This is part six of our 2009 Yankees Outlook Series. Please make sure you check out the first five as we review:
- 2009 Yankees Catchers
- 2009 Yankees First Basemen
- 2009 Yankees Second Basemen
- 2009 Yankees Third Basemen
- 2009 Yankees Shortstops
As the current roster stands, Johnny Damon will be seeing the most time in left field for the Yankees in 2009. This will be the final year of Johnny’s four-year contract. During his three years in the Bronx, Damon has a .286 batting average and 303 runs scored. Still recognized as one of the best leadoff hitters in the game, it’s not a stretch to believe Damon is primed to have his best year in pinstripes.
His defense has deteriorated in recent years, leading to the loss of his center field position. However, he’s transitioned nicely to left field and can be considered an above average defensive left fielder.
Hideki Matsui, the Yankee’s primary left fielder for the last six years, will be serving as the team’s primary designated hitter, but I expect him play at least 10-15 games in the field this year, and possibly more if there is a need due to injury.
The Yankees currently also have both Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady. At this point, it looks like they will split time primarily in right, but I imagine they will both see considerable time in left should they both stay on the team.
The Yankees currently have three young center fielders on their team or in their system that, if they stay in the Bronx, will need to find a defensive home.
Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner are both expected to make the team this year and split time in center field. However, both could be excellent left fielders should the Yanks decide to go in that direction. Much will be determined on these players' Yankee careers by how they will be able to perform with the bat.
In the system, the Yankees have a highly regarded outfielder, Austin Jackson. His estimated arrival time to the big leagues is 2010. Like the other two, he is a stud defensively and has incredible speed; his bat just needs to catch up.
What needs to go right
Health. Johnny Damon, as long as he’s in the lineup, will bat close to .300, score 100 runs, steal bases, and see a lot of pitches. Should all the rest of the guys stay healthy as well, the Yanks have the opportunity to really keep all their outfielders fresh and productive, while providing Joe Girardi the opportunity to play the hot bat.
What could go wrong
The Yankees trade away either Swisher or Nady, and Damon goes down with an injury. Now you’ll have to lean on Brett Gardner AND Melky Cabrera to perform with the bat, and I think that’s a lot to ask for based on what we saw last season.
How they can improve
Beyond bringing back Alfonso Soriano, they are really set in left field. I would not trade Nady or Swisher.