There certainly were conflicting theories about Brett Gardner as we headed into 2010.  Some people thought he could mature into an everyday player for the Yankees, including being a tremendous source of stolen bases.  Others thought that he would be exposed by major league pitching with regular playing time.  Thus far, those who believed in the former statement certainly are reaping the benefits of the following line:

194 At Bats
.271 Batting Average (61 Hits)
3 Home Runs
19 RBI
42 Runs
20 Stolen Bases
.395 On Base Percentage
.423 Slugging Percentage
.358 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Yes, he’s benefited from an above average BABIP, but with his speed, it isn’t an unrealistic one.  The fear in his ability to maintain even this type of average lies with his ability to make contact.

Thus far in 2010, he has posted a strikeout rate of 16.0%, right along the lines of the 16.1% he posted over 248 AB in 2009.  That’s actually better than what he posted in the minor leagues, where he posted a strikeout rate of 19.6% over 1,467 AB.

It was even worse at Triple-A:

  • 2008 (181 AB) – 23.8%
  • 2009 (341 AB) – 22.3%

Is it possible that he has just learned to make better contact while getting regular AB at the major league level?  Of course it’s a possibility, but I’m not sure that I am a true believer quite yet.  Just look at how he’s fared by month this season:

  • April – 12.3%
  • May – 16.1%
  • June – 29.4%

Obviously, June is a small sample size, but still, you can see that he’s slowly regressing a bit the more that he plays.  Without excessive power and the unlikelihood that he gets luckier, there is a good chance that his average declines as the season drags on.

Yes, he’s a great source of speed and, no matter where he hits in the lineup, he’s going to score runs.  Still, if the average falls to the .250 range, just how much value is he going to have?

I’m not suggesting selling him, as he is one of the best sources of stolen bases in the league, but be cautious.  In five-outfielder formats, he’s definitely usable; in shallower formats, however, you likely can find a more well-rounded option.  He’s probably going to be just a two-category performer moving forward, so if someone in your league is offering good value, I wouldn’t hesitate to pull the tigger.

What are your thoughts on Gardner?  How good do you think he will be this season?  How much do you think he may regress?

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