Speed. It’s sometimes tough to find in fantasy baseball, yet it’s a vital stat in mostly all formats.
Some players at times are over-drafted because of their enormous stolen base totals, yet there are also some great sources of speed going at a discounted rate; Brett Gardner is one of those.
Gardner is a bit lost in the shuffle this season after playing just 16 games last year. He suffered an elbow injury in April of 2012 and just could not return in time to make an impact for both the New York Yankees and fantasy baseball owners. While it was just a small sample size, Gardner was off to a hot start last year, hitting .323 with a very high .417 on-base percentage. Patience at the plate is very important for a guy with speed like Gardner, and it’s a big help for someone with a career .266 average.
The young outfielder had 47 and 49 steals in back-to-back seasons before missing much of last year, and if he can stay on the field this year then 50-60 steals are well within reach. At 29 he is still in his prime, and throughout his career he has been tough to stop, stealing 137 of 167 career attempts. Gardner’s current auction league value on ESPN is around $9-10 and he is ranked No.37 among outfielders in 12-team mixed leagues. Meanwhile, a guy like Michael Bourn is ranked No.19 with a value of $18. Comparing Bourn and Gardner side by side, the difference really is minimal. Gardner has a higher career OBP and steals at an 82-percent success rate, compared to Bourn’s 81 percent. Bourn hit just .274 in 2012; a number that is well within reach for Gardner, who also has a better eye at the plate than Bourn.
This year’s Yankees are not the Bronx Bombers of old, and with Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki, and maybe even the speedy Eduardo Nunez in the lineup, the team should rely more on speed to score. Gardner could be in line for a career year as long as he can stay healthy. He looks to be a steal at his current ADP and auction value.