This title is, admittedly, a bit hyperbolic. First off, it assumes that Hioryuki Nakajima would be a sizeable upgrade over Eduardo Nunez. Second, it overly inflates the role that either infielder would play on the Yankees. Granted, either one would probably get a fair amount of playing time, given the aging left side of the Yankee infield. But, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that the backup infielder won’t sink the Yankees’ season.
If you’ve read my work or followed me on Twitter or spoken to me, you know that I do not like Eduardo Nunez. At all. In any way. He’s obviously not worthless, as he can at least stand in the middle infield positions and doesn’t make a complete fool of himself at the plate. Then, I look at his unimpressive minor league numbers and I’m incredibly underwhelmed. Next, I watch him at the plate and there I don’t see much that I like. His swing generates some pop every so often (solid 20.7 LD% in 2011), but it’s too long and happens way too often. Each time he came to the plate, it seemed like Eduardo, with whom I share a birthday, had no approach at the plate. If it was near the zone, he was going to swing. By both the regular FanGraphs swing data and the pitch f/x version, Nunez swung at more out of zone pitches than the average batter (34.6% with an average of 30.6 for the former; 30.9/28.6 for the latter). As for his defense, well, we all know about that.
Regardless, with the Yankees unlikely to sign Nakajima, Nunez is, once again, the primary reserve infielder. The onus will be on him to up his game.
At this point in the post, I think I’m once again guilty of overstating something. Nunez did manage a 92 wRC+ last night, and that’s nothing to sneeze at for a backup infielder. Maybe I’m being too hard on him, considering he had his second highest BB% (6.5%) of any level (2007′s 7.0% mark in 357 A-ball PAs) and highest ever Iso (.120) at any pro level. Perhaps his offense is fine for a backup, especially one who might see a good amount of time at shortstop. If I grant him that, he’s going to need to improve his defense. While it’s unlikely that Nunez becomes more than what he is on offense, there’s always a chance he can focus more on his defense and add to his value there. I may not hold my breath on that, and I may not particularly like Nunez, but I’ll always root for him.
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