Why Is Brennan Boesch Getting Work At First Base?

Boesch HR

And why are all my Brennan Boesch-based posts titled in the form of a question?  Last week it was wondering how and if Joe was planning on using Boesch at all after he didn't get much burn in the first few games.  This week it's trying to figure out what the rationale is in Boesch getting worked out at first base before the last few games.  He's never played a game at first in his professional career, and according to Boesch he hasn't played it since high school.  The Yankees, even with Teix out of the picture for the near future, are pretty well covered at first right now with Lyle Overbay and Kevin Youkilis, and there are a few other guys on the roster who make more sense as an emergency option over Boesch.  So why look to add another body to the position so early in the season?  And why Boesch?

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How Does Brennan Boesch Fit Into This Team?


There was a brief period of time after his signing on April 15th where things were looking pretty sweet for Brennan Boesch.  He had hooked on with a team in desperate need of help in the outfield, signed a guaranteed Major League deal with that team, and because of the circumstances surrounding the rest of the outfield competition, looked to be a lock for a starting spot in that team's outfield for at least the first month of the regular season.

Then Boesch missed a few games with a strained rib cage, watched as the Yankees traded for Vernon Wells and signed Lyle Overbay, and ended up being one of the final players selected for the Opening Day roster, now in the 4th outfielder spot instead of the starting lineup.  He was on the bench to start Monday's home opener as Joe elected to go with right-handed hitters Wells and Ben Francisco against southpaw Jon Lester, and there he stayed for the entirety of the game.  When Boston went to the bullpen and brought in a right-hander in the bottom of the 6th inning, it was Travis Hafner and Overbay who got the calls to be the lefty pinch hitters over Boesch, and they were the only lefty pinch hitters Joe used in the game's final 4 innings despite Boston using three more right-handed pitchers.

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Update On Boesch's Stance

Two weeks ago, I took a look at Brennan Boesch's hitting mechanics, and saw some changes in his approach from 2011 to 2012. The outfielder admitted that a thumb injury and subsequent surgery forced him to change some aspects of his swing, but looked to correct these in 2013. Of the changes he made over the previous two seasons, Boesch brought his hands closer to the hitting zone, and the bat closer to his shoulder. When he entered camp with the Yankees, the left-hander's stance was still very similar to his 2012 approach, with the exception of a two-handed follow-through. Though he missed some time with the club over the last week, it looks like Boesch has corrected his hands, and reverted back to a one-handed follow-through.

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Boesch's Mechanical Changes From 2011 To 2012

Yesterday, I discussed why I felt that Brennan Boesch was a good buy-low move for the Yankees. To quickly summarize, Boesch was a quality hitter from 2009 through 2011, but it all fell apart in 2012. Batted ball rates and batting averages show that the outfielder was far off from his 2011 style. A thumb injury, bad luck, and perhaps a change in his hitting mechanics hurt him. Now with the Yankees, Boesch can overcome his bad luck, he can hit in a much more hitter friendly ballpark, and he has the opportunity to correct his mechanics with one of the best hitting coaches in the business. Boesch stated that the thumb injury, which led to surgery, subconsciously changed his hitting mechanics and I assume his grip. Finding the mechanics that gave him an .800 OPS in 2011 could mean big things in Yankee Stadium, so there's no doubt that the left-handed hitter will be working to reclaim his old methods. It'll be hard to see his grip, but why not take a look and see if anything else changed.


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How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Brennan Boesch

Once upon a time, Brennan Boesch was power hitting left-handed outfielder that the Tigers loved. In 2009, Boesch broke out with 28 home runs and a .275/.318/.510 slash in Double-A Erie. Last week, he was released., and in what was a matter of days, Brian Cashman evoked shock and horror on Yankee fans by signing the 27 year old. (AP)

Obviously the Yankees are in rough shape at the moment, but I didn't quite understand the negative response. Over the last few years, Cashman and the rest of his front office have done a magnificent job of finding low-risk/high-reward players. Boesch fit the mold almost perfectly, a player that had seen success in the minors, and even in Comerica Park, but injuries and presumably bad luck ruined his 2012 season.

When reading opinions on the deal, I saw my fair share of love and hate, but there was an overwhelming push from the negative side. Perhaps it was the amount of playing time he'd receive, or that he'd take up a roster spot, or that he looked like Seth MacFarlane's stunt double (That would be Brad's expert analysis), but I didn't see a better option in the organization. Even at the low $1.5 million cost, which is actually just $500K if he's sent down, Boesch does have upside.

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Yankees Sign Brennan Boesch

boeschThe Yankees have signed outfielder Brennan Boesch to a $1.5 million Major League deal. Via Jon Heyman, Boesch will receive incentives along with his base salary.

There was some recent speculation about Boesch to the Yankees, following his release from the Tigers. Matt wrote about Boesch just yesterday. In his career with the Tigers, the left-handed hitter batted .259/.315/.414 and a 96 wRC+ in 1487 plate appearances. Boesch does have some power, but has struggled with his defense. Although he's left-handed, Boesch actually has a reverse platoon split, and better numbers at Comerica Park than on the road. This is likely due to small sample size. Boesch hits to all parts of the field, but on hits to right field, he has maintained a .305 ISO over his career. This number should go up in Yankee Stadium, where the left field wall is much more hitter friendly than in Detroit.

Boesch has struggled this spring, with only 3 hits and 2 walks in 18 plate appearances. That means very little, as he looks to repeat his 2011 performance with the Tigers (.283/.341/.458) as opposed to 2012. (.240/.286/.372) Last year's poor performance was due to a drop in his line drive rates, which fell from 18.2 to 16.0. Along with that, his batting average on line drives fell from .774 to .610. These are two possible signs that he could rebound, and on $1.5 million, the Yankees have taken another low risk/high reward flyer.

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Boesch should not be a "major" option for Yanks

When I happen to be in my car during a Yankee game, listening on the radio, I'm surprised by just how often the Yankees face a "really good hitter." That isn't a distinction that I give out, but the radio voices of the team, John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman, sprinkle that phrase on batters quite liberally over the courses of the games and the season. One player they happen to lavish this praise upon is the now former Detroit Tiger, Brennan Boesch. John and Suzyn sure do love this guy and they even discussed it briefly last night during the game against the Phillies. Both commentators, of course, wanted the Yankees to give Boesch a shot. To their credit, they usually see Boesch rake against the Yankees. He owns a career line against the Bombers of .363/.369/.538/.907 with 3 home runs in 84 plate appearances. However, that is most definitely not an accurate picture of Boesch. After hitting just .240/.286/.372/.659 (77 OPS+), Boesch's career line is .259/.315/.414/.729. Now that's certainly not terrible, but it's not something that will solve the Yankees' forecasted hitting woes. The only slightly interesting thing about Boesch, a lefty hitter, is that he has a reverse platoon split for his career, OPSing .717 against righties and .767 against lefties. That's really about it. While we're on his splits, it's worth noting that Boesch has tended to start hot--he owns an .818 OPS in the first half for his career--and finishes cold: he has a .580 (!) OPS in the second half of the season. To me, this says that while Boesch gets off on the right foot, the pitchers are quickly able to knock him off of that foot and Boesch is unable to make adjustments. Given all of this, like Mike said yesterday, Boesch would be more of a project than a player of value. Signing Boesch to anything other than a minor league deal would be making a move for the sake of making a move, and we all know that doesn't exactly work as a strategy. For whatever reason, though, he has some name cache among Yankee fans, probably because he's happened to hit them well. Given Boesch's profile--or lack thereof--I'd rather the Yankees just go to Zoilo Almonte if Melky Mesa--who's seemingly won the open outfield job--can't perform up to snuff. At least Almonte can switch hit and has flashed lots of power against righties in his minor league time.

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