The buzz around the New York Yankees early this season is surprisingly not on any of the superstars brought in during the offseason as part of a near-$500 million spending spree. Instead, the Spring Training invitee on a minor-league contract, Yangervis Solarte, is turning heads with his All-Star-like offensive production.
Solarte is leading the Yankees in every offensive category other than batting average, which belongs to the resurgent Ichiro Suzuki, who is currently hitting .462. The 26-year-old rookie has put together a .450 average with six RBIs in five starts and six appearances thus far. Solarte leads the team in doubles with four, and he has the fewest strikeouts with just one. Those numbers aren’t a fluke — he is disciplined in the box.
With the early production, it would make sense for manager Joe Girardi to reward Solarte with a higher position in the order. Right now, Solarte’s protection consists of Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson, and he’s still getting it done. Moving him up would never become a permanent move with the way Girardi handles his lineup but for now, Solarte is hot and he could really flourish in an elevated spot.
Alfonso Soriano has three hits in 22 at-bats while Carlos Beltran has just four in as many attempts. Mark Teixeira is now on the DL, which takes another power bat out of the lineup and replaces it with Johnson. Teixeira’s injury couldn’t have come at a worse time as Solarte was beginning to eliminate Johnson from the everyday lineup with his heightened production.
I think slotting Solarte in the sixth spot would keep the murderer’s row alive for the Yankees a bit deeper into the lineup. Soriano currently holds the sixth spot, backing up either Beltran or Brian McCann (depending on who Girardi decides will bat cleanup on a given day). Soriano is struggling mightily right now, and it’s hard to watch when the guy batting in the eighth or ninth spot is the preferred option.
I’m sure many people are waiting for Solarte to come back down to earth, but I’m not so sure that will happen in a timely manner. Solarte waited in the Texas Rangers‘ farm system for a long time but never was blessed with the honor of a major league call-up. Now that he earned his way through the Yankees’ Spring Training campaign and forced the team to trade Eduardo Nunez, Solarte will be giving it everything he’s got in 2014.