Typically, teams try to field a power hitter on either right or left field, if not both. The Yankees are no exception, as history has shown. The franchise has not had two full-time* corner outfielders put up sub-.400 SLGs in a single season since 1974. That means that an entire generation of fans has grown up seeing at least one semi-potent power bat in one of those positions.

(*”Full-time” being defined as 400 PA and 50% of games played in either RF or LF)

That could change this year, though, with Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki manning the corners. Gardner, as we all know, is very good at getting on base but has the pop of a soggy bowl of Rice Krispies. And Ichiro, as the legend goes, has the ability to hit for power but chooses not to because chicks dig the slow roller up the third base line……or something.

Going by Bill James projections for the 2013 season, the three outfield starters will combine for a .408 SLG, which would put the team in the bottom third of baseball when it comes to outfield power. Last year, Yankee outfielders were at .453, among the best in baseball. That’s a huge drop off.

The biggest factor in the decline is home runs. The three are projected to come out with 48 dingers next season, whereas the 2012 Yankee outfield belted 89.

But while the long balls will decline, the outfield will produce more stolen bases and (sigh…..) more sacrifice bunts.

James projects Gardner to swipe 44 bases, Ichiro to get 28, and Granderson to add 13. If each of those players reaches his projection, the Yankees will have three outfielders with 13 or more steals for only the fourth time since World War II (1977, 1998, and 2008 being the others). That’s a lot of speed, and it’s something that recent Yankee outfields have not had to such a degree.

That speed, combined with the diminished power, could affect the team’s approach in regards to bunting. Maybe it will make Girardi more willing to call for sacrifices with some of his bottom of the order hitters this season given these circumstances.

Going simply by career norms, and not adjusting for any possible change in strategy, the Yankee outfield should end up with around 13 sacrifice bunts next season (5-6 for Gardner, 3-4 for Ichiro, 1-2 for Granderson, and a few more from bench players who fill in on random days).

Given these estimates, would this outfield be any more “small ball” oriented than recent Yankee outfields? Let’s take a look:

One thing that really jumps out at me here is the vast difference between projected stolen bases and projected home runs. If that pans out, it will be the biggest difference we’ve seen in a long time.

Overall, it looks like this outfield unit will be more “small ball” friendly in 2013 than they have been in the past. There have been years where they’ve bunted a fair amount; there have been years where they stole a lot of bases; and there have been years where they didn’t crush many home runs (comparatively). But, this will probably be the first time in a while that all three of those things happen in one season.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference