Eduardo Nunez, Vidal Nuno, and Triple-A depth

Fan Confidence Poll: March 31st, 2014
Poll: The 2014 Prospect Watch
(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees finalized their Opening Day roster over the weekend and made somewhat surprising choices to round out the bullpen and bench. Vidal Nuno won the final bullpen spot while Yangervis Solarte beat out Eduardo Nunez for the final bench spot. I say somewhat surprising because neither of those moves felt impossible, just unlikely. At least they did to me.

The rationale behind the moves is simple. Joe Girardi insisted they would take the best pitchers for the bullpen and that’s what they did by choosing Nuno over guys like Matt Daley and Cesar Cabral. Having three stretched out relievers (Nuno, David Phelps, Adam Warren) allows them to take it easy on Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda early in the season. Solarte flat out outplayed Nunez in camp, plus he’s a switch-hitter, more versatile (can play left field), and more reliable defensively. See? Simple.

So now rather than opening the season on the big league bench, Nunez will start with Triple-A Scranton, presumably playing shortstop everyday. Maybe he’ll move around the infield a bit. With Nuno in the show, the Yankees brought back Al Aceves to fill out the Triple-A pitching staff. He’ll join prospect Shane Greene and veterans Brian Gordon, Chris Leroux, and Bruce Billings in the rotation, though it’s been reported Chase Whitley will also get a rotation spot. We’ll see.

With the rosters set at both the big league and Triple-A level, we finally have a clear picture of the team’s depth. It takes a lot more than 25 players to get through a 162-game season, so the extra 15 guys on the 40-man roster are really important. You know that. Nunez may be gone now, but there’s a pretty good chance he will resurface at some point in 2014. Here is the position player depth chart:

MLB Starter MLB Backup AAA Depth
Catcher McCann Cervelli Murphy/Romine
First Base Teixeira Johnson Canzler
Second Base Roberts Johnson/Solarte/Anna Nunez/Sizemore
Shortstop Jeter Anna/Solarte Nunez
Third Base Johnson Solarte/Anna Nunez/Sizemore/Wheeler
Left Field Gardner Soriano/Solarte Almonte
Center Field Ellsbury Gardner/Ichiro Richardson
Right Field Beltran Soriano/Ichiro Almonte

Eventually Brendan Ryan will join the infield mix. He’ll start the season on the DL with a back problem, and Brian Cashman recently said he will miss more than the minimum 15 days. How much longer? Who knows. Backs have a way of staying hurt. Whenever he does get healthy, Ryan figures to replace either Dean Anna or Solarte on the bench. Those two won jobs in spring, but they have to continue playing well to keep them.

Anyway, compared to last season, the Yankees have much more position player depth. Obviously that has to do with all the injuries they dealt with in 2013. Guys like Nunez and Ichiro Suzuki were playing everyday last year. This season they are, at best, the third option at their positions. Austin Romine went from MLB backup to Triple-A backup. Scott Sizemore is an almost identical player to Jayson Nix, who played damn near everyday last season. Those types of players are Plan C now, not Plan A.

The pitching staff is a little more straight forward, especially the bullpen. Daley and Leroux pitched well enough in camp to put themselves near the front of the call-up line while Aceves has a track record with the organization. Given his, um, unpredictable personality, that is not necessarily a good thing for him. Greene and when healthy Jose Ramirez are younger options. Cabral is the obvious choice whenever a left-hander is needed. The Yankees didn’t have many bullpen problems last year, though with Mariano Rivera, Boone Logan, and Joba Chamberlain gone, they’ll need their depth a bit more this season.

The rotation depth is a little more unclear. Nuno seemed likely to go to Triple-A to be the sixth starter, but instead he’ll be with the big league squad. In a perfect world, the Yankees would keep him, Phelps, and Warren all stretched out, but that’s not practical. If all of those guys manage to stay stretched out to 80+ pitches, that means the rotation has been a mess and the bullpen is being called on often. Keeping one stretched out is doable, they did it with Warren last year. But two or three guys? That’s not going to happen.

Aceves might be the sixth starter now, but I think the Yankees are taking a simple “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” approach to their rotation depth. They’ll worry about it when the time comes and see what the available options are. Maybe they can pull Nuno or Phelps out of the bullpen, maybe Greene forces the issue, maybe they grab someone off the scrap heap like they did with Gordon three years ago. They might not need a sixth starter until May or June. No sense in worrying about it now.

Don’t get me wrong, we all wish the starting infield was better, but the combination of good health and offseason additions have given the Yankees much more depth for the start of 2014, especially on the positive player side. They’re going to need it too, it’s inevitable. The rotation picture is a little unclear beyond the top five but that’s okay. It’s not like the team doesn’t have options, it’s just that those options are being used in bullpen roles right now so the best possible combination of 25 players are on the Opening Day roster.

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Fan Confidence Poll: March 31st, 2014
Poll: The 2014 Prospect Watch
  • Greener

    Are Phelps’s days of starting done?

    • Havok9120

      For now, maybe. I think if someone were to get hurt long-term, he’d be the guy they’d want to slot in. Until then, I think they’ll use him as a 1 or 2 inning reliever.

    • Worst Fans In Baseball

      I don’t think he has a spot right now assuming (low odds) that everything goes to plan, but he might going forward depending on the developments down on the farm, injuries, and Kuroda retiring. Who knows how many starters we might need next year with someone getting injured, someone sucking, and Kuroda possibly gone?

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    In an offseason where upgrading/replaceable second and third seemed damn near impossible from the options available, I am VERY glad we have much better depth than last year. VERY.

    • Dick M

      It’s a good thing we have better depth cause we are STARTING the season with 2 huge holes at second and third. While the off-season options were poor, good orgs don’t let it come to that.

      Combine the above with not a single starting position player under age 30, and we had better have good depth.

      On the plus side, we may have found a number one in Tanaka and if Pineda can be as good as he looks, we just might have the best rotation in baseball. Maybe they can make up for the above.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        The Options A’s aren’t great. At all.

        Keep in mind, though, that last year’s Option A’s at every infield other than second didn’t make it past the first week of the season. That’s when the subpar reserves became an problems.

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

          There are many, many teams who one might call “good orgs” who, every so often, end up with subpar A options at a few positions on the diamond.

          This is the first year in forever that it’s happened to the Yankees at 2B. Insinuating that the Yanks are a “bad org” after this offseason is completely ludicrous and ignores any remote hint of context in the situation.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            I think that, in the absence of immediately-available good options this off-season, doing things as they’ve done them is the next best thing. Nothing “bad” about how they approached the issue.

            • Dick M

              The Yanks have a systemic problem (lack of player development) but as far as this off season goes, considering the dearth of viable 2B and 3B options, they did OK. Tanaka may save our bacon.

          • Dick M

            Yeah well it’s 2 years in a row for us.

        • Dick M

          Last year’s option A’s in the infield included a has-been with a bad back at 3B and a 39 yr old SS coming off a broken ankle. So the sub-par reserves becoming a problem wasn’t some stroke of incredibly bad luck.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        “While the off-season options were poor, good orgs don’t let it come to that. ”

        This…is so wrong.

        • Dick M

          You’ll be OK Jim.

  • RetroRob

    There is still one more move to come on the 40-man roster, I believe, to make room for Solarte. Wonder who is getting axed. I’m guessing Claiborne based on now he pitched toward the end of last year and Spring Training, but maybe they’d rather risk cutting someone else. I’d prefer they hold onto to Flores until they have another season to assess him at the higher levels.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Agreed. Too early to risk losing Flores like that.

      If they took that risk just to give Solarte a couple-of-weeks UTL tryout, that’d be a pretty big headshaker.

      • ALZ

        Not to mention that Flores is going to be in AAA, and just turned 22. He had no power last year, but he still held a good avg/obp. If he can work on the power I think he could be a solid, but unspectacular player.

        • Dick M

          Exposing Flores would be a mistake in my book. I watched him at AA a couple games when they came thru New Britain. Kid just looks like a ballplayer. Prepares for the game with a purpose. Like you say, he’s young for his level.

          • Mr. Roth

            So you’re saying he’s like Jayson Nix?

            • Dick M

              Touche’ Hyman.

              Approaches the game like Nix, yeah. The OBA and the sweet swing — Nix would die for.

  • hogsmog

    Is anyone else apprehensive about 1st? Tex played 15 games last year, and isn’t exactly overwhelming anyone with confidence so far this spring. If Tex hits the DL for any stretch of time, does this mean we’re looking at pencilling in Anna as the everyday 3B?

    It’s times like these I miss Swisher, or the corner-bench-with-pop guys like Chavez and Reynolds.

    Though I suppose you could make this argument for basically every infield position…

    OH WELL. STILL FULL OF UNBRIDLED PRE-SEASON OPTIMISM.

    • Havok9120

      As long as they don’t try to treat him as a cleanup hitter when his bat clearly isn’t up to speed yet, I’m fine. He’ll come around with time and his glove still works even if his bat doesn’t.

      I’m not sure why you’d be worried about a recurrence of the injury beyond “what would happen if…” type stuff. He’s healthy, just still blowing the rust off. It’s definitely our weakest area of depth, though.

      • hogsmog

        I guess I’m just worried about Tex in particular because he basically didn’t play last year, even though at times he thought he was completely recovered but ended up not, from an injury that’s notoriously deceptive. It’s not like I’m expecting it, but I can honestly say I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the next RAB headline was ‘Teixeira feels pain in wrist, scratched from start’.

        And so, it just seems kind of ballsy to me going into a season like this. Even if he’s healthy, you probably want to give him plenty of rest. That’s why it surprises me that it seems like our bench is entirely focused on 2b/ss, rather than having a guy who can cover Tex (for week or two if need be) without embarrassing himself.

        I’d actually be pro-McCann at first a few days a week, providing he’s willing to learn.

        *ducks*

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          It’s a fair point.

          My only consolation to you is that there’s enough guys able to fake multiple positions that, hey, what’s faking one more position.

          They’ve also got Canzler down in AAA as insurance, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we see additional AAA depth as the season rolls on. Carlos Pena reunion, anyone?

          The team is going to have to win despite its infield. Obviously, an offensively-ineffective Tex will be a bigger obstacle to overcome.

          • Dick M

            Jorge, how am I supposed to let that go. Canzler?

            • Jorge Steinbrenner

              I never said he was great insurance. He’s probably a career journeyman with a decent SSS in the majors and good MiLB numbers, but that may be more than enough in a short-term situation. Tex misses more than that and it’s not good. No argument there. Tex being at least an average offensive player is important this season.

              I would have liked for a solid “corners” backup as well, but the other side of the infield has been much more of an attention-suck thus far.

      • LK

        Personally, I’m not so much worried about a recurrence of the injury as I am A) wrist injuries can continue to limit players for a while even after they’ve recovered and B) Tex is just sort of generally injury prone at this point in his career, and there are no backup options at all.

        These are the types of problems every team deals with though. It’s not often you can have an airtight Plan A and a competent Plan B at a position. I’m much more concerned about the rest of the IF.

      • ALZ

        I’m not really. I think Teix should be healthier, it’s not like he has been injury prone his entire time here.

    • I’m One

      I’m not too concerned about Tex, at least defensively. I’m hopeful he’ll be healthy all season, but that doesn’t directly translate to offensive success. We’ll just have to wait and see.

      I’d take Chavez in a heartbeat, but seems he had other plans. Pass on Reynolds, I’m fine with Johnson over him, due to anticipated better D. While Swisher would have been nice, that ship sailed long ago.

      • Preston

        The Swisher ship has sailed. But considering this off-season the decision to let him go looks even worse. Even with a down year at the plate last season by his standards Swisher was more valuable than Beltran by both fWAR and bWAR. Given their ages, Swisher is 3.5 years younger, that’s a trend that’s likely to continue. Yet both are owed the exact same amount for the exact same period. Throw in the fact that re-signing Swisher would have meant not signing Ichiro, the decision looks even worse. We basically payed 13 million for Ichiro to be our starting RF last year, and 45 million for Beltran’s age 37-39 seasons when we could have paid 60 million for Swisher’s age 32-35 seasons. Not to mention that Swisher taking ABs away from Overbay, Ichiro and Wells last season would have been a significant improvement to a team that didn’t get the WC, as well as a significant downgrade for the team that did (Indians).

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      It should definitely be on anyone’s radar as a concern. Sure.

      It’d be nice to not have two career MiLB middle infielders on our bench. Sure. Sort of flies in the face of the depth argument I made above.

    • Jersey Joe

      I hope they pick up a vet with more experience than Canzler as a first base option if Tex’s injury is really lingering. Carlos Pena strikes me as a quality, veteran candiate.

      • Dave Guarnieri

        Pena only makes sense if that stud, Tex, is going to miss a big chunk, if not all the season, which I wouldn’t put past him.

        Pena makes the roster that much more inflexible if Tex is not DL’d.

        He (Pena)does have a Yankee Stadium stroke and has been a Yankee killer, but he is also a guy who flirts with the Mendoza line & hit .139 with the LAA in Spring Training this year while fighting for a job. Not exactly inspirational.

      • Dave Guarnieri

        Pena makes the roster that much more inflexible if Tex is not DL’d.

        He (Pena)does have a Yankee Stadium stroke and has been a Yankee killer, but he is also a guy who flirts with the Mendoza line & hit .139 with the LAA in Spring Training this year while fighting for a job. Not exactly inspirational.

  • Dave in VA

    Not sure if Claiborne or Nik Turley is most likely to get DFA to make room for Solarte.

    I also don’t know why Frankie Cervelli is supposedly not available for a trade. I’ve been a fan of his for years, but he’s got a better shot at playing more with another team, and he could be a valuable piece of a trade that could get some infield help in return. (And maybe pare down the 40-man.) That said, I understand why the Rangers got turned away, because the only Rangers players that would be useful to the Yankees, Texas isn’t going to trade. I’m actually thinking that, whether Cervelli is dealt or not, any early-season trade involving the Yankees will likely involve more than two teams.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      FO said Cervelli’s not available for a trade.

      There’s no way he’s actually not available. It just has to be for the right price; the depth he provides at catcher is pretty damn valuable for the Yankees right now.

    • LK

      “he could be a valuable piece of a trade that could get some infield help in return.”

      No matter what’s out there publicly, if a team was offering some legitimate infield help for Cervelli, he’d have been traded already.

      • Dave in VA

        That’s why I said that any near-term trade involving the Yankees will involve more than two teams. NY has tradeable X and is looking for Z, but nobody out there has tradeable Z and is looking for X. But somebody might have tradeable Z and looking for Y, with a third team having tradeable Y and looking for X. Or other more complicated scenarios.

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

          We’re not arguing with this. We’re saying that:

          “I also don’t know why Frankie Cervelli is supposedly not available for a trade.” is just not completely accurate.

          He just hasn’t been available for a trade with a return that makes it worth the Yankees’ time.

      • JRod

        That depends on A. How comfortable they would be moving Romine and his 51 OPS+ from last season up to #2 on the catching depth chart B. guaranteeing Romine ~ 150 PAs as McCann can’t play every day and C. What you mean by legitimate infield “help”. If it’s another fungible ~ league average utility man, I think the team is properly valuing Cervelli considerably higher than that.

  • Matt DiBari

    Is Nunez really “depth?” Shouldn’t depth be usable?

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      He’s usable.

      • http://www.twitter.com/mattpat11 Matt DiBari

        I’m not sure a guy that can’t play any position in the field is usable

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Or, last year, he was the first guy off the bench. This year, he’s, at worst, your Option C.

  • UWS-NYY

    Do we suppose Banuelos will jump to the top of the rotation depth upon his return to Triple-A? Or would they want to keep him in the minors as long as possible to build up his arm in preparation for 2015? This is assuming he performs well, but maybe not tremendously, as I would expect.

    • RetroRob

      Sure, I can see him making some starts in 2015, but more in the second half. First he’s got to show he’s back and worthy of promotion for some spot starts. We’re aways off of that.

  • J.R.

    Did I miss it? I thought that the Yankees needed to clear a spot on the 40 man for Solarte.

  • ALZ

    My prediction: Nunez ends the year as the starting 2B.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      …for the Newark Bears.

  • Jersey Joe

    I have to defend #24, Scott Sizemore. That is an unwarranted statement against a man who deserved much better than a comparison to such a scrub in Jayson Nix.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Nice call.

      You oughta be ashamed of yourself, Axisa.

    • ALZ

      Nix isn’t that bad. There is value in a guy that can come off bench and play any position. The problem was that he was plan A when a regular got injured.

    • wallypip

      I was going to mention that too. Sizemore could hit the ball a little before he got hurt. I’m actually very excited that he might come back 100% and be a decent right-handed infield option.

    • vicki

      this post was up for an hour fifteen before somebody caught that? out of sight, i guess.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        Sizemore doesn’t require any assistance in his defense.

        • vicki

          but it pleases him when we demonstrate our service, loyalty and admiration.

  • Darren

    Everyone was so damn sure that Nunez was going to beat out Solarte. Now everyone’s real, real quiet.

    In any case, I don’t think it’s over yet for Nunez. Bet we say his erraticism and athleticism this year again. Although I can see Ryan going the way of Youk or Feliciano.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      I’m actually commenting from outside Cashman’s office, holding a large sign, right now.

      What is there to say? Some people felt the other move was the more prudent one. The team did otherwise. We move on to the next thing.

      • Darren

        Does the sign say “Babbooey”? I hope so.

        Anyway, I guess Cashman, like me, was seduced by Solarte’s spring. Or else he just figured, like, Mike said, that the versatility and overall competence was more valuable at the start of the season than Nunez’ limited talents and whatever marginal player was gonna get pushed off the 40.

        • Dick M

          I can’t get worked up about Noonie. While the bat and the speed are intriguing, he’s just not a major league infielder.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          How 2002 of you, Darren.

    • RetroRob

      People quiet around here?

      The argument was never for Nunez. It was for depth. It was unknown at that time that Solarte had a clause in his contract that he could have tripped if he wasn’t on the Opening Day roster.

      He may be gone within a couple of weeks.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      Or, you know, some people didn’t give a crap.

      But congratulations.

  • Baked McBride

    I like the chances of an Aceves-McCann battery plunking Big Papi multiple times this season

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      +5,000

      • Mr. Roth

        God, I hope this happens.

  • TWTR

    What’s done is done, but the need to have better minor league depth options (including ML-ready or near ML-ready prospects) has to be the top priority going forward.

    Hal claims to be committed to fixing it, but it remains to be seen if top people will be held accountable:

    In a 45-minute conversation with The Post, Steinbrenner did not conceal his disappointment with the lack of farm production he felt forced his decision to open his wallet. Joe Girardi publicly defended the players he was provided last year, but that was not reality. In a never-before-reported detail, Steinbrenner revealed, “When Joe and I had a conversation at the end of the season, even before he agreed to come back, he said, ‘Look, I got guys coming up here who don’t even know how to run the bases, guys coming up that don’t know how to bunt. Something is clearly being missed at some levels.’ ”

    [...]

    “It is an important question to ask every year anyway: Is our philosophy correct, are the people instituting our philosophy correct? Do they believe it and are they living it?” he said. “That is something I am going to look at after the year, even if things are a little better, even if things are a little more optimistic.”

    link

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      First time I’ve seen that quote about Joe being concerned about fundamentals with guys coming up.

      Then again, we all got to meet Nuney and Melky II.

      • Mike HC

        Of course, we all know that it was the lack of bunting and baserunning skills that doomed our minor league guys. Because they were all mashing for power and average. Fundamentals!

        • Mr. Roth

          You obviously missed the point. You can’t teach someone calculus before they know how to do addition and subtraction.

    • Mike HC

      “These guys can’t bunt! Can’t run the bases! How am I supposed to play smallball and win games in this huge NL ballpark we play in. Now Chris Stewart, that guy knew how to bunt and run the bases!”

    • Dick M

      Careful ….. you can be pilloried in these parts for bringing up obvious stuff like that.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        Or not.

  • Dave Guarnieri

    I think if Solarte didn’t have an opt-out clause, I believe he would have been the one sent down.

    About clearing a roster spot, Turley to the 60 day DL?

  • CS Yankee

    The best part of this article was the realization that Ichiro and nunez are “C” options this year.

    They didn’t take the best 25 west to Houston but they came pretty close. I thought that both 2009 & 2010 OD lineups were the best overall in the pros…while I don’t have that same feeling here this year it seems like they are 25 games better on paper than last year (I can’t believe they broke 70 wins last year though).

    Expecting the divison, CYA and comeback player of the year…hoping for #28. Let’s roll!

    • Darren

      Who do you tyhink they left behind that’s better than the guys on the 25?

      • CS Yankee

        Zo better than Ichiro
        Sizemore better than Solarte

        …understand that Ichiro deal hasn’t occurred yet and Sizemore needs more time, but talent wise they are better players.

  • Baked McBride

    ALL ABOARD!

    Next stop, Willoughby, followed by Battery Park.

    • Dave Guarnieri

      WOW–a “Twilight Zone” reference. Impressive!

    • vicki

      if this is you taking the train to the parade, ietc.

  • RetroRob

    Granderson 2 for 2…meaning two times up and two Ks.

  • Wizard

    You need to calm down with the Matt Daley stuff. I get that they paid for his rehab, but that isn’t uncommon. Matt Daley didnt make the team because he sucks. Stop making excuses for him, you have shoved him down our throats all offseason.

    HE SUCKS

  • captainbeefheart

    Yanks have more depth this year.
    But they’ll need more depth this year.
    1st, 2nd, SS are all likely to need some down time.

    Joba, Hughes both stunk. The Yanks won’t miss them and don’t need to think about replacing them.

    I still hope Cashman can trade Ichiro. I’d much rather see Zoilo on the bench.

    As for Nunez….buh-bye.

    Single biggest key to the Yanks’ season: Mark Teixiera. If he’s good, the Yanks’ offense will be great. If not, the Yanks’ offense won’t be great.

  • PankeeYankee

    Folks:

    Don’t like having so many older retreads as starting pitchers at AAA.
    We should have at least 3 prospects starting: Greene, Whitley and Banuelos, later Turley and Ramirez (unless they keep him in relief).
    Have 2 max vets.

    Thanks