In fantasy baseball, it is incredibly important to have done plenty of grueling research so you are prepared for any and every scenario you might encounter during your draft.
Identifying who the so called “sleepers” are in your player universe and approximately where they will be drafted can often be the difference between having a solid player in every roster spot and competing for a championship, and carrying five or six useless players who bog down your squad. There are plenty of players who will help you in the 10th round or later, and one that falls into that category is New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner.
The Yankees made some bold moves this offseason, saying goodbye to Robinson Cano, and hello to Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran — and welcome back to Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter, who seem to be healthy after missing time during the 2013 campaign.
While the lineup looks impressive on paper, health will be imperative as the group is not young, which is why I believe Gardner’s performance will be absolutely critical to the Yankees’ championship aspirations.
Other than Ellsbury and Gardner, the Yankees are void of speed in a major way. As a matter of fact, if Ellsbury bats leadoff and we see Gardner in the nine hole, spots two through eight in their lineup will likely not have a single player who steals as many as 15 bags throughout the season. While swiping bases is not quite as important in the AL as it is in NL, the Yanks will have some games where the lineup has a power outage, and they will look to Ellsbury and Gardner to get the wheels turning with their speed and try to manufacture some runs.
In 2013, Gardner was healthy all season after missing the majority of 2012 to injury. He played 145 games, batting .273 with eight HRs and 53 RBIs. It went highly unnoticed, but Gardner actually had 33 doubles and 10 triples to go with those eight HRs giving him 51 extra base hits, as many as Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton did, which was quite a surprise.
Gardner walked an adequate 52 times in 609 plate appearances, compiling a .344 on-base percentage and most importantly showed he had his wheels again as he stole 24 bases, which was low for him considering he stole 49 in 2011. However, it was a great sign coming off of injury in 2012.
Currently, Gardner is ranked as the 44th-best outfielder, and 168th-best fantasy player overall according to the fantasypros.com charts. His average draft position is at 173.8, meaning he is being drafted right around the 18th round. This could make him a huge sleeper if projections of a .275 BA with 10 HRs, 65 RBIs, 35 steals and 55 XBHs are accurate. The Yankees will be desperate for speed throughout the season, and Gardner should be able to come through if he stays healthy.
The two players you will likely find yourself deliberating between when considering Gardner are Cleveland Indians OF Michael Bourn (175.4 ADP) and Detroit Tigers OF Torii Hunter (181.8 ADP). While Hunter is still producing at 38-years old and Bourn is relied on more heavily for his club, I advise you to take Gardner.
He is in a lineup that will tire opposing pitchers out, and they will be forced to go after him to avoid being hurt elsewhere in the Yankees’ order. He will steal 10 more bases than Bourn and possibly 30 more than Hunter, while being level with them both in extra-base hits.