With the cancellation of their series last weekend the Brewers also lost their primary center fielder. That spot appears to have already been filled.
It was a very unfortunate weekend for the Brewers in which their series vs the St. Louis Cardinals was postponed due to COVID-19. To make matters worse, another major headline was Lorenzo Cain deciding to opt out of the remainder of the 2020 season.
Losing a gold glove center fielder is not going to be easy to replace, so who should we expect to play center field? It appears early on that Avisail Garcia will get the first crack at it.
What is Garcia’s prior experience in center field?
While primarily a right fielder throughout his 9 year MLB career, Garcia has had experience roaming center field. Out of a career 301 innings in center field, Garcia logged 201 of them in 2012 and 94 in 2019. He did not play center field at all in between those years.
It is well known that Garcia has surprising good speed for his size. However, it does take him a while to get up to speed. According to Statcast data, Garcia has less than ideal reactions and bursts, but does excel in route running.
In 2019, Garcia recorded 4 outs above average as a right fielder, but -1 outs above average as a center fielder. For reference’s sake, Lorenzo Cain recorded 14 outs above average in 2019 and 21 outs above average in 2018 as a center fielder.
While it’s unfair to expect Garcia to come in and provide anywhere near the amount of defensive production that Lorenzo Cain has provided in recent years, advanced data does show we will see quite a dip. At this time I understand Craig Counsell‘s reasoning for giving Garcia the first crack as the every day center fielder, but in the end I fully expect a switch at some point in the season.
Who else could play center field for the Brewers?
Ben Gamel is certainly another candidate for the position. Gamel has been swinging a hot bat since the start of Summer Camp and will likely see an increase in playing time with Lorenzo Cain gone. If Craig Counsell wants a player who is going to consistently play everyday in centerfield, Gamel should be considered then as well.
While Gamel has played primarily as a corner outfielder during his MLB career, he has logged 181 innings in center field. Statcast data does not significantly lean towards Gamel being a better defending center fielder when compared to Garcia.
Other options in center field could be taxi squad members Tyrone Taylor or Corey Ray. Taylor made his MLB debut late in 2019 and Ray is yet to make his. Both players are currently working at the alternative training site in Appleton, WI.
While he may not perfectly replicate Cain’s defensive output, Garcia’s offensive potential should allow him to be a capable replacement. And whether he finishes the season in center, we know he’ll be the one getting the first crack at the position.