Very soon Brian Cashman will bring all of his lieutenants together to go over the team’s players and formulate an off-season plan. We will do the same thing here, position by position to see what assets the team has, what is available in the upper minor leagues as an option and evaluate if it’s an area of need moving forward. Today we’ll start with the left side of the infield.
First base – Mark Teixeira
Tex had the worst season of his career in 2012 as he had his streak of 8 straight seasons of 30-100 snapped. He missed basically all of September due to a calf strain which is part of the reason his HR & RBI totals were down. However, he also had career lows in SLG (.475) & OPS (.807) and had his 3rd straight season with a BA below .256. Whether it’s his heavy pull tendencies, the severe defensive shifts, his uppercut swing or a combination of them all, Tex just isn’t the same hitter from the left side that Yankees signed for $180 Million.
After his great initial season with the Yanks he’s been a .252/.347/.484/.831 over the past 3 years and I have little hope he’ll ever return to the .290-.300 hitter he was through 2009. Last offseason he vowed to work on using the whole field more as a LH hitter but after his typical slow start in April, he quickly scrapped it and went back into pulling everything. In addition to the declining BA, he’s also been walking less (just 10.3%) the last few yrs which doesn’t make him a good #3/#4 hitter anymore. Grade: C-
2013 Outlook: With 4 years @ $90M left on his contract, he is going nowhere. Unfortunately, it looks like Tex is what he is at this point in his career and there’s little hope he changes. He’s going to be about a .250 hitter with around 30 HRs-100 RBIs who plays very good defense. With his diminished BA & OBP, he’s no longer a viable #3/4 hitter but he’s still capable of impacting any game with his power and defense. With Tex signed til 2016, the organization hasn’t looked to develop a 1B in the upper minors and with Swisher likely gone they may look for a veteran who can play some 1B and OF or get someone like Nix, Joseph or Adams to work on 1B.
Second Base – Robinson Cano
Cano had a career year in the regular season with personal highs in HRs, 2Bs, Walks, Runs, SLG, OPS, WOBA & RC+. He was patient at the plate for much of the regular season which is the key for him at the plate. When he’s patient and using the entire field, he’s as dangerous as any hitter in the league. Unfortunately he has lapses where he loses discipline and looks to drive everything like he did in the playoffs. He also has lapses in concentration on the bases and the field at times but his bat usually makes up for those. All told, he was one of the best hitters in baseball with a .929 OPS and a very good defensive second basemen who loses some luster because of his terrible post-season. Grade: A-
2013 Outlook: Cano has a no-brainer $15M option that the Yankees will definitely exercise. There is a possibility that Cashman and Boras could discuss an extension this Winter to see if Free Agency can be avoided but I think that ship has sailed. I believe last yr was the time to talk extension and there is little to gain for either side to come to an agreement this yr. Cano is coming off a career yr and Boras is already flapping his gums about a 10-yr deal. So while it would help for the team to have an idea of what Cano is looking for, I wouldn’t expect anything to happen until he’s a FA. There is the option to trade Cano since the Yankees have 2 promising young 2B ready to make their MLB-debuts in 2013. However, that seems very unlikely since Cano is their only legitimate offensive threat and Cashman doesn’t usually operate like that.
Although Cano is almost definitely going to be at 2B in 2013, the team needs to give a role to Adams and/or Joseph as they are their 2 most MLB-ready bats. Joseph is a soon-to-be 24 yr old lefty hitter who hit .276/.375/.465/.840 between AA & AAA. He makes good solid contact and had an impressive 68/70 Walk to K rate. Adams is a 25 yr-old RH hitter who hit .306/.385/.450/.834 in AA and is finally healthy after 2 years. Adams is also a line-drive hitter with good strike zone recognition. He played 3B for the final month of 2012 and could be an option there as well.
When the Yankees were playing horrible baseball in the month of May, you would have thought Brett Gardner‘s prediction of the Yankees winning 100 games in the season was complete hogwash. Now as the Yankees are about to close the door on June, Gardner’s prediction seems a little more believable as the Yankees have now notched 41 wins this season. The ironic part of all this though is that Gardner has not played in a game since April 17 when he injured his arm while making a diving catch. With Gardner out of the lineup, more players have stepped up and some have…well…faltered.
Derek Jeter (COOL): When Derek Jeter first started the season he was getting base hit after base hit; he was even as far as .400 in the beginning of May. Since then, Jeter’s average has cooled down to where his average is close to .300. Derek Jeter’s baseball lately…he looks like the Derek Jeter in the beginning of the 2011 season (you know, before the 3,000 hits).
Curtis Granderson (HOT): Curtis Granderson’s batting average I admit isn’t the greatest average in the world, but he already has 20 HR’s and the first half of the season isn’t over yet! Granderson is on pace to hit 40 HR’s but he continues to consider himself a non home run hitter. Curtis, you’re not fooling us. That bat of yours is H-O-T!
Mark Teixeira (COOL): Mark Teixeira’s bat in the beginning of the season was…eh. Teixeira seems to be getting his bat together now and is getting key hits when the Yankees rely on it. Teixeira is still working on the RISP hitting, but he seems to have no trouble hitting the ball out of the park.
Alex Rodriguez (COOL): Alex Rodriguez’s bat has also been pretty cool to begin the first half of the season. In April, A-Rod had a .244 average which followed a .314 average in May. However in June A-Rod seems to have cooled down again, in which he’s only hitting .214. A-Rod’s bat better heat up soon or else…
Robinson Cano (HOT): Robinson Cano was off to an odd slow start for the Yankees but he seemed to have picked it up as he is now hitting close to.300. Cano’s power is still there since so far this season he has hit 14 HR’s. Hopefully Cano can show some more power towards July and August.
Nick Swisher (COOL): Nick Swisher has been on an up and down ride this season. In this case, he can’t seem to keep himself healthy. Swisher had 3 calf issues, the latter coming from last week in the Nationals series. Number wise, Swisher has been driving guys home. He has 42 RBI’s so far in the season.
Russell Martin (COLD): How do I put this nicely about a great defensive catcher that knows how to call games? Well, Russell Martin is struggling; BADLY! Russell Martin is BARELY above the Mendonza line with a .205 batting average, however lately he has been driving the ball for power. 3 HR’s in 3 games isn’t bad. He does however have to get his act together.
Raul Ibanez (WARM) : Raul Ibanez has done a great job for the Yankees so far this season. Ibanez wasn’t supposed to play a lot of left field this season but since Gardner got hurt, he had done great. Is he a defender in LF like Gardner? No. But his bat makes up for it.
Andruw Jones (COLD): When Andruw Jones platoons with Raul Ibanez, it drives me insane. With his bat…he has done very little. He like Russell Martin has a .206 average but we have to take into account that Martin has more at bats than Jones. But for a platoon power player on the bench…it seems Jones is either a hit it out or out kind of player.
Brett Gardner (MHP): MHP meaning missing his playing. Gardner only played 9 games this season for the Yankees but he had a hot bat coming into the season with a .321 average. I’m somewhat hoping that when he returns he does what A-Rod did in 2009; a first at bat, first pitch homer into the left field seats for 3 runs. What? I can dream can’t I?
It will be very interesting to see how the Yankees team will play out for the rest of the season but we all know that the work isn’t over until the Yankees reach the ultimate prize; a World Series ring.