Don't Discount The Defensive Upgrade In The Infield

2013 Projected Opening Day Infield: Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Kevin Youkilis2013 Actual Opening Day Infield: Kevin Youkilis, Robinson Cano, Eduardo Nunez, Jayson Nix

2014 Projected & Actual Opening Day Infield: Mark Teixeira, Brian Roberts, Derek Jeter, Kelly Johnson

2015 Project Opening Day Infield: Mark Teixeira, Martin Prado, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley

I didn't crunch any numbers to show it, but nobody needs to see them to know that the Yankee infield has been a disaster area for the last 2 seasons.  The names above tell the whole story.  A combination of aging core players, major injuries, lack of organizational depth, flawed budget plans, and head-scratching free agent strategies took what had been the greatest strength of the roster for a while and turned it into a glaring, gaping, broken beyond repair weakness.

After slogging through another season of below-average offensive and defensive output from the starting infield 2014, the Yankees had to do something to upgrade the unit this offseason and they appear to have done that, from a defensive standpoint if nothing else.  All 4 of the projected starters are average at worst defensively, and most statistical measures and eye tests paint all 4 as above-average at their respective positions.  Teix, despite his offensive disappearance, can still pick it at first, Gregorius has a plus arm and drastically better range at short than Jeter, and Chase Headley is one of the best defensive third basemen in the game.

Pitching coach Larry Rothschild has stressed the importance of pitching down in the zone and generating more groundball contact to his staff in an attempt to minimize the threat of the short outfield porch.  This season, it looks like the infield defense will finally be equipped to work in conjunction with that strategy.  Balls rolling through holes because of poor range, failure to make routine plays, poor throws from across the diamond, all of that should decrease with this group, which could go a long way in helping the Yanks steal a few games over the course of the season.

How this 4-some contributes offensively remains to be seen, but they should be a tremendous help in preventing runs and supporting the pitching staff.  It's been a while since we've been able to say that about the Yankee infield, and the fact that we can is a step in the right direction.