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Ranking The Top MLB Center Field Prospects, Breakout Stars In 2019

Jo_Adell_BillMitchell.jpg
Jo Adell (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

For years, minor league center fielders have been considered the primary source of all major league outfielders. Many corner outfielders in the majors were center fielders in the minors, and teams have long valued those with a center field pedigree.

That may be changing. The center field crop of 2019 is noticeably weaker than its predecessors, by a quite a large margin. Jo Adell and Victor Robles are two premium prospects at the top of the crop. After that, the talent level drops off considerably, with the rest of the center fielders either players far down the ladder with a lot still to prove (Taylor TrammellVictor Victor MesaJarred Kelenic), players with scary injury histories (Luis Robert), or players whose performances raise red flags (Corey RayKhalil LeeMonte Harrison).

That follows the general trend of center fielders no longer representing the top rookies. The most recent group of top prospect center fielders to enter the majors—Byron BuxtonManuel MargotBilly Hamilton, Bradley Zimmer—have all largely disappointed despite flashes of promise.

There is considerable depth among the 2019 center field prospects, with many players who are breakout candidates, But until they actually break out, the year's center field prospect crop appears middling at best.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

  1. Jo Adell, Angels
  2. Victor Robles, Nationals
  3. Taylor Trammell, Reds
  4. Yusniel Diaz, Orioles
  5. Victor Victor Mesa, Marlins
  6. Jarred Kelenic, Mariners
  7. Luis Robert, White Sox
  8. Drew Waters, Braves
  9. Cristian Pache, Braves
  10. Daz Cameron, Tigers
  11. Brandon Marsh, Angels
  12. Julio Pablo Martinez, Rangers
  13. Adam Haseley, Phillies
  14. Kyler Murray, Athletics
  15. Corey Ray, Brewers
  16. Khalil Lee, Royals
  17. Travis Swaggerty, Pirates
  18. Estevan Florial, Yankees
  19. Leody Taveras, Rangers
  20. Everson Pereira, Yankees
  21. Bubba Thompson, Rangers
  22. Austin Beck, Athletics
  23. Monte Harrison, Brewers
  24. Heliot Ramos, Giants
  25. Cole Roederer, Cubs
  26. Kyle Lewis, Mariners
  27. Kristian Robinson, D-backs
  28. Antonio Cabello, Yankees
  29. Bryan Reynolds, Pirates
  30. Lane Thomas, Cardinals
  31. Luis Alexander Basabe, White Sox
  32. Jeisson Rosario, Padres
  33. Buddy Reed, Padres
  34. Connor Scott, Marlins
  35. Jordyn Adams, Angels
  36. Jason Martin, Pirates
  37. Braden Bishop, Mariners
  38. DJ Peters, Dodgers
  39. Anthony Alford, Blue Jays
  40. Ryan McKenna, Orioles
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Arizona Fall League Prospect Report -- October 17, 2019

After a rough opening professional campaign, Victor Victor Mesa is rebounding in the Arizona Fall League.

As part of our 2019 position rankings, BA staffers are picking one breakout prospect and one prospect they are concerned about at each position. Here are the selections for center field.

KYLE GLASER

Breakout: Bubba Thompson, Rangers

For a guy who was supposed to be a raw athlete whose baseball skills were behind, Thompson has been very, very impressive. In addition to his tremendous speed and impressive raw power (see: his game-winning home run at the Don Welke On-Deck Classic), he also showed way more hitting ability than expected by hitting .289/.344/.446 in the South Atlantic League. He showed his ability to catch up to mid-90s velocity and stay back on offspeed stuff during the prospect game at Petco Park, and his tools should only keep growing. As a better, more polished hitter than was initially realized, Thompson has every chance to take a huge leap in 2019.

Red Flag: Khalil Lee, Royals

Any time you see a 32 percent strikeout rate in low Class A, it's a red flag. To Lee's credit, he cut down his swing-and-miss in high Class A and Double-A this year, but his power production took a nosedive with it. Then he looked completely overmatched in the Arizona Fall League, swinging through low-90s fastballs and not demonstrating anywhere near the offensive skill needed to project as an everyday big leaguer. Lee is young and a good athlete, but his offensive skillset and overall production are more in line with a future backup, not an everyday starter on a contending team.

JOSH NORRIS

Breakout: Jordyn Adams, Angels

Watching Adams this past spring at the National High School Invitational, it was easy to see why teams wanted to keep him away from the football field. He's already dripping with athleticism, now it's time to see how quickly it can translate on the diamond. Scouts have already slapped double-plus grades on his speed, which obviously serves him well in center field. Now he'll have to work to get stronger and make more contact. He showed well in his pro debut, but there's a big test ahead of him in his first full season. Adams' development might be a slower burn than other high-end prospects, but the reward could be tremendous. 

Red Flag: Kyle Lewis, Mariners

Lewis' injury history is obviously extensive—he's played just 165 games since being drafted in 2016—but the results haven't been there when he's been on the field, either. The plus-plus raw power he showed in college hasn't played since turning pro, and his speed has been diminished by the ACL tear he suffered with short-season Everett after being drafted. Perhaps now, in his second full season back from the injury, he can turn the corner, but there's still a long way to go to reach his lofty ceiling.

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