The Yankees infield was seen as a huge weakness going into the season, but a shocking start to the season by Yangervis Solarte, and solid beginnings for Kelly Johnson and Derek Jeter helped the infield perform above its expectation level.
It was inevitable that Solarte and Johnson would cool off. Solarte was performing like an MVP candidate, and Johnson was off to a very nice start too. The problem is that they have nobody else in the infield to give them that production while they’re struggling since Teixeira has started off slowly.
Solarte and Johnson still have solid numbers overall. Solarte is hitting .303/.387/.455 with a .374 wOBA and a 136 wRC+, and Johnson is hitting .232/.296/.500 with a .345 w/OBA and a 116 wRC+. However, Solarte is 1-for-17 over his last four games and Johnson is 3-for-23 over his last seven games.
Nobody really knows what Solarte will be for a full season. He isn’t the guy who was hitting the ball like Miguel Cabrera. Solarte still has a .352 BABIP this season even after his recent struggles. To give you a point of reference, Cabrera had a .356 BABIP in his MVP year last season.
Solarte only has one home run, so the fact that he has such a high BABIP means he has had a good amount of luck. To be fair Solare does have seven doubles, but that should still not translate to such a high BABIP.
If Solarte can be a league average hitter the rest of the season the Yankees would have to take that considering he was a career minor league player prior to this season.
You know a little bit more about what you’re gonna get from Johnson. He has been a streaky player in his career, so the fact that he has been up and down in April is no shock. Johnson had a 101 wRC+ for Tampa Bay last year, and he should be able to do that again and hit close to if not exceed 20 home runs.
The conclusion is what has been obvious for awhile; the Yankees need infield help badly. Stephen Drew has been mentioned forever, but the Yankees aren’t interested so it’s a moot point.
Yankees third basemen rank third in the AL with a 126 wRC+, and that is the only infield position where they rank in the top five. This is mostly due to Solarte’s hot start.
Even at catcher with Brian McCann the Yankees are only 13th in the AL with a 71 wRC+. This is the only position that you can expect the Yankees to make a significant jump without reinforcements. McCann has been hot lately, as he has started to hit the ball the other way after having the shift take away many hits from him earlier in the season.
This has only been about the offense so far. The atrocious infield defense has not even been discussed yet, which is an even bigger issue than the hitting.This was highlighted yesterday with throwing errors by Jeter and Johnson.
Teixeira is the only plus fielder in the infield, and he stunningly has three errors on the season already. The Yankees’ starting pitching is still the strength of their team despite Ivan Nova’s injury and Michael Pineda’s stupidity. They are not highlighting their strength with shoddy infield range.
Solarte and Johnson were hiding the big holes in the infield over the first few weeks of the season. If their recent struggles continue it will be interesting to see if the Yankees finally acknowledge that they have an infield problem.