Center field is the last position we have to deal with that is utterly set in stone. Like it or not, barring injury, there is no doubt Drew Stubbs will start at least 150 games.

Stubbs feels like the most hated player on the Reds to me. Fans get angry about the Ks, they want him to bunt (no matter how smart that may be – go check out this story, which Chad linked yesterday, if you haven’t already), or they are just generally unhappy with the cut of his jib. Mostly, I think it’s the strikeouts. Ks ran Adam Dunn out of Cincinnati and they might do the same thing to Stubbs eventually.

I tend to be very dismissive of the strikeout bugaboo. Generally, an out is an out, but it takes a particular type of player to generate a massive amount of whiffs and still be productive. Adam Dunn could do it. Whether or not Stubbs can is still at least something of a question.

Certainly, the 30 percent K rate last year is too high and contributed to Stubbs being a below average hitter for the first time. His power, as I’m sure you all know, was also way down. So it’s not as though he was trading strikeouts for home runs. So we can agree, at least, that last year was not what we want to see from him.

But there is reason to hope. 2011 will be Stubbs’ age-27 season, so he’s just entering his peak. Additionally, last season was probably his floor. It’s hard to imagine Stubbs being worse than last year, and that’s not so bad considering he plays a premium defensive position. The projection systems agree as they all have him showing at least some improvement. How much is more of a questions.

ZiPS and Oliver see just a slight uptick. Indicating perhaps that Stubbs more or less is who we saw last year. There’s also some heavy regression to the mean there, however, as Stubbs doesn’t have a ton of time in the majors. Correspondingly, I tend to side with the more optimistic projections. I think we’ll see a good improvement from Stubbs in 2012, though he’ll still make many of you grumpy with his strikeouts and unwillingness to bunt.

2012 Slash Line Prediction: .255/.330/.425

2011 Center Field WAR: 2.6

2012 Best Guess WAR: 3.5

Projected Difference: +0.9

2012 Floor WAR: 2.5

2012 Ceiling WAR: 5.0

Redleg Nation Position-by-Position Season Preview:

First Base
Second Base
Right Field
Center Field
Starting Pitching – Front End of the Rotation
Starting Pitching – Back End of the Rotation
Third Base
Left Field
Season Preview Wrap-Up