New York Yankees: Possible Roles for Eduardo Nunez in 2012
Nunez made a ton of errors in what was otherwise a solid offensive season for the rookie.
We saw him fill in for Derek Jeter when the captain went down due to injury and he did a pretty good job, proving he could hang in the batter's box at least.
As pitchers and catchers report is rapidly approaching, here are a few scenarios that could play out for Nunez as a member of the 2012 Yankees.
Although he's grown up as a short stop, that position won't be opening up quite yet for Nunez, so learning to play a new position might be beneficial to him.
Last season, we saw Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner become two very streaky hitters. At some points they handled the bat well during the season, but in others, it was downright ugly.
Nunez could be the solution, filling in at either position when one of the two are struggling.
He certainly has the speed to play the outfield and if he is successful, could hit leadoff for the Bombers, who don't have a true leadoff hitter.
Last season, Nunez had some time in the outfield for the Yanks during spring training, with very limited time during the season.
We could very well see him there this season with an opportunity to start everyday if he can outplay Swisher or Gardner, although Gardner being removed in place of Nunez would be more realistic.
Let's just hope, for Nunez's sake, he doesn't play the same defense in the outfield that he played at shortstop in 2011.
I wouldn't even begin to try and predict that Nunez will take over for Jeter full-time. I'd be foolish to say such a thing.
Seeing as how Jeter did have a bounce-back year in 2011, he isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
But Jeter did have a stint on the disabled list last season, so injury isn't an impossible thought for the Yanks' shortstop.
Nunez filled in perfectly for Jeter with the bat, hitting over .300 in Jeter's absence. He did, however, kill the Bombers with inept defense that led to a ton of errors and run-creating mistakes.
He won't be banished from the position forever and I expect him to make strides this season to become a better defensive player.
If Nunez can do that, expect to see him filling in for Jeter on a day off and if the Captain goes down to injury, Nunez will become the everyday shortstop until he returns.
Alex Rodriguez battled injury for the majority of the 2011 season, a theme that is becoming recurrent for the Yankees third baseman.
Nunez spent some time at third base last year for Rodriguez during his disabled list stints and proved to be a decent replacement.
Defense always being the key with Nunez, he will get more chances to play third now that the DH spot in the order is vacated by a departing Jorge Posada.
I think Nunez will spend the majority of his time playing third base while A-Rod is getting a half-day at DH more consistently than in other years.
It will be vital for the Yankees to give Rodriguez as much time at DH as possible in order to keep him fresh. Nunez enables them to do that.
I know the numbers say A-Rod is still a great defensive third baseman, but the Yankees pay him to be in the lineup and drive in runs, not just for defense.
Nunez is expendable in the sense that if a good trade comes along, the Yankees can and should use him to bring a top-flight pitcher.
I feel Nunez has the talent to be a very good player in the MLB someday soon, as long as he plays better defense of course. He's already proven he can swing the stick well with room for improvement.
I wouldn't throw him away to Atlanta for a Jair Jurrjens deal if that's what the Braves had in mind. I think the Yanks should settle for nothing less than a high-impact starter if Nunez's name is mentioned in any deal.
Long story short: If the Yankees have a chance to land an ace pitcher during the regular season, expect Nunez to be involved in the package.
Bold Prediction for 2012
The Yankees will be working hard all year to bring in a top-flight starter to help backup CC Sabathia, but that won't come quickly or easily for GM Brian Cashman.
Nunez will be the Yanks utility man this season, filling in at left or right field, shortstop and third base whenever it's needed.
He will have an opportunity to start every day if there's an injury at one of those positions, or if he simply outperforms a guy like Gardner, who is no staple in this Yankees' lineup yet.
All that being said, I think Nunez will end up being traded this season when a big-name pitcher becomes available.
I don't know who or when that will be and we may not know until the trade deadline, but it will happen nonetheless.
Nunez is a nice player and may be a great player one day, but the Yankees will do anything to bring in another reliable starter. Nunez might just find himself a casualty of that search and I think we could all certainly live with that.
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