Despite having a potentially better in-house option in front of them and despite facing an increasingly tricky 40-man roster situation, the Yankees continue to throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks in an attempt to find Mark Teixeira‘s temporary replacement at first base. The latest contestant is Lyle Overbay, 36-year-old lefty swinger who was released earlier this week and gobbled up just as quickly by the Bombers. Juan Rivera had been getting the bulk of the work at first in the last couple weeks, but the signing of Overbay this late in camp suggests the Yankees weren’t as comfortable with that option as they appeared to be. Overbay is a natural first baseman, unlike Rivera, and that surely influenced the now defensive-minded Yankees’ decision to bring him in. Whether or not he’s actually a better option than Rivera? Well, that’s debatable.
Offensively, the Yankees basically have the same player in both Rivera and Overbay. Neither hits for much power anymore, at least not based on what Rivera has shown in camp. This comes with the obligatory “Spring Training stats” grain of salt, but Rivera’s .305/.328/.390 ST slash line isn’t exactly what you would call ideal production from a first baseman. He’s hitting, sure, and there is something to be said for that. Those hits just haven’t led to much: 18 in 59 ABs with only 5 doubles and 5 RBI.
Overbay put up a similarly underwhelming line in Boston’s camp (.220/.327/.341 in 41 ABs), albeit in a slightly different way. He’s always been good at drawing walks (11.3% career BB rate) and continues to display strong pitch recognition skills and patience even without any kind of power to speak of. He also tends to strike out more than Rivera, but his on-base skills make him a bit more of an attractive offensive option when the lack of power is considered. I’m using the term “attractive” a bit loosely in this comparison, as neither Rivera (projected .310 wOBA by ZiPS) nor Overbay (.305) are expected to be even average offensive players this season.
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