The A’s are in good position with their outfield going into 2014 Spring Training. With Coco Crisp, Yoenis Céspedes, Josh Reddick, Craig Gentry, Michael Taylor, and in case of an emergency Brandon Moss, all in the fold the Green and Gold have plenty of depth roaming the grass. Over the last couple of decades MLB teams have began to put an emphasis on the importance of players up the middle. These include catchers, second basemen, shortstops, and centerfielders. For this post I will exclusively talk about the latter position, centerfield and who currently holds the position, who will hold the position in the near future, and who will hold it in the distance future.
The A’s have greatly benefited from veteran centerfielder Coco Crisp over the past four seasons. His glove, his speed, and his bat are great, but his personality and leadership are what have paid the biggest dividends, as he has become a fan favorite and clubhouse leader. After becoming a Free Agent at the end of the 2009 season, Crisp signed a one-year deal with the A’s that included an option for the 2011 season. At the end of that contract Crisp signed a new two-year agreement with the A’s that will keep him through the end of 2014. Crisp is 34 years old, but will be 35 at the end of the contract. It is unknown whether he can keep producing at his career norms, especially playing such a demanding position at his age. With that being said it is likely this is Crisp’s last season donning the Green and Gold.
A newcomer to the A’s in 2014 Craig Gentry brings a good glove, good bat, and team friendly contract. Coming over in the trade that sent Michael Choice and a prospect to the Texas Rangers for him and pitcher Josh Lindblom, Gentry fits in to the A’s outfield has a platoon partner for Josh Reddick, and a fill in for the occasional Crisp day off. He is still arbitration eligible and will not become a Free Agent until 2017. Gentry will likely stay around awhile, pending a trade, and potentially platoon with the centerfielder of the future for the A’s.
The A’s first round pick in the 2013 draft was high school outfielder Billy McKinney. McKinney comes from Plano West Senior High School in Texas and he can rake. Even after a slow start (which is probably to be expected from a high school kid getting his first taste of professional baseball) McKinney got hot and never cooled down eventually leading him to a promotion to Low A Vermont. While he only played nine games at Low A Vermont McKinney hit an astounding .353. An interesting storyline going in the 2014 season will be where McKinney starts out at, presumably Low A Vermont again, and where he ends up. If he can continue to develop at his current pace, McKinney could finish next season at Double-A Midland. As GM Billy Beane often states, “Once you get to Double-A anything can happen.”
The A’s have a great centerfielder in place. They have another one biting at his heels. However, they have one waiting in the wings that could be the next A’s superstar. Billy McKinney brings a good bat, good speed, and good defensive instincts to the table. He is still years away, but if things work out he could be the A’s starting centerfielder of 2017 and into the future.