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Michael Bourn is the key to improvement in the outfield for the Cleveland Indians

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There are not great options behind him, so Michael Bourn has to stay healthy - and produce - if the Indians are going to look better in center.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Previous entries in my position-by-position comparison of the 2014 and 2015 Indians:

Catcher

First Base

Second Base

Shortstop

Third Base

Left Field

Today we look at CF, where I was surprised to see how much Michael Bourn played last year and realized I doubt he'll play a lot more this year. And that has me wondering who else we might see.

A reminder: I pulled a list of every player who took the field in that role for the Indians in 2014, listed their wOBA and UZR/150, and the percentage of the team's PA they took in that position.

For the 2015 stats, you are seeing ZiPS projections for wOBA and my projection for UZR/150 based on what the player has done in the past. The 2015 playing time projections are also mine.

For wOBA, the 2014 numbers are position specific (meaning, for example, that in this post you're seeing what Santana did only when he was playing first base), while the 2015 numbers assume the player has the same wOBA regardless of where they play on the diamond. UZR/150 is always position-specific.

The Indians Total line is the pro-rated average of the guys who played (or will play) the position based on playing time; the AL average line is exactly what it sounds like - the average production for the league at the position.


Center Field

Player 14 wOBA 14 UZR 14 PT 15 wOBA 15 UZR 15 PT
Michael Bourn 0.302 -15.9 65.0% 0.299 -10 70%
0.335 1 24.0% 0.346 -10 5%
0.334 -49.5 6.4%
0.447 49.9 2.1% 0.259 15 15%
0.151 4.8 2.0%
0.230 0 0.4%
0.269 -5 5%
0.266 -5 5%
Indians Total 0.312 -12.1 0.292 -5.8
AL Average 0.316 -1.2

Did you realize that Bourn played 65% of the time? I definitely did not. So when I started this exercise, one of my thoughts was, "I bet we can make CF look better simply by getting more playing time from Bourn!"

Instead, I really don't see him playing much more. And I think the Indians would be wise to keep Michael Brantley in LF, even when Bourn can't play, but that opens up some big questions.

Is Tyler Holt ready to be a reserve CF for a full season? Will James Ramsey or Tyler Naquin play their way into the picture? Will we be stuck with Brantley playing out of position again?

Regardless of the answers, the picture is not pretty. ZiPS doesn't think Bourn has much left and thinks all non-Brantley reserves are not yet ready.

All in all, the Indians managed to play nearly-league-average offense from CF last year, thanks in no small part to Brantley's play in a reserve role. For 2015, the picture isn't as pretty. Without the Brantley Boost, CF becomes an offensive blackhole. And really, that is okay - like SS, you can live with a CF who can't hit when you get great defense.

But...about that. The average AL team was giving up a bit on defense in CF, but the Indians were giving up a lot. Bourn is not the player he once was and it shows. The fact that Brantley looked above average by the numbers is probably a small-sample-size fluke. The good news on defense is that the 2015 reserve options all figure to improve the defense compared to the starter.

To me, CF remains the biggest problem for the Indians, both near- and long-term. Do you agree? Or am I underestimating Bourn's ability to bounce back? Or maybe you think one of the kids is ready?