Archive for Eduardo Nunez
The Yankees announced a series of roster moves this afternoon, so let’s recap:
- Kevin Youkilis has been placed on the 15-day with a lumbar strain. That’s the same back injury that send him to the DL earlier this year. He woke up with numbness in his right foot and will see a specialist. Not the most surprising news in the world, hopefully the injury explains his lack of production.
- Thomas Neal and Chris Bootcheck have both been called up from Triple-A Scranton. We heard both moves were coming earlier today. Neal will primarily DH against lefties while Bootcheck gives the bullpen a fresh long reliever.
- Adam Warren has been optioned to Triple-A Scranton. He threw 85 pitches across six innings in yesterday’s 18-inning marathon, so he was the obvious send down candidate to clear to a roster spot for a fresh arm.
- To clear spots on the 40-man roster for Neal and Bootcheck, the Yankees have transferred Eduardo Nunez to the 60-day DL and outrighted Cesar Cabral to Double-A Trenton. Because Cabral cleared waivers, the Rule 5 Draft rules no longer apply and he is officially Yankees property with no strings attached.
- Obviously, David Adams remains with the team with Youkilis hitting the DL.
The Yankees have placed Eduardo Nunez on the 15-day DL due to his left ribcage issue, the team announced. Infielder Alberto Gonzalez will be recalled from Triple-A to take his roster spot. Mark Teixeira has been transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot.
Nunez, 25, has not played since leaving last Sunday’s game with soreness. The Yankees have played without a backup infielder for six games since then, but that couldn’t go on any longer. Nunez has hit a weak .200/.290/.275 (56 wRC+) in 95 plate appearances as the starting shortstop during Derek Jeter‘s absence. The 30-year-old Gonzalez was acquired from the Cubs in a minor trade a few days ago. The 33-year-old Teixeira (wrist) has just started taking full batting practice and is weeks away from a return.
4:34pm: The MRI came back negative and Nunez is day-to-day with what they’re calling “irritation.” Joe Girardi said he might not be ready in time to play on Tuesday, which is a problem because that means they’ll be short a position player in an NL park.
3:16pm: Nunez left the game with tightness in his left ribcage, the team announced. He will have an MRI.
2:41pm: Eduardo Nunez was removed from today’s game for an unknown reason in the fifth inning. He was on deck when the bottom of the fourth inning ended, and the cameras showed him standing in the on-deck circle and chatting with Joe Girardi. Chris Nelson took over at third and Jayson Nix shifted over to short. Stay tuned for updates.
This season is the opportunity of a lifetime for Eduardo Nunez. The 25-year-old is getting a chance to play shortstop on an everyday basis thanks to Derek Jeter‘s ankle surgery and subsequent setback, and he’s going to continue to play the position regularly because the Cap’n isn’t due to return until after the All-Star break. It sure doesn’t seem like there is a trade in the works to acquire another shortstop either.
The biggest question about Nunez coming into the year was his defense, especially his throwing. His throws were strong but far too often very wild, so much so that the Yankees had to send him to Triple-A last May to sort things out. That demotion may have saved the team a couple hundred grand next year, but that’s besides the point. The club penciled Nunez in as the everyday shortstop during Jeter’s absence this year and that was a very, very risky proposition.
To date, Eduardo’s defense has mostly been a non-issue. He’s committed three errors in 22 games and 178 innings at shortstop, and only one of the three was a throwing error. That came over the weekend when a throw pulled first baseman Lyle Overbay off the bag just a bit. Nunez worked with first base coach/infield instructor Mick Kelleher to shorten his throwing motion in camp and the results have been overwhelmingly positive so far. I think we all still get nervous when a ball is hit his way, but give Eduardo credit. He worked hard and has greatly improved his defense, particularly his throws.
Of course, defense is only half the battle. Maybe less depending on your point of view. Offensive expectations certainly weren’t high coming into 2013, but Nunez hasn’t hit a lick in the early going. He comes into today riding an ugly 4-for-36 (.111) streak, which has dropped his overall season batting line to .169/.273/.185 (32 wRC+) in 79 plate appearances. No, it’s not a huge sample nor definitive evidence of how he will hit going forward, but Nunez has been awful at the plate even considering the low offensive standard for the position (87 wRC+ league average at shortstop). There’s no argument to be made otherwise.
Because he doesn’t offer much power (career .100 ISO) or much patience (career 6.7 BB%), Nunez’s entire offensive game is built around contact and speed. He’s a (very) poor man’s Ichiro Suzuki, someone who just puts the ball in play, runs, and hopes for the best. While hitting .272/.318/.384 (88 wRC+) in 491 plate appearances from 2010-2012, Nunez posted a 10.4% strikeout rate and an 88.2% contact rate. Those are both far better than average. So far this year he’s sitting on a 17.3% strikeout rate and an 83.3% contact rate, which are still better than the league average. Just a touch better though. When it comes to pitches in the strike zone, Nunez is making contact on 88.0% of his swings in 2013 compared to 92.5% from 2010-2012.
Contact and swing rates — his swing rates on pitches both in and out of the zone haven’t changed much this year — stabilize relatively quickly, so this isn’t necessarily something that will simply revert back to his career averages over time. Nunez is hitting way more fly balls (42.6% in 2013, 34.5% from 2010-2012) and fewer ground balls (40.7%, 47.4%) this year, which is the exact opposite of what you want to see from a speed player. Fly balls turn into outs more easily than grounders, plus they completely eliminate the speed aspect. There’s no pressure on the infielders to make a play quickly, stuff like that. Yes, his .204 BABIP this year is way low for any player, especially one who came into the year with a .291 career mark, but the reduced contact and ground balls rates indicate the problem is something more than dumb luck.
Hitting coach Kevin Long has reportedly worked with Nunez on his balance at the plate recently, specifically by widening his base and eliminating some of his stride. It goes without saying that balance is important, especially for a contact guy who needs to be short to the ball. Eduardo should see his numbers improve in part due to simple BABIP correction, but that alone won’t turn him into the average or even slightly-below-average hitter the Yankees need him to be. Maybe Nunez is being exposed with regular playing time or maybe he’s just in an early-season funk, but his production has been a drain on the offense from the bottom of the lineup. If he doesn’t show improvement in the coming weeks, the Yankees are going to have to consider finding a replacement.
Ryan Galla at CAA Sports currently projects the 2014 Super Two cutoff at two years and 119 days of service time, which is typically written as 2.119. The Super Two cutoff dropped with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, so more players will qualify. Super Two players get four years of arbitration-eligibility rather than the usual three. (h/t MLBTR)
According to the service time info at Cot’s, Eduardo Nunez is expected to finish the season at 2.117 if he doesn’t get optioned to the minors at some point, so only two days short of the projected cutoff. Even though he’s been a bench player for most of his big league career, the difference between qualifying and not qualifying as a Super Two is a couple hundred grand in salary next year. It’s not insignificant. The projected Super Two cutoff is not final and can change over the next few months depending on roster movement around the league.
Via Bryan Hoch: Brian Cashman confirmed the Yankees will stick with their internal options on the infield in the wake of Derek Jeter‘s setback. “We’re going to stay as we are,” said the GM. “Those guys have done a nice job. They’ve earned the right, and regardless, this time of year is certainly going to be a factor in anything that happens.”
Nunez, 25, is hitting just .184/.267/.211 (34 wRC+) in the early going this year while the 30-year-old Nix is at .172/.219/.276 (30 wRC+). That’s as bad as it gets right there. Nunez’s throwing has been much, much better these first few weeks, but that only goes so far. Teams usually aren’t looking to sell off pieces at this time of year anyway, so the Yankees are stuck with these two for the time being. Hopefully one of ‘em starts hitting.
8:27pm: Nunez has a right wrist contusions and is day-to-day, the team announced. X-rays were negative.
7:49pm: Eduardo Nunez left tonight’s game following a hit-by-pitch. Replays showed it got him in the
left right wrist. He remained in the game to run the bases but was removed after being unable to throw a ball between innings. Poor guy finally gets a chance to play everyday and he’s getting hit by pitches left and right. Stay tuned for updates.
3:24pm: Nunez is day-to-day with a bruised right biceps, the Yankees announced. X-rays were negative. Considering how much pain he was in, that’s not bad at all. Exhale.
2:25pm: Eduardo Nunez left this afternoon’s game after being hit by a pitch in what looked like the right arm/chest. It hit him right by the armpit, it seemed. Nunez was in a lot of pain and had to be helped off the field. Stay tuned for any updates.
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.
The Yankees showed up to camp last spring with the bench mostly set, but this year was a different story. None of the four bench spots were accounted for when position players reported last month — there were favorites for jobs, but nothing was close to set in stone — and right now the only guarantee is that either Chris Stewart or Frankie Cervelli will be the backup catcher while the other starts. The backup infielder, backup outfielder, and remaining bench spot are still undecided.
Less than two weeks before Opening Day, those three bench questions are joined by two injury-related questions in the starting lineup. Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira will be out until May, possibly longer in the case of the latter, meaning the Yankees must also sort through their assorted scraps for an outfielder and a first baseman. Thanks to some recent roster moves, these five position player questions are starting to be answered.
“There is no guarantee for anything … We will continue to evaluate these guys as we move forward,” said Joe Girardi to Chad Jennings and Dan Martin after Matt Diaz was released over the weekend. “Maybe one piece is gone, but it’s still going to play out probably for the next two weeks … We just thought the other guys were ahead of him and to be fair to him to have a chance to [play] somewhere else.”
In addition to Diaz being released, youngsters like Slade Heathcott and Zoilo Almonte were sent to minor league camp and effective removed from the outfield competition. Juan Rivera has played an awful lot of first base lately in the wake of Teixeira’s injury — he’s played the outfield just once in the last eight Grapefruit League games — and seems to have been dropped from the outfield race. That leaves Ben Francisco, Brennan Boesch, Melky Mesa, and Thomas Neal in the competition.
With all due respect to Neal, who has quietly had a nice camp, the other three guys stand out as prohibitive favorites. I think the Yankees consider the 27-year-old Boesch is the no-doubt replacement for Granderson — I think he would play right with Ichiro Suzuki shifting to left, putting the weaker defender in the smaller field — just because he’s left-handed and has played everyday the last three years. That said, Boesch signed a split contract and Buster Olney confirmed he has two (!) minor league options left, so he could be sent to Triple-A in a heartbeat. The fact that he’s the only left-handed hitter left in the competition leads me to believe he has a leg up on a big league roster spot come Opening Day.
That leaves Francisco and Mesa to battle it out for the right-handed outfield/DH role, and the Yankees always seem to lean towards the veteran when it comes to these part-time/reserve roles. Going with Francisco and sending Mesa to Triple-A allows the team to keep both players and frankly they could use the depth. Neither guy is like to hit much and while Melky2.0 is the better defender, Francisco is solid in the corner spots. Keeping him with Mesa in Triple-A is preferable to having Mesa in the show with no backup in the minors just in terms of having as many warm bodies as possible. Both guys will be needing over the course of the 162-game season.
Since the Yankees don’t need a fifth starter until their seventh game of the season and can backdate a DL stint ten days into Spring Training, they could have Phil Hughes start the season on the DL due to his back problem and carry an extra position player. Hughes would still be eligible to come off the DL in time for that seventh game, but the club would buy itself just a tiny bit more time to evaluate their position player options. It’s the difference between carrying both Rivera and Dan Johnson at the start of the season rather than just one or two. The Yankees only figure to see one left-handed starter in those first six games (Jon Lester on Opening Day), so having Johnson around would be helpful.
We still have no idea who the Yankees will carry north as the utility infielder, but Jayson Nix might have a leg up on Eduardo Nunez because of his versatility and defensive reliability. Going into the season with Boesch, Francisco, Rivera, and Johnson leaves the team just one spot for a utility man even if they open with Hughes on the DL. We know they’re just dying to use Nunez at short when Derek Jeter plays DH against lefties, but he hasn’t played any other position in camp. If they’re going to use him as the utility infielder, they’ll need to get him a few reps at second and third just to prepare him for the season.
With Diaz released and some others assigned to minor league camp, it looks more and more likely the Yankees will have both Boesch and Francisco on their Opening Day roster. Rivera and Johnson are the obvious first base fill-ins, but the club would need to manipulate Hughes’ injury — if they backdate his DL stint ten days, he can’t pitch in a Grapefruit League game during that time and will have to get his work in on the minor league side — to buy a temporary extra roster spot. The competition for the outfield, first base, and bench spots is still relatively wide open, but the picture is much clearer right now than it was just one week ago.