|Gardner caught in a rare moment of swinging the bat. Does this even count as swinging? I’m not sure. (Icon/SMI)|
As I hope everyone here knows, Gardner’s most valuable asset is his speed—responsible for his stealing 47 bases last year, good for fourth in the majors. Throw in 97 runs, 47 RBIs, five homers, and a .277 average and you get the line of the 17th-ranked outfielder by ESPN’s player rater. And even if you feel ESPN’s player rater overrates speed guys a little (it does), adjusting them down would appropriately place Gardner around the 25th most valuable outfielder. Pretty good.
Considering how Gardner was a last-round pick in many leagues last year and in preseason rankings was ranked as the 80th-best outfielder at the earliest, he undoubtedly provided a good return on investment. Though I suppose when the cost of investing is near zero, it is easy to make the investment worthwhile. Either way, Gardner made it well worth the while with his production.
After his impressive 2010, Gardner won’t come quite as cheaply, but let’s see if he is still worth the somewhat larger investment you will have to make in him this year. Looking at a few websites with early rankings out we see he is ranked the 31st outfielder by Jeff Gross here at THT, recent Fangraphs hijackers Rotochamp.com have him as the No. 36 outfielder, and Grey at Razzball aggressively ranks him 22nd.
Based on the value of his performance last yea,r we know Gardner can break even with the Razzball ranking if he repeats his impressive 2010. For the sake of saving virtual ink and your reading time, I’ll provide the summary conclusion: Gardner is a good candidate to replicate his breakout season. In a less ink-conscious article, Matt Klaassen at Fangraphs looked into the issue more in-depth and concluded that due to Gardner’s fantastic plate discipline he is less likely to play terribly.
Don’t you love summarizing?
Anyway I don’t believe a lack of skill to be the weakness in Gardner’s armor, but rather his potential playing time issues, so let’s focus more on those. Last year Randy Winn and Marcus Thames were cast as the potential playing time thieves and did a poor job in the role. This year Andruw Jones is the villain and figures to be a bit more prominent, especially when the Yankees are facing a lefty. However I still see Gardner starting an overwhelming majority of the time; he was their second-highest WAR-ranked player let us not forget.
The bottom line is if you believe Gardner can repeat his 2010, which to me seems likely, then he can appropriately be drafted around pick 100. In most drafts he is still going later than that, making him an obvious selection if he falls deeper in the 100s. Once again, Brett Gardner appears to be a good value pick heading into the season.