Nunez To The Outfield?
Eduardo Nunez‘ bat has seemed to have taken another step forward this year. Nunez is hitting .385 on the year with an .856 OPS. I saw this potential in Nunez’s bat last year, but he has taken it up even another level so far this year. Despite all of this Nunez still receives criticism for his shaky defense. Nunez is an adventure out there and you have no idea what he is going to do out there. While Brett Gardner is on the DL I think the Yankees should give Nunez a chance to play left field.
I still think Nunez has the tools to be a good defensive infielder. He has good range and a very strong arm. So why is he struggling so much defensively now? Maybe it is because he is playing 3 infield positions or it still may be in his head. People forget even Derek Jeter made 22 errors in his rookie year and it is not uncommon for young players to make these mistakes. It is part of their growth. I think a move to left field for the short term while Gardner is on the DL makes plenty of sense. Nunez has skills that make you think he could play the outfield. He has the speed and a very strong arm. He has a wider margin for error with his throws in the outfield than he does in the infield.
With Gardner on the DL Nunez should be in the lineup every day. His bat is to good right now for it not to be. In addition to his high average Nunez has only struck out once in 30 plate appearances. The fact that he is making these strides at age 24 is a very good sign. There is absolutely no reason for Raul Ibanez to be playing left field at all. He has no future with the Yankees and he is awful out there. Nunez cannot really be any worse than he is out there. I am fine with Andruw Jones playing left field against lefties. He is still adequate in the outfield and that will give you a chance to give Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter a half a day off or just DH Nunez. Nunez is a very important player for the Yankees to keep developing and if they put him in the outfield while Gardner is on the DL that should help that development. Nunez is young, cost controlled, and is talented. Putting Ibanez out there does nothing for them.
The reason that putting Nunez in left field now is advantageous for the future is because Nunez is a candidate to play right field next year if the Yankees do not bring back Nick Swisher. Swisher is a free agent next year and the Yankees may not bring him back if they are serious about getting under the $189 million threshold. Swisher seems to be driving up his price so far this year with his AL leading 21 RBI. It does not take a mathematician to figure out that the Yankees will be hard pressed to make it to 189 million if they pay Swisher $12-14 million a year and pay Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson about $20 milllion a year. Nunez would be a very cheap option for the Yankees to put in right field next year. My problem with Nunez playing right field is that his bat plays better at shortstop. While I think Nunez has a very good bat, especially at shortstop, he does not have a power bat. Right field and left field are traditionally power spots. Can the Yankees get away with having little to no power playing the corner outfield spots with Gardner in left and Nunez in right? Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano provide the Yankees with power from non traditional power spots at centerfield and 2nd base so maybe that helps make up for it. That is the reason they are fine withGardner in left now because Granderson has so much power in centerfield. However, when you take Swisher out you have to replace his 25 HRs and 85 RBI numbers.
I would much rather see Nunez as the Yankees shortstop of the future rather than their right fielder of the future. The problem is with how Derek Jeter looks it does not look like shortstop will be open for awhile. Meanwhile, right field is likely to be open next year. There is no reason for Nunez not to be playing left field right now though. The Yankees need to see what they have with Nunez out there and Gardner’s injury has provided them with that opportunity. Joe Girardi has said Nunez is the backup centerfielder with Gardner out so why not play him in left? What is the point of playing Raul Ibanez out there? Playing Nunez in left field will improve their infield defense, can also improve their outfield defense, and can continue to help Nunez’s development.