Who is the best player off the Yankee bench?
Every player, no matter what his age, will tell you that he would rather start. Most often, a player's age will keep him on the bench. Every so often, a player's versatility and ability to perform in the clutch will make him a more valuable asset coming off the bench in the late innings.
In either case, a player's leadership abilities will also serve as a tremendous asset. Let's take a look at who these unsung heroes are, what makes them so valuable and who they play for.
Big and powerful, young John is a right-handed version of his dad.
John Mayberry Jr. of the Philadelphia Phillies is one such player. Although he was relegated to the bench with the acquisition of Hunter Pence, Mayberry is still having a fairly solid season hitting .262, 13 HR, 44 RBI in 84 games.
He also has posted an OPS of .848. Mayberry can handle either of the corner outfield spots and perhaps wouldn't embarrass anyone in center, either. Like his father, Mayberry is a big guy with a long reach at 6'6". He very likely could even spell Ryan Howard at first, if called upon.
Matt Diaz returns with a bang to Atlanta.
There's a reason Atlanta reacquired Matt Diaz, perhaps several good ones. First, he's a career .300 hitter. Secondly, he's another veteran presence with a great "anything for the team" attitude. Third, he gets along famously with his teammates. Fourth, he knows how to advance runners into scoring position.
Okay, he's had a dearth of power this year, but on a team like the Braves, that won't be as glaring as it was on an offensively-strapped team like the Pirates. He handles the corner outfield slots well and even though he occasionally misplayed some hits in Pittsburgh, he's been fairly sure-handed throughout his career.
Since returning, Matt's posted a .545 BA, along with an OPS of 1.091 in five games. There may not be a better opposite field hitter in the game at the moment.
Milwaukees man-for-all-positions, Jerry Hairston, Jr.
For the Milwaukee Brewers, it's Jerry Hairston JR. Hairston is much-traveled and has been through it all before. He's a veteran presence with a solid stick as well as super-sub versatility. He can cut the mustard pretty much everywhere except catching and pitching—that's not to say he couldn't do either in a pinch.
Since his acquisition from the Washington Nationals, Hairston has compiled a .275 BA with six doubles and has a stolen base. The 35-year-old has never had a whole lot of power to speak of, but enough speed to take the extra base when necessary.
Tony LaRussa's best insurance policy, Allen Craig.
The St. Louis Cardinals are more than happy to have Allen Craig at their disposal. The 27-year-old has played everywhere for the Cardinals this year except behind the plate, on the mound and at shortstop, while hitting an outstanding .307, 6 HR, 28 RBI, .854 OPS. He's also a perfect five for five in stolen base attempts, all in 58 games.
He could play every day for 80 percent of MLB teams and get the job done.
Willie Bloomquist offers protection for the D-Backs at six positions.
The Arizona Diamondbacks also have a super sub in the person of Willie Bloomquist. The 33-year-old has played all three outfield posts during his career, plus second, short and third. This season, his first in the NL, he's hitting .271, with 4 HR, 24 RBI and swiped 15 bases in 25 attempts while playing in 84 games for the D-Backs.
Jeff Keppinger offers depth at three spots for SF.
The San Fransisco Giants acquired versatile Jeff Keppinger before the deadline from the Houston Astros. Although he's been mainly covering second in place of the delicate Freddy Sanchez, Keppinger can also handle short and third most capably, as well.
Since his acquisition, Jeff has put up solid offensive numbers like a .288 BA, rapped a pair of homers, driven in 11 and while he's never been overly powerful at the dish, he has a .702 OPS and hit just one homer fewer than Sanchez, despite playing 20 fewer games with the Giants.
One versatile Yankee, Eduardo Nunez.
Although he's only 24, Eduardo Nunez has shown that he's a real handyman, playing second, short and third, plus left and right for the Bronx Bombers.
He's posted a decent set of numbers for a sophomore player, .266 BA, 4 HR, 29 RBI and 19 steals in 24 attempts, while playing in 96 games. He may ultimately wind up being the replacement for Derek Jeter, but he can flash the leather no matter where manager Joe Girardi needs him to play
The Royals made a huge blunder in dealing away Mike Aviles.
Mike Aviles was acquired from the Royals at the deadline and has played second, short, third and the corner outfield spots while hitting a robust .322.
He also has a .712 OPS and has stolen four bases in as many attempts during 22 games in a Red Sox uniform. His arrival couldn't have been a bigger shot in the arm for Boston, since Kevin Youkilis has been mired in a post-All Star slump.
Ryan Raburn has played 5 positions for Jim Leyland this year.
Jim Leyland was getting what he expected from his left fielders this year, so the Tigers went out at the deadline and grabbed Delmon Young from the Twins. Since the All-Star game, the 30-year-old Ryan Raburn has been on a tear. He's hitting .311 (fourth highest on the club during that time frame), 4 HR, 11 RBI, .865 OPS in 31 games for Detroit. He's also provided insurance at all three outfield posts for Leyland, as well as at second and third.
Unwanted in Chicago, Kosuke Fukudome has been a good fit for the Tribe.
Kosuke Fukudome was snatched from the Cubs at the deadline and has posted solid numbers for the Indians. His AL figures show a .288 BA, 2 HR, 14 RBI and a .747 OPS in 36 games, while providing bench strength in right and center field for the Tribe. He also gives manager Manny Acta another option at DH and left field, if necessary.
Brent Lillibridge has shown good pop since the All Star break.
Brent Lillibridge is another farmhand that the Pirates let slip away. Post-All Star game this season, Lillibridge has hit .274 (tied for sixth best during the time frame), hammered six HR, driven in 14 and is sporting a .930 OPS in 37 games for the White Sox. Additionally, Lillibridge has provided the 'Sox with depth at all three outfield posts and first base.
David Murphy will take over for the injured Nelson Cruz.
In Texas, look no further than spare outfielder David Murphy. The Rangers recently lost slugger Nelson Cruz to a hamstring injury. Since the All-Star game, Murphy has been pounding the ball at a .294 BA, 4 HR, 17 RBI, .786 OPS and has pilfered three bases in four attempts while playing in 34 games. With Cruz out, Murphy will be invaluable.
Decent stick, good glove - that's Maicer Izturis
Maicer Izturis has provided the Angels with infield depth at second, short and third all year. Since the All-Star game, the switch-hitting Venezuelan native has posted a .277 BA and a .737 OPS in 33 games. In the field, he's committed four errors all season in 45 games at second, just one at short in 16 games and just two at third in 31 games.