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A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News


Best case, worst case: Center field

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Jan 30, 2013 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

After a largely disappointing 2010 season, it would have been difficult to imagine — even in a best-case scenario — that Curtis Granderson would emerge as an MVP candidate in 2011. Would have been nearly as difficult to predict, after that terrific 2011 season and a strong first half of 2012, that Granderson’s on-base percentage would plummet the way it did in the second half of last year. That said, Granderson might not even be the Yankees center fielder this year (and he almost certainly won’t be next year).

Best-case scenario
Something new
The Yankees haven’t announced who their center fielder will be, but the best-case scenario seems to be Brett Gardner taking over the position. However they line it up, the Yankees regular outfield is going to have Gardner, Granderson and Ichiro Suzuki. Might as well put Gardner in center for two reasons: 1. He’s probably better than Granderson defensively, and 2. It makes sense to transition in center in preparation for Granderson’s free agency (should be easier to find a replacement corner outfielder than a new center fielder).

If Gardner lives up to expectation defensively (he’s been considered by many to be the game’s best left fielder), gets on base regularly (he has a career .355 OBP) and makes things happen on the bases (he led the league with 49 steals in 2011), the Yankees will have a dynamic player who doesn’t have to hit 40 home runs to have an impact. Put Gardner in center this year, sign him through his final arbitration season in 2014, and the Yankees could have a perfect center field bridge to either Slade Heathcott or Mason Williams (might even have a player worth signing beyond 2014 to serve as a proven table setter while the younger guys adjust to the bigs). 

Of course, those younger guys are key to the Yankees best-case scenario in center. Both Heathcott and Williams have enough upside to suggest significant impact down the road. A healthy and productive Double-A season from Heathcott could put him on the verge of a big league role — Damon Oppenheimer has gone so far as to say Heathcott could push for a big league job this year — and Williams was terrific last season before a shoulder injury sidelined him in late July. If he brings those Low-A results to High-A and gets a mid-season promotion to Double-A, he could solidify himself among the top outfield prospects in baseball. Add a return-to-form from Ravel Santana, and some sort of big league impact from Melky Mesa, and the Yankees will have both high-end talent and enormous depth at the position.

Worst-case scenario
Prospects are suspects
For years, Gardner has built a strong group of believers, but he’s never broken through as a guy who everyone believes in as an everyday, big league leadoff hitter. Why is that? Maybe this is the year we find out. Maybe Gardner is finally give the opportunity — everyday job in center field, a chance to hit at the top of the order — and it just doesn’t work. The Yankees tried to use him as their leadoff hitter in the very beginning of 2011, but that experiment was scrapped very quickly when Gardner hit just .146/.222/.220 through 13 games. Tiny sample size, sure, but the Yankees obviously felt they’d seen enough to pull the plug. What is that carries into this season?

If Gardner isn’t up to the task and leaves the Yankees constantly benching him against left-handed starters, the team will likely go back to Granderson as the everyday center fielder — won’t want to keep Granderson changing positions from game to game — and Granderson’s tendancy to swing and miss could carry over from last year, leaving the Yankees, once again, with an all-or-nothing center fielder who no longer does those things he did especially well in Detroit.

As for another option in center? Triple-A is likely to have Mesa playing the position, and while the tools are there, Mesa’s high strikeout totals — sound familiar? — have consistently left him unable to fully utilize his power and speed. Regardless of last year’s strong comeback, Heathcott is still a guy with two shoulder surgeries already under his belt. And Williams is still just a 21-year-old kid who’s proven nothing above Low-A. And Santana is still a guy who hit for no average and no power in Staten Island.

Associated Press photos

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19 Responses to “Best case, worst case: Center field”

  1. Your Worst Nightmare January 30th, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Interesting how many here continue to hang on to the A-Roid faux innocence.

    I guess someone made up those records, included all those player names and the false payment listings just to create a false smear campaign to get some press for themselves…………… Right.

    LOL ! ! !

  2. tomingeorgia January 30th, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    I presume you’ve you’ve never heard of the Dreyfus Affair.

  3. Rich in NJ January 30th, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    “Interesting how many here continue to hang on to the A-Roid faux innocence.”

    I think the number is zero. No one here has said that he wasn’t caught cheating. So yeah, that is interesting.

  4. Against All Odds January 30th, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    blake January 30th, 2013 at 5:08 pm
    I honestly don’t know how Francesa keeps his job…. There isn’t a more clueless person in the media

    —————————–

    He admits it’s in all sports but how can he not admit the NFL has a problem with it.

  5. austinmac January 30th, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    Cashman has repeatedly said they should win at $189M. He will pay the price, I believe, if they don’t field a competitive team. The failed pitchers of the last several years has killed his plan. I do wonder if he pushed for or opted out of Darvish, Cespedes ,Soler, Chapman and the like.

  6. Rich in NJ January 30th, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    austinmac

    It’s hard for me to believe that Cashman didn’t want most, if not all, of those guys.

    They would have helped him continue to hide his mistakes.

    I think his allowance has been cut.

  7. Bronx Jeers January 30th, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    Davidoff says ARod’s has his vote for the HOF because he was never suspended by MLB.

    So for the record that’s….

    Do steroids and get away with it and you’re ok.

    Do steroids and get punished and you’re out.

  8. matthew friedberg January 30th, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Austin williams and heathcott 2015 starting outfield

  9. austinmac January 30th, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Rich,

    I think Hal is and has been saying that Cashman needs to prove his claims. Isn’t his contract up after 2014?

  10. austinmac January 30th, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    That is the Yankee starting outfield they would love in 2014. I would like to see it too if it seemed feasible at the time.

  11. Against All Odds January 30th, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Against All Odds January 30th, 2013 at 5:36 pm
    I can’t stand Tony Paige.

    Somers is a clown

    Stephen A. is tolerable when he isn’t completely wrong about something.

    I like Neer but sometimes he can be clueless as well.

  12. UpState January 30th, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Somers: great vocabulary; stupid content.

  13. comet January 30th, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Hey Tom and AAO Also to Upsate!

  14. tomingeorgia January 30th, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    comet,
    Glad everybody’s vertical.

  15. kd January 30th, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    santana hurt his ankle really badly and missed a full year right? so this is his first healthy year back. let’s hope he’s in aa/aaa at the end of the year

  16. Jerkface January 30th, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    santana hurt his ankle really badly and missed a full year right? so this is his first healthy year back. let’s hope he’s in aa/aaa at the end of the year

    That is not going to happen. The last place he played was Staten Island, which is short season Low A. He hit .216 .304 .289 .593. He is going to start the year in Charleston most likely.

  17. Against All Odds January 30th, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    Hey comet how are you

  18. blake January 30th, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    @JeffPassan: Sources: MLB will interview players accused in PED report, could use documents to seek 50-game suspensions. News: http://t.co/zE00g6Hf

    Those documents now said that Gio bought testosterone (pink cream)

  19. Rich in NJ January 30th, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Cream seems so harmless, and sort of enticing…

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