Archive for Eduardo Nunez
Via Mike Vander Woude, the Yankees have activated Eduardo Nunez off the Triple-A disabled list and sent him down to High-A Tampa. It’s just a procedural move, he still needs to get back into a groove following the thumb injury and now he’ll get to stay close to the home base in Florida rather than rejoin the traveling Triple-A circus. I suppose the good news is that he’s off the DL a week before the trade deadline, eh?
4:07pm: Via Erik Boland, Joba apparently hit 98 this morning. He’ll throw two innings for High-A Tampa on Friday.
1:30pm: In his third minor league rehab game, right-hander Joba Chamberlain struck out two batters in a perfect inning. The other out came on a ground ball and for once there was no error made behind him. Joba has not allowed a hit or a walk in four rehab innings so far. No word on the pitch count or velocity, but I suspect we’ll hear about it at some point today. There’s a decent chance Chamberlain will be make his next appearance at a higher level, perhaps High-A Tampa.
In other news, Eduardo Nunez played shortstop in the same game, his first game action since going down with a thumb injury back in May. He played three innings in the field, handled one ground ball without incident, and grounded out to first in his only at-bat. He probably won’t need much more than a week of rehab games before rejoining Triple-A Empire State.
During the next few days we’ll take some time to review the first half of the season and look at which Yankees are meeting expectations, exceeding expectations, and falling short of expectations. What else is the All-Star break good for?
Although the Yankees have the best record in baseball, they have yet to really fire on all cylinders. They have a number of players who have not produced as expected so far, including some high-profile guys in prominent roles.
Father Time catches up to everyone, even players who were once historically great. A-Rod was able to avoid the DL in the first half thanks to Joe Girardi‘s plan of regular rest, but the production has not improved as hoped. Alex is hitting just .269/.357/.436 with 13 homers overall, on pace for what will likely become the worst season of career after setting a new low-water mark a year ago. His strikeout rate (22.0%) is his highest since 1996, his walk rate (10.3%) his second lowest since 2001, and his ISO (.167) his lowest ever.
Obviously there’s a lot going on here. A-Rod will turn 37 later this month, so age-related decline as already set in. Numerous lower body injuries in recent years — torn hip labrum and knee surgery chief among them — have impacted his ability to incorporate his lower half into his swing, resulting in the power decline. He’s more of an arms hitter than ever before. His struggles with runners in scoring position (.215/.354/.367) only exacerbate the problem. There’s no BABIP correction coming (he’s at .318 right now) and the power is unlikely to re-emerge. A-Rod is not a superstar anymore, get used to it.
Teixeira’s offseason and Spring Training work drew lots of attention as he focused on hitting the ball the other way to beat the shift and improve his declining batting average. Everything looked fine during the first two weeks of the season, as he hit a solid .288/.354/.508 through the team’s first 15 games. Teixeira fell off in a big way after that, hitting just .135/.185/.220 in his next 16 games. He got hot a few games after that, but then Girardi decided to sit him for three games due to an ongoing cough that has since been diagnosed as nerve damage to his vocal cords.
The rest helped the cough and at some point during those three days, Teixeira decided to abandon everything he’d been working on and get back to being a pull-happy slugger. What he was doing before just wasn’t working. The early returns were positive — four homers in his next seven games — but Teixeira’s production soon slowed down once again. Through the team’s first 85 games, their first baseman is hitting .250/.334/.473 after putting up a .248/.341/.494 batting line last year, the second worst of his career outside of his rookie season.
Teixeira’s production has been better than league average but again, below his normal standards even if you were expecting him to simply repeat last year. His 15 homers are well behind his usual pace — he had 25 at the break last summer — and his walk rate has dipped from 13.1% in 2010 to 11.1% in 2011 to 10.7% in 2010. A ten-point boost in BABIP from last year hasn’t helped his average much, unsurprisingly. The big problem right now is that not only has his average and OBP suffered, but he’s not hitting the ball out of the park as often either. His defense is still all-world, but Teixeira’s production at the plate has declined for the fourth straight season.
Nick Swisher & Russell Martin
The Yankees can survive a few sluggish bats because they have a deep lineup, but even the production from lower down in the order has suffered. Swisher is in the middle of a contract year but is hitting just .262/.336/.477 so far. The power production is obviously fine, but his 10.1% walk rate is the second lowest of his career and well below his 13.3% career average. Swisher’s strikeout rate (22.0%) is up slightly compared to recent years, so it shouldn’t be surprising that he’s swinging at 23.6% of the pitches he sees outside of the strike zone. Last year it was just 17.5%. He’s doing damage when he makes contact, but a big part of Swisher’s value is his ability to be get on-base in ways other than a hit. He hasn’t done much of that in 2012.
Martin, on the other hand, hasn’t done much offensively at all. His .179/.300/.348 batting line is below average even for a catcher, and although he’s shown signs of breaking out on occasion, it never lasted. Martin will have a good game or two every once in a while then slide back into a prolonged slump. He’s striking out way more than usual (20.2% strikeouts this year, 14.6% career) despite swinging at fewer pitches outside of the strike zone (15.4%) than ever before. His .193 (!) BABIP should improve in the second half just by pure luck, but the quality of Martin’s contact has not been good all year. You really can’t understate how awful he was in the first half.
Although he just turned in a damn fine start against the Red Sox in Fenway Park, Garcia has been a disappointment overall. His first four starts in April were a total disaster, I’m talking a 20 runs in 13.2 innings kind of disaster. The Yankees shipped him off to the bullpen where he worked sparingly in low-leverage situations, then reinserted him into back into the rotation once CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte hit the disabled list. Freddy has pitched well in his two starts back, but that doesn’t wash away the stench of April. Overall, Garcia has pitched to a 5.23 ERA (4.16 FIP) in 43 innings. Here’s to a much more successful second half.
When the season opened, the Yankees planned to give A-Rod and Derek Jeter time at DH against left-handed pitchers while Nunez filled in on the infield. They did just that for a few weeks, but Nunez’s defense — four errors in 20 games plus several other botched plays — became such an issue that he had to be demoted to Triple-A in early-May. He was hitting just fine, especially for a utility infielder (.294/.356/.373), but the glovework just could not be tolerated anymore. Nunez committed two errors in four Triple-A games before being placed on the DL with a thumb injury. He had a chance to really step up and force his way into the team’s long-term plans this season, but now he doesn’t even have much trade value.
For the first two months of the season, Wade was absolutely lights out while David Robertson and Mariano Rivera were on the DL. He also threw a lot of innings and made a lot of appearances, and that may have contributed to one of the worst pitched months in recent Yankees history. Wade has allowed 25 hits and 18 runs in 10.1 innings since the calendar flipped to June, earning him a demotion to Triple-A. His ERA climbed from 3.34 to 6.48 in his last three appearances alone (13 runs in 3.2 IP). It’s all about command with him; when he missed his spots with his soft stuff, it got hammered. Wade was tremendously useful last year and at the start of this year, but now the Yankees have to be wondering if he’s even salvageable.
- CC Sabathia (groin) played catch prior to last night’s game and will throw a bullpen session — his first since going on the DL — on Friday. The team still expects him back right after next week’s All-Star break.
- Pedro Feliciano (shoulder) threw a bullpen session in front of the braintrust yesterday. He’s currently throwing every three days but the plan is to bump him up to every other day at some point. Joe Girardi said there’s a legitimate chance the southpaw will help the team this season, but I wouldn’t count on it. Anything they get out of him is gravy.
- Eduardo Nunez (thumb) is on the Triple-A disabled list and has just started taking batting practice. “He hopes to play in a couple of weeks or so,” said Girardi.
- David Aardsma (elbow) went for various test following his recent setback, but the results aren’t available yet.
Back in April, Derek Jeter was arguably the most productive hitter in the American League. He hit .376/.421/.556 through the team’s first 31 games and his first 146 plate appearances, though his season line is now down to a (still strong) .305/.355/.414 because of a prolonged slump. The Cap’n has hit just .249/.302/.302 in 183 plate appearances over the team’s last 40 games, which is actual worse than his .260/.324/.324 performance before hitting the DL last summer.
Jeter’s slide has, to a certain extent, coincided with the demotion of Eduardo Nunez. The defensively challenged infielder was sent to Triple-A on May 11th after starting five of the team’s first 31 games at shortstop. That means Jeter had five half-days off (as the DH) during the first six weeks of the season. Since Nunez went down, Derek has started 36 of 40 games at shortstop while getting three half-days and one full day off. At one point he started 21 consecutive games at short. Scheduled days off obviously help a little, but the Cap’n hasn’t been getting as much rest as he was during his torrid start.
The lack of rest and declining production could just be a coincidence, but I think it’s fair to ask if all the extra time in the field is slowing Jeter down a step. He’s going to turn 38 years old tomorrow and shortstop is a demanding position, it’s not outrageous to think he could be worn out a bit. Jayson Nix has been fine as the utility infielder, neither great or a disaster, but he’s clearly not good enough to play short even once a week to give the Cap’n some rest. He’s a classic “only if I have to” shortstop, a spot start/emergency guy.
Now obviously Jeter wasn’t going to maintain that insane April pace all season. We all wanted to think that 2009 Derek was back after his work with hitting coordinator Gary Denbo last season, but it was completely unrealistic. His slump has been a bit harsher than expected however and the lack of regular rest — just time off his feet at short, not necessarily full games off — maybe be contributing to the slide. I doubt the Yankees would recall Nunez even if he was healthy and since Ramiro Pena is unplayable, a utility infielder than can legitimately play shortstop should be on the team’s trade deadline shopping list.
The Yankees played their 60th game of the season last night and they’ve only had Brett Gardner in the starting lineup for eight of them. The elbow injury he suffered sliding for a ball against the Twins has morphed into a series of setbacks that culminated with a visit to Dr. James Andrews yesterday. Gardner will see Dr. Tim Kremcheck for a second opinion on Thursday, at which point the Yankees will presumably announce the latest diagnosis.
Barring some fortunate and frankly unexpected good news, Gardner is going to miss several more weeks. A few days ago Joe Girardi indicated that he doesn’t expect his left fielder back until after the All-Star break, which is still more than a month away. Raul Ibanez has been better than expected and softened the blow of losing Gardner a bit, but the Yankees can’t really rely on him as the everyday left fielder for an extended period of time. He’s already started 33 games in the field and at 40 years old, there has to be some concern about him wearing down later in the season.
Unless the Yankees get good news on Thursday, they have to at least consider bolstering their roster with Gardner on the shelf. With all due respect to Dewayne Wise, he’s nothing more than a defensive replacement/spot starter in the big leagues. The Yankees can do better without having to go outside the organization, they have some potential solutions sitting in Triple-A.
I’ve written about Dickerson before, noting that he offers the ability to hit right-handed pitching (career .341 wOBA against northpaws) in addition to strong defense and base running skills. I don’t know if he’s a better defensive player than Wise but the difference isn’t worth arguing about. Dickerson can handle all three outfield spots with aplomb as well as contribute offensively with his bat and legs. The Yankees don’t have to play him every day in a straight platoon, but they could run him out there three times a week against righties while keeping Ibanez in the DH role. Cutting Wise in favor of Dickerson — who is out of minor league options and would have be waived whenever Gardner is healthy — is an upgrade in almost every single way.
Joe and I talked about this option on yesterday’s podcast. The idea would be to dump Wise, keep playing Ibanez in left, and use Branyan as the regular DH against right-handers. He’s come back very well from his back injury — six homers in 13 minor league games already — but it’s tough to consider him anything more than a first baseman/DH option. Branyan’s days of even faking third base and the corner outfield are a thing of the past. Adding a huge left-handed power bat lineup is obviously desirable, but it would leave the Yankees without a true backup center fielder and further limit roster flexibility.
I suppose it’s also worth mentioning Jack Cust here, who is also raking in Triple-A but has yet to play a single game in the field. It’s been DH or the bench. At least Branyan has played first base pretty much every game.
The most interesting 27-year-old in the minor league system, Mustelier has been hitting non-stop since signing last summer and he’s now doing it at the Triple-A level. Joe Girardi raved about his bat speed recently and said his name has come up as a call-up candidate at various points this year … but that’s pretty much all we know about the guy. He’s small — listed at 5-foot-10 and 210 lbs. — and right-handed with phenomenal numbers, but we don’t know anything about his defensive skills or speed or anything else. Box scores only tell you so much. Mustelier has spent a ton of time in left field and also has experience in the infield, so his versatility as a plus. He’s not an ideal platoon candidate given his right-handedness, but he could also hit enough that it doesn’t even matter.
This one probably won’t happen for a number of reasons. For one, Nunez is currently on the minor league DL with a thumb issue. For another, the Yankees sent him to Triple-A to focus on one position after bouncing him all around the field over the last year or so. Calling Nunez back up to do anything — utility infielder, platoon left fielder, etc. — would go against that plan. That doesn’t mean it’s not an option, just that it seems unlikely. That said, we can’t rule anything out. Whenever Nunez gets healthy — probably soon since he was taking grounders just last week — he figures to at least be on the call-up radar.
As always, the top minor league affiliate is chock full of random call-up options. Brandon Laird is on the 40-man roster and can play all four corner spots, but he can’t hit — .251/.289/.393 in 870 total plate appearances in Triple-A. Corban Joseph has zero outfield experience so he’s of no use in this situation despite being on the 40-man. Colin Curtis is a solid enough defensive player and can play all three outfield spots, but he’s never been much with the stick. Kevin Russo can play all over the field and make some contact, but otherwise isn’t any kind of upgrade. Neither he nor Curtis is on the 40-man roster as well. Not much to see here.
* * *
Of course, the Yankees always have the option of doing nothing and sticking with their current setup. Ibanez, Andruw Jones, and Jayson Nix could continue to take turns in left field while Wise gets nothing more than the occasional spot start. That’s fine for two weeks or whatever, but I’d rather not see them roll with it for an extended period of time. It’s already been long enough as far as I’m concerned. Anyway, stuff is like this begging for a poll, so…
Via Josh Norris, the Yankees had talked with the Nationals about a trade involving one of Washington’s starting pitchers earlier this season. Eduardo Nunez, southpaw prospect Nik Turley, and an unnamed Low-A Charleston outfielder* were supposedly heading the nation’s capitol. Talks have cooled of late and nothing is imminent.
It stands to reason that Edwin Jackson was the subject of the trade talks. Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmerman are presumably off-limits and Ross Detwiler, Chien-Ming Wang, and John Lannan aren’t anything special. Certainly not guys you’d trade three young players for. Jackson signed a one-year contract with the Nats this offseason and can’t be traded until June 15th without his consent. It’s an interesting rumor, but Washington lives and dies with its starting pitching. It doesn’t appear that they’re getting enough of an offensive upgrade to dish one of their four best starters, even if he’s only signed through this season.
* I have to think it’s either Ben Gamel or Kelvin DeLeon. I can’t imagine either Mason Williams or Tyler Austin being including in a package like this unless one of Strasburg, Gio, and Zimmermann was on the table, and I find it very hard to believe they are.
Got a pair of injury updates from the minor leagues…
- Eduardo Nunez (thumb) has started taking ground balls in Tampa and should return to Triple-A Empire State soon. He was placed on the DL a week or two ago after essentially jamming his thumb. [Andrew Marchand]
- Austin Romine (back) has been cleared for baseball activities, something he’s been unable to do since Spring Training. Last week we heard that he was going to be out until July with an inflamed disc in his back, which fits with today’s news assuming they’re going to be conservative with his workouts over the next few weeks. [Romine on Twitter]
6:56pm: Via Mike Vander Woude, it’s a sore left elbow for Banuelos. Yuck.
6:00pm: Via Chad Jennings and Donnie Collins, infielder Eduardo Nunez and left-hander Manny Banuelos have both been placed on the 7-day DL in Triple-A. Nunez hurt his thumb a few days ago but it’s unclear what’s up with Banuelos. Perhaps the lat issue that shelved him a few weeks ago popped back up. Both guys could technically return this weekend, but we’ll see.
Five questions and four answers this week, and I tried to keep it short but mostly failed. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar if you want to send us anything, mailbag questions or otherwise.
Shaun asks: Do you guys think David Robertson will automatically get the closer’s job when he returns? I hope Rafael Soriano flourishes in the role he is most comfortable and we can have Robertson back to Houdini!
That’s exactly what I hope happens. I want Soriano to pitch well regardless of inning, but I hope he really takes to the closer role and dominates so they can use Robertson a little more liberally in the seventh and eighth innings. The Yankees did bump Soriano back to the seventh inning following his DL stint last season because Robertson was dominant, so I hope history kinda sorta repeats itself.
Jay asks: What team has a need for 2nd base? I would think Eduardo Nunez could start on a lot of teams and contribute; just as the Yankees are thinking, putting him in one position could help his defense.
Middle infielders around baseball are just awful these days, so I’m sure a number of clubs would have interest in Nunez as an everyday guy despite his complete lack of defensive value. I know I’d rather take a chance on him than sign someone like the recently released Orlando Hudson.
Nunez has a 95 wRC+ in 450 career big league plate appearances, so he’s fallen just short of league average offensive production. His career Triple-A performance is similar and that’s basically the guy you’re going to get. Nunez will hit for a average but not power, make a ton of contact, and steal a bunch of bases. That’s what most middle infielders do, though at least he offers a chance at improvement at 25 years old. He’s still two years why of his peak, in theory.
The problem with trading Nunez right now is that his value is way down. The Yankees had to send him down because his defense was unplayable and that dropped his stock. We know other clubs — specifically the Mariners and Braves — have had interest in him in the past and I’m sure they’ve love to buy low now. Unless we’re talking about a multi-player package to acquire a star-caliber player, the Yankees are probably better off holding on to Nunez rather than take whatever uninteresting prospects clubs offer in a trade.
Tim asks: Chances or what do you think of the inconsistent Ivan Nova being sent down and Banuelos put in the NYY rotation in his place?
Jeff asks: Is it insane to think that Manny Banuelos can pitch his way into the big league rotation sometime this year?
Gonna lump these two together and will start with the Banuelos part. Yes, I think he could pitch his way into the rotation later this season. I thought there was a chance he would do it last year, but then he had to pull a Dellin Betances impression with the walk rate. Banuelos’ performance has been very encouraging following his return from the lat injury — 15 strikeouts an zero walks in 14.2 IP — but he’s not out of the woods yet. Three starts don’t erase the last year’s worth of command problems. He’s got to continue to show improvement and if he keeps looking like the Banuelos of old (meaning 2008-2010), then I could definitely see him cracking the rotation in the second half.
As for Nova, I also think there’s a chance he could be sent down at some point. Heck, they send him down for less last summer. Obviously this right foot and ankle injury complicates things a bit, but he had a very obvious problem leaving pitches up and thus getting hammered for extra-base hits before the injury. Nova leads the league extra-base hits allowed (32) and has allowed eleven (!) more than any other pitcher who’s made no more than seven starts. Hopefully he shakes off the ankle problem and starts getting pitches down, but if he doesn’t improve and we’re in the middle of June or something, an assignment to Triple-A has to be a consideration. If Banuelos happens to keep pitching well and shows improved command, he’d be the obvious candidate to take Nova’s spot.
Shai asks: Why are good lefty starters worth more than good righty starters? Aren’t there more (good) righty hitters in baseball? I understand the value of a LOOGY but shouldn’t righty starters be worth more?
It’s just a supply and demand thing. There’s roughly a 75-25 split between righties and lefties around the league these days (both starters and reliever), so there are just fewer quality left-handers to be had. Lefties are an even higher prior for the Yankees than other teams because of the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium. That’s really all there is to it. There are fewer great lefties around than great righties, so the southpaws are more valuable. Same reason great shortstops are more valuable than great first baseman.