Grading 2012 and Looking Ahead – 1B/2B
Very soon Brian Cashman will bring all of his lieutenants together to go over the team’s players and formulate an off-season plan. We will do the same thing here, position by position to see what assets the team has, what is available in the upper minor leagues as an option and evaluate if it’s an area of need moving forward. Today we’ll start with the left side of the infield.
First base – Mark Teixeira
Tex had the worst season of his career in 2012 as he had his streak of 8 straight seasons of 30-100 snapped. He missed basically all of September due to a calf strain which is part of the reason his HR & RBI totals were down. However, he also had career lows in SLG (.475) & OPS (.807) and had his 3rd straight season with a BA below .256. Whether it’s his heavy pull tendencies, the severe defensive shifts, his uppercut swing or a combination of them all, Tex just isn’t the same hitter from the left side that Yankees signed for $180 Million.
After his great initial season with the Yanks he’s been a .252/.347/.484/.831 over the past 3 years and I have little hope he’ll ever return to the .290-.300 hitter he was through 2009. Last offseason he vowed to work on using the whole field more as a LH hitter but after his typical slow start in April, he quickly scrapped it and went back into pulling everything. In addition to the declining BA, he’s also been walking less (just 10.3%) the last few yrs which doesn’t make him a good #3/#4 hitter anymore. Grade: C-
2013 Outlook: With 4 years @ $90M left on his contract, he is going nowhere. Unfortunately, it looks like Tex is what he is at this point in his career and there’s little hope he changes. He’s going to be about a .250 hitter with around 30 HRs-100 RBIs who plays very good defense. With his diminished BA & OBP, he’s no longer a viable #3/4 hitter but he’s still capable of impacting any game with his power and defense. With Tex signed til 2016, the organization hasn’t looked to develop a 1B in the upper minors and with Swisher likely gone they may look for a veteran who can play some 1B and OF or get someone like Nix, Joseph or Adams to work on 1B.
Second Base – Robinson Cano
Cano had a career year in the regular season with personal highs in HRs, 2Bs, Walks, Runs, SLG, OPS, WOBA & RC+. He was patient at the plate for much of the regular season which is the key for him at the plate. When he’s patient and using the entire field, he’s as dangerous as any hitter in the league. Unfortunately he has lapses where he loses discipline and looks to drive everything like he did in the playoffs. He also has lapses in concentration on the bases and the field at times but his bat usually makes up for those. All told, he was one of the best hitters in baseball with a .929 OPS and a very good defensive second basemen who loses some luster because of his terrible post-season. Grade: A-
2013 Outlook: Cano has a no-brainer $15M option that the Yankees will definitely exercise. There is a possibility that Cashman and Boras could discuss an extension this Winter to see if Free Agency can be avoided but I think that ship has sailed. I believe last yr was the time to talk extension and there is little to gain for either side to come to an agreement this yr. Cano is coming off a career yr and Boras is already flapping his gums about a 10-yr deal. So while it would help for the team to have an idea of what Cano is looking for, I wouldn’t expect anything to happen until he’s a FA. There is the option to trade Cano since the Yankees have 2 promising young 2B ready to make their MLB-debuts in 2013. However, that seems very unlikely since Cano is their only legitimate offensive threat and Cashman doesn’t usually operate like that.
Although Cano is almost definitely going to be at 2B in 2013, the team needs to give a role to Adams and/or Joseph as they are their 2 most MLB-ready bats. Joseph is a soon-to-be 24 yr old lefty hitter who hit .276/.375/.465/.840 between AA & AAA. He makes good solid contact and had an impressive 68/70 Walk to K rate. Adams is a 25 yr-old RH hitter who hit .306/.385/.450/.834 in AA and is finally healthy after 2 years. Adams is also a line-drive hitter with good strike zone recognition. He played 3B for the final month of 2012 and could be an option there as well.