Next up in our position by position debate, we are going to review centerfield. If you are just catching on we have been doing a debate on who has the better player at each position between the Red Sox and the Yankees. To be clear, this is not a debate on who has the better team, just the better player at each position. A debate on who has the better team would require much more than a position by position evaluation.
Red Sox Centerfield
The Red Sox have two players vying for centerfield and arguments could be made for both players to be used at that position. Coco Crisp is a very strong defensive candidate who has developed a case of bat lethargy since coming from Cleveland. In limited play last season, Jacoby Ellsbury impressed quite a bit. He batted .353 with 3 homeruns, 18 RBI's and 9 stolen bases. He also smoked in the world series going 7 for 16 for a .438 average with 3 RBI's and a stolen base. I haven't seen enough of him to judge accurately, but from what I've seen, he's a pretty good fielder as well. The question with Ellsbury is how will he do in his first full season of big league ball? He has some amazing numbers in limited play but going a whole season is a completely different challenge. How many at bats he'll get is a big question as well. Right now the Red Sox project Ellsbury behind Crisp in the depth chart, but I can't imagine that will last long.
On the other side, Crisp has been a bit of a dissapointment for the Red Sox. After 4 productive seasons with the Indians, he hasn't quite met his expectations in Boston. He was hampered by a thumb injury his first season, but his second season didn't improve much. He batted .268 with 6 homeruns 60 RBI's and 28 stolen bases. Speed is his best weapon, but you have to get on base to get to use it.
Melky Cabrera has been an absolute fan favorite since coming up and sticking with the Yankees in 2006. Despite the trade rumors that have floated around about him in the two off seasons he's been with the Yankees, he's still here. Melky has good speed for the outfield, but his biggest strength is his arm. He has an absolute canon. Although Damon may be faster than Melky, and Abreu may be able to compete with his arm, Melky is the all around best outfielder the Yankees have. His offense has been the only drawback to Melky. He's not horrible by any means, and his defense makes up for a lot, but the Yankees have certainly had better hitting outfielders. He ended last season with a .273 average, 8 homeruns, 73 RBI's and 13 stolen bases. He doesn't hit for enough power to have the kind of average he does, but on the other side, he's only 23 years old. The question for him will be how he does with his bat this season. If he improves and starts flexing some muscle at the plate, he could make things interesting for the Yankees.
Winner: Even. Melky has been better than Crisp whose picked as the starting centerfielder, but there's no way Ellsbury stays as a back up for long. I think Ellsbury will end the season with good numbers, and will probably have a hotter bat than Melky, but he needs to complete a full season before I can legitimately say he's better than Melky. Too many rookies look good in small samples. A full season is the real test.