We were going to do a chat today, but turns out I have to go into the office for some sort of training on a new system we’re using to file stories at the newspaper. I’d rather be sitting in front of this computer talking baseball, but I’m told these things are important. So, since you might have been expecting a chat and now we’ve fallen short, how’s this for a blog post?
Here’s the idea: I’m sure we can all agree that no Yankees player has exceeded expectations more than Yangervis Solarte. He was an unknown minor league free agent heading into spring training, and now he’s an everyday third baseman who’s literally been one of the better hitters in the American League. Doesn’t necessarily make him the best player on the Yankees, but he’s certainly the one who’s played the farthest beyond what anyone might have expected heading into the season.
So if Solarte is No. 1, who’s No. 2? And who’s done the worst job of exceeded expectations? Here’s my attempt to rank the most regularly used Yankees position players, not in terms of who’s been the best, but in terms of who’s done the best job exceeding the basic expectations heading into the season. At some point, obviously this list reaches a tipping point to begin counting down those who have most fallen short of expectations.
Goes without saying that this is entirely subjective and depends on any number of factors — mostly what an individual expected in the first place — but I’ll give it a shot. Seems easier to do just position players. Maybe I’ll lose my mind and try to do pitchers later.
1. Yangervis Solarte
The easy choice for the top of the list, and pretty much the reason I thought to do this in the first place. Has any player in all of baseball exceeded expectations as much as this guy?
2. Ichiro Suzuki
I assumed his days as a productive major-league hitter were long gone — and the Yankees might have dumped him if they’d found a taker this winter — but Ichiro has been terrific. He hasn’t played a tone, but in a fairly small sample size he’s been surprisingly good. With Carlos Beltran hurt, we’ll see if he can maintain this production with more playing time.
3. Mark Teixeira
Where you rank Teixeira probably depends on what you thought he could do heading into the season. There’s really no denying that he’s been their best middle-of-the-order bat, and you could argue that he’s expected to be that kind of hitter given his contract and past production. But after the injury and a couple of down years, I tend to think most people weren’t expecting this.
4. John Ryan Murphy
Wasn’t supposed to even be here, much less hitting like this. Granted, there were always those who believed Murphy would hit if given the chance, but he’s gone well above and beyond, especially considering his underwhelming production last September.
5. Brett Gardner
I’d say Gardner has met a lot expectations and probably exceeded some others. He’s run quite a bit, he’s been productive since taking over the leadoff spot, and he’s stayed healthy. Those who liked Gardner are probably satisfied. Those who think he’s really just a fourth outfielder should be pleasantly surprised.
6. Jacoby Ellsbury
I tend to think this is where we get into players who have basically met expectations. Ellsbury was the Yankees best hitter for a while (better than I thought he’d be during that stretch), and now he’s slumped to more middle-of-the-road production (he’s fallen short of expectations lately). His current slash line is a little bit worse — but not all that different — than it was last season.
7. Brian Roberts
Expectations probably varied heading into the season, but it seemed health and age could each be stumbling blocks to keep Roberts from holding onto his everyday job. So far, he’s been both healthy and (occasionally) productive. He’s had some good spurts at the plate, but ultimately his number are underwhelming while his ability to stay on the field has been perhaps a little surprising.
8. Kelly Johnson
Expectation was that Johnson would be playing every day and taking advantage of Yankee Stadium’s short porch. Ultimately, he’s lost his job, but he’s also hit for some of that power that was expected. He was a big offensive boost in the very beginning, and now he’s a role player. I think he’s basically hit the way the Yankees expected, just hasn’t kept the job he was expected to have.
9. Alfonso Soriano
For Soriano, I think some expectations were sky high following last season’s down-the-stretch performance. As it is, he’s been solid — he’s hit for some power, which the Yankees clearly need him to do — but he hasn’t been nearly the player he was immediately after the trade.
10. Derek Jeter
My guess is that a lot of fans expected this level of production. Jeter’s defense has been predictably limited, and his offense has been underwhelming. But by putting him in the No. 2 spot and playing him in the field every day, the Yankees clearly set an expectation that they believe Jeter will be a productive and viable top-of-the-order hitter in his final season. By that standard — although he’s been good against lefties — Jeter’s fallen short.
11. Carlos Beltran
He was excellent in the beginning, probably even better than those who liked the Beltran signing would have expected. But since then he’s doubled down on disappointment. His bat went cold, and his elbow got sore. Now he’s on the disabled list and facing the possibility of surgery to remove a bone spur. Not good by any standard. If he does need surgery, he probably moves to the bottom of this list.
12. Brian McCann
You could certainly argue that McCann’s been an underrated part of this roster because of his work with the pitching staff, but ultimately he’s been an overwhelming disappointment at the plate. I honestly thought he might be the Yankees best off season addition, and he simply hasn’t hit. He hasn’t even had a big spurt of production like Beltran’s had.
Associated Press photos