Frustrations With Brett Gardner
Brett Gardner has long been one of my favorite players. He is the prototypical speedster, adding incredible speed with amazing defense and solid plate discipline. If those guys don’t excite you in a baseball sense then I don’t know what else would. I invested pretty deeply into Gardner this year from a fantasy perspective, as I felt his price was pretty cheap on draft day considering he missed almost all of last year with an elbow injury. To this point, even though he has been solid all around, I am disappointed in what I have received from him so far.
The big issue is that he is 11 for 17 (65%) in stolen bases. For a guy that has only been caught 36 times while stealing 148 bags (80%), that is a frustrating number. Not only is the stolen base rate frustrating, the total amount is maddening. This is a guy who stole over 45 bases back to back years before missing most of last season. The expectation was that he would at least get to 30 bags stolen. And with the Yankees having so many injuries and frustrations offensively, you would think they would try and maximize Gardner’s speed to put some runs on the board. Unfortunately this has not been the case.
On a positive note, Gardner has added some power I had not expected. In fact, nobody really anticipated this type of power boost from Gardner, at least I did not hear anybody calling for it before the year. The added power – his 7 home runs match his career high – has helped mitigate the frustrations behind the lack of success stealing bases and the lack of stolen base attempts in general, but that seems like putting a mask over his problems.
In a strict fantasy sense, Gardner has still been useful, but not in the way that those constructing a roster had planned. It is difficult to move Gardner while boasting his improved power, as most probably do not expect him to remain on the same pace. It is also difficult to move him based on his legs, as it has been two years since he was stealing bags at an excessively high rate. This leaves owners in a particular jam of having to hold onto Gardner despite not getting what they want out of him.
Going forward, Steamer and ZiPs have Gardner adding three home runs and 11-12 steals. To me, that just will not do it going down the stretch run. Gardner has had a good season and still has a popular name. People still associate his name with steals, so if you can pawn him off to an owner who still expects 2011 type stolen base rates and totals, do so as soon as you can. It has not been a lost season at all for Gardner, in fact he has been quite good in terms of regular value, but in terms of fantasy this just has not been what we expected when we invested in him.