesos because he looks sexy on a baseball card.

  5. Krozley

    Seems like a lot of talent destined for Dayton. Do you think one of those guys, Friedl being the most likely, makes the jump out of ST to Daytona where the outfield looks somewhat weak?

    • victor vollhardt

      BILLY is right about billy hamilton and now is the time to lock him up and even if he stays at his current batting level –his defense makes all the young pitchers better. (the DUKE makes valid points as well). By the way Barnhart should also be a candidate.. for a long term “modest” type deal. Good defensive catchers ,who are not lost at the plate(and a switch hitter to boot) come around only once in a while.

      • The Duke

        Barnhart has a career OPS of .478 as a right handed hitter. He’s a switch hitter, but he probably shouldn’t be. I’d be willing to wager he could top that as a left handed hitter against left handed pitching. Career .714 OPS hitting as a lefty.

  6. Arnold Ziffle

    TB’s CF Kevin Kiermaier has 2.131 years of service time. BHam has 3.028 years service time. Kiermaier has amassed 3 seasons of fWAR of 3.9+5.4+3.8=13.1 fWAR.
    BHam has 3 seasons of 3.7+2.0+3.1=8.8 WAR. Kieraier has more power and RBI’s. BHam has more SB’s and R’s. BHam is the better defender.
    Some differences, many similarities. I’m afraid this Kiermaier signing has set the future market for BHam. His agent will ask for similar $$$ and years. I’d go 5 years with BHam, but no more.

  7. gregmlb

    What about Isaiah White that the Reds acquired from Miami? I think he will factor into CF in the Billings for Dayton this year. Is this just for guys in the organization las year?

    • Doug Gray

      He should probably have been mentioned. Brain fart on my end – as I simply went down the line.

      With that said, he’s a guy that’s going to have to show more at the plate. He doesn’t really move the grade at all. There’s some potential there and I’d imagine he will be with Billings. Perhaps with a strong extended spring training he can get to Dayton in the 2nd half and skip over Billings, but there’s no room for him in Dayton to start the year with Trammell, Siri, Beltre and maybe Friedl. Mix in a guy or two left over from Dayton last year, or maybe a Miles Gordon and it’s tough to see where White fits into Dayton early on.

  8. Steve

    Doug, didn’t see the corner OFs listed in your State of the farm articles link. It’s hard to believe that some teams knew about Friedl and didn’t draft him. There are 40 rounds in the draft and he ended up getting high 3rd round money. Was also wondering about White and Gordon? Billings Or Dayton CFs this season? Gordon was starter at Billings but got injured before Friedl was signed. Was playing pretty well at the time he got injured.

    • Steve

      Doug, also what about Landry? He’s listed as a CF on the Pensacola roster. Sorry, you posted a response to gregmlb as I was typing my comment about White and Gordon.

      • Doug Gray

        Landry is 27. He’s depth, but doesn’t move the needle.

    • Doug Gray

      I wrote a little about White in another response here in the comments. Miles Gordon is a guy I like. Good athlete. Would like to see him on the field more though. Both probably don’t have a spot in Dayton to start the year. Maybe in the second half.

      But, with Friedl, we need to realize that the money he got isn’t exactly in line with draft money. He was able to leverage teams against each other because he was a free agent. Baseball America knew he was draft eligible, and had reports on him from teams that knew he was draft eligible. He was ranked the 10th best prospect in the state of Nevada entering the draft, and not in the Top 500. The story was a great thing, but I also think it got some people to think he was a bit better of a prospect than he actually was at the time. With that said, I do think he was a 3rd-5th round kind of talent.

      • Steve

        Doug, just clicked on the link again and it shows a corner OF dated Nov. 19, 2015 and not one for the upcoming season. Again, why do you think Friedl wasn’t drafted at all in 40 rounds of the draft? More than 1200 players drafted. Do you think his play last summer with Team USA elevated his status from being someone outside of 40 rounds of players to getting $735,000?

      • Doug Gray

        I’m such an idiot. Here’s the correct link, Steve. I swear it’s the right one this time. http://redsminorleagues.com/2017/03/02/cincinnati-reds-state-of-the-farm-corner-outfielders/

        With Friedl, I think that a majority of teams didn’t know that he was draft eligible. I also think that the teams that did know he was saw him as more of a 10th+ round guy at draft time. His time with Team USA showed a different set of current skills for a lot of teams. The fact that he was playing outside of Nevada (where the ballpark is incredibly hitter friendly) and showed well, then he did so against higher end competition with Team USA really helped out, too. It’s much like if a guy goes to the Cape Cod and performs well, it boosts their stock. Teams have more confidence in their abilities. The same happened with Team USA. Wooden bat performance plus doing it against high end competition took him up another level.

      • Steve

        Doug, thanks for fixing that up. I totally understand what you’re saying. But you said yourself that he was a 10+ round guy. Then why wasn’t he drafted in those rounds? Still unbelievable to me, but he’s in our system now. I guess, thanks to all the other teams who passed on him in the draft. The guy put up Senzel type numbers, albeit at one lower level.

      • Doug Gray

        Well, as a sophomore he had bargaining power, and teams probably figured they couldn’t sign him at 10th+ round money, so they didn’t bother, knowing they couldn’t sign him for $100,000 or less.