A call for patience with Nunez

On the heels of Yankee prospect Eduardo Nunez throwing away the game on Thursday afternoon, many fans were at their wits end. He committed his 2nd throwing error of the game, his 5th error in just 22 innings (17 games) of playing time this year. You can’t keep a job on a High School Varsity team making errors at that rate, much less on a team with annual championship aspirations like the New York Yankees. But for the same reason it would be unfair to judge any player on such a small sample, it’s equally unfair to make judgments about Nunez and his ability to play at this level.

Not only is it unfair, it’s also uninformed. In their “Best Tools” category, BA gave the nod to Nunez for “Best Infield Arm” in the Yankee organization in 2009 and garnered both best arm and “Best Defensive Infielder” in their 2010 rankings. There are certainly questions about whether Nunez will be an everyday regular on a championship team like the Yankees, but those questions are related to his bat, specifically because he “lacks selectivity and has fringy power” according to Baseball America. Defensively, they say “His best tool remains his plus-plus arm that allows him to make highlight plays from the hole”. He’s certainly made the highlights lately, but for all the wrong reasons.

So if he’s such a good defender, what’s going on with him? Two things. First, he’s out of position playing 3B. He got high marks in the minors for his ability to play SS, but even there would at times rely on his plus arm too much, which would lead to throwing errors. This tendency is magnified playing 3B, as Alex Rodriguez explains:

“For one, depth is an issue; he could play a little bit more shallow. Once (the first baseman) catches the ball, the runner’s already at first base and it creates a lot of pressure on the throw. If you can come get the ball a little bit better and give Tex a little bit more margin for error, even if he jumps for that ball, he comes back down on the bag for an easy out. That just comes with timing and working on your personal clock. I’m sure Mick (Kelleher) and Thomps (Rob Thomson) will be on him pretty good.

“You don’t play shortstop with your arm; you don’t play infield with your arm. Arm is just a plus. Infield is only played with your legs. You’ve got to come get the ball, narrow the path and narrow the throw. If you’re throwing 160 feet every time, that’s a lot of pressure. If you make that 135 feet, it makes it a lot easier play. That’s something he’s going to get with time. It’s a little bit complex, what I’m trying to explain.

“I made a lot of the same mistakes. If you talk to most young shortstops, they do a lot of that. You’ve got to come get the baseball. It’s narrowing that throw. That’s a long bridge from shortstop, so the more you can come get the baseball and attack the base when you throw; I think he’s going to be fine. Having a strong arm does help – and he’s got a cannon.”

When Alex says he made some of the same mistakes, he’s not just being kind. Fans may recall Alex went through a bout of wildness of his own. In 2006 he committed 24 Errors, matching his career high from when he was a 21 year old in Seattle. Of those 24 errors, 14 of them were throwing errors, 5 coming in one week and 3 in one just game. For context, he made just 2 throwing errors the year prior, and 4 throwing errors his first season at 3B in 2004. Fans were questioning at the time if he was turning into the next Chuck Knobloch, questioning his psyche and his ability to play under the pressure in New York. But as Alex explained, it was just a matter of getting into some bad habits and playing the position with a Shortstop’s tendencies. It appears the same thing is going on with Nunez, and as with Alex, it is easily correctable.

0 thoughts on “A call for patience with Nunez

  1. So what the hell am I supposed to do with all these pitchforks and torches now?

  2. Also, sitting on the bench for a month doesn’t help his cause.

  3. “so, looking at posada strike out or pop up is a better choice..and chris i know what cash and joe said..posada is the dh period..this is just my opinion..what is he now 0 for 25 vs lefties..i take either one of those kids and get rid of jones..randy winn and austin kearns of last year”

    He’s 0-20 as a RHB coming into tonight.

    Vazquez can’t play the outfield and neither can Montero so getting rid of Jones only opens up a hole in the 4th outfield spot that we have no one to fill. Maxwell, Dickerson, and Parraz are not better choices at this point in the year, you can’t just dump players like this is fantasy baseball.

    The point still remains that I am not willing to compromise Montero’s growth as a hitter for the future just because he might be an upgrade over Posada right now. Not everything can be about right now, sometimes the future is more important. No one came into this season thinking we were going to be a World Series favorite who was being reasonable with themselves, and as is we are still first in the division. I am willing to make changes with Posada if things keep going this way, but I don’t want to call Montero up to just forget about being a catcher so he can face lefties as the DH once or twice a week. It just doesn’t make any sense, it wouldn’t have made sense to call Hosmer up if he wasn’t going to have an everyday role.

    The first choice for callup in my opinion would be Jorge Vazquez, he could start taking over for Posada as DH against lefties and we can see if his power holds up against big league hitters, but I wouldn’t DFA Jones to do it, and I would hold off at least another couple of weeks. However Vazquez has an even worse strikeout to walk ratio in triple A at 35 to 5. I have a hard time believing his .546 SLG% will hold up in the majors with those kind of numbers.

  4. “you do realize like 8 of those K’s came in his first and second games back from getting his juevos crushed by a foul ball.

    Besides if I dont think whats going on is a lack of patience, I think he really is seeing the ball and opposing pitchers are trying to challenge him and are frequently losing”

    So you are saying he is really locked in and pitchers are doing nothing but going after the hottest bat on the team? I’m pretty sure Hosmer was seeing the ball extremely well hitting .439 but he still managed to walk 19 times and hit with more power than Montero has done so far. Pitchers in the minors don’t have the best control, you can draw walks if you are patient, something Montero has never really been the best at. Montero is a very free swinger that is who he is, he needs to learn to reel that in somewhat because swinging at everything won’t work in the major leagues. It is something he has to work on, and it is something that won’t get better sitting on the bench to occasionally play DH and pinch hit. Montero would probably have hit more than one HR already if he wasn’t just swinging away. He has the talent to put even bad balls into play, and that kind of ability can get a hitter into trouble because they do become less selective.

    Cano has always been an extremely free swinger but his best season didn’t come until last year when his walk totals went up. He got IBB a lot more as well but his pitch selection overall improved a ton.