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Gardner, not Winn, likely to start for Yankees

Mar 19, 2010, 1:45 PM EDT

According to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com “all indications” are that Brett Gardner will be the Yankees’ starting left fielder, with veteran free agent pickup Randy Winn “serving more of a fourth outfielder’s role.”
When the Yankees signed Winn in January the opposite was thought to be true, but manager Joe Girardi said yesterday that Gardner “is a guy that we think has the ability to play every day and we think he has to show it.”
Gardner has hit just .256 with a .325 on-base percentage and .352 slugging percentage through 150 games as a major leaguer after batting .280/.391/.385 in 143 games at Triple-A, so his offense will be well below par at a position where the MLB average was .270/.341/.440 in 2009.
However, he figures to be an elite defensive left fielder and also brings a ton of speed to the table, swiping 39 bases in 425 plate appearances with the Yankees and 53 bases per 600 plate appearances in the minors. Which is why Gardner was among my favorite fantasy sleepers for AL-only leagues even before apparently moving past Winn on the depth chart.

  1. Big Harold - Mar 19, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    Lets not get too excited about this just yet. Aside from the fact that its only spring training Gardner won the starting CF job last season only to lose it because he didn’t get on base enough.
    As a Yankee fan I’ve watched a lot of Gardner and I generally like what he offers. But, if he doesn’t get on base north of the .350 range he will never be anything but a defensive replacement/fourth outfielder. His defense is excellent, better than Elsbury in every aspect but he can’t start for the Yankees and be an automatic out. Whether its bunting, walking, beating out infild hits or developing Johnnny Damon’s swing he needs to produce offensively in order to keep his starting job. And, seeing that he’ll be 27 this summer there is no time like the present.

  2. BC - Mar 19, 2010 at 2:26 PM

    Winn will get his at bats. He can spell Granderson against lefties, and Swisher is so streaky (good and bad) that you’ll need a Plan B. Never hurts to have an extra switch-hitting bat on your bench either.

  3. YANKEES1996 - Mar 19, 2010 at 3:48 PM

    Gardner should start his spring so far has been good and he is improving and has been hitting well in the nine spot. Thames and Winn have not been impressive and I still wish that Damon was on the roster, but that ship has sailed. I really don’t see Winn and Thames being around the entire year, barring some type of miracle. Gardner needs a bona-fide chance to prove himself, I’m not sure it should be in center field however. Hitting at the bottom of the order is good if he can continue to get on, because his speed will change the way the top of the order is pitched to as he is a definite base stealing threat. The only worry is that Melky is no longer around to fill in.

  4. James - Mar 19, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    Melky=Clutch
    Gardner=Not
    sigh.

  5. Eli - Mar 19, 2010 at 11:24 PM

    So I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a rabid Yankee fan, but this isn’t really news. For people who really follow the tram, the bigger question has been whether he’ll start in LF or CF. His power is non-existent, we know that, but he did hit .270 last year with a .345 OBP. That got his OPS+ to 93. If he can post an OPS+ even a tiny bit better than that on a consistent basis, then his defense makes him a plus player.
    @James: Melky is a the definition of average. He is an average hitter, an average fielder (a bit above average for a corner, and below average in CF), and he has average speed. His career OBP is only 6 points higher than Gardner’s, and last season it was lower. He now has over 2000 plate appearances in the Majors. He was a role player on a great team, he’s replaceable.

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