NY Yankees 2012 outfield preview – The year of Brett Gardner?

10 Jan

The Yankees have a good looking outfield returning in 2012, in large part because it is the same core group as the previous 2 years which has produced better than most people expected or would be inclined to believe. The trio of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher has exceeded most projections and looks to be on track to do the same again – assuming those projections are realistic. What can Yankee fans look forward to in 2012?

Granderson will man center, and the pressure is on him to produce big again. I wouldn’t go so far as to say he needs to pile on another 40+ homer season, but he does need to drive in and score 100+ runs each again. The 25 steals were a definite perk, but that is an area he can slide in a little – even 15-20 swipes will be okay. The threat of him going is almost as valuable as the actual steal. he just needs to go enough to keep pitchers and defenses honest. The .262 average would be nice if it were a little higher, but it’s not a big deal. Grandy gets on base and produces runs – that is the big thing. With A-Rod and Tex not being as big a factor as their salaries say they should be, Granderson needs to produce near last years numbers for the Yankees to win – unless the laggards turn it on. Look for about 18 steals, a .260 average, 37 homers, 110 RBI, and about 115 runs scored.

Defensively, Granderson is okay. He takes strange routes to the ball still, and some plays are far more adventurous than they should be, but he gets the job done. His range is excellent, he goes back on the ball and comes in fairly well. he makes all the routine plays no matter how hair raising he may make them appear. His arm is strong enough, and overall he is a solid fit. No problems here to speak of.

Nick Swisher will be in right again. Swish does have some room to improve, but it’s not likely we’ll see that. Defensively he is average. he is not a great outfielder by any means, but he plays a smart outfield. Swisher realizes his limitations and works within them. his arm isn’t great, but he does a superb job of always knowing the situation regarding runners and hits his cutoff man. That is as much as you can really expect from him and that is fine on this team.

Offensively, you just have to hope Swisher doesn’t nosedive. if he can hang around that .260 average and walk a little more things will be fine. The 22 homer range should be where he comes in, but it would be nice to see him get closer to 90 runs scored and driven in than the low 80’s we saw last year. It’s a walk year for Swish, so he may go off looking for one more big deal, but then again he may continue his slow descent. A mirror image of last year seems about right.

Brett Gardner would be  a starting CF on plenty of teams, but in NY he is a left fielder – and he is getting better. Like Granderson he covers a ton of ground and gets to balls most guys only dream about. His arm is sufficient, but he knows what to do with the ball when he gets it which makes up for that a bit. With gardner, this could be the year he breaks out offensively.

Gardner is as patient as anyone in the game at the dish. He sees as many pitches per plate appearance as anyone. he is getting better with bat control issues, has fewer moving parts in his swing, and oh yeah – rumor is he’s gotten a lot better at bunting over the winter having put in some extra time refining his approach. If Gardner can bunt effectively on a regular basis, he is going to see his OBP jump. That translates into stealing more bases and scoring more runs. Gardner may approach a .270 average this year and go over 100 runs scored. His power numbers don’t really matter – several homers and maybe 45 ribbies would be nice. he may jump to 60 swipes which in this era is a big deal. He just missed 50 (49) so it is not unreasonable to expect that. Gardner is likely to be the lead off hitter as soon as Jeter moves on or is slid into a more suitable slot. if Gardner were to hit  lead off – he would explode! This is his year to prove he is ready to take over – and he can.

Justin Maxwell and Chris Dickerson will ride the pine, and each is okay for that. They don’t need to be superstars, just effective enough to not give away too much when guys need a break. Despite the many rumors of Jesus Montero playing the outfield – forget it! Montero cannot play the OF. He is far more valuable being presented as a catcher that just happens to DH while developing a little more. he is to valuable a prospect to risk a stupid injury playing out of position.

Overall, the Yankee outfield in 2012 is an A-. They are far better than anyone gives them credit for. This year they may be even better – but a lot of that rests on how they use gardner in the lineup.

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