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Examining Houston’s Center Field Value

The Astros arguably have one of the best defensive center field groups in baseball, but offense remains a work in progress.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Center field has become a rotating door of options for the Astros since George Springer’s departure before the 2021 season. Since the 2017 World Series MVP left for Toronto, we have seen the following players cover the position with varying levels of success: Chas McCormick, Jake Meyers, Myles Straw, Jose Siri, and Mauricio Dubón. The production in terms of offense has been a bit uneven, with only McCormick and Meyers providing above-average offense (111 wRC+) in the past two seasons, with Straw, Siri, and Dubón providing below-average offensive production when positioned as the center fielder during their tenures in Houston.

Incidentally, the center field position has held up relatively well this season compared to their peers as a combination of McCormick, Meyers, Siri, and Dubón have been worth roughly 0.5 wins above average. Roughly middle of the pack, if you will. Of course, the primary driver in this center field’s value doesn’t lie with their bats; instead, based on various defensive metrics, the bulk of this position’s value lies with their defense.

Center Field Value - 2022

Offensive WAR (Baseball-Reference): 0.5 wins

Offensive Runs Above Average (FanGraphs): 5.0 runs

Fielding Runs (Baseball-Reference): 10 runs

Defensive Runs Above Average (FanGraphs): 25.7 runs

Outs Above Average (Statcast): 13 outs above average

It is no secret that part of Houston’s success in 2022 resides in their ability to play generally above-average defense at most positions. Arguably only left field with Michael Brantley and Yordan Alvarez is not exactly considered a strength. But when you boast a center field with those kinds of defensive metrics, for as imperfect as those measurements are, any team could live with that arrangement. While it would be ideal to obtain more consistency on offense from the position, it isn’t exactly a black hole in the lineup. Again, it is an acceptable arrangement at this time.

The question moving forward into the season’s second half is how the Astros will deploy their center field resources. Meyers is the presumptive favorite to start most games, considering how high the club is on his offensive potential and defensive abilities. Despite limited playing time, McCormick has continued to impress (113 wRC+, +0.9 defensive runs above average). The recently demoted Siri was arguably the club’s best defensive option, but his inability to get on-base at a higher clip limits his offensive value. Dubón is an emergency center fielder in the event Meyers and McCormick are unavailable.

However remote, there also remains the possibility that the Astros will add another center fielder at the trade deadline. After all, the front office supposedly had an interest in Sterling Marte as a free agent before his signing with the Mets last offseason, and not much has changed at the position in the meantime. Suppose the right fit is available, which is a big if, I could envision James Click making a change to increase this roster’s chances of winning in October. But it is far more likely we see the club bolster other positions on the roster while living with a perfectly reasonable arrangement in center field. This group's value has been positive; sometimes, it is wise not to mess with a good thing.