Gardner drawing Spring Training attention

2008 Draft Preview: Damaged Goods
Faulty logic in the Joba debate

In Grapefruit League action, Brett Gardner, the Yanks’ speedy 24-year-old center field prospect, is hitting .379/.455/.517 with six stolen bases in six attempts. While Melky Cabrera, the reigning center fielder, is having himself a decent spring, rumblings are growing around Gardner. Last week, Brian at Depressed Fan pondered Gardner’s fate. Today, in The Times, Jack Curry looks at the player who considers himself the center fielder of the future. It’s a excellent look at a dynamic player, and as we’re somewhat skeptical of Melky’s long-term prognosis — to say the least — Gardner is a intriguing option in center field for sure.

2008 Draft Preview: Damaged Goods
Faulty logic in the Joba debate
  • Rich

    I’m still skeptical about Gardner, but it’s good to see that the Yankees’ minor league system is now starting to become stocked with position players as well as pitchers.

  • mustang

    I think this guy is the real deal. He backed good winter league numbers with even better spring numbers. When someone goes down in the outfielder sometime this year he is coming up and is never going back. If he batted right-handed he would already have a job.

    • TurnTwo

      i agree. i dont think he’ll start the season with the big league club, but the minute someone goes down, he’ll be up and do just enough to make the team keep him in the lineup everyday.

      i have to say, i was a proponent of trading Melky this offseason bc i liked what kind of tools Gardner had, and how he can be very effective at the bottom of the order with the speed and OBP he can put up. he’s been a lot of fun to watch.

  • RollignWave

    from a prospecting point of view, taking Gardner over Cabrera makes 0 sense.

    your talking about someone who’s over and under of HR in his ENTIRE CAREER *IF* HE PANS OUT might equal the over and under of the other guy IN A SINGLE SEASON if he DOESN’T TAKE MAKE ANY SIGINIFICANT IMPROVEMENT PAST THE AGE OF 22.

    If Gardner is our starting CF anytime down the line, it’s a disastor.

  • barry

    I like Gardner and it may be what the Yanks are missing. With Gardner in the line-up the Yankees wouldn’t look so slow anymore with Jeter, Damon, Abreu, and Rodriguez also a threat to steal.

    • RollignWave


      06: 139 SB (2nd in the AL) SB rate = 1st in the league

      07: 123 SB (4th in the AL) their SB rate was also the second best behind Baltimore (yeah i’m sure you’d loooove Cory Patterson on your team!)

      in case this is news to anyone, stealing bases doesn’t have much to do with SCORING runs in the bigger picture. obviously if two players are indentical in their other abilities then stealing bases helps. but the priority of scoring shoudl always be a. getting on base b. hitting long balls. c. hitting (huge gap) stealing bases. (guess who had a better RC/G last year… the Statue that is Frank Thomas or the lightening that is Jose Reyes ?)

      base running is a minor part of the scoring game. and even there the Yankees have been WELL above average over the last two season. they don’t make a lot of dumb outs . and they’re stealing percentage is consistently high.

      Brett Gardner ‘s issue is that there’s a large chance that he’s avg /obp take a hit in his transition to the majors due to the lack of power. in a normal case. we might be looking at him going .260/.350/.340 in the show. I’m completely baffled on why anyone would think this is somehow a upgrade to Melky Cabrera unless he steals 100 bases like Ricky Henderson. he’s only a minor upgrade over Cabrera if he pans out better than expected AND Cabrera does not improve. what are the odds of that?

  • Manimal

    melk-man tends to have good and bad streaks, so why not bring him up during a bad streak?

    One thing no one mentioned yet was melky’s arm, no one remembers that inning in the ALDS last year when he saved a run and then HIT a homerun?

  • bart

    why i advocated trading melky there is also jackson behind gardner

  • CB

    It’s good to see Gardner having a nice spring. He can be a very valuable asset.

    However, for a player at his stage, he comes off very overconfident, if not cocky in that Kepner article. What has he accomplished so far? Having a nice half season at AA where he was 24? Having a good Arizona Fall League? Sam Fuld hit .402 in Arizona this year.

    Over 181 at bats in AAA last year Gardner had a .343 OBP/ .331 SLG % and a .674 OPS with a .260 BA. That was roughly half his entire season last year. Those numbers aren’t just bad they are terrible.

    To put Gardner’s AAA numbers in contet, Juan Pierre last year had a higher SLG %, OPS and BA in the majors.

    When he got to AAA, the better pitching there stopped letting him walk. Why walk a guy when in all likelihood the most he’s going to do his hit a single? His OBP fell a lot at Scranton. For a guy whose game is build on speed a .343 OBP is not going to cut it.

    He has a lot to prove in AAA. He should work on that rather than forecasting his future to the press.

  • Realist

    I like Gardner as a late inning defensive replacement and a pinch runner , if he can continue his spring success in the majors.

    I like the fact that The Yanks keep rolling out minor leaguers that can at least give hope of being full time players. It makes it more interesting than chasing big name free agents , imvho.

    Go Yanks!

  • CB

    “While Melky Cabrera, the reigning center fielder, is having himself a decent spring,…”

    Melky this spring has a .333 BA and an .820 OPS. Isn’t that’s at least a little better than “decent.”

    And those numbers are over 42 at bats – which is the second most on the team behind Cano’s 48.

  • Adam

    my problem with gardner isn’t that he doesn’t hit home runs, it’s that he doesn’t even hit doubles.

    he may be fast and fun to watch. he may be an old school dirtbag. but when it comes down to it, he is a guy with a career slugging percentage lower than his on base percentage. seriously, who does that and goes on to a productive career?

  • Rob

    “my problem with gardner isn’t that he doesn’t hit home runs, it’s that he doesn’t even hit doubles.”

    Well – he has three XBHs this spring (2 2b, 1 3b) and the article says they worked with him on his swing (before the AFL) to get the ball deeper into the hitting zone and so he could hit to all fields rather than just the other way. Let’s see what his first few months at The Office will hold. I know I wouldn’t be surprised to look up in June and see him OPSing .850.

    By the way, the most critical difference between Gardner and Melky is that the former gets on base more and does more once there. I like Melky’s chances of developing, but right now if you could choose between two .750 OPS guys would you choose the .375 OBP/.375 SLG or the .350 OBP/.400 SLG?

    FYI: Jack Curry wrote today’s piece.

    • Adam

      pardon me if a am not excited by small spring sample sizes (alliteration anyone?).

      brett had 34 doubles in 830 minor league at bats over the last two seasons. considering about half of those were probably due to his incredible speed, it is pretty clear that he is not driving the ball. it is damn hard to make it as a professional ballplayer hitting only singles unless your name is ichiro.

      • RollingWave

        Ichiro has 67 career HR… I’ll bet my life and then some that Gardner never sniff even 50.

        • Ben K.

          Home runs are not the be-all and end-all of baseball. There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of Gardner’s future, but a narrow focus on home runs alone doesn’t really do those reasons justice. If he’s getting on base at a +.400 clip — admittedly a tough tough task — who cares who many home runs he’s hitting? He’ll still score runs, and that’s what’s important.

          • RollingWave

            sigh. power is not the be all and end all. but it is the biggest variable value . its much much more common to see a guy slug .500 and some can even go to .600 . you almost NEVER see a guy come anywhere close to .500 OBP let alone .600 unless your Barry Bonds.

            as for Brett Butler. yes that’s a good hope, except that Butler also never whiffs and always walked more than he whiffed. Gardner hasn’t even done that consistently in the MINORS. Butler’s HIGHEST K total was 79 in over 700 PA. Gardner whiffed more than 90 in just over 500 PA in 06. .. IN LOW MINORS

    • RollingWave

      Bubba Crosby once hit 2 HR in a single game. what does that prove really? Gardner doesn’t even have BUBBA power. that’s how bad his power is, just think about that for a sec. he’s essentially a Bubba Crosby that doesn’t completely suck

    • Rob

      Well, here’s the mL numbers:

      Crosby: .277/.346/.417, 2458 AB, 129 2b, 36 3b, 48 HR, 107 SB, 39 CS
      Gardnr: .288/.381/.374, 1107 AB, 43 2b, 17 3b, 6 HR, 114 SB, 22 CS

      Let’s see, they’re completely different players. If anything, Crosby is more like Melky than Gardner.

      Even if Gardner doesn’t improve a lick, he still has a role on this team. You’ll see soon enough.

      • RollingWave

        you might want to do some MLE translation on the 3 players and realize how much of a fool you just made yourself sound

  • Tripp

    Let him keep the doubles coming in AAA. Johnny Damon will hit the DL sometime this year and he can be called up for a few week stint. He’s been pretty solid in left this spring.

    If everyone just wants him on the team as a pinch runner speed demon then just go with someone like Bernie Castro. He has no development left so it’s not necessary for him to get at bats in AAA.

  • Mike P

    There’s no need to be anything but positive with Gardner. He definitely should start in AAA and work his “new swing” to see if he can get consistent success. If he doesn’t, well you can still have a speedster coming off the bench late in the season. And if he does, injuries should allow him a chance to claim a big league spot.
    What’s there not to like? The Yankees don’t need Gardner to be a success. That’s the beauty of Cabrera. But if Gardner does have success, he could add another dimension in the 9 spot. I’m happy with having a Brett Gardner in the system.

  • steve (different one)

    here is the million dollar question:

    if Gardner shows absolutely no threat of power, will be able to maintain a .380-.400 OBP in the majors?

    if he isn’t going to drive the ball, why nibble? won’t pitchers just try to knock the bat out of his hands?

    who is the best comp for Gardner? David Eckstein?

    BTW, i am not saying i know the answer to the question. i am just struggling to think of a player with great OBP skills and no power. that doesn’t mean there aren’t any, but they must be rare. thoughts?

    • Rob

      “if Gardner shows absolutely no threat of power, will be able to maintain a .380-.400 OBP in the majors?”

      It’s about good plate discipline. The pitcher still has to throw strikes. And Gardner has shown he knows how to make contact.

      “who is the best comp for Gardner? David Eckstein?”

      Brett Butler

      • RollingWave

        sigh. that would be true if he could hit .300 and walk more than he whiffs and don’t whif that much to begin with. let’s see the problem here…

        in the majors. Butler highest whiff total was 79 in over 700 PA, Gardner whiffed over 90 times in 06 in just over 500 PA in the low minors.

        in the minors Gardner hasn’t been very consistenly over .300 , in fact. in all his large PA sample’s he’s been below it.

        look, it’s one thing to have little faith in your youth. that’s a pricipal thing. it’s another to have no faith in one youth then put faith into a inferior prospect in every sense.

    • CB

      Completely agree. And this is why Gardner’s dramatic drop off in performance, particularly his fall off in OBP when he got to Scranton last year is very concerning.

      Better pitchers just would not walk him and he couldn’t hit for as high an average. In turn his OBP fell considerably.

      This is why people who keep projecting that he’ll have a .400 OBP in the majors seem to be stretching. He couldn’t do this in the minors. In the majors they are going to pound him with strikes – if all you can do is hit singles pitchers will do anything to try not to walk you.

    • Count Zero

      Well said. This is precisely my concern with Gardner…and you also hit my comp right on the head too. Was he a punter in college too? :-)

      Like you Steve, I don’t claim prescience — and I agree that a lot of people are giving this guy way too much credit based on a very small sample. He needs to prove something over 200 plate appearances at AAA before I even think about him as a MLB player. Right now I see him as the 25th man on the roster, LIDR, PR at best.

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  • Chris

    I don’t get this love affair with Gardner. Yes he’s fast, but other than that, I don’t see anything that he brings to the table.

    HE’S A YEAR OLDER THAN MELKY, and Gardner’s numbers last year in AA and AAA were basically the same as Melky’s numbers in the majors. Gardner is not a long term solution in center. At best he’s a fourth outfielder/pinch hitter/pinch runner.

    If you have concerns about Melky’s future, and want to drool over the next up and coming prospect then look at Austin Jackson.

  • Rob

    “At best he’s a fourth outfielder/pinch hitter/pinch runner.”

    That offers this team more than two Duncans. At least Gardner can go into every close game where Giambi or Posada walk to start an late inning then gets stranded cause it takes two hits to score them.

    • Count Zero

      Wait — you aren’t about to make a “clogging up the bases” comment, are you? LOL

  • beantownbosoxh8er

    what did we expect him to say?
    Jeez !this whole “big leagues” thing, Im not sure im ready for that.
    Of course he is going to say he is ready .

  • Rob

    Here’s the difference with Gardner:

    Tie game – 8th inning or later. Giambi or Posada or Matsui walk/single to start the inning.

    a) Do nothing. You need a hit or productive out to get them into scoring position, then another hit to score them. Problem is, neone scores from second on a single. Point is: It takes two hits to score them.

    b) Pinch run Gardner. On a single there’s a good chance he makes third and scores on a sac fly. Or he swipes second, and scores from there on a single. Point is: It takes one hit to score him.

    Sure, a homerun negates the difference.

    My real problem: When are Duncan AND Ensberg going to play at the same time? If you want Ensberg, option Shelly. Gardner gives the team a different skill set and one they can use right now.

    • Count Zero

      I’m not saying I disagree with your point in such a scenario — I’m just questioning whether that is a productive use of the last roster spot.

      I don’t claim to have the exact statistic on hand, but I would wager that the scenario you just described comes up in no more than 20 games during the course of a full season. (He’s not going to PR for Jete, A-Rod or Abreu.) And of those, Gardner’s speed will make a difference in only about 10. Sometimes, he’ll get stranded at second or third anyway. Sometimes, someone will double into the gap or hit a HR rendering his speed moot. Sometimes, he’ll score the run in the 8th, but the other team will tie it in the 9th, and then you’re looking at extra innings with one less bat.

      Then again — I admit I’m just guessing on the numbers here. The question is: How many Ws does such a roster move give you over the course of a season?

    • Rob

      That’s the thing though. How many games will both Duncan and Ensberg play in? They’re almost exact replicas of what they offer the team, except Duncan can play the corner OF spots. So why carry both?

      • steve (different one)

        agreed, but i am not YET convinced that Shelley Duncan is a good player. i am not sure the Yankees are convinced yet either.

        Ensberg has a much greater chance of outperforming Duncan than vice versa.
        he had to be added to the roster or he could have signed with the Dodgers or Rays, so they added him.

        if Duncan succeeds in the majors for an extended stretch, great. trade Ensberg.

        but i wouldn’t have wanted the Yankees to release Ensberg and just go with Duncan because he had a hot spring.

  • stefan

    I don’t think anyone here actually wants to start Gardner over Cabrera. Let’s just make that clear, because people are having knee-jerk reactions to a statement that nobody here has made or even suggested

    The prevailing view is that if somebody gets injured, or if Melky struggles, the Yankees have an option in Gardner. Not necessarily as a flat-out replacement, but as an extra outfielder to both provide productive at-bats and to possibly give Melky motivation and something to compete for. Gardner COULD be the CF of the future, but obviously that time isn’t now. Hence “the future” as opposed to “the present”.

    In addition, it’s tricky to take career MiLB stats at face value. If Gardner really has been working on a new swing, which results in a higher SLG%, can we really hold his low career SLG% against him?

    He’ll start the year in AAA, and will be second-in-line to be called up in case of injury (first is Jason Lane). We’ll be watching him closely and seeing just how well his development progresses.

  • steve (different one)

    the Yankees should think about optioning Shelley and trying to sign Reed Johnson.

    that would give them an amazing bench.

  • E-ROC

    I didn’t even know Gardner was working his swing. At least he’s trying to up his slugging percentage. He’ll start in AAA and hopefully, he’ll get off to a strong start or at least improve on his numbers from last year.

  • Bo

    Gardner is a good 4th outfielder. Hes not a starting Cf’er on a championship team.

  • Chofo

    I like Gardner as a PR-deffensive replacement. He brings another skill to the bench where Duncan-Ensberg are equal.

    But the path should be:
    a) send him to AAA to take at bats and develope his new swing
    b) start the season with both Duncan and Ensberg on the team and see who sticks
    c) Bring Gardner if someone is injured and definattly late in the season. In Postseason his speed will be vital (ala Dave Robertson).

  • pete

    i agree that gardner is a good 4th OFer who has good defense, a decent arm (better than damon or matsui), good speed, etc. He’s a great guy to pinch run for giambi or matsui in late innings, or take over for Abreu in right. But, gardner is not the CF of the future, that job is Jackson’s to take. I think Melky in left, Jackson in center, and Tabata in right for about 8 years w/ gardner playing the role of prolific bench player/pinch runner, is much more like a championship caliber team.

  • dan

    Look at how Gardner struggled his first time through AA, and then he came back in ’07 in AA and performed very well. He’ll do the same in AAA this season.

  • pete

    i think gardner could be a tremendously helpful bench player – kind of a better version of Bubba Crosby, but he isn’t the center fielder of the future. I absolutely think that they should give him a roster spot because developing him more would be a waste of time – at best you’d end up with an overall mediocre player or a very good 4th outfielder/pinch runner type, which he ALREADY IS. Bring him up now because his contributions to the 2008 club, which is old and lacks speed in a lot of places, could be huge. I would love to have a bench of Molina, Betemit, Duncan, and Gardner for the next 5 or more years because each player would offer a dynamic and unique skill set that, while not enough of an overall package for a starting job, could be extremely valuable in situational use.

  • nyyfaninlaaland

    Gardner still has something to prove. His swing refinements started in AAA helped him to 2 extra base hits in over 100 AB’s in the AFL. A SLG. % of .380 – over a BA of .343! Still something to prove there.

    That he has to be added to the 40 man – meaning moving someone else – for likely very limited use doesn’t make sense at present. Maybe later, but not necessary now. There are other players that might require that spot too – another backup IF, perhaps Lane, Horne, etc. Better to keep roster options open for now, make a need based, not want based decision. A Sept. callup at worst is a good possibility – and Gardner has a window in late ’08 to show the Yanks he could fill CF if Melky could handle RF offensively in ’09. Unfortunately for Brett a dubious proposition. And I think the speed question was handled above.