MMLN: Top Tools – Outfield Defense

In this category, it is simple. Who can go get it the best? Who covers the most ground? How big of a factor is one's arm strength? InsidePitchMagazine.com turns its attention to the outfield where the following prospects bring different strengths to their position, but all share the distinction of being the most reliable with the glove.

10. Juan Lagares – The converted shortstop finally spent a healthy season in the outfield and demonstrated why the organization believed he could make the switch back in 2008. Though not a big, physical athlete, Lagares—a left fielder—has plenty of speed and range in all directions. He reads the ball very well off the bat and takes good routes to fly balls. He still has some trouble judging balls hit on low trajectories right at him and taking proper routes to ground balls in the gap. He isn't known for making the big play, but he does a good job going beyond the routine plays. Lagares brings his strong shortstop arm to the position which is an added plus.

9. Pedro Zapata – Zapata has always been one of the better defensive center fielders in the system despite his slow road out of short season ball. He aggressively pursues the ball and being a long-strider with speed, Zapata has good range to both his left and right. He is particularly good at going back on the ball. He isn't always clean with the way he charges and throws the ball, but Zapata is a very athletic outfielder who can slide to all three spots.

8. Fernando Martinez – Martinez ranked higher in previous years because of his everyday position in center field. Martinez has seen decreased time in the role with a recent rash of leg injuries, relegating him mostly to left field in the minors. That is a bit of a stock dropper for a highly valued prospect. Nevertheless, he remains a complete defender with strong tools including reads, arm strength and range though his range is not as in demand in left field. Greater aggressiveness from Martinez in the outfield would boost his defense, but he has cautioned against pushing his legs too hard in light of recent injuries.

7. Rafael Fernandez – Fernandez has what scouts look for in an outfielder. He boasts speed, range and a strong arm. He is built like a center fielder but has a right fielder's arm which has boosted his stock in the past. He plays the ball very well and has a quick arm and fast trigger with the ball. He tracks the ball very well which allows to him play aggressively and risk the big play—which he executes more often than not. He still gets a bit too flat when settling under the ball in sacrifice situations, but otherwise is a very mechanically sound, athletic outfielder.

6. Sean Ratliff – Ratliff is not the most athletically gifted outfielder on this list, but he simply has a nose for the ball. Ratliff is a very consistent, well-rounded outfielder who plays the ball behind him very well and is even better when charging the ball. He gets especially good reads on sinking line drives right at him. He also boasts better than expected speed and range for a player his size and does a good job of taking proper angles to cut off ground balls. He can play center field at the minor league level though projects as a corner outfielder at the highest level.

5. Cesar Puello – The first thing one notices about Puello's defense his big arm. He is very aggressive charging the ball and has a very quick release with plenty of strength and carries on his throws. He continues to improve his reads of balls over his head and in the gap which are well within his range given his excellent speed. Though speed is not one of the pressing ingredients in a right fielder, it is an added bonus tool to go with his strength, size and arm strength which all combine to make him truest right fielder in the organization.

4. Matt Den Dekker - Den Dekker entered the farm system ballyhooed for his defense. The flash he showed his college was good for the highlight reels, but in reality Den Dekker is a strong but not a truly plus center fielder highlights make him out to be. He boasts good speed and a quick first step which allow him to range wide to both directions. He has solid arm strength, but not an arm that is going to truly challenge runners. Range and reads are his best defensive tools. His arm leaves a little to be desired.

3. Tillman Pugh – As noted in the "Top Speed" article, is among the best runners in the organization. That tool translates to center field where it gives him the ability to make the big play. He has excellent range in a 360-degree radius with a flair for the big play. He has a strong arm with carry. However, proper reads are still something work on, but as he progresses Pugh could easily find himself higher on the list in coming years.

2. Kirk Nieuwenhuis – While Nieuwenhuis may not have the big splashy plays like others on this list can make, he remains this high simply on the overall strength of his tools. His defense has matured to the point where he is a strong minor league center fielder though is ultimate projection leans toward the corners (the huge Citi Field center field and Nieuwenhuis' above average but not speed help push that belief). Nieuwenhuis still needs some fine tuning playing balls over his head, but he is very strong at playing balls in front of him. He has plenty of arm strength and carry for a center fielder with a quick release. His closing speed is one of his best attributes.

1. Darrell Ceciliani – Ceciliani leaps to the top spot this year because, with improved reads over his head, Ceciliani now owns the strongest collection of defensive tools. Others have stronger arms, but Ceciliani's speed gives him plus range deep to the gaps and takes away a lot of the ground in front of him. In the parks Ceciliani played in this season, if he was not getting to the ball no one was.

Ceciliani has the first step and the recovery speed to at least offer a play on everything hit his way. He does not have that strong of arm but makes up for it with accuracy. Lastly, the one thing that cannot be taught is instincts and he has plenty of them. Rather than run to the ball, Ceciliani often runs to the spot and plays the ball; a positive trait for a young center fielder at his level.


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\n10. Juan Lagares – The converted shortstop finally spent a healthy season in the outfield and demonstrated why the organization believed he could make the switch back in 2008. Though not a big, physical athlete, Lagares—a left fielder—has plenty of speed and range in all directions. He reads the ball very well off the bat and takes good routes to fly balls. He still has some trouble judging balls hit on low trajectories right at him and taking proper routes to ground balls in the gap. He isn't known for making the big play, but he does a good job going beyond the routine plays. Lagares brings his strong shortstop arm to the position which is an added plus.
\r\n
\r\n9. Pedro Zapata – Zapata has always been one of the better defensive center fielders in the system despite his slow road out of short season ball. He aggressively pursues the ball and being a long-strider with speed, Zapata has good range to both his left and right. He is particularly good at going back on the ball. He isn't always clean with the way he charges and throws the ball, but Zapata is a very athletic outfielder who can slide to all three spots.
\r\n
\r\n8. Fernando Martinez – Martinez ranked higher in previous years because of his everyday position in center field. Martinez has seen decreased time in the role with a recent rash of leg injuries, relegating him mostly to left field in the minors. That is a bit of a stock dropper for a highly valued prospect. Nevertheless, he remains a complete defender with strong tools including reads, arm strength and range though his range is not as in demand in left field. Greater aggressiveness from Martinez in the outfield would boost his defense, but he has cautioned against pushing his legs too hard in light of recent injuries.
\r\n
\r\n7. Rafael Fernandez – Fernandez has what scouts look for in an outfielder. He boasts speed, range and a strong arm. He is built like a center fielder but has a right fielder's arm which has boosted his stock in the past. He plays the ball very well and has a quick arm and fast trigger with the ball. He tracks the ball very well which allows to him play aggressively and risk the big play—which he executes more often than not. He still gets a bit too flat when settling under the ball in sacrifice situations, but otherwise is a very mechanically sound, athletic outfielder.
\r\n
\r\n6. Sean Ratliff – Ratliff is not the most athletically gifted outfielder on this list, but he simply has a nose for the ball. Ratliff is a very consistent, well-rounded outfielder who plays the ball behind him very well and is even better when charging the ball. He gets especially good reads on sinking line drives right at him. He also boasts better than expected speed and range for a player his size and does a good job of taking proper angles to cut off ground balls. He can play center field at the minor league level though projects as a corner outfielder at the highest level.
\r\n
\r\n5. Cesar Puello – The first thing one notices about Puello's defense his big arm. He is very aggressive charging the ball and has a very quick release with plenty of strength and carries on his throws. He continues to improve his reads of balls over his head and in the gap which are well within his range given his excellent speed. Though speed is not one of the pressing ingredients in a right fielder, it is an added bonus tool to go with his strength, size and arm strength which all combine to make him truest right fielder in the organization.
\r\n
\r\n4. Matt Den Dekker - Den Dekker entered the farm system ballyhooed for his defense. The flash he showed his college was good for the highlight reels, but in reality Den Dekker is a strong but not a truly plus center fielder highlights make him out to be. He boasts good speed and a quick first step which allow him to range wide to both directions. He has solid arm strength, but not an arm that is going to truly challenge runners. Range and reads are his best defensive tools. His arm leaves a little to be desired.
\r\n
\r\n3. Tillman Pugh – As noted in the \"Top Speed\" article, is among the best runners in the organization. That tool translates to center field where it gives him the ability to make the big play. He has excellent range in a 360-degree radius with a flair for the big play. He has a strong arm with carry. However, proper reads are still something work on, but as he progresses Pugh could easily find himself higher on the list in coming years.
\r\n
\r\n2. Kirk Nieuwenhuis – While Nieuwenhuis may not have the big splashy plays like others on this list can make, he remains this high simply on the overall strength of his tools. His defense has matured to the point where he is a strong minor league center fielder though is ultimate projection leans toward the corners (the huge Citi Field center field and Nieuwenhuis' above average but not speed help push that belief). Nieuwenhuis still needs some fine tuning playing balls over his head, but he is very strong at playing balls in front of him. He has plenty of arm strength and carry for a center fielder with a quick release. His closing speed is one of his best attributes.
\r\n
\r\n1. Darrell Ceciliani – Ceciliani leaps to the top spot this year because, with improved reads over his head, Ceciliani now owns the strongest collection of defensive tools. Others have stronger arms, but Ceciliani's speed gives him plus range deep to the gaps and takes away a lot of the ground in front of him. In the parks Ceciliani played in this season, if he was not getting to the ball no one was.
\r\n
\r\nCeciliani has the first step and the recovery speed to at least offer a play on everything hit his way. He does not have that strong of arm but makes up for it with accuracy. Lastly, the one thing that cannot be taught is instincts and he has plenty of them. Rather than run to the ball, Ceciliani often runs to the spot and plays the ball; a positive trait for a young center fielder at his level.
\r\n
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