Watch Out Ben Francisco, Ronnier Mustelier Wants Your Job

musty After the Mark Teixeira injury, the Yankees gave prospect Ronnier Mustelier every chance in the world to win a job with the major league team. Between the first day of Spring Training and an unfortunate play on a foul ball on March 15th, Mustelier only missed 4 games. Despite being a 28 year old without a plus glove, the organization wanted to see his bat everyday. Before the Yankees showed so much interest in him, it was hard to know what to make of Mustelier's 2011 .925 OPS, and his 2012 .859 OPS. While he was far older than the competition, Mustelier has continued to hit through increasing competition inside pitcher's ballparks. Projecting his bat in the major leagues would be a difficult task, but he was certainly the Yankees' most competent  and mature right-handed batter this spring.

It wasn't through a lack of hitting or effort that he missed the Major League roster in April. After hitting .314/.368/.571 this Spring, Mustelier overran a foul ball against the Marlins one afternoon, and planted his knee right into a fence. It bothered him enough to hold him back over the next few weeks, and landed him in extended Spring Training. Ben Francisco and Jayson Nix ended up getting the call as the team's right-handed DH and utility player, each of which have hit a wRC+ of 39 and 48. Meanwhile, the Yankees have gone on to trade for Chris Nelson to try and pick up some of the slack that these players couldn't.

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Thursday Ramblings

As we wind down Spring Training and approach Opening Day, we're really just going through motions. At this point, we're just hoping that no one else gets hurt. And, of course, there is a chance that Derek Jeter will miss Opening Day. Great. Let's officially start the rambling there. If Jeter is out for Opening Day, that is going to be one hell of a lineup in a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad way. What could it look like? Let's assume they're facing Boston's lefty, Jon Lester.

1. Kevin Youkilis, 3B 2. Eduardo Nunez, SS 3. Melky Mesa, CF/LF (justification here) 4. Robinson Cano, 2B 5. Juan Rivera, 1B 6. Ben Francisco, DH 7. Ichiro Suzuki, RF 8. Francisco Cervelli 9. Brett Gardner, LF/CF

Um....yikes? That is...not desirable. It could shake out differently and we could end up with Ronnier Mustelier in the fold, likely at third. If that happens, the lineup could be:

1. Kevin Youkilis, 1B 2. Eduardo Nunez, SS 3. Ronnier Mustelier, 3B 4. Robinson Cano, 2B 5. Juan Rivera, DH 6. Melky Mesa, CF/LF 7. Ichiro Suzuki, RF 8. Francisco Cervelli, C 9. Brett Gardner, CF/LF

Honestly, I can't tell which one is better/less worse. Your thoughts?

Earlier yesterday, I read this piece from the New York Times about Hal Steinbrenner and the "new course" he's plotting for the Yanks. In defense of Plan 189, Hal broke out one of his favorite justifications:

“My firmly held belief is that you don’t have to have a $200 million payroll to be world champion,” he said last week in the team’s plush conference room at the spring training complex here. “And the historical data that led me to that conclusion is rock solid.”

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Ronnier Mustelier's Big Chance

Ronnier Mustelier, Cody Asche

I don't know if it's my newfound rooting interest in him or the Yankees calling up every recently retired corner infielder like a desperate dude who needs a date to his 10-year high school reunion that's influencing this, but it certainly seems to me like there's been a red carpet of opportunity rolled out for Ronnier Mustelier in the wake of Mark Teixeira's injury.  He's gotten a lot more playing time at the hot corner in the six days since Teix's strained tendon was diagnosed, and had Cash himself confirm that the Yankees were looking at him as a potential option at third.  If you're on the wrong side of the roster-making fringe as Mustelier was, hearing the GM say your name is like music to your ears.

Mustelier has played in every game since Teix's injury, something he couldn't say prior, and he's had a few starts at third base.  He hasn't dazzled in the six games he's played, going just 2-12 at the plate with one run scored and RBI apiece, but he has sprinkled in little dashes of what he brings to the table offensively with a triple, a BB, and a stolen base.  And while he hasn't had the chance to make a lot of plays at third base, he's looked competent and drawn some positive reviews from folks who've watched him.  With the situation the Yankees are facing to start the season, he's the perfect type of player to roll the dice on.

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Quick Hits: Headley, Mayberry, Mustelier

In pursuit if shoring up the current corner infield debacle, the Yankees are looking at a number of different possibilities. As EJ discussed on Friday, Chase Headley is a good fit for the current and future landscape of the organization, but he won't come cheap. Although it was rumored that Headley was available on Thursday, those reports were shot down the following day by the Padres' GM. Now it appears that the Yankees have inquired about Headley. Take all three reports with a grain of salt, but if the Yankees are indeed inquiring, it shows that they recognize the need for another impact bat.

In the same piece, Nick Cafardo discusses the Phillies' John Mayberry as an option for the Yankees. The former first round pick has experience in both the outfield and first base. Over 848 major league plate appearances, he's posted a .760 OPS and a 105 wRC+. As a right handed hitter, who can play two positions of need, he would solve a number of problems, but the Phillies don't seem eager to trade outfielders.

Finally, the Yankees are going to give Ronnier Mustelier a try at third base during Spring Training. Mustelier has primarily played outfield in the minor leagues, but was a third baseman in Cuba. As a Yankee, Mustelier has looked unimpressive at third base, posting a .941 fielding percentage in 26 games. His bat might be worth taking the hit on defense, but he'll have to prove it over the next few weeks.

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Ronnier Mustelier: The Forgotten Right-Handed Outfield

In all the talk about a right-handed outfielder, much is mentioned about Matt Diaz, Melky Mesa, Russ Canzler, and even Zoilo Almonte. One name goes overlooked in the organization, not because he hasn't performed, but because of his age. The 28-year old Cuban outfielder, Ronnier Mustelier, is not only a candidate, but he may be the favorite to win a spot on the 25-man roster. The Yankees signed Mustelier in the beginning of the 2011 season, and after a short and successful stint in the GCL, the organization promoted him to High-A Tampa. In his 136 plate appearances, the outfielder hit 3 home runs and 13 doubles, good for a slash of .333/.378/.524. Intrigued by his 157 plate appearances, the Yankees sent the outfielder to the Arizona Fall League, where in 65 plate appearances, he again hit .344/.354/.516.

In 2012, the organization thought highly enough of him to start him Double-A Trenton, where he continued to pound the ball in his 114 plate appearances, hitting .353/.412/.598. He was in Scranton almost immediately, and Mustelier saw much more competition closer to his age group, yet still managed to hit 10 home runs in 385 plate appearances, good for a slash of .303/.359/.455. He was again sent to winter ball this offseason, and in his 233 plate appearances, he hit .284/.345/.471 with 9 home runs. His final line on the 2012 season was .304/.364/.482, 24 homeruns, and 19 stolen bases in 733 plate appearances.

When interviewing Joe Girardi, Rob Abruzzese of the Bronx Baseball Daily got this quote on Mustelier.

“When we signed Ronnie, we weren’t sure what he was gonna be,” Girardi told BBD. “Then he hit in rookie ball, he hit in the fall league, he hit in Double-A, hit in Triple-A and he played a couple of positions, second and third base, too. What has really impressed me about him has been his bat speed. In spring training he had no problem turning around 96 or 97 mph fastballs.”

In the same piece, Girardi mentions that the Yankees have considered calling up Mustelier multiple times. With the Yankees in need of a right-handed hitting outfielder, and some third base depth, Mustelier fits the bill this Spring Training. He's been on fire with the bat, but mostly against much younger competition. He's played great defense in the outfield, and has some experience as a third baseman. If he can continue to show off his bat in March, there's reason to believe he could beat out the current options.

While there are plenty of pro's to be optimistic about, there are quite a few negatives to this story. Although Mustelier has shown some speed on the bases, he's a stocky 5 foot 10 inch outfielder at 28-years old. And as much as every Yankee fan wants to believe in a late bloomer, it's all too uncommon. Statically speaking, Pecota only predicts a slash of .242/.281/.355 with 7 home runs if he sees 442 Major League plate appearances.

There will be a number of outfielders to try out in March, and the roster spots will be granted based on how these players perform in March. Mustelier has overcome mighty odds to get this far, and one good month could translate to a Major League debut in April.