With Curtis Granderson down and out for ten weeks or so, the Yankees have a hole in left field. No injury can have an upside though there can be silver linings. “Luckily,” a lot of Granderson’s rehab time will be taken up by Spring Training and he’ll be back in early May. But on that not-so-lucky side, since it’s Spring Training, the market for outfielders is pretty thin and obviously, the timing isn’t great. There are, however, some internal options.
Though it should be obvious, let’s just cross of Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams. Ramon Flores, who’s on the 40-man roster and whose star seems to be rising, should be discounted because of the fact that he’s so young (he’ll turn 21 next month). That leaves us with Zoilo Almonte and Melky Mesa. For brief rundowns of those two, check out this post from Yanks Go Yard.
To add to it, the Yankees have expressed excitement about Almonte. That article, in which Brian Cashman says he wouldn’t want to use a young guy as a bench outfielder, was written before Curtis Granderson’s injury. With Granderson out, though, there’s a starting spot open. What could give Almonte an edge is that he is a switch hitter. What’s more, Almonte seems to be a better hitter as a lefty batter. In 2012, Almonte crushed righties to the tune of .303/.349/.542 with 17 homers. For his career, Almonte has a line of .286/.345/.497/.842 against righties. His career line of .268/.323/.440/.763 against lefties isn’t terrible, but the line against righties is more encouraging and hints that he could handle the heavy side of a platoon.
On the other hand, there’s Melky Mesa. Mesa, who just turned 26 in January, has a ton of minor league experience and finally got a crack at the Majors last year. He’s a speedy and powerful right handed hitter who also has a bit of a hole in his swing. As a righty, we’d expect him to fill the light side of a platoon if he were on the big league team, but for his career, Mesa actually has a reverse platoon split: His OPS vs. LHP is .642 and his OPS vs. RHP is .808. And with his power/speed combo–and reportedly good defense–he could be the most logical replacement for Granderson since he offers some of the same tools.
If the Yankees go internal by using their minor leaguers as a Granderson replacement, they’ll need to make sure that the player they pick gets a lot of playing time, especially if it’s Almonte. As Cashman said, it’s not good for the player or the team if a young guy sits on the bench. If I had a choice, I’d go with Almonte. But if I know the Yankees, I think they’ll go with Mesa’s tools and experience before going to Zoilo.