When it comes to stacking up center fielders, the Orioles are in the fortunate position of having their current franchise player holding down the position. Anything can happen to any set of five players -- anyone can get hurt, hit the skids, or break out -- but in reality, center field is a position where the Orioles will likely pace the division comfortably. Let's take a look.
2014: .281/.311/.469, 29 HRs, 4.9 WAR
It's not a lock, but it's highly likely that Adam Jones will pace the AL East center fielders again. As my blog bossman Mark Brown is fond of noting, Adam Jones is very good at everything in baseball except taking walks. He can hit for average and power in a very consistent way. Different defensive metrics have disagreed over his defensive value over the years, while fans have largely agreed that his defense is at least average, if not a bit above. And if he can't lay off the low and away slider, well, that's the cost of a guy who can hold down a premium position for 150+ games and slug 30 home runs a year.
2014: .271/.328/.419, 16 HRs, 3.3 WAR
Accompanying hilariously overpriced aging hitters like Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran, the Yankees have purchased successful mercenary services with Ellsbury, who's good for steady defense and solid baserunning, to go along with a bat whose average and power are somewhat variable but with a high ceiling. After blips in 2010 and 2012, Ellsbury has put together two solid years in a row, and the Yankees can probably expect steady output in his age 31 season.
2014: .263/.315/.450, 10 HRs, 3.7 WAR
Here's where the rankings get harder to predict. Below the proven tier of Jones and Ellsbury, things could shake out any which way. Kiermaier gave the Rays some great value in just 108 games last year, but he's far from a proven commodity and wasn't a huge prospect before impacting the club last year. His .306 BABIP with a slightly below-average line drive percentage could hint at a bit of regression, but nothing too alarming. He's no guarantee, but he probably won't fall off the map completely, either.
2014: .291/.368/.444, 5 HRs, 2.1 WAR
If you play fantasy baseball, you know that Betts is one of this year's sexy prospect picks, based on pedigree and a strong spring, just like his predecessor, Jackie Bradley, Jr. (also in contention for playing time this year). The Red Sox hope that Betts will continue a strong conclusion to 2014 (he posted the above stats in just 52 games), rather than turning into a pumpkin like Bradley did before him. Will that happen?
2014: .231/.302/.436, 1 HR, 0 WAR
The Blue Jays list Pompey at the top of their depth chart, mostly following a sneeze-induced injury to Kevin Pillar in spring training. No matter which player gets most of the starts for the Jays this year, they open the year as the consensus pick for the bottom of the CF heap (Pillar accrued 0.9 WAR in 53 games last year). This is a spot that could be in flux through the year, where the Jays hope just for replacement level production or a bit above.
So, there you have it -- the center fielders of the AL East. Again, anything could happen for any one of these guys, but there's a pretty clear stratification to the preseason rankings of the division players. Who do you expect to top the crowd in the East?