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A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News


State of the organization: First base

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Jan 07, 2013 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

I think I did this a couple of winters ago, a look at each position up and down the organization. Who’s in place? Who’s on the rise? What should be expected at each spot? We’ll do it again this year, starting at a position that brings both stability and uncertainty. The Yankees have their first baseman of the past, present and future, and he’s a good one. Question is, is he an MVP candidate or simply a productive power hitter?

Mark Teixeira
Signed through 2016
Halfway through an eight-year contract, Teixeira’s only real failure centers on his extreme expectations. When he signed in the winter of 2008, Teixeira was a 28-year-old with a brilliant defensive reputation and a terrific all-around bat. He hit for average, hit for power and drew walks. In his first year with the Yankees, he never won the MVP award. In the three years since, his batting average has dipped significantly. He’s maintained his home run power, his strikeouts have not increased significantly, and he still takes his walks, but Teixeira’s hit total has dropped year by year. The defensive shift used against him has been successful, and he’s had some trouble with injuries. He’ll be 33 years old in April, which isn’t particularly old, but isn’t particularly young either. His power and glove have been enough to keep him plenty productive, but there’s always the expectation that Teixeira should be more than this.

On the verge
For any number of reasons — Teixeira’s contract probably being one of them — the Yankees don’t really have a standout first base prospect. They have several notable guys who could probably play the position, but many prospects are tested elsewhere and moved to first base only if they can’t handle other positions. Instead, the Yankees true first base depth probably comes from newly acquired corner utility man Russ Canzler. The Yankees could also shift Kevin Youkilis to first base if necessary. As for true in-house options, Ronnier Mustelier has actually never played the position in the U.S., though I suspect he could see some time there this year. Instead, the top upper-level first baseman is Luke Murton, who hit 25 homers in Trenton last season. Kyle Roller is another power bat, having hit 18 homers in Tampa. Murton and Roller could each move up a level this season.

Deeper in the system
Four years of Teixeira means the Yankees have some time to develop or discover a replacement. With that in mind, keep an eye on 2011 fifth-round pick Greg Bird. He was selected as a catcher, and the Yankees kept him there early last year, but he spent the last month exclusively playing first base. After jumping from the Gulf Coast League to Staten Island, Bird hit .400/.489/.650 against the tougher competition. Granted, it was only 40 at-bats, but it was a glimpse of Bird’s hitting potential. He’s certainly the top first-base prospect in the system (though it should be noted that Ramon Flores has played some first). Two notable names from the 2012 draft class: 10th-rounder Matt Snyder and 33rd-rounder Saxon Butler each put up huge numbers in Staten Island (though Butler struggled after a jump to Charleston). They’d be a dynamite prospect together, because Snyder is all about on-base percentage and Butler has power.

Moving pieces
If the Yankees honestly believe Mustelier can be a useful big league bat, they might have to get him a little bit of time at first base this season. His best big league fit likely comes as a Canzler-type utility player who can backup at the four corners, and given this year’s potentially crowded Triple-A roster, it might make sense to give Mustelier a few reps at first base if only to make it easier to keep his bat in the lineup while other guys take turns at third and in right. Guys like Flores and Tyler Austin have played some first base in their careers, but they’re more valuable as outfielders and likely to stay there.

What to watch
The true first-base interest comes at the extremes of the organization: In the big leagues and in the lowest levels of the minors. In New York, Teixeira is still a fascinating player worth wondering about. Can he raise his average enough to put himself back into the MVP conversation? Can he stay fully healthy this year? Can his left-handed swing come back around? Lower in the system, the question is whether Bird is the real deal. If the Yankees have given up on him behind the plate, that means they’re banking on his bat being enough to get him to the big leagues. He has a long way to go, but this could be his first full-season to really show something.

Associated Press photo; headshots of Teixeira, Canzler, Bird and Mustelier

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21 Responses to “State of the organization: First base”

  1. Rich in NJ January 7th, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    “…Teixeira’s only real failure centers on his extreme expectations.”

    Which is understandable given his out-sized contract. If a player accepts that kind of money, the expectations are high and if he don’t meet them, he is understandably going to face criticism, especially when he maintains such a stubborn LH batting approach that isn’t working.

  2. Jerkface January 7th, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Greg ‘Angry’ Bird, from the look of that pic.

  3. blake January 7th, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    “His power and glove have been enough to keep him plenty productive, but there’s always the expectation that Teixeira should be more than this.”

    Well that’s what they signed him for….to be more than this. He’s still fine and he’s still a valuable asset…..he does some good things…..but the bottom line is that they need more from him if they are serious about this budget…..because he’s soaking up 23 million of the payroll and not producing enough to cover that.

    The expectations are high but all the yanks needed was something close to the player they though they were getting ….and when a guy doesn’t meet them it’s fair to say so

  4. Northy January 7th, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    .285 avg, .370 OBP, 30 HR, 100 RBI and the usual defense from Tex is what we minimum should expect given his contract

  5. Tackelberry January 7th, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    Has anyone seen Bird play? From what I hear, he has “light tower” power and a good eye at the plate. DOn’t know how mobile he is at 1st base for a guy his size

  6. The Return of Stoneburner January 7th, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    At least ten teams have expressed strong interest in Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (all Twitter links). Diaz, who turns 23 tomorrow, is a free agent. More teams appear to have expressed interest once they realized that signing him wouldn’t count against their caps for international bonuses.

    The showcase for Diaz and fellow Cuban prospect Dariel Alvarez has been pushed back to the end of January, Sanchez reports. Alvarez, a 24-year-old outfielder, is also a free agent. The Cardinals are among the teams monitoring the two players, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported last week. The Twins also appear to have interest. Sanchez introduced us to Diaz and Alvarez in detail back in November.

    Read more at http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/#7Rdx6oDsu8UfDGoV.99

  7. The Return of Stoneburner January 7th, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    BobKlap Told Scott Boras asked #Yankees last month if they’d consider taking Rafael Soriano back on a 1-yr deal. Request flatly denied.

    ****

    SMH – that is not how you play the game. You say – sure Scott – just as long as you have Cano agree to 5/100 – - – -

  8. The Return of Stoneburner January 7th, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Via ESPN:

    Francisco Cervelli, who seems to make getting hurt in the off-season or in spring training an annual ritual, suffered a whiplash injury on a foul tip while catching in the Venezuelan Winter League and was flown back to Tampa by the Yankees last week for an examination.

    According to GM Brian Cashman, Cervelli had an MRI in Venezuela, which came back clean, but since Cervelli is in the mix, along with Chris Stewart and Austin Romine, to be the Yankees’ starting catcher in 2013, the club preferred to conduct its own checkup. A source in Tampa tells ESPNNewYork.com that Cervelli was at the Yankees complex today playing catch.

    “It was just a case of us being overly cautious,” Cashman said. “He’s fine and we’re sending him back to Venezuela to finish out the season.”

  9. Duh Innings II January 7th, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Northy January 7th, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    .285 avg, .370 OBP, 30 HR, 100 RBI and the usual defense from Tex is what we minimum should expect given his contract

    ——————————————–

    Teixiera can hit .250 as long as he posts .370 OBP.

    A bounceback year by Teixiera could REALLY help the Yanks offset the loss of power at catcher.

    I’m re-signed to think that the catcher if it is indeed Romine/Stewart/a dose of Cervelli and maybe one other catcher if not Wilson 2008 Yankees style (the ’08 Yanks had Molina/Posada/I-Rod/Moeller) will combine for 10 homeruns, a loss of a dozen homeruns from the catcher.

    If Teixiera can hit 30 HR, a 6 HR improvement, Cano 37 HR, a 4 HR improvement (why not given his talent, age, and breakout 2012 power-wise when he FINALLY reached 30 HR then surpassed it?), the Yanks lose only 2 HR from their C/1B/2B, no homeruns lost at C/1B/2B if backups hit just a pair of homeruns at 1B and/or 2B (Youkilis hits one as a 1B, Nix, Nunez, a called up David Adams, or a called up Corbin Joseph hits one as a 2B?)

  10. coolerking101 January 7th, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    How can you write about Tex and forget to mention that he’s coming off of the worst season of his career? Basically he hit career lows in BA, OBP and SLG and has trended downward in each stat for FOUR STRAIGHT years. Sad to say it, but he’s basically a league average first basement with a good glove.

  11. blake January 7th, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    @seanagnew: *NOT CONFIRMED* – Sources close to Redskins say RG3 has torn ACL & PCL & will not play for 14-18 months. @ESPNradio980

  12. Jerkface January 7th, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    how could he walk off the field under his own power with a torn ACL+PCL?

  13. Rich in NJ January 7th, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    I have seen player walk off the field with an ACL tear. It doesn’t have to be completely torn.

  14. Mike_Boston January 7th, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    He was waring a knee brace too…

  15. disco stu January 7th, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    “Northy January 7th, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    .285 avg, .370 OBP, 30 HR, 100 RBI and the usual defense from Tex is what we minimum should expect given his contract”

    Precisely … if Tex was consistently hitting .235 to .240 for his pre-Yankee career, he would not have commanded an 8/160 million dollar contract …even with the power numbers and GG defense. Power hitting first baseman who hit 40 home runs and bat .235 are named Adam Dunn.

    What we all thought we were getting and what he has been are two totally different things.

    It is amazing how both he and Giambi changed their batting styles the minute they came to the Yankees. Both were gap to gap power hitters who then morphed into Oscar Gamble the minute they put the pinstripes on and starting pulling everything in sight … When did teams ever put the shift on either of them before they came to the Yankees? Answer: Never.

  16. Rich in NJ January 7th, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    It’s interesting to note how much better Giambi was offensively than Teixeira. (apart from his 2004 season when he was diagnosed with a tumor).

    OPS+

    Giambi: 172, 148, 90, 161 148 (first five seasons as a Yankee)
    Teixeira 141, 124, 121, 116 (first four seasons as a Yankee)

  17. blake January 7th, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    Jerkface says:
    January 7, 2013 at 5:16 pm
    how could he walk off the field under his own power with a torn ACL+PCL?

    Probably all the Toradol that NFL are shot up with

  18. blake January 7th, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    “Giambi: 172, 148, 90, 161 148 (first five seasons as a Yankee)
    Teixeira 141, 124, 121, 116 (first four seasons as a Yankee)”

    I’m gonna go ahead and pretend this doesn’t exist

  19. blake January 7th, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    @ESPNNYYankees: Yanks, Mets vie for Hairston http://t.co/BPn5cP2c

  20. Rich in NJ January 7th, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    I assume on a one year deal ONLY.

  21. yankeefeminista January 7th, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    Too bad Hairston wants a multiyear deal. And love that .317 on base vs. lefties w/the .550 SLG. That is so hairy monster that Cash might go multiples…

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