Up next in our position-by-position look at the Yankees organization is a spot that seemed to be in extremely safe hands just two years ago. In the past two seasons, though, Mark Teixeira’s offensive production has become much more one-diminsional, but with a long-term contract, he’s clearly not going anywhere.
In the big leagues
Teixeira is signed through 2016, so he’s not going anywhere, and his defense at first base is still plenty good enough to stay on the field. What’s troublesome is an obvious offensive trend, with a batting average and on-base percentage that have steadily declined in his three seasons with the Yankees. The power is still there — and still significant — but Teixeira has become more one-diminsional, especially from the left side. His past two seasons haven’t seen the same across-the-board, MVP-type production that the Yankees saw in 2009. But Teixeira recognizes the situation and has said he’s committed to fixing it. Getting him back to a 2009 level of production could make a significant difference.
On the verge
Jorge Vazquez is a curiosity as much as he’s a prospect. He’s old for a prospect, he strikes out a ton, doesn’t play very good defense and has never played above Triple-A. But the guy has more than enough power to catch the organization’s attention, and he’s something for a wild card for the Yankees new DH opening. Plucked out of Mexico — where he built a reputation as a middle-of-the-order slugger — Vazquez has hammered the ball in the minor leagues, including 32 home runs and a .516 slugging percentage last year with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Third baseman Brandon Laird can also play first, but the position should belong to Vazquez in Triple-A. That is, of course, unless he does enough to win some DH at-bats in New York.
Deep in the system
There are a lot of names worth mentioning here. Robert Lyerly, Luke Murton and Kyle Roller have each done enough to stay on fringes of the prospect radar while spending considerable time at first base. Catcher J.R. Murphy could be a candidate for the position if necessary, and slick-hitting outfielder Ramon Flores has played some first base. The organization doesn’t really have a standout at first base, but recent draftees Tyler Austin and Greg Bird — both drafted as catchers — have intriguing bats that could settle into regular time at first. Austin is already playing first and third, and put up impressive numbers last year.
Organizational depth chart
My rough guess. It’s too early for the Yankees to decide who will be where next season.
New York: Mark Teixeira
Scranton/WB: Jorge Vazquez
Trenton: Robert Lyerly
Tampa: Kyle Roller
Charleston: Tyler Austin
Hard not to be impressed with Austin’s numbers last year, and that might be enough to push him to Charleston after only short stints in both Staten Island and the Gulf Coast League. Guys like Laird, Murton, Brad Suttle, Addison Maruszak, Kevin Mahoney and Rob Segedin could occasionally fit into the first base mix as well. With no true standout at the position — but a lot of guys who can play it — first base could be used as a way to get guys at-bats up and down the system.
Associated Press photo of Teixeira, headshots of Teixeira, Vazquez and Austin