The crowded competition for the New York Yankees fourth outfielder role has loosened up a bit. Today, the Baltimore Orioles claimed Russ Canzler off waivers from the Yankees. Canzler, who had previously been claimed off waivers by the Yankees from the Cleveland Indians, was expected to compete with Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz for the extra outfield role.
A requirement for the Yankees for that role is that the player be a right-handed hitter, which is primarily the only reason why the Yankees even claimed Canzler, since the entire starting outfield is composed of lefties. Last season, Canzler hit three homeruns and had 11 RBI in 26 games with the Indians. With Canzler now gone, the battle comes down to Diaz and Rivera.
Going strictly off career numbers, Diaz would seem to have the edge over Rivera for the spot. He is a career .324 hitter against left-handed pitching, compared to Rivera’s .285 average against lefties. Even during the past two seasons when Diaz’s average vs lefties has been below .300, he’s still been better than Rivera. In 2012, Diaz hit .269 vs lefties compared to Rivera’s .260 clip vs southpaws and in 2011 Diaz hit .295 against lefties compared to Rivera’s .289 mark.
Where Rivera might have a slight edge over Diaz is his familiarity with the American League. Rivera spent the first 10 and a half years of his career in the AL while Diaz has spent the last seven years of his 10 year career in the National League. Rivera is also the better power hitter of the two, having posted seven seasons with double-digit homeruns (including two 20 homerun seasons) while Diaz has only had two such seasons and never more than 13 homeruns in any season.