Monday, May 20, 2013

Upgrading The 2-Spot In The Lineup (So Cano Doesn't Have To)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

With Derek Jeter around, the #2 spot in the lineup was never a problem.  Just pencil him in there and fill in behind him or pencil him into the leadoff spot and just plunk somebody in behind him.  The loss of Jeter, paired with the injury or free agent losses of a few other guys, has left the #2 spot in order an absolute dead zone this year.  Of all the issues the platoon-heavy and injury-shortened roster has caused in 40+ games, the biggest and consistently most noticeable is the gap in the 2nd spot and the problems on the back end of that get caused by Robinson Cano hitting there.

Cano has spent the bulk of his time hitting 2nd this season, and in 94 ABs there he's posted a .362/.406/.681 slash with 16 XBH, 16 R, and 22 RBI.  The 77 non-Cano ABs from the 2nd spot have resulted in just 14 total hits (3 for XB), 7 R, and 4 RBI.  Those results aren't surprising when you consider that it's been the Nixes, Ichiros, and (yeesh) Franciscos of the world occupying the spot, nor is the frustration that comes with having to watch those guys hit there.  Based on some recent roster additions, there might be some upgrade options available and opportunities to bump Cano back down and lengthen the lineup a bit.  Options like ...

Curtis Granderson

He's no stranger to the #2 spot, having spent the great majority of his time there in his Yankee career-best season of 2011.  Curtis' combination of power, speed, and ability to draw walks makes him an ideal candidate for the spot, especially in Yankee Stadium.  The only thing keeping him out of there right now might be the lack of reps.  Even factoring in his handful of rehab games, C-Grand only has 37 plate appearances this calendar year, 38 if you count the ST HBP.  He likely needs more at-bats to help get his swing mechanics and timing back together, and putting him in a position of need might not return the dividends Joe is looking for if Curtis still isn't right at the plate.  He could also need some more time to adjust to his rotating defensive role, as his misplay in right field showed the other night.  At the same time, maybe being placed in a familiar offensive position could help ease the stress of his defensive adjustment.  I know I'd feel a lot better about myself at the plate if I had Cano hitting behind me.

David Adams

Adams isn't exactly the first player who comes to mind when you think of rookies who could hit 2nd in a lineup, but if Joe doesn't want to stack lefties at the top of the order Adams could make some sense here.  He's a right-handed hitter who's already shown himself to be capable of making solid contact and getting on base at the Major League level.  He hasn't drawn one yet but he's almost always had a strong BB rate in the Minors, along with a K rate consistently in the low-to-mid teens.  His offensive makeup and reputation as a smart player who "eats, sleeps, and breathes" baseball make him seem like the kind of player who could do multiple things from the 2-spot, even if his high GB rate poses a GIDP risk.  Hey, he can't be worse than Francisco, right?  And if he is, so what?  He's a rookie and you just move him back down to the bottom third.

Robinson Cano

If Joe doesn't like the idea of trying one of those new guys there, why not just stick with Cano?  His numbers batting 2nd have been fantastic, far better than they are batting 3rd, and the opportunity for extra ABs never hurts.  Both of Robbie's home runs the other night came with 2 outs, chances he might not have gotten had he been hitting 3rd and someone like Nix was hitting 2nd ahead of him.  As improved as the lineup is with the addition of Adams and the returns of C-Grand and Hafner, it's still going to be a top-heavy lineup.  That being the case, why not just stack the top part and see what that gets you?  Gardner-Cano-Wells-Hafner-C-Grand, perhaps?  The more times that group is hitting, the better off this current version of the lineup is going to be.

There is the option of a platoon for the spot, as there is with almost every spot in this lineup.  If Joe decides to go that route, hopefully it's with C-Grand and Adams and not the collection of garbage he's continued to shuffle through in place of Cano.  Joe's pushed a lot of right buttons with this roster already this season.  Finding that button to fix the 2-spot in the order could be another good move that keeps this team marching forward.

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