Thursday, December 31, 2015


The Infield

OK, so it’s not even the New Year yet, but the Yankees off-season is in full swing with the acquisition of Aroldis Chapman in exchange for the club’s future at third base and a cast of other youngsters.  With the current roster, I thought we’d take a look at who projects to be starting at each position (given manager Joe Girardi’s mindset, and GM Brian Cashman’s directives), and who SHOULD be starting.  This article will focus on the infield.

With the exception of jettisoning the dead-weight (you all know who I mean) the team had most of the season at second base, the Yankees infield should look pretty much the same.

CATCHER - Who Girardi Will Start

Coming off one of his most productive seasons where he ranked 1st in home runs, 2nd in RBI, and 3rd in runs scored at the catching position, Brian McCann is the unquestioned starting backstop for the Bombers.  In spite of hitting just .232 for the second straight season, McCann remains one of the best offensive forces at his position.  In addition, he ranks among the very best in MLB at framing pitches behind the plate, and is widely respected for handling the constantly changing Yankee rotation.  With the loss of J.R. Murphy, McCann’s days off will result in either Austin Romine or highly-touted prospect Gary Sanchez manning the catching spot.  Romine has yet to prove he can handle the bat very well in “the show”, while Sanchez hasn’t made an appearance in the sport’s highest level.

Who should start?

Without a doubt, until either Romine or Sanchez can demonstrate that they will provide something more, McCann should be the Yankees backstop.

FIRST BASE Who Girardi Will Start

Mark Teixeira will turn 36 this season, and will be playing his 14th year in MLB.  Over the previous 13 campaigns, “Tex” has managed to play in 150 or more games just six times, and has not participated in more than 123 games in any season since 2011.  In short, the Yankees just cannot depend on him to be a consistent presence in the lineup.  Yet, they will for one more season (his contract finally expires at the end of 2016).  This isn’t to say that when Teixeira is healthy, he is not productive - he is.  Last year in 111 games, the first baseman hit 31 home runs and drove in 79.  That would have translated to 45 round-trippers and 115 RBI over 162 games.  Unfortunately, 162 games is just a pipe dream for the man at first.  To think that it could ever happen again for Tex would be simply ludicrous.  I am sure that Girardi will limit Teixeira to six games a week – at most – in the field, but even that number may be too many.  Face it; he simply can’t handle the everyday wear and tear anymore.  Greg Bird, the Triple A prospect brought up to fill in at first base once Teixeira had his annual breakdown, produced at nearly the same rate as his mentor.  In 46 games, Bird hit 11 hr and drove in 31 RBI.  Projected out, that’s 38 bombs and 109 RBI in 162 games.  In addition, Bird’s average was .261 – six points higher than Tex’s.  So, Bird will at least make for a solid backup this coming season, right?  Wrong.  GM/Lineup director Cashman has already decreed that Bird will play this season back at Scranton (the Triple-A affiliate).  So, the team is left with McCann, A-Rod, or Chase Headley as the backup first basemen in 2016.

Who should start?

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Bird should be the starter.  That is unrealistic.  As I pointed out, Teixeira remains productive when he is in the lineup.  Instead, what I think the MANAGER should do is split play at first between Tex and Bird every week.  If you want to keep Teixeira in the lineup, then put him at DH – yeah, I know the team is loaded with over-priced, over-aged veteran DH’s, but Tex would be the most productive of the group.  Teixera is a proven commodity in the field and still flashes some of the talent that won him the gold glove five times over the course of his career.  Minimize his wearing down by minimizing his full-time play.  Bird has shown he’s quite capable of handling MLB competition both at the plate and in the field, and he is the future of this team at the position.  It’s time we started incorporating him.  Of course, our manager is nothing more than a figure-head – much like the Queen of England.  Until the General Manager allows it to happen, what SHOULD be done likely won’t be.

SECOND BASE Who Girardi Will Start

I have made it no secret over the past two seasons as to what I felt about Brian Cashman’s choice for starting second baseman.  The bottom line is that he signed an over-rated, past his prime, non-productive veteran for a position where it wasn’t needed.  Down the stretch – in games that mattered most to the Yankees – Rob Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley proved what a colossal waste Stephen Drew was.  I’m not really sure what Cashman has against Refsnyder.  All the rookie did was hit .385 and play flawless defense in those final two weeks.  He played so well that Manager Joe Girardi made him the starter for the playoff game against Houston.  Yet, here we are in another off-season, and once again, Cashman has decided the team needed someone else to play the position.  I will give the GM this; the player he has brought on board – Starlin Castro – is younger with a much, much higher ceiling than the GM’s obsession, Stephen Drew.  Does Castro represent an upgrade over Refsnyder and Ackley?  Only slightly in the field, and not at the plate but, as I said, there is a high ceiling and I’m holding out hope that Castro sticks.  He will be the starter for the Yankees except for an occasional platoon (Girardi LOVES Platooning, regardless of results) with Ackley.  Refsnyder will either be traded or relegated to Triple-A Scranton until they can off-load him – and I consider that an epic shame.

Who should start?

At this point, with Castro on board, it only makes sense that he get the playing time he needs at second and be allowed to grow into the position – an opportunity that Refsnyder has never been afforded.  Ackley has shown he’s a solid player and that Yankee Stadium suits him well, so it too makes sense that he remains in the mix.

THIRD BASE - Who Girardi Will Start

31-year-old Chase Headley had the lowest on-base percentage of his career (.324), the lowest home run total of any year where he’s played at least 150 games, the lowest OBP of his career (excluding the 8 games he played when first called up by the Padres in 2007) and the most errors (23) of his career.  Not exactly a year that Chase will want to remember.  He remains signed through 2018, so he’ll be the guy that trots out to the hot corner on Opening Day.

Who should start?

The deal to get Aroldis Chapman included the only legitimate prospect to play third base for the Yankees in the future – Eric Jagielo.  With him out of the picture, Headley has to be the guy manning third.  Who his backup will be is anyone’s guess.

SHORTSTOPWho Girardi Will Start

I saved shortstop for last because the guy who will play the position most of this coming season is quickly becoming one of my favorites – Didi Gregorius.  The 25-year-old is a slick fielding, hard-throwing player with a great work ethic and high ceiling.  His Yankee career had a rough start, but over the second half of the 2015 campaign, he was arguably the best fielder and best hitter in the everyday lineup.  He had perhaps the most difficult task of any Yankee – following Derek Jeter – and didn’t allow it to swallow him up.  He conducted himself with class, and ignored the early season critics while working himself into one of the best shortstops in MLB.  He looks to be a fixture at short for years to come in the Bronx.

Who should start?

Without question, Gregorius should (and will) be running out to the shortstop position every day.  For an occasional rest, Girardi will move Castro to the spot and play Ackley at second.  I would not be surprised to see Didi eventually move up in the order as he continues to progress at the plate.  He gives this team energy that some of Cashman’s tired veterans lack, and I predict the youngster will one day be this team’s leader on and off the field.

That’s it for the look around the infield, up next we’ll give our view of the outfielders.

We welcome your opinions and comments, and as always, thank you for your support of BYB.

--Steve Skinner, 
BYB Senior Writer
Twitter: @oswegos1


Save 20% on Andy Pettitte Memorabilia at with code SPORTS20

You've made BYB the fastest growing Yankees fan site in history. Now shop at the Bleeding Yankee Blue store!  Follow me on Twitter @BleednYankeeBlu and LIKE Bleeding Yankee Blue on Facebook!  Also, don't forget to check out the BYB Hub.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for commenting on Bleeding Yankee Blue.