Heading into the season, Eduardo Nunez was a very interesting case. While he was never a good hitter, his bat was at least acceptable for a middle infielder. His defense, on the other hand, wasn’t even close. Every grounder to short was an adventure for Nunez who bobbled and threw away routine balls on the regular. Despite all of his struggles, the Yankees still held out hope that Nunez would be able to sort out his defensive woes. Although Derek Jeter was coming off of injury and was questionable for the start of the year, they stuck with Nunez as their only fallback option at shortstop. Jeter never really got healthy and ended up missing most of the season, leaving Eduardo Nunez with a golden opportunity to show what he could do in regular playing time.
The results weren’t pretty. Unsurprisingly, Nunez continued to struggle in the field and was unimpressive at the dish as well. Like he always has, Nunez hit far too many infield fly balls, which hardly ever turn into hits. Nunez’s infield fly ball rate was third in baseball behind John Mayberry and Vernon Wells — 20% of his the balls Nunez put in play were infield flies.
Before landing on the DL with an oblique strain on May 5th, Nunez played just about every day at shortstop and hit just .200/.284/.275 with two steals in three attempts. His oblique injury was originally supposed to be day-to-day, but somehow ended up keeping him out of action until July. Upon returning, he started to show some signs of life with his bat, hitting .281/.311/.406 the rest of the way with eight steals in 10 attempts, including a .295/.321/.487 line in September. Unfortunately, his defense was still atrocious. In 75 games at shortstop, he committed 12 errors and easily had the worst UZR in all of baseball. When the Yankees acquired Brendan Ryan in September, they shifted Nunez over to third base to finish out the year. He made some nice plays at the hot corner, but also made two more errors in 14 games.
It seems like the Yankees may have finally given up on Nunez at shortstop, but may end up handing him the third base job in spring training. Nunez’s defense wouldn’t be as bigof an issue at third, but would still be unacceptable, especially considering his lack of offensive talent. The Yankees are in a similar position to where they were in last offseason — Nunez is clearly a very flawed player, but he may end up getting another chance thanks to a lack of other options. Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are much bigger question marks now than they were heading into 2013, it’s very unlikely that any help will come from the minor leagues, and there may not be enough cash in the coffers to acquire multiple left side infielders this winter. Like it or not, we very may well be in for another year of the Eduardo Nunez experience.
(This post was originally published on Pinstriped Bible.)
Photo by Keith Allison [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons