The unorthodox DH platoon

AAA Yanks nearly no-hit on Opening Day
4/6-4/8 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays
(REUTERS/Eric Miller)

As soon as the Yankees traded Jesus Montero, we knew they were going to have some sort of platoon at DH this year. Andruw Jones was the obvious choice against left-handers, and after a few weeks of rumors, the Yankees settled on Raul Ibanez against right-handers. He’ll be in the lineup this afternoon against Jamie Shields. The DH platoon isn’t that straight-forward, however. Eduardo Nunez is going to be a factor as well.

Joe Girardi confirmed yesterday that Nunez will start Saturday’s game either at shortstop or third base against the left-hander David Price. Either Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez will then serve as the DH, and Andruw figures to step into left field while Brett Gardner rides the bench. Girardi also said that this will be his regular alignment against southpaws. We discussed a similar setup at various points this offseason, but now we know the team is putting the plan in place.

Since last summer, the Yankees have insisted on giving Nunez more playing time this season and this is probably the most logical way to do it. Jeter and especially A-Rod could use the regular rest, and although Gardner’s defense will be missed, his bat won’t be (career 84 wRC+ vs. LHP). Besides, it’s only for a few innings. He’ll surely replace Jones in the later innings of a tie game. Nunez’s bat against southpaws isn’t much better (94 wRC+), but we’re only talking 147 big league plate appearances. His minor league numbers suggest he could be a little better than that going forward.

I’m not Eduardo’s biggest fan, but the Yankees are going to play him whether we like it or not. There’s no harm in seeing what the kid could do given semi-regular at-bats, especially with all this talk about the 2014 payroll and the need to inject some youth into the lineup at some point relatively soon. If it doesn’t work out, then so be it. The Yankees can adjust and figure out a new arrangement. Nothing’s permanent. I do like that they’re being somewhat creative and aren’t employing a straight platoon though, this could yield some big results if it means a healthier A-Rod and Nunez proves useful.

email
AAA Yanks nearly no-hit on Opening Day
4/6-4/8 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays
  • STONE COLD Austin Romine

    I’d probably guess it will be A-Rod DH’ing since you probably don’t want him playing on that field turf for 3 consecutive days.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Granted it’s a small sample size, but how has ARod looked against lefties in ST?

      Should he get on base, I do like Nunez’s speed. Just hope he doesn’t get too many opportunities in the field, or at least becomes more consistent with his throws.

      • The Guns of Navarone

        I wonder if Nunie would be better at short or at third. His problem doesn’t seem to be his range as much as it is his terribly inaccurate throwing arm. It’s weird to think he might be better off at short.

        • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

          I always think of the SNL skit with that super mod bizarre family where all their names were pronounced something like ‘Nunie’ and the furniture was sharp and pointy. The kid brings home a date who is of course completely normal.

          Okay enough of this.

          • DM

            It’s not pronounced “Nunie”, it’s “Nunie”

  • TheOneWhoKnocks

    I feel like the RAB guys are way too hard on Nunez. He’s got the offensive upside to be an above average shortstop, the speed and baserunning abilities to rack up steals (efficiently too) and the defensive flexibility to play 3B, SS, 2B, LF/RF. He plays 5 positions, can hit a bit, great speed and baserunning and he’d be an upgrade at SS for probably half the teams in baseball. Oh yeah he’s 24 and cheap for the next 5 years. That’s pretty much the perfect bench player for this team. What a freaking amazing asset to have, I’m baffled how under-appreciated he is. He’s obviously never going to be a star player, but he’s still really valuable (and his highest value might end up coming in the form of a trade)

    • Andrew

      I think the erratic defense and the lack of OBP skills (i.e. lots of hacking, not a lot of patience) are the things that work the most against him in the eyes of his critics. If he is able to iron out at least the defensive side of his game he should do much to silence his critics, though I doubt he’ll ever walk much and that will always be a point of contention for some.

    • thenamestsam

      I couldn’t agree more. He seems bad, until you look around on opening day and see who half the teams in baseball are starting at shortstop. Honestly if he fixes the throwing (admittedly a big if) I think he is one of the best bench players in all of baseball.

      • Evan3457

        This.

        +1

    • The Guns of Navarone

      I have to side with the RAB folks here.

      Nunez has been mostly a below average offensive player throughout his minor league career, nevermind the bigs. He doesn’t hit for average, he doesn’t hit for power (.93 ISO), and he doesn’t walk (5.5 BB%). And that would all be fine if he was at least average defensively. But that’s yet another below average skill to attribute to Nunez. We’ve seen it with our own eyes at the big league level. We can see the error totals in the minors. And UZR doesn’t seem to like him it all. Although that data may be incomplete, it seems to fit right in line with the thinking that Nunez is a very bad defender.

      I think the more PA he gets the more he’ll be exposed.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        I think the more PA he gets the more he’ll be exposed.

        So do I, but at some point the Yankees have find out what they have here. Might as well do it sooner rather than later.

        • The Guns of Navarone

          Plus, what are the alternatives? Not very appealing.

      • Mike HC

        He obviously has a ton of raw ability though. He is definitely not the worst guy to take a chance on him significantly improving when/if it does start to click for him.

      • Rookie

        I can’t draw much in the way of conclusions from his minor league stats.

        But having seen him play (probably less than almost anybody else in this forum) I believe that, like Cano, in large part due to his ARod-inspired/guided workouts, Nunez is going to be much better than almost anyone expects.

      • Bo Knows

        SS is a below average position offensively anyway. What I’ve seen so far that separates Nunez from those other starting SS is his BB% which is low. For all the crap he takes, he doesn’t strike out much, he is competent with the stick especially for his position. He has good range, and a strong (though inaccurate) arm.

      • Don W

        You forget you have to compare him to SS and utility infielders not league average hitters. Nunez has essentially hit at the same level as a league average SS while learning on the job as a utility infielder.

        Nunez isn’t Jeter, he isn’t Scutaro. Nunez is, however, a cheap and valuable piece off the bench for a contender like the Yankees. I’m not sure why that’s not enough.

        • The Guns of Navarone

          My point wasn’t to compare him to his peers, it was to point out that he doesn’t do anything particularly well.

          It’s true, compared to SS and utility infielders around the league he’s about average to slightly below average depending on who you’re comparing him to. But it’s his defense that really sets him back. “Learning on the job” is an extremely nice way of putting it. And I don’t believe the extra stolen bases are enough to offset his lack of other skills.

          To some people that might be enough for a bench/utility spot. The original post asked why the “RAB guys” were so hard on him. I provided some reasons and I happen to agree.

    • David Ortizs Dealer

      I think if he was going to be traded he’d be in Philly right now, they need INF’s bad.

    • Mike

      Agreed. The average ML SS is so offensively inept that I do not get the hatred for Nunez on this website. The writers seem spoiled as a result of having a guy like Derek Jeter around for the past 15 or so years.

  • mike_h

    as long as he can throw to 1B correctly I see no problem

    • whozat

      …and we’ve seen that this is a problem for him, so…

  • crawdaddie

    I think Nunez has played very well this spring in the field. I hope it continues into the regular season.

  • Steve (different one)

    I am all for anything that keeps A-Rod’s bat in the lineup for more games. That’s the real upshot of this, not so much the difference in Nunez’s and Gardner’s platoon splits.

  • http://musicaldaddy.blogspot.com Chuck M

    “Nothing’s permanent”… except A-Rod’s contract.

  • David Ortizs Dealer

    This move seems more like Joe Maddon than Joey Binder-boy. That Said, if Nunez can’t field and there is a decrease in offense I think we’ll see Bill Hall really soon. This team is put together to win and I can’t imagine losing games because your utility INF cant catch throw or hit

    • Evan3457

      Bill Hall can’t play short on any sort of regular basis anymore, and the notion he’ll hit better than Nunez going forward is dubious at best, inasmuch as his OPS+ has been 60 or lower in 2 of the last 3 seasons, and a total of 81 since 2006, including his good year for the Red Sox in 2010.

      • handtius

        and, he’s not a yankee anymore. they released him at his own behest.

      • David Ortizs Dealer

        Then get Pena back atleast he can catch and throw.

    • DM

      Hall is gone.

    • Steve (different one)

      Wouldn’t coming up with a complicated platoon be exactly the type of thing someone buried in a binder would come up with?

      Can we at least be consistent with the absurd memes?

      • David Ortizs Dealer

        The binder says have the league leader in HR’s bunt. I saw it once, thats all I read before it burned my eyes.

  • Monterowasdinero

    A lot of playing time in the field is the best thing for Nunez to improve his defense. It is worth it-especially early in the season. Eddie is aggressive but needs to be smart about it-such as not trying to go from 2nd to 3rd on a grounder hit in front of him to the SS with less than 2 outs. I agree that Gardner will be in in the late innings of a close game or if the Yanks are winning (for defense).

    I still prefer Damon to Ibanez but I guess we will have to wait and see.

  • DM

    I think it’s smart of Girardi to set the precedent early with the rotating DH rather than waiting for someone to falter. It sends a clear message to A-Rod, Jeter and other regulars that they’re going to DH sometimes — even early in the year, even if they’re healthy and want to be out in the field.

    • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

      Why do they need a signal sent to them?

      • Cris Pengiucci

        Probably don’t need a signal so much as need to see this happening so they can adjust early on. More important for Ibanez, Jones, Nunez, Gardner to see this, I think, than Jeter & ARod.

        • DM

          Agreed. That too. They’ve clearly constructed a roster with some flex to try different schemes. But I still think there’s a message in this that says to some of the veterans that they’re not going to be in the field for a 140+ games — even if they still feel they can.

      • DM

        Because they’re star athletes with a lot pride and ego, so you nip any false notion early. If you start out the season this way as policy, you may not have to deal as much with the reaction to someone getting time off b/c they’re scuffling — you can default to “We’ve been doing this all year.” rather than “We’re giving Jeet a DH day today b/c he seems to be draggin a little bit.”

        • Rookie

          Well said, DM.

  • http://yankeeanalsyts.com Matt Imbrogno

    Meh.

  • fin

    This thread is pretty calm in regards to Nunez from what I expected, seeing as how he is clearly not a RAB favorite. I’m personally looking forward to him getting more playing time. I’m willing to bet with a year of MLB experience, an offsean and ST to work on his throwing, that we will see a much improved Nunez in the field.

    I dont know how much longer they can run the statue of Jeter out to ss evreyday. They really do need to find out what Nunez can do with regular playing time. I dont think he will ever have good on base skills, that will always be an issue. I do think he can be an above average fielder, has gap power and is excellant on the base paths. If everything comes togather he can be a good MLB ss. He has a lot to prove though.

  • Typical MIT Nerd

    If this is the plan, why carry Chavez especially with Swisher capable at 1B and Pena in AAA?

    • thenamestsam

      Well you have to carry someone in that slot, and I think a 2nd guy who can play the left side of the infield is the obvious choice given the age of the two guys over there. You already have 5 outfielders, so a 6th infielder it is. Chavez is the 25th man on the roster. That guy is always going to be playing a pretty niche role.

      • DM

        He’s also your LH bat off the bench late in games.

    • DM

      To play 3rd against certain right handers.

  • tyler

    i’m excited to see nunez get additional atbats. infusion of youth FTW!