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Vancouver Canadians 2012 Center Fielders

‘Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today……’

And, with that classic line we round out the positional review of the outfield with probably the most exciting group, the center fielders.  Center, as a position, has always held a bit of mystique for me.  And it’s not solely because it’s the position I am still holding on to (tenuously at best) with my over 30s men’s league team.

Some of the greatest players baseball has ever seen played center, combining raw speed and athleticism in the field with power and grace at the plate and on the base paths.   From Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle to current players Josh Hamilton and Mike Trout.  One of my favourite baseball writers, Joe Posnanski, recently did a hall of fame project where he looked at current members of the HOF, ranking them by WAR, and then looked at the players on the current ballot.  Needless to say, the center field position produced the highest median career WAR by a massive distance at 90.3.  If you have time, take a look at the article, especially the only qualified players who achieved a 90.3 WAR at other positions post WW2.  Unbelievable.

While I do not believe the C’s employed any future hall of famers this past season, there were a couple of players that I really liked.  Just a shame, that as the baseball gods would have it, we only got a short glimpse.

As always, game logs courtesy of baseballreference.com:

Ian Parmley 50 113 0 0 0 1 2.26
Dalton Pompey 10 24 0 1 0 0.96 2.4
Carlos Ramirez 7 21 1 0 0 1 3.14
D.J. Davis 5 19 1 0 1 1 4
Matt Newman 4 6 1 0 0 1 1.75
Dwight Smith 2 3 0 0 0 1 1.5

We covered both Newman and Smith Jr in the left field post while Ramirez played more in right.

That leaves us three.  I’ll go in ascending order of games played.

A potential 4.5 tool star

A potential 4.5 tool star

D.J. Davis was the Jays first overall pick in last year’s draft when he came off the board at 17.  Most scouts had that as a bit of reach but he did sign under slot, and his tools saw him rise a bit faster and further than most had predicted.  As all pundits will agree, he has plus plus speed, both on the basepaths and in the field.  It’s his range in the outfield which should keep him in center, as his arm is average at best.

It’s the bat where people worry.  A not uncommon phenomenon when you’re discussing eighteen year olds.  Despite the rawness of the tool, it was the improvement he showed as his draft year wore on that had him flying up most boards.  Adding gap power to his game meant that he could project as something more than just a slappy lead-off hitter.  A fact not lost on the Jays management as per this quote from Director of Scouting Andrew Tinnish ‘He’s very well built, and there’s projection to his body. His hands are very big and strong, and I think that’s a good indicator for raw bat speed and power.’

Davis is definitely an athlete who projects a very high upside but with the hit tool being so raw, there is always that element of risk.  The Jays haven’t been overly successful with these types of picks in the last few years, but with Davis covering three levels last year, there is room for optimism.

Showing positive signs with both the GCL Jays and Bluefield, DJ was promoted to the C’s in late August getting into five regular season games and the playoffs.  He did struggle in the Northwest League, but two factors mitigate this somewhat.  One, it is a very small sample size, and two, he was young for the league.  The positives from the other levels?  The aforementioned power was on display as his ISOs were .141 and .170.  He was also quite successful at getting on base.  Oddly though, for someone rated as one of the fastest in the 2012 draft, his stolen base percentage was not great.  Again, I am going to attribute this to youth.  He probably stole bases for fun in high school.  In the pro ranks, he’ll have to learn how to do it properly.  Something his first spring training can help with.

In regards to spring training, I don’t expect him to see an extended one.  Despite his youth, and struggles with the C’s, I fully expect him the Jays to give him a crack at full season ball with the Lugnuts.  What position he plays will be the question as there should be another interesting name in the mix.

A true sleeper prospect, will be very interested in Pompey's 2013 (photo courtesy of vancouversun.com)

A true sleeper prospect, will be very interested in Pompey’s 2013 (photo courtesy of vancouversun.com)

If you look at Dalton Pompey’s season as a whole, realistically it was disappointing.  A broken hamate bone in his wrist limited him to only twenty games in what should have been his breakout campaign.  Maybe I am getting ahead of myself when I say breakout, but if you can use anything from his first eleven games with the C’s (sorta reverse small sample size) he would have been in Lansing by mid-July.  Pompey was hitting, hitting for power, walking more than he struck out, and stealing bases.  I don’t think you can assign him all five tools, but the package Dalton brings to the field is impressive nonetheless.  His power may never develop into an above average offering, but a center fielder who displays average power while maintaining excellent speed and is a switch hitter will be a very valuable commodity indeed.

I used up a lot of ink on Dalton this past season so won’t do anymore swooning here, but this link may explain how good he was in those first 11 games.

I don’t think you can discount Pompey’s heart either.  The broken bone was meant to keep him out for the season, but he re-habbed hard and made it back for late August, appearing in four games for Bluefield and another five at Lansing.  Was just a shame that Canadians fans were not able to see him for an extended run as I think, like Davis, the Jays brass will push him this year, giving him a crack at Lansing.

Pompey’s early season injury left a void in center which was filled by Ian Parmley.  One of the slot saving college seniors the Jays took from rounds four through ten in the 2012 draft, Parmley was assigned to and stayed in Vancouver for the entire season.  After beginning the season in left, Parmley made the switch after the aforementioned injury to Pompey before giving way to Davis (somewhat) late in the season.

His numbers were perfectly average to slightly below, what you would expect really, from a college senior that may not have been drafted ordinarily.  He didn’t hit a ton, and not for much power, but showed good plate recognition which translated to a 1.18 BB/K ratio and a .359 OBP.

Seeing him live, I thought Parmley had deceptive speed, both on the basepaths and in the outfield.  I don’t recollect much about his arm, which leads me to believe it was average, as was his range in center.

At twenty-three, Parmley will be a bit old for the Northwest League this year, but with Lansing’s outfield getting crowded I can’t see Ian making the jump.  A return season at the Nat may be on the cards, which will be disappointing professionally, but allow him to be close to home as he is a Snohomish native.

Prior to writing this piece I threw out a question on twitter:

As I got approximately zero responses, thought I’d throw it out there again.  Both Pompey and Davis are natural center fielders who maybe don’t translate as well in corners.  Dalton did start all five games he played for Lansing in center but with DJ also making the jump will be difficult to find playing time in one position for both.  So who’s going to stay and who’s going to shift?  Or am I leaving someone else out entirely?  All comments are welcome.



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