I wasn’t expecting much out of Eduardo Nunez‘ bat this season, given his minor league performance and limited time at the major league level. Rather, like everyone else, I was much more concerned about his defense. But it’s getting to the point where is hitting, or lack there of, has become the intolerable facet of his game.
Through last night’s debacle against the Astros (hey, it happens), Nunez is hitting .169/.273/.185, a 32 wRC+. Per wRC+, he’s the worst hitting shortstop this season in all of baseball. Putting it nicely, Nunez isn’t making the best of this opportunity with Derek Jeter on the shelf.
Nunez isn’t this bad of a hitter, but that doesn’t mean he’s any good at the dish. His career 81 wRC+ is nothing to brag about, so even as his .204 BABIP regresses to the mean, it’s not like he’s going to be anything special. What’s more – the same flaws I illustrated in this article are recurring in 2013, so he’s not making any strides. He’s still popping the ball up a quarter of the time, and only hitting line drives a hair under 17% of his PAs.
Perhaps his lack of offense might be tolerable if Nunez was a wizard with the glove. Yes, he’s made big time improvements, but that’s not saying much considering what he once was. No scouts have raved about him, so it’s reasonable to believe that even with his defensive improvements, he’s still a below average defender.
Unfortunately, the internal options aren’t very appetizing. With Kevin Youkilis banged up, Jayson Nix is busy manning the hot corner (and might only be a marginal upgrade). That leaves the only other internal options as Addison Maruszak and Gil Velazquez, both in Triple-A, both no certain upgrade over Nunez, and both requiring a 40-man spot to be cleared – so no dice. Perhaps if Youkilis requires a DL-stint, Nix may see some tread at short, while someone like David Adams gets the nod at third.
Externally, the most obvious candidate appears to be Seattle’s Brendan Ryan, who perplexingly was benched for Robert Andino recently. Ryan can’t hit (career 73 wRC+), but is a known commodity with the glove. In his career, Ryan boasts a 12.2 UZR/150 and 94 DRS in a little under 4800 innings at shortstop. He shouldn’t cost much to acquire, and at least provides some semblance of value at the position. I wouldn’t anticipate any move outside of the organization just yet, given the early stage of the 2013 campaign. However, I do expect a move as insurance for the position, given the uncertainty of Jeter’s ankle and the outlook of the internal options, including Nunez.
Looking back, it’s pretty remarkable that the Yankees didn’t look to shore up the position in the offseason. It’s not like Jeter’s setback, given his age and nature of the injury, was unforeseeable. Nunez’ track record doesn’t instill confidence, either. It’s truly remarkable how much blind faith the organization has put into Nunez, with the results consistently being the same: bad. Now, the organization is paying for it’s oversight.
By Keith Allison (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons