New York Yankees Most Underrated Players
The New York Yankees' high payroll and expectations from year to year, as well as playing in the largest market in MLB, often make it difficult to consider any player in pinstripes as being underrated.
The team once again led all of baseball with the highest payroll, and its average salary topped the six million dollar mark.
In spite of winning an American League leading 95 games, the Yankees and their fans considered the 2012 season to be a failure as they bowed to the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS. Any other team would have looked back at the season as a resounding success.
Difficult as the season's end may have been for the Yankees fans to swallow, the "Bombers" critics find it just as hard to consider any Yankees player something other than over-hyped and beyond his prime.
With the 2012 campaign now in the rear-view mirror, a look back reveals players whose overall performance could get them classified as "underrated."
Russell Martin's struggles in the batter's box during the 2012 season are well documented. It wasn't until September that Martin was able to get his average over .200 and keep it there. His .223 average with runners in scoring position was the very epitome of the Yankees' Achilles Heel all season.
Why then is Martin underrated?
The Yankees catcher is a gritty work horse and batting is only one aspect of the solid all-around game that he brings to the ballpark every single day. His season as the Yankees backstop matched the best of his career—recording a .994 fielding percentage and garnering recognition as a finalist for the Gold Glove at his position.
In his October 8th article in the New York Times, Bill Pennington quotes CC Sabathia as saying, “The awesome thing about Russ is that his attitude never changes. He struggled at the plate early this season but he didn’t let it get to him. It never affected anything else.”
It is that mindset which established Martin as one of the foundations to New York's run that ended in the ALCS. From July on, his batting average rose every month, and there was one stretch during the crucial final three weeks of the season where Martin hit .321 (9 for 28), helping the team hold off the hard-charging Baltimore Orioles for the AL East Division crown.
The hitting statistics will never show 2012 to be one of Russell Martin's memorable seasons, but a closer look at all that he contributed during the year reveals a different picture.
In 2012 left-handed relief pitcher Clay Rapada put together his finest season in professional baseball, yet no one seems to have noticed.
This past season the side-armed hurler reached personal MLB highs in appearances (70), strikeouts (38) and innings pitched (38.1). In addition, he posted his best ERA (2.82) at the Major League level.
With his performance, the 31-year-old Rapada created a niche for himself in manager Joe Girardi's bullpen and rarely let his team down when called upon in his specialized lefty/lefty matchups.
Opposing batters hit just .215 against him—including a .186 batting average for left-handed batters.
Not a bad effort for someone that was one of the final choices to make the opening day roster.
Every time one of the New York Yankees' outfielders goes on the DL or has a contract come due, speculation runs far and wide as to who the team will acquire to fill the gap. Even this past season, when Brett Gardner went down for most of the year, the "Bombers" used a parade of players (Raul Ibanez, Adam Jones, Jayson Nix, Dewayne Wise, Darnell McDonald) to try to patch the hole.
It wasn't until the September call-ups that the team considered Chris Dickerson—perhaps the most underrated player by his own team.
In his two seasons with the Yankees, Dickerson has appeared in a total of 85 games at the Major League level. In what amounts to a little more than a half season of playing time, the 30-year old outfielder has hit a solid .266—including .286 in 25 games in 2012. He has a strong arm, decent speed (stole three bases in 25 games) and can play any of the three outfield positions.
At Triple-A Scranton, Dickerson hit .316 and stole 17 bases in 69 games.
Now that it appears the Yankees have a vacancy in right field, perhaps 2013 can finally be the opportunity Dickerson has been working for.