The popularity of fantasy baseball is growing every year. Whether you are a fantasy baseball veteran in multiple leagues each season, someone who plays casually or completely new to the game, there is a lot to know before creating your fantasy squad.
The New York Yankees often boast plenty of fantasy options, and this year is no different after some huge additions this winter. You can look at a player’s value on the field and how they help the Yankees a certain way, but should take a different approach when analyzing their fantasy value.
Fantasy players should take into account the size of their league, position eligibility, league scoring settings, position scarcity, injury history, playing time, ballpark and many other factors when determining whether a player is a prudent pick and when (or how much to spend) to draft them. As always, keep in mind who you are drafting with. If you are in a league with a ton of Yankee fans, you’re probably going to have to overpay for Yankee players.
When taking a look at the top Yankees, there are a few stark differences in fantasy values with some. A few years ago, guys like C.C. Sabathia and Carlos Beltran were some of the first few players taken in drafts. Now the two veterans can be had for cheaper, but can still provide plenty of value. Some players are more valuable than they ever have been thanks to new roles on the team, and some are making their debuts on the fantasy scene.
Over the next two weeks we’ll take a look at the top 10 most valuable Yankees in fantasy baseball. Counting down from 10 to 1, we’ll take an in-depth look at each player, what they can provide this year and when you should add them to your team.
We continue our list with the eighth most valuable Yankee in fantasy baseball:
Brett Gardner, OF (Auction Value – $2)
A few seasons ago it looked like the Yankees had their center fielder of the future in Gardner. He stole 47 bases in 2010 and 49 in 2011 while becoming one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball and a huge fantasy asset because of the steals.
At his peak he never had a high average, but he was able to work his walks and just find a way to get on base; something someone with his speed needs to do. His 2012 season ended early with a serious elbow injury, then last year he was healthy enough to play in 145 games but only managed to steal 24 bases on the year. While that’s nothing to sneeze at, that’s still cutting his previous production in half. For fantasy owners, when a one-stat player produces half of his normal production in that stat, it’s unacceptable.
Nonetheless, Gardner was still a big asset to the Yankees as one of the few everyday players who stayed healthy and produced throughout the year with career-highs in hits, doubles, triples, home runs and RBI. Despite that, the Yankees went out and signed Jacoby Ellsbury to man center field for the next seven years. So where does that leave Gardner?
In all likelihood, it simply will mean a shift over to left field. But it could also mean a demotion back down to the bottom of the lineup. Because of that, he may have trouble matching the career-high 52 RBI from last year. He should still score plenty of runs, though. The true question for Gardner, however, is whether he can steal 40-plus bases again. He was thrown out on 25-percent of his attempts last season, up from 21 percent in 2011 and 16 percent in 2010. This season will be a true test on whether he can kick this downward trend and prove to be one of the best base-stealers in baseball once again.
You can pencil Gardner in for an OBP of around .350, and with a likely starting role again despite the addition of Ellsbury, Gardner will be a cheap source of steals and runs scored. He can also help those in leagues that count OBP and he won’t kill your team batting average either. What Gardner still won’t do is give you any power, but that’s fine. Because of his lack of power at such a deep position, he can be had late in snake drafts and for no more than a few dollars in most auctions. Getting 30-plus steals and at least 80 runs scored isn’t an unreasonable expectation and would be a fantastic return in your investment.