Robinson Cano is the face of the Yankees. He leads the team in HR, RBI and AVG. He may be on his way to his best season yet. But, he’s not the best rate hitter on the Yankees this season. That honor belongs to none other than Travis Hafner. Hafner has a higher wOBA than Cano’s, .416 versus .410, driven by a substantially higher OBP, .402 versus .376. Cano is the more valuable player because he plays a premium position and gets more plate appearances than Hafner, but in any given plate appearance Hafner is the most productive Yankee. Can he keep it up?
At first glance at the numbers, the answer appears to be yes. Hafner’s BABIP of .327 this season aligns nicely with his career BABIP of .313. It doesn’t point to any particular increase in luck. Furthermore, Hafner’s walk rate of 14.1% is his highest since 2007, but it too is not materially above his career average of 12.7%. Hafner’s power is up a bit this year. His SLG is .584. That’s well above his .508 career rate, and his best rate since 2006. Hafner may experience a normalization in his power numbers, but some of the increase is no doubt due to playing in Yankee Stadium and Joe Girardi platooning him. In short, after 92 plate appearances it looks as though Hafner is having a legitimate come back season.
So where’s the risk? With Hafner it is always that he will get injured. He’s healthy now. Therein lies the most obvious explanation for while he’s putting up solid numbers. He’s not hurt. So long as the Yankees can keep him healthy, while also giving him regular reps, they should continue to get a solid season out of him, even if he doesn’t maintain his current rate of production. Given that the Yankees will figure to get power back into their lineup by the end of May, the team will need to rely on Hafner even less, increasing the odds that the Yankees can keep him healthy.