As the Yankees wind down their offseason spending spree, the position players are coming back into focus as the group most in need of a boost. Third base, second base, a true backup at first base, and a bench bat that’s actually league average are all still big areas of need and areas unlikely to get any more help than they already have. In digging through the collection of third base platoon candidates and trying to make sense of the DH rotation, there was one name I skipped over that could be another option in camp if nobody stands out. That name is Russ Canzler, 27-year-old righty bat who’s back for his second go-round with the Yanks.
If you don’t remember Canzler, it’s because his first tenure as a Yankee lasted a little over a month. They claimed him off waivers from Cleveland last January, then lost him to the Orioles via waivers when they had to make more roster moves in February. They re-signed him to a MiL deal in early December and he’s expected to get an invite to ST.
Canzler is your classic case of Triple-A All Star who’s never been able to translate that production to the next level. He registered a .363 wOBA with 11 HR and a strong BB rate for Baltimore’s Triple-A affiliate last year, a .361 with 22 HR for Cleveland’s affiliate in 2012, and a .410 with 18 HR as part of the Tampa Bay system in 2011. He’s seen Major League action in 2 different seasons and has a career .271/.304/.396 slash line in 102 PA to show for it. He also has some defensive flexibility, spending time at first base and the outfield corners, and has been a big time lefty masher in his Triple-A career (.307/.390/.531).
On paper, he looks like a pretty good option for a Major League bench role. He’d be a better backup option for Teix at first than anybody currently projected to make the Opening Day roster, he’s shown power and patience in his offensive game, the 2 things the Yankees value most, and he’d bring a little right-handed balance to the lineup on days that he was a part of it. Unfortunately, on paper is the only place where Canzler has looked good as a Major Leaguer. His on-field results haven’t matched that and ZiPS projects him to hit only .234/.299/.383 (.300 wOBA) and be worth -0.3 WAR this year.
It never hurts to consider all available options, and Canzler’s best ability right now is availability. His makeup matches up well with the Yankees’ positional needs, he’s going to be around for ST, and I would imagine if he doesn’t make the team out of camp he’ll be stashed away on the SWB roster. He’s not on the 40-man right now, so he’s starting from a low spot on the depth chart, but there’s no risk in seeing what he can do. Maybe this is the year that he figures it out and breaks through the Quad-A ceiling. Maybe.
(Photo courtesy of the AP)