For the first time since 2008, the Yankees will be starting a season without Nick Swisher saluting the fans in right field. Since Nick Swisher is now a member of the Cleveland Indians, the Yankees will have a new addition to their outfield.
It's not often that the Yankees don't have corner outfielders with power. In 2013 however, the Yankees are heading into camp with Brett Gardner as their every day left fielder and newly re-signed Ichiro Suzuki to play right field. While there won't be much power to go around in the outfield, the pair bring a different dynamic to this Yankees team that the Bombers lacked in 2012. With the speed and defense of Gardner and Ichiro, they can contribute to the team by saving runs defensively as opposed to driving runs in offensively. Sabermetricians would probably agree with me, but the baseball purists out there are probably reading this and thinking that I have no clue what I'm talking about.
Let's start with Brett Gardner. He was injured throughout the entire 2012 season other than playing in a handful of games in early April and at the end of September. The team missed Gardner's speed and defense, and the sluggers weren't doing the job because there weren't guys in front of them that were getting on base. Gardner provides the on-base factor and can force a pitcher to make a bad pitch by distracting him from focusing on the hitter. Gardner's legs are bionic, and he can out-run the majority of the league. In order for pitchers to be more paranoid with Gardner on base, Brett has to take more chances. If he doesn't attempt to steal a base his statistics won't suffer, but he needs to take more chances and run early in counts instead of waiting a pitcher out for two at-bats. I love Brett Gardner, but I believe he can be a bona fide star in the league if he took more chances and hit more consistently. He is a gold glove caliber outfielder who should be playing center field. I still tend to believe that Granderson will play left field at some point in the year, because Gardner is just too good defensively to play a corner outfield position.
Ichiro is entering his first full season in pinstripes. I have not seen enough of Ichiro on the Yankees to make an accurate assessment, but from what I have seen of Ichiro tells me that he will be a great addition as the Yankees every day right fielder. For much of his time with the Yankees in the second half of last season, he was forced to start mostly in left field because Swisher was the every day right fielder. Out of his comfort zone in left field, Ichiro still made sparkling plays that Swisher could only dream of making in right. Ichiro showed that he still has something left in the tank, and he put on a hitting clinic in late August heading into September and the postseason. Ichiro likes playing for the Yankees because the locker room is filled with professionals. While playing in Seattle, most of Ichiro's teammates were young and inexperienced. After setting foot in the Yankees clubhouse, Ichiro was in his comfort zone. With players like Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira, Ichiro felt like he fit the team perfectly. I agree with his sentiments and I expect him to have a solid year for the Yankees this year. With the short porch and playing with the Yankees for a full season, Ichiro could provide more power to the Yankees lineup.
As you can tell, I like the speed element in the Yankees outfield this year. Gardner and Ichiro are great compliments to one another, and they can provide the team with a spark when the offense is struggling.
My predictions for
Ichiro: .298 BA, 15 HR, 65 RBI, 25 SB