Brett Gardner closed 2011 with a stellar post season series at the plate against the Tigers. In the five game series which the Yankees lost, the left fielder hit .412 with five RBI and three runs scored.
When 2012 opened, it looked like the 28-year old had picked up where he left off. Through April 17th, he was hitting .321 and his play in the field was making people take notice.
Then the roof caved in.
During the third inning of a loss to the Minnesota Twins, Gardner hurt his wrist and arm while making a sliding catch in left field. The next day the team placed him on the 15-day DL.
He wouldn’t return until September, and his season was all but lost.
2013 will open with the speedy outfielder’s chance to recapture the momentum he appeared to have before the injury. He is slated to be the starter in left field as well as the backup center fielder to Curtis Granderson.
In spite of Manager Joe Girardi’s propensity to play the game according to the numbers and platoon players, “Gardy” should see playing time in most games this year. In short, it is his opportunity to finally establish himself as a top level left fielder.
Here’s a look at what the rest of the division will throw at us from left field:
Toronto Blue Jays: This off season, the Blue Jays took a shot in the dark and signed the much maligned Melky Cabrera. The 29-year old former Yankee comes to the team after serving a suspension for use of performance enhancing drugs (and admitted to doing so, read HERE.) How he will perform PED-free is anyone’s guess, and Toronto is hoping to capture some semblance of the player he was while under-the-influence (.326 average with a .493 slugging pct over the past two seasons).
In the field Cabrera was always blessed with a strong arm and he has decent speed giving the risk the Blue Jays are taking the possibilities of a high reward. Only time will tell.
(In Photo: Nate McLouth)
Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles will use a combination of Nolan Reimold and Nate McLouth in left field for 2013. The righty Reimold missed most of 2012 with a herniated disk in his neck, but showed great promise hitting .313 with five HR and 10 RBI in the 16 games he played before the injury.
McLouth is the left-handed option for the O’s and was a post-season hero for the team last season. In six games last October, he hit .308 with a .462 slugging percentage.
Tampa Bay Rays: 26-year old Desmond Jennings will be in left field for the Rays in 2013. The rising star has great speed (he stole 31 bases and was caught just twice in 2012) and is a tremendous fielder (he has made ONE error in left field in 287 chances at the Major League level). He still needs to develop plate discipline (120 / 46 strikeout to walk ratio) and raise his average (.246 in 2012) but his upside is limitless.
Jonny Gomes is slated to get most of the playing time in left field for the Red Sox. The 33-year old veteran was signed to a 2-year $10 million contract by our hated rivals and is coming off a season in Oakland where he hit .262 with 18 home runs. In the field Gomes is adequate (.983 fielding pct.) and he is probably the slowest of the left fielders in the AL East division (he’s stolen 15 bases over the past three years, getting caught seven times). His performance at the plate, as well as how he handles balls coming off the Green Monster at Fenway (hopefully compliments of Yankees bats) will determine just how long he stays at that position for the team.
Here’s how the left fielders of the AL East rate:
Yankees: The flashes we’ve seen of Gardner (both in the field and at the plate) since October of 2011 are just too much to overlook. This will be his breakout season.
Tampa Bay: Desmond Jennings is an exciting talent that just needs some fine-tuning.
Baltimore: The Reimold / McClouth combination provides solid play in the field and potential at the plate.
Boston: If Gomes stays healthy (he’s only played more than 140 games once in his career), he should give the Red Sox decent production from the left field spot.
Toronto: Like some of their other acquisitions this winter, Melky Cabrera is a high-risk, high-reward signing. Look for numbers similar to his season with the Braves (.255 average with four HR and 47 RBI).
That’s how we see it, let us know what you think!
--Steve Skinner, BYB Guest Writer
Please comment, we have DISQUS, it's easier than ever. Let me know what you think and follow me on Twitter @BleednYankeeBlu and join the group Bleeding Yankee Blue on Facebook, just type it in.