Mar
26

Eduardo Nunez’s Big Chance

By
(Presswire)

(Presswire)

We’ve known for months that Derek Jeter might not recover from his fractured left ankle surgery in time for Opening Day, but that all but came a reality this weekend when Brian Cashman acknowledged the Cap’n is very likely to open the season on the DL. The 38-year-old Jeter received a cortisone shot in the ankle last week and experienced soreness after getting just four at-bats in a minor league game a few days ago. He has to play a full nine innings at shortstop before being activated according to GM, so the target return date of April 6th seems optimistic.

“I know Derek extremely well,” said Cashman to Chad Jennings. “I’ve been with him a long, long time, and I can read his face. And his face today tells me the reality of this circumstance is starting to sink in; that this disabled list situation might be necessary … We have to get him to be able to play shortstop. DHing for us isn’t going to get him where we need to be.”

In Jeter’s place, the Yankees will use their beloved Eduardo Nunez as the everyday shortstop — “Nuney will play shortstop,” said manager Joe Girardi flatly — which is something they’ve had to do before. The 25-year-old hit .339/.381/.525 with two homers, four steals, four walks, and four strikeouts in 17 games and 65 plate appearances as the regular shortstop while Jeter was on the DL with a calf problem in the middle of 2011, a performance that was awesome at the time and in no way indicative of how he’ll play going forward.

For Nunez, this is pretty much the chance of a lifetime. Yes, Jeter will be coming back to claim shortstop at some point, but the Yankees have already made it clear they will use their captain at DH regularly just to get him off his feet following the surgery, especially against lefties. Nunez was expected to get those shortstop reps whenever Jeter served as the DH, but now he has a chance for regular and uninterrupted playing time. We overlook this stuff as outsiders, but players value the comfort of knowing when and where they’re going to play. Being a bench player is hard.

The Yankees have played Nunez nowhere but shortstop this spring — he’s gone 15-for-53 (.283) with no homers, five steals, six walks, six strikeouts, and three errors in Grapefruit League play — because they hope playing one set position will help improve his awful defense. They said it when they sent him down last year and they said it again when camp opened. The Yankees have worked to shorten Nunez’s arm action in an effort to make the routine throws a little more routine, but who knows how that will take. It’s a wait and see thing.

“We’ve been pleased with the way (Nunez has) went about his business,” said Girardi, never one to throw his players under the bus. “He’s worked very hard on his defense. He’s swung the bat well. He’s run the bases well. He provides a speed option that we really didn’t have last year, a whole lot. You get him and (Brett Gardner) in the lineup, and it could create some problems.”

Offensively, it could create some problems in a lot of ways. For one, Nunez ain’t Jeter and he won’t come close to the .316/.362/.429 (117 wRC+) batting line the Cap’n put up last year without a lot of luck. Heck, Nunez’s best year in the minors was his .322/.349/.433 (116 wRC+) showing with Double-A Trenton back in 2009. Even hobbled and coming off ankle surgery, going from Jeter to Nunez is a downgrade. No doubt about it.

What Nunez gives the Yankees is speed. Speed and the ability to put the ball in play. Nunez steals bases with a better-than-average success rate — 38-for-46 (82.6%) in the show and 59-for-74 (79.7%) since resurrecting his career in 2009 in the minors — and both his strikeout (10.4%) and contact rate (88.2%) have been far better than average in his relatively short big league career. If sure he’ll do a lot of first-to-thirding and stuff like that as well, which frankly the Yankees will need given their lack of power. Maybe he hits a few dingers, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Like it or not, Nunez is going to play shortstop for the Yankees come Opening Day. The smart money is on him spending a lot of time there during the regular season as well, basically since Jeter is unlikely to make it through the season without more nagging soreness and inflammation. This is it right here, this is Nunez’s big chance not only to show he can move beyond his defensive issues and prove he belongs in the big leagues, but that he can be a part of the Yankees going forward. Someone’s going to have to replace Jeter one day and this is Eduardo’s chance to get a head-start over everyone else.

Categories : Players

80 Comments»

  1. MB923 says:

    I just asked this in the other post, but I’ll ask it here anyway. Since Nunez is now in the starting lineup mostly, does this make Nix the utility man on the bench? I don’t see them using Mustellier because he’s never played SS. I guess Nix makes the most sense out of what the team has.

    • Cris Pengiucci says:

      Can’t see any other option right now. Nix has to be the utility IF.

      • trr says:

        Agree, it allows us to take advantage of his versatility.

        Got my fingers crossed on Nunez, but we really need more organizational depth at SS

        • Jim Is Bored says:

          Like 28 teams need more organizational depth at SS. What a black hole that position is right now.

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          I think you’d definitely agree, though, that was organizational help looks like at the position is often the Gil Velazquez, all-glove types. I don’t think it’s any different for most teams.

          You probably also remember when Gil Velazquez was what a lot of STARTING shortstops in the majors look like. A shortstop with an actual bat is a fairly recent phenomenom.

        • dalelama says:

          Again the barren nature of the Yankee farm system surfaces.

  2. jsbrendog says:

    here is to nunez proving mike wrong and becoming the next yankee starting SS for at least the next few years. i mean, seriously, he can’t be as bad as half the SS already…

  3. Nate says:

    I think there is actually a reasonable chance that Nunez can be a defensive plus (compared to Jeter), especially over a smaller sample size. I think his range can work in his favor to offset the throwing and other misadventures.

    *fingers crossed*

    • Cris Pengiucci says:

      Wow, you sure are optimistic. I take te opposite position and think that he well be slightly better than adequate offensively, due to his speed, and hope that makes up for his defensive lapses. Sure, he’s got better range than Jeter, but his throws aren’t nearly as consistent, which can change what would be a single, if the ball went through the hole to the OF, into a man on second should Nunez make a bad throw, especially with Rivera on 1B.

      • Nate says:

        He may be a complete disaster, but over the course of a few weeks it is certainly possible that he saves more runs than he costs.

        • Cris Pengiucci says:

          Yes, possible. However, he’s had years as a regular SS in the minors and has always had some issues defensively. I’m pulling for him to be at least adequate, but still have my doubts. Would love for him to be able to fill in this year and next as necessary, and eventually be able to become the full-time SS until the Yankees can sign someone that is a significant upgrade.

        • dalelama says:

          That is highly unlikely.

          • Stan the Man says:

            It isn’t a bad thing to get a guy in the lineup that can hit, steal bases, and can bring good to great range to the table at the SS position. Throwing issues can be corrected and it seems like Nunez is heading in the right direction to get those issues corrected.

          • Jim Is Bored says:

            You’re highly unlikely.

          • Nate says:

            All I’m saying is that it’s possible that he can be less awful than Jeter defensively.

            • dalelama says:

              All I am saying is based on what we have already seen it is highly unlikely. Despite the ignorant pleas of the homers (not you BTW).

  4. LarryM., Fl. says:

    Jeter got a big brake when he replaced the starting SS who was injured. Eduardo will get his chance. Jeter will be an issue for some time with the mending of his ankle. I say June before he can go at without reservation and he’ll still need games off. Eduardo may surprise us with better defense as he gets more playing time on a consistent basis.

    MB923- I believe Nix will be the utility guy. He can play 3rd, SS and 2nd base. So Ronnie M. maybe odd man out. Also Vernon Wells trade did not help his case for a backup OF or INF.

    • MB923 says:

      Yeah I don’t see Ronnie making the roster.

      He can still be a back OFer if Wells becomes a starting OFer. Unless Boesch is able to play by opening day?

  5. Vern Sneaker says:

    Nix will probably stick as utility guy even when Nunez goes back to DH/Jeter back-up. Mustelier is a totally ready big-league hitter, could be a huge bench asset (better than Francisco/Mesa/Boesch, et.al) but everyone says he’s going to AAA. Mystifies (mustyfies?)me.

  6. BeanTooth says:

    For Yankee fans spoiled by nearly 20 years of excellence, this season is going to be a test of our patience and resiliency. It’s going to be pretty ugly at times. Maybe they’ll find a way to make the playoffs. Who knows? But either way, it’s going to be a grind. Good thing I love baseball so much.

    • Cris Pengiucci says:

      Yeah, Jeter took over for a barely adequate Tony Fernandez. He was a refreshing change. Moving away from him, even at the level of D he has played as he as aged, will be eye openning.

    • LarryM., Fl. says:

      Bean tooth: yes, it has been a remarkable run of great baseball. But with all good thinks they come to an end. Trading for established veterans with the expense of our youth has finally come to our 2013 season and maybe 2014. Drafting at the end of the first round or even the second has helped to bring us to the 2013 season. The big long term contracts which helped us in 2009 have finally assisted with 2013. Arod and Teix.’s contracts are anchors with the budget. I do believe Teix. will turn it around and be an asset to the team. Arod’s contract do not have high expectations even mediocre ones for his return.

      As a fan from ’56 I have seen the glory and the depression of Yankee baseball. I do not believe it will be so intolerable the next two years. The team should be competitive and surprising.

      • dalelama says:

        I have been with you most of the way LM, these times remind me of spring training 1965. The fall is going to be swift and long. At least we will be able to start restocking the farm with high early round draft choices. I think the renaissance will begin the day the current Arod contract expires and we can remove that cancer from the organization.

        • Get Phelps Up says:

          Holy shit, you didn’t say Aroid.

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          Which is funny, since Larry said absolutely none of this.

        • TomH says:

          I don’t remember any warning signs from Spring Training 1965 that the End had come. Hell, as late as mid-May people just thought they were taking a while to get started. After all, they had won 99 games in 1964. How could they conceivably lose over 20 from the win column in just one year?

          Turned out to be easy. By the end of June they were 9 or 10 behind, and all the Yankee-Haters in America were giggling.

          But I didn’t sense anything untoward in March. What I did discover, many years later, was that Bill Veeck had written an article for some magazine, after the ’64 World Series, suggesting that the Yankees were showing real signs of slipping.

          • Jim Is Bored says:

            If you seriously want to live your life being scared that something bad is going to happen because it happened once 50 years ago, be my guest.

            I’m not living in that world though.

            • TomH says:


              If you seriously want to live your life being scared that something bad is going to happen because it happened once 50 years ago, be my guest.

              I’m not living in that world though.

              In that case, it’s best that you’re not a head of state.

      • Matt DiBari says:

        You should make a list of the young guys the Yankees traded away for a big name veteran that you’d want back today.

        I bet you its shorter than you think, and the absolute no questions asked “This was a bad trade” list is even shorter than that. The Yankees of recent vintage may have traded alot of prospects or young major leaguers, but I can’t think of too many that really panned out with other teams. Alot of Brad Halsey and Brandon Claussen and Yhency Brazobán on that list

  7. trr says:

    It’s gonna be you Nunez, show us what ya got kid!

  8. Jim Is Bored says:

    If he’s what we have, then so be it. Let’s have his back and not turn on him the first time he gives a free souvenir to a fan in the 4th row behind first base.

  9. Bavarian Yankee says:

    tbh I don’t have too much concerns about Nunez. He’ll make an error every now and then but he should be fine with the bat and on the basepaths. If he really improves on defense then I think he can be an average major league SS for years to come. I know it’s a big “if” but stranger things have happened.

  10. Neil says:

    Opening Day Lineup:

    CF Gardner
    SS Nunez
    2B Cano
    3B Youkilis
    DH Hafner
    RF Wells
    1B Johnson
    LF Ichiro
    -C Cervilli

    Bench:
    -C Steward
    IF Nix
    1B Rivera
    RF Boesch

    Def not the kind of lineups we are used to but I think they can get the job done. Getting Granderson, Tex, A-Rod around the June/July will be like getting a huge boost for the Trade Deadline (essentially).

    • jsbrendog says:

      boesch might not make it cause of the rib cage. he may have to start on the dl too…

      we don’t really know as of now do we?

    • CS Yankee says:

      Your lineup seems to be close, my guess is that Juan or Lyle (if acquired) will play 1B and bat in the bottom.

      Let’s get ready for some ugly baseball and hope that 3/4 of the IF and our CF beat expectations and return early and mash often.

    • dalelama says:

      The stench is quite malodorous.

  11. MannyGeee says:

    “Like it or not, Nunez is going to play shortstop for the Yankees come Opening Day.”

    Oh… Eddard World likes it. Eddard World approves.

  12. LitFig says:

    I think Nunez will be adequate. His speed and contact abilities will definitely come in handy.

    We’ll miss Mark Teixiera on defense, regardless of who plays short. He saved Jeter a lot of errors over the past four years.

  13. Robinson Tilapia says:

    Has anyone filed a Missing Persons report on Eddard yet? Something has to be wrong.

  14. Robinson Tilapia says:

    This is certainly a chance to see where regular work at one position, plus whatever adjustments he’s made, will make a difference.

    The team has clearly made the investment in him as a future piece. Let’s hope the move pays off.

    It’s a good thing I tend to sit in the bleachers.

  15. CONservative governMENt says:

    I’m excited for this year in general and Nunez’s big chance is part of it.

    Not making Martin a QO was a mistake, as that would have solidified catcher for a year or generated another pick, but otherwise I like the idea of a bridge year to get the finances straightened out.

  16. Barry's Gift Basket says:

    Why does his helmet always comes off? WHY?!

  17. MB923 says:

    The team as of now has no official DH against LHP. Until Jeter gets back, would it make sense to use Nunez as a DH and make Nix play SS against a LHP? (Although I don’t really see that happening on Opening Day against Lester)

  18. dasani says:

    Sox just released Lyle Overbay. His he the next one we pick up from the scrap pile ?

    • Cris Pengiucci says:

      Players that have made it this far in ST probably have something to offer. In this case, better D at 1B than Rivera. Not sure if the D upgrade is worth it, but he does offer something.

    • Dalek Jeter says:

      He can actually play first base, so if Nunez is going to be starting at short, YES.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      He’s certainly an upgrade defensively and I wasn’t expecting an offensive juggernaut from Rivera.

    • Get Phelps Up says:

      I’d take him over Rivera, sure. Defensive upgrade and he is a decent hitter against RHP. Play him at 1B and Youk at 3B against RHP and Youk at 1st and Nix at 3rd against LHP.

  19. JLC 776 says:

    This is a win-win for us all. Either Nunez is Knoblochian bad and we get some wonderful highlight reel stuff, or he ends up actually having some defensive merit for us and end up better off while Jeter is down.

    Either way though, I’m willing to root for the guy now that he has his shot. Time to shine, Nunez!

  20. Matt DiBari says:

    What are the chances that if Nubez doesn’t make a total fool of himself the Yankees turn around and sell high? Because I’d like that.

    • Cris Pengiucci says:

      And who replaces him? A SS for SS trade is unlikely. If this occurred, it would have to be after this season and I’m not sure what the return would be and who would replace him as the “heir apparent” to Jeter.

      • Matt DiBari says:

        Does it matter? Unless you really, truly for absolute sure think that Eduardo Nunez, worst defender on earth, is a thing of the past, why would we *want* him as the heir apparent? Because he’s already here? (I’m also in the minority here, I guess, because I think his problems go well beyond just throwing. He’s awful at everything defensively.) I’d really hope that if anyone falls for a mirage of a competent Nunez, its another team that’s willing to make a stupid trade.

        I don’t watch Spring Training. Is there reason for hope? Has he shown any improvement at all?

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      I think the ship slightly sailed there?

      I think that, if he’s still around, he’s being looked at as the long-term answer.

  21. LitFig says:

    Given the loss of HR power, I would go with the speed/havoc lineup as much as possible.

    Vs. RHP
    CF Gardner – High OBP, stolen bases, lots of pitches seen
    SS Nunez – contact and speed, hitting behind Gardner
    LF Ichiro – more contact and speed.
    2B Cano
    3B Youk
    DH Hafner
    1B Rivera
    RF Boesch
    C Cervelli

    Vs. LHP
    CF Gardner
    DH Jeter
    2B Cano
    3B Youk
    RF Wells
    1B Rivera
    C Cervelli
    LF Ichiro
    SS Nunez

    • Cris Pengiucci says:

      Well, except that Jeter will be playing SS and batting 2nd against RHP upon his return, this isnt’ too far fetched.

      • Matt DiBari says:

        The other issue is that after the top three, that is a brutally slow team. Like Juan Rivera might be the speedster of the group slow.

        • jsbrendog says:

          yeah it isnt good when your catcher is probably faster than your 1b, dh, and 3b who hit in the middle of your lineup haha. oof

          • LitFig says:

            LOL yeah, true. We are slow as shit. That’s why I’d rather put the speed guys together and get them as many AB’s as possible.

      • LitFig says:

        Yeah, you are right. I do wonder if they’ll use him as a Dh some days vs. RHP.

        Day after night game. Long stretch of facing RHP, getting Jeter a half day off during that stretch.

  22. rjscottsdaleaz says:

    they dont call him scissor hands for nothing…he scares me i would never sit in the first 8 rows on the first base side in the future…oh my…go yankees..were in alot of trouble

  23. Eddard says:

    It’s good to see Nuney is finally getting the recognition that he deserves. He’s going to be a big part of this ballclub. People wonder what we’re going to do when Jeter retires. They’ll wonder no more once Nuney gets a chance to show what he can do.

  24. i like bacon says:

    every time he throws to first, the first five rows duck. god help us all.

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