Those projections were for Gardner as a major leaguer, so I added his 2008 MLE to his MLB performance for comparison's sake. As you can see, Gardner exceed his projections slightly, somewhere around 4 runs better than expected over a full season. That includes the disastrous start to his major league career, where he hit .153/.227/.169 over his first 68 PA before he was demoted on July 25. Gardner was recalled on August 15th and actually ended the season pretty well, hitting .294/.333/.412 over his last 73 PA.
It's been rehashed just about everywhere, but Gardner is the type of player whose game does not project to translate well to MLB, which can be seen in his projections below.
Gardner projects below average on offense, but slightly above replacement level. Since the Yankees got replacement level out of CF last year, he may actually be an offensive upgrade. He has supposedly re-worked his swing and showed some more pop in spring training, but the quality and intensity of the competition he did it against means we shouldn't really read too much into it. It's possible he's changed his game, but we need to see it in games that count.
Gardner's CAIRO percentiles show that his chances for hitting for decent power are pretty slim.
|brett gardner: cairo %iles||PA||AB||R||H||2B||3B||HR||RBI||SB||CS||BB||SO||HBP||AVG||OBP||SLG||BR||BR/650||BRAR/650||wOBA|
Gardner's 80% forecast is essentially league average for a CF, with the stolen bases making up for the below average SLG.
One nice thing about running the Diamond Mind Projection Blowout is I can look at the results of 6000 Brett Gardner seasons and see what he did.
OBP >.350: 28.5% of the time.
OBP >.400: 1.5% of the time.
SLG > .500: 0.3% of the time.
SLG > .400: 6.8% of the time.
I have no idea what Gardner will do this season. He could hit anywhere from his 20% to 80% forecast and I wouldn't be surprised.
Luckily, offense is only part of the equation when looking at what Gardner brings the Yankees.
|Year||Age||Pos||GP||Inn||RS (ZR)||RS (UZR)||Avg (ZR/UZR)||p162|
Obviously we have severe sample size issues here, but Gardner was off-the-charts good in CF by zone rating and UZR in his brief MLB time. His +17 projection is probably still too optimistic even though I regressed towards the mean, but WTH, I'll assume that based on the fact that he has 80 speed and speed correlates very highly with OF defense that he's around a +10.
Gardner didn't really have enough opportunities to make his baserunning stats mean anything. He showed as average, but he should be better than that. The top baserunners in the league are typically around +5 in a season, I'll assume Gardner will be around a +3 since he's not likely to be on base as often as those runners.
|Value if:a marginal win is worth:||Value||Difference|
If Gardner's really a +10 defender and a +3 non-SB baserunner, his projections think he's almost an average overall CF. Of course, there's a very good chance he won't hit either his offensive projections or defensive projections. Still, last year, Melky Cabrera was -0.1 WAR, so it looks like moving to Gardner will be an upgrade of at least a win and maybe two.
While I think that MLEs and projections are very valuable and useful tools, I think they break around the margins. Gardner's on those margins. A look at players who accrued similar minor league stats left me fairly unimpressed. That's not to say Gardner won't end up useful. It's just not the most likely scenario, but I'll be pulling for him. He should be able to at the very least provide some utility as a fifth OF/defensive replacement/pinch-runner. I hear that job pays pretty well.