Does Brett Gardner Deserve More Credit?

Brett Gardner is a solid major league center field prospect. He has some limited major league experience. He was very, very good at Triple-A. Gardner seems like a pretty person to put your money on if you are the New York Yankees. Cashman only brought one alternative to camp – Melky Cabrera – to keep Gardner honest.

Most of the dialogue surrounding Gardner suggests that he will be a liability if played every day. I think its important to remember that (as with any rookie) there is a considerable range of potential contributions that Gardner can make. His #2 PECOTA comparable is Kenny Lofton, which I didn’t believe too much until I looked at Lofton’s minor league numbers. The similarities?

  • Lofton hit .308/.367/.417 at Triple-A in his age-24 season. Gardner hit .296/.414/.422 in Triple-A in his age-24 season.
  • Lofton hit .331/.407/.395 at High-A in his age-23 season. Garder hit .300/.392/.419 in Double-A in his age-24 season.
  • Lofton hit .203/.253/.216 in his a 20 game cup of coffee in the major leagues at age 24. Gardner hit .228/.283/.299 in a 42 game debut at age 24

Both were extremely fast center fielders with little power. Both were relatively unheralded yet experienced college draftees. Gardner strikes out a bit more than Lofton did, but he also takes more walks.

How did Lofton hit in his first full major league season? He hit .285/.362/.365 – which is not unreasonable to expect of Gardner. He obviously is much more likely to flounder than to have a career as good as Lofton’s, but he isn’t a terrible bet to be an asset at the center field position immediately. If he replicates Lofton’s batting line, Gardner would be more valuable than Jacoby Ellsbury is projected to be.

About EJ Fagan

E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He is a Ph.D. student at University of Texas at Austin.

5 thoughts on “Does Brett Gardner Deserve More Credit?

  1. Unfortunately Melky is all but useless coming off the bench so I kinda hope he beats out gardner for the starting job. That being said I think gardner will win the job outright in ST and melk will be relegated to a defensive replacement. A huge part of Gardners game is being able to draw walks and get on base. Now that he’s in the pros he’s not getting the benefit of the doubt from mlb umps because he’s just a pissant rookie. I’m sure the longer he plays the higher his BB% will get. If this kid can get on base 33 or 34% of the time hes a lock for 60 or 70 steals. Couple that with hitting in front of two good contact guys in damon and jeter, we should see alot of hit+runs and alot of runs knocked in.

  2. He should be an acceptable #9 hitter this season, and I agree that Melky should not be on the team if he doesn’t win the spot.

  3. I can’t wait to see Gardner terrorizing pitchers on the bases this season. I mean when is the last time we had that kind of weapon?

  4. I really like Gardner. That OBP/SB skill is tremendous, a future leadoff hitter, maybe at some point this year imo. I hope he wins the CF job.

  5. If he could throw even a little, I think he’d be a lock to be the CF.He’ll hit enough IMO nad steal bases like crazy.