Drafted: 3rd round in 2005 out of the College of Charleston
Tools: Speed. Speed. More Speed. Lots of Speed. He has it. He is Willie Mays Hays. Brett Gardner has 80 speed on a 20-80 scale, and he uses it. He has stolen 77 bases in 191 career minor league games. Of course, the minors are filled with players with 80 speed who could never be decent major league players (Justin Christian, Gardner's teammate, is a prime example). Gardner combines his speed with outstanding plate discipline. He looks to have the ability to put together 80+ walk seasons. He likes to hit a lot of weak slappy line drives, which rarely translate in to extra base hits. For this reason, his ceiling is limited. His speed and excellent sense in the outfield translate to an outstanding defensive game, among the best in the Yankee farm system. His arm is average, although fairly accurate.
Performance: A former walk on at Charleston, Gardner has been constantly progressing as he moves up the minor league ladder. He was one of the many stars in Staten Island last year. This year, he started at Tampa and earned his promotion to AA with a .323/.433/.418 line and 30 stolen bases in 63 games. His performance at Trenton was not excellent, but it did show some good signs with a .272/.352/.318 line. Although his power dissolved, Gardner continued to show a special ability to reach base. Gardner then went to the AFL, where he has stumbled since starting off incredibly hot. Still, he has managed to put up a .252/.414/.359 line with 6 stolen bases in 26 games.
Outlook: Garder will be a major league player in some context. His ability to at least hit for doubles into the gap and his ability to maintain a respectable batting average will determine the role that he plays. In both Trenton and Arizona, he has shown a worrying tendency to strike out. In 26 games in Arizona, he has struck out 21 times (walking 27 times by the way). In 118 games in 2006 between Tampa and Trenton, he struck out 90 times while walking 70 times. A power hitter can afford to strike out, but a speedster like Gardner needs balls in play in order to reach base. Gardner has Juan Pierre type tools, with a little bit more on the plate discipline side of things than Pierre does. He plays better defense than Pierre. But the reason that Pierre was able to be a marginally good major league player for a couple of years was his ability to not strike out. By not striking out a lot, Pierre was able to hit .320+. Gardner will need to hit .300+ to allow his plate discipline to take over and be an effective hitter despite the lack of power. He can't strike out 110+ times a year and do that.
Grades: Ceiling B-, Health A, Comparison: Dave Roberts
Friday, December 29, 2006