Comparing Nunez' Shorter Arm Action To 2012

In last night's game recap, I mentioned that Eduardo Nunez has looked very good at short stop. In fact, over the last few weeks, both his fielding and throwing has looked fantastic. His range was always an upgrade of Derek Jeter's, but the ability to get the ball to another fielder is a rather important part of the game. In the past, Nunez disappointed fans with his wild throws, but he mostly disappointed himself. This spring, the short stop and Mick Kelleher got together to work on his arm action, and we've seen an incredible improvement.

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In 2012, Nunez brought his arm behind his back, similar to how a pitcher will position their arm during the stride. This motion allows a pitcher to create a longer slinging action with their arm, but also puts the trunk and hips in higher torqued position. In 2013, Nunez skips this step and brings his arm immediately into cocking position. This simplified arm action should be easier to replicate and give him more accuracy, but at the expense of arm strength.

Nunez has always had a strong arm according to scouts, but his accuracy was another story. You could probably attribute his strong arm to his pitcher-like windup, where he's getting a great deal of power from bringing his long arm action and extreme trunk rotation. Unfortunately, it's very hard for a defensive player to use this when they're jumping around the infield and trying to set up their feet. The new mechanics and shorter arm action may take away some of that velocity, but the accuracy we've seen is well worth it.

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Getting The Most Out Of Eduardo

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(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

After some positive early signs that Derek Jeter was going to be able to recover from his ankle surgery and be ready to play, we now know that Eduardo Nunez is going to be the Yankees' Opening Day shortstop.  We also know that he's going to be the starting shortstop for at least the next handful of games after that and we can safely assume that he'll be getting regular work at the position all season long.  That's a frightening thought for any Yankee fan based on what we've seen to date from Nunez, but it's a reality that we're going to have to accept and live with.  That being the case, let's investigate just how the Yankees can maximize Nunez's potential value and not have another spot in the lineup and position on the field turn into a black hole.

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Jeter related ramblings

Happy Friday, all. I hope your week hasn't been too stressful. Anyway, let's get down to business. We're all aware of Derek Jeter's injury situation. Opening Day has long been Jeter's goal, but that now appears in jeopardy. Yesterday, GM Brian Cashman announced that Jeter would no longer participate in Major League Spring Training games; however, he'll continue to play in Minor League games. As we've all heard by now, this is essentially a clerical "just in case." It allows Jeter to get game action, but also allows the Yankees to retroactively place Jeter on the 15-day Disabled List in case he isn't ready to go for Opening Day. This all makes me think that they should just place Jeter on the DL now. The Derek Jeter we've all come to know and love is the guy who "shows up to work every day" and just "does his job" (and does it exceedingly well most of the time). Like any successful worker, Jeter is goal-oriented, and in this case, Opening Day readiness is the goal and he's been steadfast in his determination to reach that goal. That effort is certainly laudable, but is this "toughness" actually a good thing? Being in the lineup on Opening Day is certainly admirable, but if Jeter isn't field-ready by then, can't we argue that it hurts the team just as much as--if not more than--it would if he just sat out for the first few games and returned on April 6th? Granted, Eduardo Nunez isn't going to be any great shakes at short for those few games, but how effective would an injured Derek Jeter be? His range is already limited and now he's got another year to his name as well as an ankle plate and some screws to match. Wouldn't it be better to get the DL stint out of the way now rather than in May or June when he's an absolute statue in the field and possibly unbalanced at the plate?

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The Jeter/Nunez/Shortstop Conundrum

Brace yourselves, folks. I may say something nice about Eduardo Nunez in this post. Derek Jeter has a plate and screws in his ankle. Derek Jeter is turning 39 in June. Derek Jeter is a Major League shortstop. The first two things listed do not bode well for the third. Regardless of what you think of Derek Jeter's defense at the game's most important position, we can all probably agree that this year will be a trying one for the Captain in the field. Most normal 39 year olds aren't so hot at short, let alone dudes with a plate and screws in their ankles. We would expect to-be-26 year olds (Eddie and I are birthday twins, sharing June 15, 1987) to be better fielders. However, when that to-be-26 year old is Eduardo Nunez, the certainty isn't there. Regardless, though, we're sure to see Nunez at short plenty in 2013.

Joe Girardi has never been shy about resting players and I don't think he'll start doing it, even with Derek "I'm fine" Jeter. What helps the situation is that the Yankees' vs. LHP situation is still a bit fluid. Juan Rivera is probably the early favorite to go into the season as the DH against lefties, so that may limit the time Jeter could get at DH. If they want to, the Yankees could put Rivera in the outfield with either Brett Gardner or Ichirio Suzuki sitting. That would potentially put Jeter at DH and Nunez, uncomfortably, at short.

In limited time--202 PA--Nunez has been effective against lefties. He's hit .298/.332/.436 against them, good for a .333 wOBA and a 106 wRC+. That makes me a little more comfortable with giving him semi-regular playing time. His fielding is likely to be a disaster. Perhaps just sticking at one position will help him, but I'm not going to hold my breath. He hasn't been a solid fielder for how long now? I highly doubt he's going to turn it around all of a sudden. Still, it's worth noting that the playing time he could potentially have will be rather limited. That, in turn, means limited opportunities to make an error or a slip up in the field. If it saves Derek Jeter for later in the season, I'm more or less in support of Eddie getting a handful of starts at short against lefties while Derek DHs early in the season.

As an aside, I want to nip in the bud any ideas of Eduardo Nunez moving into the outfield. He's a shaky fielder at a position he's fielded all his life, but somehow, learning a new position that requires an entirely different skill set at the Major League level will be successful? I'm not buying that at all. Nunez, through no fault of his own, probably doesn't know how to properly read an outfield fly ball or how to approach a ball on the ground that he needs to throw in to a cutoff man. Hell, the dude has problems setting and fielding a grounder like an infielder. Do we really expect him to charge a ball, get his glove hand/foot in sync, and come up in a crow hop effectively? I'm definitely not buying this. I'm not a big believer in Nunez at all, but that isn't to say he's worthless to the team or can't fit as a useful piece. If he can somehow avoid myriad errors and still hit lefty pitching, he can contribute.

Do The Yankees Have Any Idea What They're Doing With Eduardo Nunez?

(The following is being syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

It hasn't been a very long career for Eduardo Nunez, but it also certainly hasn't been one short on headlines.  Once the heir apparent to Derek Jeter as the Yankees' everyday shortstop, Nunez has been shuffled around various positions and roles, experimented with as an outfielder, dangled as trade bait, and shuttled back and forth between the Majors and Triple-A constantly since first breaking in in 2010.  Based on Cash's comments to ESPN NY yesterday, it doesn't look like that trend is going to cease in 2013.  Speaking to Andrew Marchand, Cash stated that Nunez will be shifted back to the utility infielder role if he makes the team this season, the same role that was taken from him in May of last season.  If that doesn't make a lot of sense to you, good.  Because it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me either.

Most of Nunez's previous moves were facilitated by injuries to other players and the need for backups at those positions.  But Nunez himself has also been the cause of some of the role adjustments, or rather his defensive shortcomings have been the cause.  Despite having great speed and arm strength, Nunez still hasn't been able to put it all together to become even a marginal defensive player.  The Yankees all but admitted this was the reason for his demotion to Triple-A last May, saying they wanted him to focus solely on playing shortstop.  Now that tune seems to have changed heading into this season and I don't understand why.  If Nunez wasn't strong enough defensively to handle a utility role in 2012, and spent the remainder of the season playing just shortstop, how can the Yankees reasonably expect him to be any better in a utility role in 2013?

For all the defensive gaffes he's made on the field, the Yankees should share some of the blame off the field for how they've managed Nunez's career.  He's been tried at shortstop, second base, third base, both outfield corners, and briefly as a DH at the end of last season.  Between the constant position changes and the up and down movement between Triple-A and the Majors, Nunez has never had a real chance to settle into one role and focus on fixing the parts of his game that need to be fixed to make him a better insert position here.

In a way, his early career path is reminiscent of those that Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes found themselves on when they first broke in with the Yankees.  Those 2 were both shuttled between starter and reliever roles, and between Triple-A and the Majors, with the Yankee decision makers being the driving force behind the moves.  It might be a bit of stretch to try to connect a middle infielder to a couple of pitchers, but one thing that remains a constant for all of them and any young player is the need for consistency in what they're doing and the role they're playing so they can get comfortable and figure out what they need to do to be successful.  Joba and Phil didn't have that in their first few years and those years ended up being wasted ones that they can't get back, and now Nunez appears to be on a similar path.

Cash didn't even talk about Nunez's latest role change like it was a sure thing, saying, "If he makes our club, it will be at a utility role," and that "how he looks in the spring” could determine whether Nunez makes the Opening Day roster or ends up back in Triple-A as the starting shortstop.  It's bad enough the Yankees have plugged him in where they felt they needed him, then yanked him out when they either felt they could use him somewhere else or felt he wasn't getting the job done to their liking.  Now they're sending him into Spring Training under those same guidelines and holding his roster spot over his head to boot.  At this point, the Yankees probably would have been better off trading him years back when they had the chance.

Having a good utility infielder on your bench is a very valuable asset, and Eduardo Nunez could very well turn out to be a good utility infielder.  He's still just 25 years old, he makes a lot of contact and has some pop at the plate, he runs the bases incredibly well, and he has all the physical tools to be an effective defensive player.  But he's already been told he wasn't good enough for the job once, and now it sounds like the Yankees are going to test him again after making the decision to limit him to just shortstop work in 2012.  These kind of tactics might work with veteran players, but I question the decision to use them in this situation with Nunez, a player who has already struggled in this role and is still trying to find his way as a Major Leaguer.  The Yankees constantly jerking Nunez around could end up doing him more harm than good, both in the upcoming season and the future.

Filling the Empty Corner

Before the announcement that Alex Rodriguez would--again--need hip surgery to repair a torn labrum, the Yankees' roster situation was dire enough. Perhaps "dire" is overselling it a bit, but going into yesterday, the Yankees were without a legitimate catcher, right fielder, and designated hitter. Now, they find themselves without a wholly viable third baseman. With A-Rod's absence looming, the Yankees will have to patch up the hot corner for an extended period of time. Internally, they've got options, even if they're not great. First on the list would be Eduardo Nunez by default. Though the team is committed to him at shortstop, he's seen a good deal of time at third. Brian Cashman seemed to dispel the idea on Monday, but I don't think it's possible to rule it out completely. The organization does see something in him, even if I don't. He's been able to hit for an empty average (though he's been better against lefty pitching). As for his defense, well...The other option, however much a long shot, could be David Adams. Adams, on whom I'm higher than most, has shown an ability to hit in the minors (career .825 OPS), but he's not yet reached AAA , is often injured, and just moved to third base during the latter part of the 2012 season.

Externally, I see three main options. Each guy has at least one positive and at least one negative. I should clarify that by "externally" I mean free agency. Anyway, the three are Eric Chavez, Kevin Youkilis, and Mark Reynolds. Chavez's best trait is his reliability. By that, I mean you know what you're going to get from him. He's going to play solid defense and be a decent bat at the plate. However, that reliability is a double-edged sword because you also know what you're not going to get from him, and that's health and a lot of plate appearances. Replacing A-Rod with Chavez full time is simply replacing an injured player with another, and that's not desirable. That also brings us to Kevin Youkilis. His main drawback is also health; he hasn't played in more than 125 games since 2009. Youk's defense is also a bit suspect and it would be weird to root for him after a long campaign of unadulterated loathing against him. Still, when he's on the field, Youk produces and maybe he'll come at a bit of a discount after a down year in 2012. And while this may be a bit overrated, but Youk's shown the ability to do it in the A.L. East; he knows the territory and is used to the intense play of the ever difficult division. After his stint with Baltimore in 2012, the same can be said for Reynolds. He and his prodigious power were tested by the A.L. East in 2012 and Reynolds showed he can hack it. Of course with him, "hack it" takes on a double-meaning. However, he does balance it out with walks (11.85 career walk rate) and the aforementioned power (16.43 AB/HR & .240 Iso). The biggest concern I'd have, though, wouldn't be the whole in his bat, but the one in his glove at third. Reynolds has the reputation of a butcher over there and that could hurt.

The more and more I think about it, my mind keeps going to Youkilis. While he's far from a perfect choice for this role, he's the most well-rounded of the options. And while that might lead to a logjam when A-Rod returns, their collective spotty health records will make it easy for the Yankees to rotate them at 3B/DH/off. The Yankees are sorely in need of quality right handed hitting and Youkilis could help them bridge the gap until Rodriguez gets back. I've got no idea what his price-tag will be, but he's best worth the shot.