May
21

(Temporarily) Replacing Eric Chavez

By

Prior to last night’s loss to the Mets we heard that Eric Chavez is slowly but surely making his way back from a deep bone bruise in his foot and has not walked with a limp in days. He’s still a few weeks away from returning though, and the Yankees have been short a viable pinch-hitting option and true backup first/third baseman since he hurt himself legging out a triple in Detroit. Two players were dropped by their teams within the last 24 hours, so let’s see if either is capable of filling that bench role for the Yankees while Chavez is on the mend…

That poor baseball.

Russell Branyan (released by Arizona)

We’ve watched Branyan hit some absolute moonshots at Yankee Stadium over the last few seasons, like this one off Javy Vazquez or this one off A.J. Burnett or this one off Chad Gaudin or this one off Al Aceves. He’s managed to hit seven homeruns in just 12 games (11 starts) at the newest version of Yankee Stadium, including six (!!!) last year alone. The D’Backs cut him because he had a .285 wOBA as the third wheel in a first base platoon that included former Yankees Juan Miranda and Xavier Nady.

Cartilage damage and miscellaneous stiffness in his back has limited Branyan to just 256 games (out of 368) since 2009, but more importantly they’ve relegated him to first base and DH. He hasn’t played third base since 2008 (276 defensive innings) or a corner outfield spot with any regularity since 2007 (79.1 innings), so his value is limited. Despite the poor showing in the desert, Branyan’s underlying skills are still the same. He’s never had a sub-.220 ISO or walked in fewer than 10% of his plate appearances in any season in which he came to plate 100 times or more. It’s the standard three-true outcomes package, 50.6% of his career plate appearances have ended with a homer, a strikeout, or a walk.

At least that one was against the Red Sox. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

Dan Johnson (designated for assignment by Tampa Bay)

Johnson is another guy that has killed the Yankees over the last year or so, memorably hitting these two go-ahead homers homers (in the same game) last September. He started the year as Carlos Pena’s primary replacement at first but was so bad (.165 wOBA) that he eventually lost the job to Casey Kotchman (!!!) and did little more than pinch-hit or spot start before getting the axe yesterday.

There’s no way to spin that horrible performance into something positive, yeah his BABIP was low (.133) but that doesn’t explain why he all of a sudden decided to start swinging at 26.4% of the pitches he saw out of the zone (16.3% career). Johnson’s track record consists of patience (12.9% walk rate) and power (.169 ISO in the bigs but .253 in nearly 2,000 Triple-A plate appearances), and unlike Branyan he can actually play third. He’s played 45 games at the position since the start of 2010 (majors and minors) and although he’s not a great defender there, he can at least stand there and fake it every once in a while.

* * *

Neither Branyan or Johnson is a perfect fill-in for Chavez, but then again Chavez isn’t exactly perfect either given his propensity to get hurt. Too bad we can’t combine Branyan’s offense with Johnson’s health and versatility, that would be the best solution. Branyan would only cost the league minimum, though Johnson said he’d like to stay with the Rays’ organization if he clears waivers, so he’s unlikely to elect free agency. The Yankees would have to claim him off waivers, which would mean assuming his $1M salary for the rest of the season. That money is no big deal, but it’s worth keeping in mind.

Ultimately, either guy would just be stepping in until Chavez returns, but we have to remember who we’re dealing with. It sounds like Chavez will be back sometime next month, but he could easily be out longer than that given his injury history. Having a semi-capable replacement like Branyan or Johnson could end up being more important than we realize.

What would you do with the last bench spot until Eric Chavez comes back?
View Results
Categories : Bench
  • bonestock94

    I picked Vasquez. Yea, his K rate is scary, but Russell Branyan has a career 38% K-rate! I don’t buy into Dan Johnson.

  • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com bexarama

    Part of me wants to sign Russell Branyan just so no other AL team can use him to hit against us in the stadium

  • Angryankee

    I’m sticking with Dickerson, but with frankie’s old helmet…

  • Cy Pettitte

    hey hey, ho ho, let Jorge have a go.

  • Chairman Mao

    Dickerson is fine for now and he’ll soon be the replacement for Nick Swisher unless we can find a good bat in RF at the trade deadline. When Chavez comes back fully healthy he’ll be the full time DH and Posada will be the last man on the bench. Never should have let Marcus Thames go.

    • http://riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Now you’re just trolling. Thames has a 75 OPS+ and is out until August with another hamstring injury.

  • Xstar7

    Call me crazy, but with the way Vazquez has been hitting, I think he deserves a shot. Let’s hope he can be Shane Spencer version 2.0.

    • The Guns of the Navarone (a mushroom cloud layin’ mothafucka, mothafucka!)

      His K rate is absurd in Triple-A. TRIPLE-A. Major league pitchers will eat him alive. Call me crazy, but I predict after 25 PA, he’ll have an OBP no higher than .225, his K rate will be in the 40% range, and every fan who was clamoring for him to be called up will be begging for him to be sent back down.

      • Xstar7

        No need to get testy. I’m well aware of his flaws and don’t expect him to amount to much. But of the 4 choices in the poll, Vazquez is the one that seems the most appealing.

        • Midland TX

          You literally invited insult in your comment, and then someone provided a contrary opinion based on an observable fact. I didn’t see anyone get “testy” until you did in your second comment.

          You’re entitled to your opinions, but if you’re going to post the poorly-reasoned ones in a public forum you’d better be ready to have them criticized.

          Last time I checked the Yankees had 70 HRs in 44 games; they aren’t hurting for power and don’t need to take a chance on an unproven three-outcomes guy.

  • AC

    I’m tired of hearing the excuses that Vazquez isn’t on the 40 man roster. Get him on roster. We keep hearing his defense is questionable. How much worse can it be than watching Nunez throw the ball from 3B or SS.

    • whozat

      You forgot that his K rate and inability to walk will probably make him offensively useless. And, frankly, it can get A LOT worse than Nunez.

      • nycsportzfan

        It can? Nunez has made 66errors in the minors since 2008, Vazquez has made 71 since 2000… So no, it really dosen’t get much worse then Nunez…lol

  • Brooklyn Ed

    Is Branyan still capable of playing the corner OF, and 3B?

    • whozat

      “Cartilage damage and miscellaneous stiffness in his back has limited Branyan to just 256 games (out of 368) since 2009, but more importantly they’ve relegated him to first base and DH. He hasn’t played third base since 2008 (276 defensive innings) or a corner outfield spot with any regularity since 2007 (79.1 innings), so his value is limited.”

      Citation

      • Brooklyn ed

        wow my reading fails. lol. thanks.

  • Jorge

    Went with Dickerson. Seems like a guy who can do a few things. Would love to see Chavez be healthy the rest of the way and prove doubters wrong, though.

  • Freddy Garcia’s 86 mph Heat

    I said Branyan. JoVa has a very high K rate at AAA and I can’t imagine that would get any better against big league pitchers. We should use him as trade bait now while his value is higher than it would be if gets called up and struggles. Or if his production regresses in AAA.

    • Brian

      You voted for Branyan because you’re worried about Vazquez’s K rate? Do you know who Russell Branyan is?

      • Freddy Garcia’s 86 mph Heat

        Branyan can also hit HRs and draw walks. We have no idea if Vasquez can do that at the big league level.

  • A Gritty Dude’s Gritty Dude

    Went with Branyan, would love to see that guy hitting em off of the Mohegan Sun Bar more often

  • matt

    i agree that dickerson is fine for right now but just imagine branyan’s power at yankee satdium. its only for a couple more weeks while chavez is out and at a time while posada is struggling i would take branyan.

  • CMP

    I voted JoVa. Might as well find out what he can do at the major league level. We already know the other 2 suck.

  • CMP

    Chavez is so brittle, it’s ridiculous. He’s gonna end up missing 2 months because of a bone bruise in his foot.

    Was his foot run over by a steamroller?

  • Mickey Scheister

    Russell the Muscle! He was loved in Seattle and be has some pop.

  • mike_h

    sign Branyan, the guy has hit monster shots at Yankee Stadium

    • mike_h

      I was always an advocate in the offseason of having a platoon DH of Thames for lefties and Branyan for righties. Then I would have called up Montero to split time behind the plate with Jorge.

  • nycsportzfan

    I like Vazquez because hes always hit for a HIGH avg over his 11seasons in Mexico and the minors, and he just hit 412 with 3hr 8ribs this Spring for the big club, taking both Brad Lidge and John Lannan Yard, and hit a 430foot dead center freaking moon shot as well.. Vazquez has a 361 OBP over 11seasons in Mexico and the yanks farm system, and regardless of where he did it, hes done it, and he can only do it, where hes been(kinda a tonuge teaser..lol) Hes kinda like Hunter Pence, as far as not your typical guy who just hits HR’s and Strikesout, and never walks.. He hits for AVG and also for power, while not taking walks and striking out… Look at montero this spring for instance, he only hit 250, with less power numbers, but he did walk 2times and only strike out 8, compared to Vazquez who struck out 11times and walked 1time, now tell me, who had the better spring? Ya, vazquez did, by a mile!! Vazquez deserves the chance, plain and simple…

  • El Anonimo

    I say bring up Vazquez. His K rate is high but it is not like he’s going to play everyday and not every pitcher in the bigs is good.