Monday, March 16, 2009

Yankees' Third Base Battle Getting Interesting

Alex Rodriguez is apparently walking on his own two feet again [I am envious]. Yankees fans must be hoping for a speedy [natural] recovery. But the Yankees are still in need of a nice pair of crutches for the first month of the regular season to cover third base. If spring training is any indication [skepticism appreciated], there are a couple of nice options developing for the Yankees.

Cody Ransom, who hit .302 with four home runs and eight runs batted in [RBI] over 43 at-bats [AB] for the Bombers last season, is following up his cup of tea with an impressive Grapefruit League showing. He is currently hitting .364 with three doubles, a triple and two RBI's through 33 AB's. He has even stolen two bases without being caught. Maybe there is some magic in those 33-year-old journeyman legs after all. Defensively, Ransom has committed one error in 10 chances at third base over the course of his brief time in the big leagues.

And then there is his competition, 2003 Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award Winner Angel Berroa. Berroa was last seen hitting .230 with one home run and 16 RBI's for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season after being traded by the Kansas City Royals for a washing machine and an autographed copy of ex-President Bush's autobiography. But the air in Florida seems to be doing the former prospect well. He is hitting a robust .438 with two home runs and eight RBI's through his first 32 trips to the plate. Unfortunately, he had a lower fielding percentage at shortstop last season than the much-maligned Derek Jeter, and has yet to see an attempt at third base in his Major League career.

As well as these guys have performed in March, the Yankees are ultimately going to have to go with a subpar option at third base for the first month or month-and-a-half of the season. Rodriguez is obviously a big bat to replace, as well. Which is why I think that they would probably be better served by getting creative. Xavier Nady apparently played some third base in college, and was six-for-six in fielding opportunities at the hot corner over 18 innings at the position for the 2005 Padres.

No matter what the Yankees do, they are going to be playing someone out of position. Nady can't be much worse than Berroa or Ransom, and if he is even close to their level defensively, moving him out of right field would allow Nick Swisher to play until Rodriguez returns. Swisher was poised to play first for the Yankees until they swooped in and grabbed Mark Teixeira. Offensively, this is by far the best answer for the Yankees. Berroa has only gotten three chances at third this spring, and Ransom has an error in 16 tries. What do they stand to lose by giving Nady a look right now?

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