The New York Yankees infield can potentially be a disaster next season. Yes, it is really early to start talking about this, but take a look at the Yankees depth chart and it becomes blatantly obvious to any fan with a pulse that the Yankees can be in trouble when it comes to putting a representative starting infield on together for all 162 games.
As currently constructed, the Yankees have Mark Teixeira at first base, Kelly Johnson at second base, Derek Jeter at shortstop and Alex Rodriguez at third base. Even in some magical world where Rodriguez does not get suspended for 211 games, or a large chunk of those games, and a world where Jeter and Teixeira will stay healthy and each play 140 games, and a world where Johnson becomes an above-average player, that starting infield is still not very good.
First, let’s talk about a best-case scenario for the infield. Ideally, when it comes to the 39-year-old Jeter, if he can play in 140 or more games and bat close to .300 with some range defensively, the Yankees would be thrilled. For Teixeira, if he can even return to his 2011 form when he hit .251 with 24 home runs, and is able to play his trademark defense at first base, which has lead to four Gold Gloves, that would be excellent. Those offensive numbers wouldn’t be Teixeira’s best season, but if he hits 24 home runs that would mean Teixeira stayed healthy and on the field. For Johnson, if he is able to hit over 20 home runs at Yankee Stadium and bat closer to .250 than he did last year, the Yankees would have to be satisfied with that production. If Rodriguez plays over 100 games and can hit around .275 with 10 to 15 home runs, that would mean he got a favorable ruling on his suspension appeal, which the Yankees would have to be happy with even if the presence of Rodriguez causes a circus. Despite the media frenzy around Rodriguez and despite him being a shell of himself, Rodriguez is still their best option at third base.
Obviously, it is very unlikely all of that will happen. In fact, there is a good chance that not even one of those things will happen. In reality, there is more of a chance for the infield to torment Joe Girardi and Yankees fans. Rodriguez is all but guaranteed to get suspended for a large portion of the original 211-game suspension. If Rodriguez’ suspension is upheld or changed slightly so he is suspended for most, if not all, of 2014, the Yankees would need a new plan. Even if they were to go out and sign a guy like Stephen Drew, it would only be a quick fix. Jeter is a huge question mark with his health. At the late stages of his career, with remembering that Jeter only played in 17 games last year, there is no way the Yankees can bank on him being on the field for most of the season. If he somehow manages to play the majority of the Yankees’ games next year, this is a guy who is still a guy who is a few steps slower than he was several years ago. He will be a huge liability in the field, and there is no way of banking on him hitting over .300, like he did for 12 separate seasons. With all that in mind, Brendan Ryan, who is Jeter’s backup, could get a lot of time at shortstop. Ryan is an excellent defender, but he is a guy who hasn’t batted over .200 for the last two years. He is basically the American League equivalent of batting the pitcher. Before his lost 2012 season, Teixeira was on the decline. His batting average has dropped from .292 in 2009 to .251 in 2012. Nearly all the other major offensive categories people like to look at have also dropped significantly. As for Johnson, he has stayed consistent with his power numbers, but his batting averages have fluctuated wildly from as high as .287 in 2008 to as low as .222 in 2011.
The outlook just is not very good for the Yankees when it comes to their infield. At full strength, the unit will be middle-of-the-pack offensively and defensively. However, if Jeter and Teixeira go down with injuries and miss significant portions of time, the Yankees would be in a lot of trouble with not a lot of options. Let’s just hope it doesn’t get to that point.