Monday, January 7, 2013

Who Is Russ Canzler And Why Should We Care About Him?

 (Courtesy of the AP)

The Yankees continued their efforts to scrape the bottom of the barrel for right-handed hitting options late last week, plucking utility man Russ Canzler off waivers from the Indians on Friday.  While not quite a fair return for losing Nick Swisher to Cleveland, Canzler does give them another option to check out in ST along with the recently-signed Matt Diaz.  But it seemed like some spots around the blogopshere were higher on Canzler than I expected for a guy who's been a career Minor Leaguer to date, penciling him into early depth charts and discussing him as a legit right-handed DH option.  I admittedly am not all that familiar with Canzler, so I figured I owed it to myself to see if this guy can actually bring some value to the table.

The first thing I noticed about Canzler in checking his FanGraphs page is that he's under the age of 30, which makes him a rare breed on the Yankee roster.  He's a good-sized dude at 6'2"/220 and has enough athleticism to play first base and both outfielder corners in addition to being a righty DH.  But in his 7-year professional career he has just 102 total plate appearances at the Major League level, all of them coming in the last 2 seasons with Tampa and Cleveland.  He hit .271/.304/.396 (.301 wOBA) in those 102 PA, with a 4.1 % BB rate and 22.7% K rate, not exactly the type of power, patience, or contact numbers the Yankees would be looking for from a righty platoon bat.

102 PA is obviously not enough to definitively call this guy a bum, though, and Canzler's MiL track record gives reason to be optimistic.  He posted some solid numbers coming up through A-ball and Double-A, and by the time he reached Triple-A with Tampa in 2011 he had developed into a very dangerous and very patient power hitter.  In his last 2 full Triple-A seasons, Canzler hit .314/.401/.530 (.410 wOBA) with a 12.2% BB rate and .265/.328/.487 (.361) with an 8.5% BB rate this past season.  Those numbers decreasing in his second Triple-A stint are a bit concerning, but Canzler has shown the ability to be an impactful hitter and at age 26 still has time to put the pieces together.

If I'm being fair, I have to say that the numbers make Canzler look like a much better pickup than I first thought.  Based on his MiL stat makeup he reminds me of Ronnier Mustelier, the Yankees' own internal mid-to-late 20s right-handed utility bat, and should definitely get a long look in spring camp to see if he can hack it as a 4th OF/righty bench bat.  He's already on the 40-man roster, and he cost the Yankees the services of The D to get there, but on paper Canzler brings the flexibility, patience, and power the Yankees could use on their bench.  Bare minimum, it wouldn't shock me at all if he outperformed Diaz.

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