The New York Yankees placed OF Johnny Damon on the disabled list yesterday for the first time in his career with an injured shoulder. To take his roster spot, the team recalled 28-year-old rookie Justin Christian. However, the immediate winner of playing time is rookie OF Brett Gardner who was recalled last week to take the roster spot of another disabled $13MM outfielder, Hideki Matsui.
Brett Gardner is a 24-year-old speedster with good plate discipline. He has swiped three bases in the first week with the Yankees and that is what should be expected of him until he is sent back to AAA.
Here is what John Sickels wrote about him as a prospect in The Baseball Prospect Book 2008:
"Gardner has one outstanding tool: speed. He also has one excellent skill: plate discipline. He has less power than a Wiccan student at Oral Roberts, and for all his speed, his outfield defense can be sketchy at times, since his arm is weak, and he doesn't always get good reads on the ball. I think the lack of power is going to prevent him from starting in the majors, at least for a good team, but his on-base skills and speed should make him very useful on the bench. Grade C+"
Does that sound like a starting LF for a play-off contender? No, but it does sound like someone an aging team like the Yankees can use to back-up their veteran OFs and pinch-run for their veteran 1B/DH types.
If Gardner doesn't hit, and he currently isn't with a 3-21 start, what can the Yankees do in the trade market? Would Seattle Mariner LF Raul Ibanez be a perfect fit? Yes, but the Yankees do not have the hitting prospects to deal. However, the system seems to be brimming with relief prospects.
An interesting one was recalled this past week. David Robertson is a 2nd-year reliever out of the University of Alabama, and here is why he could be attractive to teams like Seatle. Again from John Sickels' prospect book.
"SLEEPER ALERT!! I love this guy. How can you not love a 0.96 ERA and a 113/32 K/BB in 84 innings? He doesn't do it with smoke and mirrors either. Robertson has legitimate stuff: a 90-94 MPH fastball and a very good slider. Despite this, the former University of Alabama pitcher doesn't get a lot of respect since he's a short right-handed reliever who lasted until the 17th round in the '06 draft. About the only statistical negative is that his command wobbles at times, and this could be an issue at higher levels. Grade C+, but a guy who could end up being really, really good out of the bullpen."