The latest significant injury in Yankees camp – that Mark Teixeira will miss 8-10 weeks with a strained wrist – is sure to set off alarms in the Bronx and on New York sports radio. With A-Rod, Curtis Granderson, and Tex sidelined and Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Brett Gardner returning from injury, the Yankee lineup is, for the first time in a while, suspect.
But there is no reason to worry just yet, Yankee fans. As long the Yankees don’t act like, well, the Yankees, and don’t hit the panic button – they just might be okay.
First, though, let’s look at the Teixeira situation and what it means for the lineup and Fantasy players. The biggest winner here could prove to be Juan Rivera. He can fill in for either Granderson or Teixeira, so he’s good for six weeks of steady playing time. The Yankees also have Dan Johnson on the roster and Travis Hafner, who will likely remain a designated hitter.
One scenario that might work for the Yankees is to put Kevin Youkilis at first base and slot youngster Eduardo Nunez at third base. Nunez, a speedy shortstop by nature, stole 11 bases last year in just 89 AB; in 2011 he swiped 22 bags in 211 AB. His defense last season was atrocious, but Manager Joe Girardi has talked publicly about finding at-bats for Nunez, even before Granderson was hurt.
The Yankees might be able to employ a “double lead-off hitter” strategy in their lineup by hitting Gardner or Nunez first as a table setter and the other down in the seven hole to generate runs late in the lineup. Jeter has and can thrive in the two hole, and Robinson Cano is one of the most consistent offensive sources in the majors. Do not look past 26-year-old Melky Mesa, who is having a good spring and can provide decent power and speed to the Yankee outfield. He may battle Rivera for playing time and provide additional flexibility.
A revamped Yankee lineup could look like this:
It’s not exactly Murderer’s Row, but Jeter, Youk, and Ichiro certainly know how to move runners along and play a fundamental game. Instead of relying on the home run, as they did far too often last year, expect a scrappy Yankee lineup to fight for runs in the early going. The presence of Nunez and Ichiro (who can hit anywhere really) ahead of Cervelli will make him a better hitter by providing a distraction and motion for the opposing pitcher.
It depends a lot on age, which should be the larger concern for the club. We’re assuming Jeter and Gardner are healthy, that Hafner can produce and that Youk will find some old lightning in his bat.
And we should assume the club will be active on the trading front – whether it is reuniting with Alfonso Soriano or making a play for an unhappy Giancarlo Stanton (if they even have the prospects to pull off such a monster deal; we know they have the cash).
But low expectations can lower pressure to perform and provide great surprises.
The Yankees, as mentioned, have the fundamental problem of age (and now) health. It is a team that will be rebuilding shortly anyway, with its famous core nearing the end of the road. But losing Mark Teixeira might help them find lightning in a bottle by dipping into the fountain of youth to play Nunez and perhaps Mesa.
If management can resist the temptation to fill the holes via trade (we bet that they can’t), they might find that, at least on a temporary basis, they will be fine. After all – on paper at least – Granderson and Teixeira will return by late May/early June, so hitting the panic button will only drive up the payroll and cost the club some prospects it will sorely need very soon.
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