Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Oh Hey, Travis Hafner! Didn't See You Over There. What's Going On, Buddy?

(Courtesy of Reuters)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

When two of the defining storylines of your team's Spring Training are "lack of power" and "injuries" and Travis Hafner is on your team, it's more than reasonable to expect that he's going to factor heavily into those stories.  After all, his calling card at the plate is power and you can pretty much set your watch to him pulling, tearing, or spraining something.  That hasn't really been the case for the Yankees so far this month, as Hafner hasn't been a presence in the lineup so much as a name on the lineup card.  To be honest, I kind of forgot he was even in camp with the team, what with the lack of power and the fact that he's still walking around without limping.

Believe it or not, Hafner is in camp and has actually been playing in games.  He just hasn't done much in those games.  Hafner is just 4-29 this spring, with a single solitary home run and an even dozen strikeouts.  He's still somewhat of a presence in the lineup with four walks, but after Teix and C-Grand went down he became a much more critical part of that lineup.  As of this morning he hasn't given much of an indication that he's ready to be that critical part of the lineup and that's a tad unsettling.

Of course Hafner isn't going to be the savior of the Yankees' season this year.  He is what he is at this stage in his career, a dangerous lefty platoon bat incapable of playing the field, and the Yankee coaching staff hasn't shown any interest in changing that formula.  With corner infield depth becoming an issue, Hafner has done little more than pick up a glove during drills and there's just no scenario where him stepping in and becoming an everyday contributor at the plate and in the field ends productively or with a clean bill of health.

But going back to a point I made in January when I was advocating for the Yankees to sign him, Hafner's ticking time bomb health status does add a little bit of urgency to both he and the Yankees' present situations.  You know never how much you're going to get from Hafner because of his injuries and it'd be nice to get something useful from him early in the season while he's still healthy and so many other key middle-of-the-order bats aren't.  A solid month of April from Hafner would go a long way towards bridging the gap to Granderson and Teixeira's returns, and would make losing him to injuries later in the season a little easier to swallow.

For a veteran hitter like Hafner, a poor ST showing isn't a major cause for concern, certainly not enough to start wondering if he's done.  But given the Yankees'c current lack of pop in the middle of their batting order, it would be reassuring to see him wake up a little bit in the final week plus of camp and go into the start of the regular season looking good at the plate.

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