(Courtesy of the AP)
(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)
I don't know if it's my newfound rooting interest in him or the Yankees calling up every recently retired corner infielder like a desperate dude who needs a date to his 10-year high school reunion that's influencing this, but it certainly seems to me like there's been a red carpet of opportunity rolled out for Ronnier Mustelier in the wake of Mark Teixeira's injury. He's gotten a lot more playing time at the hot corner in the six days since Teix's strained tendon was diagnosed, and had Cash himself confirm that the Yankees were looking at him as a potential option at third. If you're on the wrong side of the roster-making fringe as Mustelier was, hearing the GM say your name is like music to your ears.
Mustelier has played in every game since Teix's injury, something he couldn't say prior, and he's had a few starts at third base. He hasn't dazzled in the six games he's played, going just 2-12 at the plate with one run scored and RBI apiece, but he has sprinkled in little dashes of what he brings to the table offensively with a triple, a BB, and a stolen base. And while he hasn't had the chance to make a lot of plays at third base, he's looked competent and drawn some positive reviews from folks who've watched him. With the situation the Yankees are facing to start the season, he's the perfect type of player to roll the dice on.
The Yankees need flexibility, right-handedness, and power out of their bench this season. Mustelier offers all three of those things, at least he has in his two years in the Minors, and he is 6-20 overall this spring with a pair of XBH and a pair of walks. His presence at third base would allow the Yankees to move Kevin Youkilis to third, which is still their best internal option for replacing Teix, and give them another righty OF bat to stick in the corners as needed when Teix comes back.
Mustelier isn't going to be Gold Glove-caliber in the outfield or at third, but the Yankees aren't expecting any of the contenders for those bench positions to be anyway. And as far as offensive output potential goes, most projections rate him higher than some of this competition. ZiPS pegs Mustelier for a .264/.309/.413 slash (.313 wOBA) with 11 HR in 412 PA, noticeably better than the .247/.302/.374 slash it projects for Matt Diaz. I don't think the Yankees would be psyched to have to get 400+ PA from either of those guys, but they're going to need some and Mustelier looks like the better candidate, both on paper and on the field, to do more with his than someone like Diaz or Jayson Nix.
It's been a while since the Yankees have had the proverbial "out of nowhere" position player come up and make a little noise in the show, maybe as far back as Shane Spencer. I'm not saying Mustelier can be a repeat of Spencer, but he does have the skill set to fill a lot of the voids on the Yankee roster right now and they seem committed to giving him a real shot.