Part 2 of the Fangraphs’ positional rankings focuses on the the outfield and designated hitter. The first edition featured the infield and catcher. Here is where the Yankees rank:
Leftfield: The Yankees rank 8th overall at the position. Brett Gardner figures to get most of the plate appearances here after playing mostly centerfield last year. His 2.6 WAR projection is built on elite defense when compared to plodding sluggers manning left and above average baserunning. The WAR figure projects an average to slightly below average hitter. Gardner’s floor is basically a 2.5 win player based on his baserunning and defense alone. Gardner will not be platooned due to the lack of a righty outfield bat off the bench (assuming Soriano is DH or in right) and they didn’t give him a 4-year extension to be a part-time guy. This will be an upgrade over last year’s reliance on Vernon Wells and company.
Centerfield: Jacoby Ellsbury will be one of the most productive centerfielders in the league. Ellsbury is an elite baserunner and high-percentage basestealer. He will get on base a lot to use his speed. His defense is above average. He is a line-to-line hitter so Yankee Stadium’s short porch won’t boost his power numbers as much as someone like Brian McCann. He is pegged at a 4.3 WAR which is easily attainable for a player of his skill level. The only question is, can he stay healthy after 2 lost years from fluky injuries in the past? Fangraphs sees the centerfield position for the Yankees as the 3rd best in the league.
Rightfield: Beltran will get most of the plate appearances here. He is still an excellent hitter from both sides of the plate. His defense has slipped a little and he is no longer the Gold Glove-type centerfielder. However, there isn’t much territory to cover in right field at Yankee Stadium. Beltran is projected to be a below average (1.1 WAR) player and the right field for New York ranks 17th in the majors. Soriano will probably get some time here too, but he is pegged to mostly DH. Ichiro is projected to be the backup at each outfield position. He’s slightly above replacement level at each position due to his speed and defense. In a vacuum I like him as a bench player. However, a right-handed masher (think Marcus Thames or Andruw Jones type) might suit the roster better because Ellsbury and Gardner don’t need pinch runners or to be replaced defensively. Also, a right-handed outfielder could give Ellsbury or Gardner a day off against a tough lefty. Maybe Soriano is that guy (and Jeter or Tex DHs) and Ichiro rarely plays. Zoilo Almonte is the first call-up if they need another outfielder.
Designated Hitter: Alfonso Soriano will get most of the time at DH to get his bat in the lineup, but it will be a revolving door as Girardi hopes to rest some aging players. Soriano will still be the low OBP/high ISO guy he has been throughout his career. There is a DH penalty as hitters will hit worse when they DH compared to when they play the field. Let’s hope Soriano and Beltran don’t totally crater when they don’t play the field. DH rankings are basically David Ortiz and everyone else. The Yankees fall in at 10th in the American League.
The Yankees will have one of the best outfields in Major League Baseball after spending big money on Ellsbury and Beltran. Gardner is an above average player, as well. DH should be a productive spot assuming Soriano can adjust to not playing a position for the first time in his career. Jeter, Beltran, and Teixeira will also require some time at DH. The outfield defense in left and center will be very good while the rightfield and DH slot will be vital in run creation.