The Prize of Surprise: Craig Gentry

*This is another installment of “The Prize of Surprise”, in which the SDI Staff will be giving you our players to watch this year. These are the players we think can make a significant contribution to the team, perhaps to the surprise of many. 

Brett Gardner is the Yankees starting left-fielder. At age 28 he is entering his third season playing as a regular. He has posted some insane defensive metric numbers the past few seasons, so high that some question the validity of the metrics. Gardner has posted 9.6 bWAR the past two seasons as a regular. Gardner doesn’t hit for power, but he brings two elite tools to the table- speed and defense.

When speed and defense are your best tools you’re typically a football or basketball player in a baseball uniform, but if you can hit just enough, you’ll be able to hang around for a while on the promise of those two tools alone.

My proposal to you is that Craig Gentry is Brett Gardner, just waiting to get a shot.

Gardner’s career numbers (1362 AB): .264/.353/.721

Gentry’s minor league numbers (1909 AB): .283/.354/.739

Gentry’s 2011 numbers (183 AB) : .271/.347/.693

Same numbers, same tools, and same age equals same results, right?

Well not exactly, while I do think Gentry will parlay an excellent Spring Training into a regular role this season. There are several obstacles in his path. One is $15.5 million, in the form of Leonys Martin. The Rangers didn’t commit that amount to give his position to a 28 year old with 183 AB under his belt.

Jon Daniels has said that Martin will likely spend the first few months of the season in Round Rock, to further acclimate himself for this season. So initially, Martin won’t pose a threat to Gentry’s playing time for at least a few months. This leaves everybody’s favorite Rangers, Julio Borbon, as Gentry’s lone competitor this spring.

Borbon is either forgotten by fans, or the butt of every fan’s quip. While the Rangers front office may make jokes about Julio too, they haven’t forgotten him. They still need to see if Borbon is a keeper, since he’s only amassed 683 AB himself. Borbon, like Gentry could turn a few heads this Spring, but I believe in Kitten Face (Gentry).

Gentry’s feather in his cap is that he’s a Ron Washington favorite for his incredible defense, and perfection on the bases last year. And it’s unknown if Borbon ever was released from Wash’s doghouse. Also, Gentry’s centerfield competition could be alleviated by a trade as well, as the Nationals and Indians are rumored to be interested in a centerfielder.

I don’t consider David Murphy a center-fielder. Josh Hamilton is an elite left-fielder, but is not as good as a fielder as Gentry in center. If Hamilton stays in left, and Murphy never plays center (as he should), and Borbon is traded or kept in Wash’s doghouse, and Martin is left in Round Rock for awhile; I think this all spells out an open audition in center for Gardner.. I mean Gentry.

The table is set, it’s up to him to run with it.

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Dan Allsup is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning. You can email him at Dan.Allsup@shutdowninning.com or reach him on Twitter @SDIDan.

Dan Allsup

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