Up the middle talent is always at a premium and center field is no exception. Center field has not been a weakness for the Phillies up until the trade of Shane Victorino in July, this offseason the Phillies traded for a young center fielder in Ben Revere. In the system there are some interesting toolsy players who have questions ranging from their hitting, to fielding, to their injury history. Revere should give time for one of these players to unseat him as the center fielder of the future.
Like shortstop, it is not good enough to average defensively in center field and a player must be either plus defensively or plus at the plate. If a player cannot stick in center field there hope is that they have enough bat that they can stick as a fourth or fifth outfielder that can play occasionally in center.
Tyson Gillies (24) – Gillies was acquired in 2009 for Cliff Lee and his career with the Phillies has never really gotten off to a good start, having played only 129 games in those three years. Gillies before the injuries had easy 80 speed and above average raw power, but his injuries have diminished both of those skills. Gillies is still a plus defensive center fielder defensively, and he has a good approach at the plate. Gillies still can drive the ball and has ok power for a center fielder (mostly gap and not home run power). All of the tools add up to a major league regular but the injury history has hindered him from reaching his ceiling. Gillies will likely be the CF in Leigh Valley to start 2013.
Jiwan James (23) – Jiwan James is the best defensive center fielder in the in the system, where he uses above average speed and an above average arm. At the plate James has struggled with switch hitting, he has good raw power from his natural left side, but overall James struggles to recognize off speed pitches leading to poor contact rates and high strikeout rates. James has made it through the Rule 5 draft unpicked twice and will be a minor league free agent after the 2013 season. James will likely return to AA where he will once again be forced to an outfield corner in deference to a better prospect.
Zach Collier (22) – A former first round pick, Collier has struggled with injuries up until 2012. Collier has started to show at least below average power to go with improving contact skills, additionally Collier has maintained good walk rates without sacrificing strike out rate. Defensively Collier is adequate in center field but not a special defensive player. Collier is still tapping into his potential and he had an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League, earning himself a spot on the 40 man roster. Collier likely profiles as a 4th outfielder but there is a chance that he could be a major league regular. He will likely spend 2013 playing center field in Reading.
Aaron Altherr (21) – Altherr was raw when he was drafted in 2009 and is only now starting to show what kind of player he can be. At the plate Altherr has some contact abilities but has some good plate discipline. Altherr has below average power now but there is enough to profile as average to a little above. Altherr has plus speed and steals bases at a good pace. Altherr might not profile defensively in center long term but if he can develop power he can stick in a corner. If Altherr can stick in center he can profile as a BJ Upton light profile in center field, if not there will be pressure on his bat to develop enough to be a a corner outfielder. Altherr will move on to man center field in Clearwater during 2013
Guantlet Eldemire (23) – Eldemire was a 6th round pick in 2010 as a raw college outfielder, but injuries caused his debut to be delayed until 2012. Eldemire is not burner but is a pretty good defensive outfielder. At the plate Eldemire has shown below average power (despite reports saying that he may have plus raw power) and contact ability. He did show a good walk rate against much younger competition before an injury ended his season. Eldemire will have to prove a lot to stay in the organization let alone have a starting spot on any level.
Kyrell Hudson (22) – Hudson has plenty of talent but injuries and inconsistencies have derailed his career so far. Hudson has plus plus speed and is a plus plus defender in center with an above average arm. In 2011 Hudson but up good contact numbers and little power but he regressed at the plate in 2012. Hudson will have to come out strong in spring training to have a starting spot in the outfield in 2013, additionally Hudson will be eligible for the Rule 5 in 2013 so he will have to move quickly.
Carlos Tocci (17) – Tocci was one of the youngest players in all of minor league baseball in 2012. Tocci is an incredible defensive player already with incredible instincts to go with plus plus speed and a good arm. At the plate Tocci can drive the ball to all fields but not very far, with his power a 20. There is plenty of debate on how much power he can add to his frame, if he can add average power he is a potential superstar if he can add enough power to not have the bat knocked out of his hand he could be newly acquired center fielder Ben Revere. The lack of a center field in front of him coupled with an advanced approach could see Tocci start the year in Lakewood with a demotion to Williamsport if necessary.
The Recently Acquired:
Ben Revere (24) – The Phillies traded Vance Worley and Trevor May for Revere to fill their center field hole. Revere has 20 power and a well below average arm, but otherwise he has plus plus speed which he uses to be a good defensive outfielder. At the plate Revere makes good contact and steals bases at an efficient clip, and he has good plate discipline, which is undermined by the fact that pitchers are willing to challenge him due to his lack of power.
Ender Inciarte (22) – The Phillies Rule 5 selection in 2012, Inciarte has never played above A-ball. Offensively Inciarte will be hopelessly overmatched as he doesn’t have the strength or experience to deal with premium velocity and his plate discipline which has been good so far will be irrelevant as pitchers will not pitch around him. Defensively Inciarte is plus in all three outfield positions where he has plus plus speed and a good arm. If he can make it through the year and get another couple years of minor league development he may be able to stick as a 4th or 5th outfielder long term.
Some Questions Facing this Group:
Can any of James, Gillies, and Collier bump newly acquired Ben Revere out of the center field job?
Will Eldemire, Hudson, or Gillies stay healthy for a full season?
Can Altherr or James but their tools into game action?
How good can Carlos Tocci be?