Surprise positional outlook: Center field

Let's stay in the outfield for now and move over to center, where there are some candidates hoping for playing time in 2012.

Today's position: Center field

As we discussed on Monday, the Rangers would like to keep Josh Hamilton in left field as much as possible. But that doesn't mean he won't play center. Last season, Hamilton started 30 games in center. That was third-most on the team in 2011. But again, the plan is to watch Hamilton's body, and the club feels the wear and tear isn't as bad in left field.

So who gets the job out there? Spring training should be pretty interesting. Endy Chavez, who started a team-high 59 games in center, signed a one-year deal with the Orioles.

That leaves Craig Gentry as the returning player with the most experience, and he's going to get his shot to win the job (and, if you ask me, he deserves it). He's spent the offseason playing winter ball to get more at-bats and is focused on showing he belongs in that job full-time in 2012.

Gentry was called up in May when Nelson Cruz went on the disabled list and, outside of a two-week stint on the concussion disabled list, he stayed on the active roster. He started 33 games in center field in 2011 and the 28-year-old ended up hitting .271 with a homer and 13 RBIs. His speed was a weapon tracking balls down in center and also on the bases, where he was 18-for-18 in stolen bases. One of his focuses this season is attempting more steals to take even more advantage of his speed.

Julio Borbon, who started 28 games in center, was put on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring and then was in the minors until an ankle injury required surgery, ending his season. Borbon will return to spring training hoping he can show the club that he deserves a look.

Leonys Martin will also be at spring training and is considered a center fielder of the future. But that future may not be 2012. He hit .348 at Double-A in 29 games (112 at-bats), forcing his way into Triple-A. There he had a tougher time, batting .263 with 17 RBIs and nine stolen bases in 40 games (175 at-bats). The 2012 season will be a big one for him to see how he improves and learns from last season.

Of course, the offseason isn't over yet and the club could look at other options in center. But it will be one of the most interesting positions to keep an eye on in Surprise this spring.