New York Yankees: Top 5 Disappointments This Preseason
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Going into this spring, the New York Yankees knew that they would have to replace a large amount of production after the departures of Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez, Rafael Soriano and others.
The Yankees have therefor started relying on players such as Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira to shoulder more of the load, as well as expect minor leaguers and new faces to step in and produce.
This has led to a great deal of disappointment this preseason in New York.
We are about halfway through spring training and the Yankees seem to have more holes than they did in mid-February.
Their deficiencies are so profound that general manager Brian Cashman has reportedly contacted Chipper Jones, Derek Lee and Scott Rolen to lure them out of retirement.
Such drastic measures have become necessary due to disappointments within the organization. Ahead is a list of the top five disappointments at the Yankees' spring training this preseason.
5. Eduardo Nunez
Nunez will be needed to spell an aging Yankee infield this season.
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Nunez has disappointed the Yankees for much of his career.
While he has always impressed with his offensive skill-set (a .272 career batting average with 38 stolen bases in 46 attempts), he has underwhelmed with his glove (20 errors in limited time in 2011), according to Baseball-reference.com.
Knowing that Nunez probably will never be a very good fielder, he needs his bat to help keep him on the field.
With Derek Jeter returning from a serious ankle injury and Mark Teixeira expected to miss significant time with an injury, Nunez will need to step-up for the Yankees. He will need to play significant innings in the infield to prevent further injury by giving the Yankees aging stars some time off.
However, Nunez has not hit well all spring, hitting under .200 with only one RBI in 31 at bats.
The Yankees need Nunez to produce early and often. They will be trying to ease Derek Jeter back into regular shortstop duty, and search for a replacement at either first or third base for the injured Mark Teixeira (depending on where Kevin Youkilis plays).
4. Melky Mesa
Melky Mesa can compete for a starting outfield spot on Opening Day.
After Curtis Granderson went down with a wrist injury, the door opened up for someone to grab the starting spot left vacant by his absence.
The most popular candidates internally are Melky Mesa and Zoilo Almonte.
However, Mesa is the only one of the two that has played significant time above Double-A.
Mesa has good power and speed, hitting 23 home runs and stealing 22 bases across two levels last season.
This spring, however, Mesa is only hitting .189 with two home runs and five RBIs in 37 at bats. He has also recorded 12 strikeouts, averaging almost one in every three at bats.
Mesa is making it difficult for the Yankee front office to deem him ready for everyday duty in the big leagues. His underwhelming spring has to be a big let down to Cashman, who might feel obligated to find an outfielder outside the organization to replace Granderson until he returns in May.
3. Travis Hafner
Hafner provides power from the left side for the Yankees.
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Between Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones, the Yankees lost players that hit a combined 163 home runs last season.
While Teixeira and Granderson will return in May, the remaining production needs to be replaced.
This is where the Yankees hope that Travis Hafner will prove useful.
His power stroke from the left side seems perfect for Yankee Stadium. However, his lack of offense is troubling.
So far this preseason, Hafner has hit only .150 in 20 at bats and recorded two RBIs. Also, he has struck out nine times, one less than half of his at bats.
Hafner will need to post an OPS significantly higher than his current .480 OPS this spring if he wants to log any significant time in the Bronx.
2. The Catching Trio: Cervelli/Romine/Stewart
Who will win the Yankee catching battle?
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Between three catchers, Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Austin Romine, it seemed likely that at least one would have a hot spring and claim the starting catching job.
So far, however, it does not seem like any of them particularly want the starting role.
Romine leads all candidates with a .250 batting average, while Stewart and Cervelli follow with .238 and .208, respectively. Combined they have recorded seven RBIs in 53 at bats.
Stewart has the only home run.
As of now, it looks as though Stewart will be the opening day starter mainly because his defense is proven. If no one can definitively top the career backup catcher's offense, then the Yankees could be looking at a gaping hole in their lineup at the catchers spot.
The injury bug has visited Tampa often this spring.
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The biggest disappointment this spring for the Yankees has to be injuries.
Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera have both returned from their serious injuries within the past week.
However, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez have all been hit hard this spring.
Teixeira and Granderson are two major blows since neither of them have a bad injury history. Granderson's broken bones and Teixeira's strained right wrist tendon could keep them both out until at least early-mid May, according to MLB.com.
Alex Rodriguez's injury will cause him to possibly miss the entire season. News regarding his rehab has seemingly gotten worse and worse with every update.
Michael Pineda is in a similar situation. Since his shoulder surgery last spring, he has seemingly required more and more time with every rehab update.
CC Sabathia is expected to return tomorrow from elbow surgery—a troubling injury for any pitcher. It will be interesting to see how he rebounds since he will be relied on this season to make up for the loss of some offense.
In another unexpected development, Phil Hughes also had to shut his spring down temporarily as he experienced back problems. An important piece of the Yankees rotation, and their leader in wins last season, Hughes has had encouraging developments working his way back.
But a history of back problems could signal trouble for the Yankees down the road.
The amount of injuries and worries attached to many of the Yankees' vital pieces has to be their biggest disappointment of the preseason so far.