In the first month of the season, Brian Roberts hasn’t done much of anything offensively. The veteran second baseman is currently hitting .212/.312/.258, good for just a 61 wRC+. Roberts has drawn a fair amount of walks, but has been completely punchless at the plate, managing only two extra-base hits thus far.
The sample size is still very small, but poor hitting is nothing new for Roberts, who hasn’t had a wRC+ above 90 since his injury-shortened 2010 campaign. Since then, he’s hit just .229/.291/.334 in 626 plate appearances sprinkled over the past four seasons. Its been years since he’s been a good hitter, and at 36-years-old, a bounce-back season is unlikely. Roberts doesn’t appear to be anything special defensively, either. Over parts of the last four seasons, UZR has him at -4.6 in roughly one full season’s worth of innings. The scarcity of recent fielding data makes impossible to make any definitive conclusions, but its probably safe to say Roberts is at best an average defender at second.
There was at least a glimmer of hope that Roberts might be able to cobble together a bounce-back season. After all, he was a star second baseman in the late aughts; and considering he’s endured a litany of injuries in the past few years, at least some of his struggles could be chalked up to playing hurt. But this year, Roberts has actually stayed relatively healthy, but hasn’t hit a lick. Other than four games missed with a minor back strain, Roberts has played every single game this year, but has done nothing to even hint at a return to form.
Up to this point, Joe Girardi has had little choice but to starting Roberts. Injuries to Mark Teixeira and Brendan Ryan left the Yankees hard pressed to even fill out their infield. Kelly Johnson slid over to first base, while career minor leaguers Yangervis Solarte and Dean Anna were forced to play on a near daily basis. But now that Teixeira and Johnson are back at their respective positions, playing time figures to be harder to come by for Solarte, Anna, and Scott Sizemore — all of whom have shown offensive promise. Solarte’s put up crooked numbers since the start of spring training, Anna did the same in the minors last year, and Sizemore was a pretty decent hitter in 2011 before knee problems cost him the last two seasons. None of these guys is anything special, but it’s hard to think they could be any worse than Roberts has been.
Its still too early for 2014 stats to be very meaningful, but Roberts has been particularly bad; and its not like there was much reason to be optimistic about his hitting in the first place. Now that Ryan’s close to returning — and Solarte, Anna, and Sizemore are no longer needed at third base — it may make sense to start mixing and matching these guys at second. Roberts has had a great career, but it may be time to start easing him out of the lineup. He looks to be about done at this point, and the players behind him on the depth chart have significantly more upside.