Getting The Most Out Of Eduardo

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(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

After some positive early signs that Derek Jeter was going to be able to recover from his ankle surgery and be ready to play, we now know that Eduardo Nunez is going to be the Yankees’ Opening Day shortstop.  We also know that he’s going to be the starting shortstop for at least the next handful of games after that and we can safely assume that he’ll be getting regular work at the position all season long.  That’s a frightening thought for any Yankee fan based on what we’ve seen to date from Nunez, but it’s a reality that we’re going to have to accept and live with.  That being the case, let’s investigate just how the Yankees can maximize Nunez’s potential value and not have another spot in the lineup and position on the field turn into a black hole.

Evaluating Nunez on the 5-tool scale, I come up with 1.5 tools that he possesses and that’s being generous.  His defensive game is obviously a disaster.  Despite his plus arm strength, his inability to throw the ball with any kind of accuracy makes it impossible to say he has a good throwing arm, and for all the athletic ability he has I’ve never seen any metrics that paint his range in a positive light.  He doesn’t hit for power (career .112 ISO), but he does have speed and based on his low career K rate and career .272 batting average I’m willing to give him half a point in the ‘hitting for average’ category.

So in Nunez, the Yankees have a speedy guy with plus contact skills that can presumably be turned into a decent batting average.  His .293/.373/.362 ST batting line spells that description out statistically, as does his 6-8 record in SB attempts.  His .272/.318/.384 career tripleslash and 38-46 career SB record is also in agreement.  There might even be room for some offensive improvement if Nunez can carry his elevated BB rate and OBP to the regular season, but where the Yankees bat him will determine how much value that translates to.

With the shortage of useful right-handed bats right now, there’s a lot of talk about going with a Gardner-Ichiro-Cano top of the batting order and based on his preference for veterans that’s what I anticipate Joe doing.  Given Nunez’s 1.5 tools and the need to get the most out of them, he could actually be a good option to hit second.  That would allow Joe to keep the lineup balanced, and his speed on the basepaths would allow for the same GIDP avoidance behind Gardner and RISP-creating opportunity ahead of Cano that Ichiro’s would.  That’s the spot that Jeter would most likely be hitting against right-handed pitching, and Nunez’s career GB contact tendencies aren’t as extreme as Jeter’s are.  If you step back and look at it that way, hitting Nunez in the 2-spot isn’t as crazy as it sounds.

Defensively, there’s not much that can really be done to help Nunez’s problems throwing the ball.  The reports on his new mechanics have been positive, but it’s really on him to be a professional and make the throws when the time comes.  While his spring hasn’t been error-plagued, he has thrown a few balls away and the only real chance to help limit that will come if and when the Yankees decide to play Lyle Overbay at first as a defensive upgrade until Teix returns.  His range, however good or bad it is, is better than Jeter’s, so if he gets to a few more balls and has a few of his bad throws saved, there’s some more value.

500 career plate appearances spread over three seasons might not be enough to make a definitive call on Nunez and whether or not he can reach a level of consistent above-average production.  For all the talk about the tools he has, he’s really only shown one or two of them to date, and based on the sample size we do have those tools have yet to translate to positive value.  There is an opportunity to maximize the value in those tools this season, and with Jeter’s ankle expected to be a year-long problem it’s to the Yankees’ benefit to use Nunez in a way that allows for that maximization and puts him in a position to be successful.

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

Born in Dover, Delaware and raised in Danbury, Connecticut, Brad now resides in Wisconsin, where he regularly goes out of his way to remind Brewers fans that their team will never be as good as the Yankees. When he’s not writing for IIATMS and An A-Blog for A-Rod, he likes to spend his time incorporating “Seinfeld” quotes into everyday conversation, critiquing WWE storylines, and drinking enough beer to be good at darts.

10 thoughts on “Getting The Most Out Of Eduardo

  1. If we absolutely must play Eduardo Nunez, I'm glad we're at least using Overbay over Rivera. Nunez throwing to an outfielder would have been an even bigger disaster than he usually is.

  2. Mike

    It needs to be Gardner-Ichiro-Youkilis-Cano-Wells. Nunez doesn't belong anywhere near the top of the lineup until he can show some consistency. This top 3 gives you probably your highest OBP guys in front of your best hitter Cano, then see if Wells can stay hot at the 5 spot for now and give you some power there. The rest doesn't really matter that much.

    • Mike

      Actually Ichiro would be just a high avg guy, not really high OBP since he doesn't walk much.

      • Boni

        If Ichiro hits .350 he doesn't have to walk much. Can he do it?

  3. Tim Sampson

    Am I the only one who remembers Nunez coming up thru the minors as a "good field -no hit" guy? Then he finally gets to the bigs after bringing his hitting up a notch, Then he's thrown to the wolfs and asked to play 2nd, short & 3rd – not to mention replacing an injured Jeter. Welcome to the big leagues kid! Yeah, his fielding (& particularly his throwing) suffered and its taken some time to get his confidence back. NY's a tough place to play – many other talented guys couldn't make it there. I even remember Jeter's first year @ short – wasn't it 46 errors? Let's give the kid the benefit of the doubt – particularly since we need him to suceed. Enough of the negative s–t!.

    • Gene

      22 errors in 96

  4. hawaii dave

    Nunez should be playing 1st base and Overbay's roster spot should be better used. Nunez makes throwing errors and 1st basemen throw the ball least of all players. He can catch the ball thrown to him from infielders as evidenced by his ability to catch balls thrown at him from catchers in base stealing situations. He can tag runners out on pickoff moves the way he tags base stealers out. He can catch hard grounders to 1st as evidenced by his catching hard grounders to the other infield positions he has played. He can be taught to hold runners leading off 1st base. The only reason he won't ever be put on 1st is that it makes too much sense, is too imaginative and requires too much creative thought. Not Girardi's greatest attributes. So instead, Overbay will play adequate 1st base and hit .190 for the month of April while Nunez will throw 5 times over Overbay's head, costing the Yanks at least one precious win. Hopefully, Tex will be back in May.

    • Boni

      So we have Nix at short? Everyday? Maybe Cashman can trade Overbay for Elvis Andrus. I remember playing video games in which you could trade up incrementally with 10-15 teams and turn a league average player into a superstar. Does real life work like that too?

  5. Gene

    Everyone has a bad opinion of his defense based on 3 games he played early last year where he made an error at second third and short in consecutive games played. Let the kid play regularly and get comfortable and confident. last year he made 4 errors in 58 chances at short, while also having to move around the infield and play some outfield as well. We always hear about how hard it is to move to a different position, from center to right or left, or from short to third, now try to imagine having to learn 3 new positions at the highest level while having to play at a moments notice, its not an easy thing to do. Let the guy play a few games before we tear him down. And its not like Jeter is Ozzie Smith reincarnated defensively.

  6. Skinnytown John

    While I may be missing something, I think the bigger issue is the scarcity of adequate shortstops.
    And the Yankees know it, we can criticize all we want, but they have wasted three first round picks on shortstops in the last decade.
    So none have panned out, but look around baseball, and how many teams have good hitting, good fielding shortstops?
    Look at the number of retreads who keep getting recycled because teams don't have many options.
    I think we got spoiled a decade ago when there was a plethora of fantastic SSs, or course we found out one was a juicer and we suspect another, but still, it was an amazing era, and maybe one that will never happen again.
    My point is that instead of being frustrated we can't find another Jeter, we should accept what we have and focus on areas where the team can improve.
    I'm not as pessimistic as others about this season.
    Here and elsewhere (RAB), do many are saying they the 60s fall, but for those if us who watched in the 80s, the team restocked with "Stars" every year, and actually played well, but in the pre WC era, second and third wasn't good enough.
    I'm preaching patience and acceptance.
    Is Nunez great? No. But will he be the worst SS in the league? No.

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