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Outfielder Risers: Gardner & Snider

Posted By Mike Axisa On March 8, 2011 @ 12:15 pm In Outfielders | 12 Comments

Let’s take a look at a pair of 20-something AL East outfielders with a chance to move up the rankings this summer…

Speed Demon: Brett Gardner

Gardner is pretty much everything a Yankees’ player isn’t supposed to be. He’s relatively young (27), fast, great defensively, homegrown, and cheap. Those guys aren’t common in the Bronx. Gardner went from undrafted in most leagues to a .277/.383/.379 line with 47 steals and 97 runs scored last year, but it could have been better if not for a second-half wrist issue. He took a Clayton Kershaw fastball to his right wrist on June 27th, at which point he was hitting .321/.403/.418 in 275 PA. From that point on, Gardner hit just .232/.363/.340 in his final 295 PA, missing a few days with wrist soreness/inflammation down the stretch. He has surgery to clean things out this offseason and is 100% heading into the season.

Most teams would hit a player with Gardner’s skill set lead off, but the Yankees are sticking with Derek Jeter in that spot (at least to start the season) and will have Gardner act as the second leadoff guy in the nine-hole. Maintaining his first half production over a full-season isn’t realistic, but a repeat of last year’s overall performance is. The projection systems peg him for an AVG in the .270′s with an OBP in the .360′s and anywhere from 37-50 steals. I think we’ll see Gardner steal some lead off time from the Cap’n and get on base enough to swipe 50+ bags and score 100+ runs. He’s not going to give you much power (career .100 ISO), but a second outfielder than can impact four categories in an OBP league is quite the commodity.

The Lunchbox Hero: Travis Snider

After spending parts of the last three seasons in the big leagues, it’s tough to believe that Snider just turned 23 years old last month. Like Gardner, a wrist issue gave him trouble a big chunk of the 2010 season (he was on the disabled list from mid-May through mid-July), and it appeared to hamper him down the stretch. Following a .241/.323/.483 line with ten doubles and six homers in his first 130 PA, he hit just .264/.294/.451 with ten doubles and eight homers in his final 189 PA. His ISO dropped 55 points after the injury, and his walk rate went from one every 9.3 PA to one every 27.0 PA. We know Snider’s capable of more just by his minor league numbers (.302/.376/.530 in over 1,600 PA).

For the first time in his career, Snider heads into the season with a clear shot at playing time and free from the occasionally head-scratching ways of Cito Gaston. We don’t like the over-emphasize small samples, but Snider finished the year with 15 hits, five homers, and ten runs scored in his final ten games, so at least he went into the winter on a positive note. The projection systems see him clearing 20 homers with regular playing time, along with an AVG in the .270′s with an OBP close to .340. I’m a believer and think Snider’s capable of more, but that production is rock solid when you consider that he’s going in the 15-17th round in standard leagues.

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