Originally written on Baseball Professor  |  Last updated 2/5/12
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Generally I’m not a huge fan of steals-only players unless they play shortstop, and Brett Gardner is painfully close to being just that. However, I can’t get over how in 2010 he ranked 38th overall thanks to his 97 runs scored. And that’s exactly what Gardner can be if the Yankees wake up and bat him at the top instead of Derek Jeter. In 2011, Gardner had 230 at-bats as a leadoff hitter, but 269 in the bottom third. If he could get close to 600 plate appearances atop the Yankees lineup he’d be a guarantee for 45-50 steals and 100-plus runs scored and that puts him in the top 50 of players.

Best case scenario: Michael Bourn (ATL)
Similar players: Ichiro Suzuki (SEA), Cameron Maybin (SD), Peter Bourjos (LAA)
Worst case scenario: Angel Pagan (SF)

Strengths

Steals, runs, OBP. We know Gardner is fast, but he’s also a disciplined hitter at the plate. His career 10.9 BB% is well above league-average and his swing percentage is a ridiculously low 33.8 percent. The good news is that when he does swing he makes contact 90.4 percent of the time and only swings at 19.8 percent of pitches outside the strike zone.

Weaknesses

Power, lineup. Gardner lacks power in his game (career .104 ISO), which isn’t surprising, but his ballpark somehow turned that into seven home runs last season. Not surprising, four of them came at Yankee Stadium with the other three coming at Camden Yards, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. Also, while the Yankees lineup is stacked that is both a blessing and a curse for Gardner as he’d be a no-brainer leadoff hitter on most teams. On the Yankees, however, he’s batting ninth 32 percent of the time, which means he’s relying on Jeter to drive him in.

ADP Report (94.7)

I believe that the Yankees have to realize that Jeter just isn’t a capable leadoff hitter anymore and put Gardner there full time, which would make him a great value in the 10th round. However, Jeter has seniority and is “The Captain” so it’s worth keeping tabs on the situation throughout Spring Training.

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