Anderson seems, oddly, to have simply inherited the centerfield job. With Blanco off playing in the WBC and Schafer nursing an injury, Anderson would have to totally stink up the joint to lose the spot. To his credit, he hasn’t stunk up the joint (so far), but it’s certainly unusual for a 26-year-old nonprospect with 221 career major league plate appearances to be handed a regular job.
He probably should have been pencilled in, but that’s less because of any qualities he possesses than the limits and problems of the other options (the two players mentioned above, plus Omar Infante). Anderson is probably a slightly better glove man than Blanco, but more importantly, he has some power. Not much, but enough that pitchers at least have to be concerned about an extra-base hit. Anderson hit three homers in his limited major league work last year, and that’s probably more than you could expect from him in 136 AB — but Blanco, playing about four times as much, hit only one.
Getting away from Anderson versus Blanco to Anderson as a player, he has extra outfielder skills. He can hit for average (.315 on the major league level, which I doubt he’ll keep up, but a .294 career minor league average, including .314 last season) and he’d probably put up a slugging percentage in the low .400 range, but he doesn’t walk much. With just a few more of those, he could push a team towards a championship, because he really is a fine glove man and he really is a good baserunner, having gone 10 for 11 on stolen bases in the majors last year after going 42 for 49 in AAA. He’s probably as good of a player as Willy Taveras or Juan Pierre, and those guys have made lots of money. Twenty, twenty-five years ago, this was the kind of player a lot of teams had, but it’s a different game now.