With New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner off to a disappointing start thus far, it may be time for a change in left field.
In a lineup that has scored the second-most runs in the American League so far, Gardner has proven to be the weakest link of all coming out of the leadoff spot.
Through 14 games, the speedster is sporting a .192/.323/.250 slash line with not a single home run or a RBI yet. Sure, his on-base percentage has been solid (top-20 among MLB OF), but this is simply not the production the Yankees are looking for from their leadoff man.
On the flip side, Aaron Hicks has been giving the Yankees every reason to put him in the starting lineup over Gardner. He has been killing the ball from Opening Day onward.
In 11 games this season, Hicks is slashing .321/.459/.786 with four home runs and nine RBI’s already. There is no reason at this point why Hicks should not be starting in left field.
Sure, the argument could be made that Gardner is much better than Hicks with the glove, but it’ss not by much. Hicks has one of the strongest throwing arms in all of baseball and has put it on display numerous times.
So far in 2017, Hicks’ Revised Zone Rating (RZR) — which FanGraphs uses to measure the proportion of balls hit into a fielder’s zone that he successfully converted into an out — is .889 which is not only above average, but is also seven points higher than Gardner’s (.882).
Since the start of 2016, while Gardner owns more defensive runs saved than Hicks, he still trails him in the ultimate zone rating category, outfield arm runs and traditional fielding percentage.
The switch-hitter has also been trying to prove to the Yankees brass over the past year that when he gets everyday at-bats, he is not a player opposing pitchers will want to mess with.
Hicks excelled in 2016 following the trade of Carlos Beltran, which allowed him to get a chance in the lineup every day and get daily at-bats against big league pitching.
This proved to be beneficial to Hicks considering he slashed .271/.333/.424 with five home runs in his final 37 games of the season.
Not to mention he almost beat out 6-foot-7 slugger Aaron Judge for the everyday right field spot in spring training due to his impressive performance.
One obstacle that does stand in the way of starting Hicks in left field is the question arises of what the Yankees will do with Brett Gardner.
There is no way New York subjects him to bench duties at this point in his career and it will be almost impossible to trade him if he keeps this lackluster performance up.
He is also under contract through 2018, but if Aaron Hicks keeps this slugging up from both sides of the plate, it will be tough for the Yankees to not keep sending him back out there.