CF: Atlanta Braves, Starter: Ender Inciarte
Center field is not nearly as deep as either corner position. Center field consists of the younger players in the division, with the average age of the starters being 25.8. This collection of outfielders shows promise but so far they have shown little offensive production.
The most productive center fielder in the NL East would be Ender Inciarte of the Atlanta Braves. Inciarte has won 3 consecutive Gold Glove awards with his stellar play in the outfield, making some of the most memorable outfield catches in that time span. Inciarte also compiled 6 outfield assists in 2018 while committing only 5 errors. Offensively, Inciarte is the division’s best offensive center fielder. scoring 83 runs to go with 158 hits. He struck out only 86 times in close to 600 at bats.
It would be an injustice to mention outfield defense without mentioning the play of Juan Lagares. Unfortunately, Lagares has been battling the injury bug for most of his career and his absence for most of the 2018 season significantly altered the Mets’ outfield plans. Lagares has made strides hitting against left-handed pitching and has shown that he can be aggressive on the basepaths. Lagares must remain patient at the plate and refrain from chasing low breaking pitches. as long as he improves his plate discipline and stays healthy, the power will start to come for Lagares as will the offensive consistency. Defensively, the Mets may have the best center field defense in baseball. Lagares paired with platoon partner Keon Broxton will leave Mets pitching far from worried when a ball is hit to center. Both outfielders must find their stride offensively if they want consistent playing time. With neither outfielder in the lineup, expect Brandon Nimmo to step into center on occasion.
With the absence of Bryce Harper in the outfield, Victor Robles will have to step in and contribute offensively. Michael A. Taylor hasn’t shown the ability to hit major league pitching and with Adam Eaton shifting over to right field, the starting job belongs to Robles. Robles has played parts of two seasons with the Nationals and is one of the youngest players in the league at age 21.
Robles does not project as a much of a power hitter; that being said, scouts rave about his all-around game. Robles hits the ball to all fields and works deep into the count; these qualities are rarely seen of a player of this age. His plus arm strength, defensive instincts, and speed draw comparisons to Andrew Mccutchen. Robles will have big shoes to fill in 2019. Nationals fans should be excited to see the young duo of Soto-Robles blossom into an All-Star outfield.
Odubel Herrera made great strides in 2018, posting a career best in home runs and RBIs. Herrera has always been a player who doesn’t get on base that often and in order to stay in a talented Philadelphia lineup, he will need to find new ways to create runs. Lewis Brinson had a less-than-stellar rookie season, batting only .199 for the Marlins after the trade from Milwaukee. Brinson will try to be one of the lone bright spots for the Marlins in 2019 and will try to build upon a strong spring start in spring training.