We are one day from the first official day of Phillies‘ Spring Training. While Dave Dombrowski was aggressive in addressing most of the team’s needs this offseason, the hole in centerfield was never addressed. It will be an open competition in camp, with names like Roman Quinn, Scott Kingery, and even Odubel Herrera getting a chance (which I vehemently disagree with).
While many fans have been clamoring for a name like Jackie Bradley Jr. to be brought in, the best option for the position may already be on the roster.
I think the name that will end up taking the job is 2017 first round pick Adam Haseley. In 40 games last year, Haseley slashed .278/.348/.342 with 22 RBIs. Last year may have been a regression from his rookie season, but a rocky start definitely didn’t help. First, he missed a week of summer camp due to a misplaced COVID-19 test. Then, about a week into the season, injured his wrist and spent time on the IL. For anyone who has ever had a wrist injury, it can take a long time to swing a baseball bat pain free. I would venture to guess that, with the short season, Haseley didn’t feel right for most of it.
Haseley has a very ‘old school’ mechanics at the plate. His swing has a definite downward path, which is the exact opposite of what players are being taught these days. Instead of trying to hit the ball with a high launch angle, Haseley’s swing path causes him to hit the ball right below the middle. Haseley had an average launch angle (LA) of 0 degrees in 2020. For example, the leader in LA in 2020 was Joey Gallo at 26.8 degrees. While he will never be a real power threat at the plate, Haseley’s contact approach is perfect for a bottom of the order at bat. He peppers the infield with ground balls, but, at his peak, has gap to gap line drive power.
Offensively, the centerfielder will be hitting seventh or eighth. Quinn got 30 starts there last year, but his approach does not fit well at the bottom of the lineup. Quinn still hasn’t learned to put the ball in play and use his speed, and I don’t think he ever will. Like Quinn, Kingery does not make enough contact to profile as a bottom of the lineup hitter. When Kingery got to the MLB, he sold out for power at the expense of his hit tool. Haseley just fits the profile that we need from our centerfielder better than any of the other options.
While Haseley is probably more of a corner outfielder, he is able to play passable defense in center. I don’t think that our centerfielder will have to cover as much ground playing next to Bryce Harper. One of the most under-appreciated parts of Harper’s game is his borderline elite defense in right. Having Harper in right will allow Haseley to give more support to Andrew McCutchen over in left. A former Gold Glover, McCutchen has clearly lost a step defensively. His range, now, is much more in line with the average leftfielder. He’ll be fine with balls that he doesn’t have to move much for.
Haseley should be able to focus more on the left-center gap. Typically, the centerfielder is the general of the outfield. Having Harper be able to cover a lot of ground takes some of that pressure off Haseley.
It will be an open competition in camp, but I see Haseley coming away with the reps in season.
If he can make this type of play consistently, I think the Phillies will be fine.
Baseball season is almost here, people! Ready or not, here it comes!