Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sorting Through The Collection Of Platoon Candidates At Third Base

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Conventional wisdom had the Yankees using the announcement of the A-Rod suspension decision as the springboard towards finding another established third baseman to replace him.  A decent chunk of that conventional wisdom had Mark Reynolds' name as the one most likely to be signed next as part of a L/R platoon.  Turns out none of that wisdom was correct, at least not according to what we've heard over the last 2 days.  Ken Rosenthal reported on Sunday that the Yanks were not going to add any more third base candidates on Major League deals this offseason, and assistant GM Billy Eppler and Joe Girardi both echoed that report in so many words yesterday in separate interviews.

The plan, according to Eppler and Joe, is to head to camp with what they've got and sort out who they think the best guys for the job are there.  Eppler didn't completely close the door on the idea of bringing in another warm body, saying "“Our eyes are always going to stay open.  We’ll look left, we’ll look right, we’ll look under rocks and see if something can work itself out and make sense."  He also didn't make it sound like adding another guy was a high priority, which is somewhat surprising given the limited upside of many of the current internal candidates.

Kelly Johnson

The starter at third if the season started today against a right-handed pitcher, it's almost funny that Johnson has become the favorite for the job considering he has far less experience at the hot corner than he does at second or in the outfield corners.  We know about the left-handed pop (16+ HR in each of the last 4 seasons), we know he can take a walk (10.5% career BB rate), and he's actually not a bad baserunner.  What we don't know is how he'll handle third base defensively.  118 innings there is hardly enough to make an accurate evaluation.

Eduardo Nunez

The likely right-handed part of the platoon if the season started today, it seems as though old Eduardo Scissorhands has tricked the Yankees into believing in him again.  Funny how strong finishes to the previous season and a lack of better righty options will do that.  We absolutely know what Eduardo is defensively, and it ain't pretty at all, but the team believes he can be a good third baseman with some more time and more coaching.  I'd say it's hard to be worse there than he was at shortstop, so if they're going to keep him around I guess they might as well try it.

Dean Anna

A lifetime Minor Leaguer who's never been able to break into the show, on paper Anna looks like a textbook utility bench player.  He can play multiple positions, he's a lefty bat, he's got a little bit of pop, he'll draw walks.  Because he's never done it at the Major League level and he's already 27, it's assumed he won't do much once he gets there but he could be the wildcard of the group because of that.  It's worth noting that Anna has spent the bulk of his time in the Minors playing up the middle.

Scott Sizemore

I took a look at him yesterday and I continue to warm up to the idea of Sizemore being this year's pleasant Spring Training surprise.  Had he not spent the last 2 years on the shelf with ACL tears, he probably wouldn't have been available this offseason and he definitely wouldn't have been available on a MiL deal.

Yangervis Solarte

Another recent MiL signee, Solarte has spent the last 2 seasons with the Texas Rangers Triple-A affiliate and posted a wOBA in the high .320s with 23 HR in over 1,100 PA.  He's listed as a second baseman but performed the utility bench role well the last 2 years.  I think the Yanks view him more as an emergency option for Brian Roberts at second, but if he gets an invite to camp I'm sure they'll give him a look at third.

Corban Joseph

The least likely of all the options, Joseph was booted from the 40-man roster in part to make room for a lot of the new faces listed above.  That alone tells you what the Yankees think of him as a Major Leaguer and defensively his arm has always been evaluated as below-average, which is why he's been limited to second base.  He is just 1 season removed from a big year though, and he's going to be around on the Triple-A roster.  He's no less likely to catch fire and impress the coaches than any of these other guys, so why not put him on here?

That's not the most confidence-inspiring group I've ever seen.  I'd still prefer the Yankees sign Reynolds to be the right-handed part of the platoon and relegate Nunez or Anna to the 4th bench spot, but for whatever reason they've decided that's not the best course of action.  Maybe they hit on one of these guys and they're able to piece together a league average season of production from third base.  That'd be an improvement over the non-A-Rod production of last year and maybe that's all they're looking for.  If nothing else, they've given themselves plenty of options.

No comments: