Over the past week, a spate of injuries has left the New York Yankees roster in a state of disarray. As a result, the burden has fallen upon Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi to fill the growing voids. With so many decisions needing to be made, provided below is some unsolicited advice to help the organization navigate through the recent upheaval.
Recharging the Battery
Russell Martin’s back injury has once again thrust Francisco Cervelli into a quasi-starting role as Yankees’ catcher. Over the past three years, the Venezuelan backstop has compiled approximately one season’s worth of at bats, which should be enough of a sample to conclude that he is well below average as both a hitter and catcher. In other words, it’s time to cast aside any inclination that Cervelli can handle regular playing time.
For several years now, Yankees’ fans have been titillated by reports about the prodigious hitting ability of prospect Jesus Montero. Although those projections have been tempered by less than sanguine assessments of his catching ability, there’s only one way to find out if he can actually play the position. What’s more, Cervelli’s defense has been so poor over such a sustained period of time that even a worst case scenario wouldn’t represent much a drop-off, even without taking into account the reasonable expectations for a much greater offensive contribution.
Granted, at only 21 years of age, it’s entirely possible, if not likely, that Montero is not completely ready for the big leagues. Having said that, he’s also not exactly a raw amateur. Since signing with the Yankees in 2007, Montero has amassed 1,800 plate appearances, including 775 at triple-A. Even though his .293/.339/.424 line at Scranton this year doesn’t exactly scream promotion, his past success at the level and evident nature ability seem to suggest he’s worthy of a shot at a big league role.
Another added benefit to promoting Montero would be allowing him to learn the craft from a respected veteran like Martin. Just as important, if Montero could take on a semi-regular role as Martin’s backup, it would afford the latter more rest for what has been an achy body over the last several years. It’s gone largely unmentioned amid the Yankees other concerns, but Martin’s production has plummeted since the end of April. With more rest, the Yankees could wind up with a productive catching tandem in the present as well as a centerpiece behind the plate in the future.
Selecting a Lead Off Man
In the past, an injury to Derek Jeter would have been a major blow to the Yankees, but as the short stop struggles through another trying season, a brief respite might actually benefit both the team and player. Granted, neither Eduardo Nunez nor Ramiro Pena are attractive replacements for the injured Captain, but Jeter’s injury does open up the lead off slot, which could provide the team with a chance to spark its inconsistent lineup.
Considering Girardi’s earlier experimentation with Brett Gardner in the lead off slot, the speedy left fielder figures to be Jeter’s replacement in that role. A better idea, however, would be to install Nick Swisher atop the lineup. Although Swisher’s slugging percentage and on base percentage are both currently lower than Gardner’s, getting to hit in front of Curtis Granderson might be exactly what he needs to turn around his season. Just as he thrived batting ahead of Mark Teixeira in 2010, Swisher could benefit from seeing better pitches and, in the process, add depth to a Yankees’ lineup that is becoming increasingly thin by the day.
Gardner’s current base stealing slump and overall tentative approach is another reason why he seems ill suited to bat lead off. The last thing the Yankees need are outs made on the bases in front of the lineup’s four big home run threats. What’s more, Gardner’s methodical approach on the bases could also serve as a distraction to those hitters. As a result, the lineup would be better off with Swisher setting the table and Gardner utilizing his speed batting ahead of weak hitters like Cervelli, Pena and Nunez.
In addition to addressing the team’s recent lack of production from the catcher position as well as the void left atop the lineup by Jeter’s injury, Girardi and Cashman must also figure out how to fix the bullpen formula in the absence of Joba Chamberlain and reshuffle the rotation without Bartolo Colon. Assuming they take the advice provided above, both mean should have plenty of time to address those other concerns.