Thursday, March 5, 2015

Assessing the 2015 damage: The Yankee Middle Infielders

The Yankees had five years to find a replacement for Derek Jeter. That's how well he telegraphed his retirement. Five years.

They drafted a SS, (Cito Culver), in the first round. They signed a Manuto tribute band of nubile 16-year-old Latinos. The closest they came was Eduardo Nunez, the Butcher of Baghad with a glove. In fact, the more we saw of Nunez, the more he looked like a DH, and the more incredible it became that the Yankees actually, at one point, considered him a candidate to replace the captain.

Five years.

Because of their colossal farm system failure, the Yankees had to trade for Didi Gregorius, who is now - more or less - our future at shortstop.

Gregorius was a bust in Arizona. He didn't hit and lost his job. That's OK. Baseball is full of players who blossom in their second incarnation. New York is still the greatest stage in sports. If Gregorius can hit - say - .240, his range will have us marveling about balls "that Jeter would have never gotten to." Gregorius won't replace Jeter in our hearts. He should be a defensive improvement. If he isn't, we have squandered the future, and we will have to make another deal. (Cito Culver isn't ready, and unless he learns to hit, he never will be.)

Then there is Stephen Drew. If the Yankees had signed Drew in early December, they might ditched the Gregorius trade and kept Shane Greene, their best young starter. After Drew realized the market was dead for infielders who hit .165, he called the Yankees. Last year, there were pitchers in the National League who hit better than Drew. Worse, in September, he was still trying to drive balls through defensive overshifts, even when batting .150. Imagine that. A guy hitting .150, but he's too damn important to slap a hit to the opposite field?

Surely, Drew will hit better this year. How can he do worse? Trouble is, a light-hitting shortstop is a dreadful-hitting 2B. Drew looks like this year's Brian Roberts. We always seem to have one.

Then there are Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela. It's amazing how the Yankees seem to lavish praise on some prospects - (Gary Sanchez and Jesus Montero, several years ago, for example) - and then badmouth others (Refsnyder, Pirela.) I think it has to do with performance. When Sanchez and Montero were struggling, the Yankees went out of their way to say what great progess they were making behind the plate (which was bullshit in Montero's case, and maybe the same for Sanchez). But when a player actually hits at Scranton - like Refsnyder and Pirela (the IL batting champ) - they are forced to explain why they are playing Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew. So they gin up reasons to badmouth their own prospects.

The Yankee line is that Refsnyder still needs seasoning at 2B, and Pirela will never be ready. Thus, Drew will handle the position for now. (Fun fact: The Yankees have made three errors in their first two games: One by Refsnyder, by Pirela and by Drew.) The Yankees haven't done well with putting faith in youth. When a guy hits .300 at Triple A, he deserves at least a shot at the majors. But Refsnyder is destined for Scranton, where Yankees go to die.

Where we failed to grow a SS over the last 15 years.

But, of course, Hal Steinbrenner didn't want to spend for Yoan Moncada. In a year or two, he'll be playing infield for Boston. What are the odds we'll have anybody ready? Or just another Brian Roberts?


KD said...

I hear Knoblauch might consider a comeback. Send inquiries to: Chucky, General Delivery, some highway overpass, Texas.

celerino sanchez said...

I want. Refsnyder to succeed