The New York Yankees made a splash in the offseason free agent market, signing All-Stars and marquee players like Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. They also won the bidding war for Masahiro Tanaka, the Japanese ace coming off an undefeated campaign in Nippon Professional Baseball. Yet in the midst of these mega deals, New York’s biggest free agent acquisition has been the last man to make the Opening Day roster.
Yangervis Solarte signed a minor league deal with the Yankees last January after spending time in the Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers organizations. After posting a .429/.489/.571 slash line in spring training with two home runs and nine RBIs, he beat Eduardo Nunez for the final spot on the 25-man roster as an infield reserve, though he wouldn’t be a backup for long.
Solarte made his first Major League start on Apr. 3 against the Houston Astros and immediately proved his torrid spring was no fluke, going 3-for-3 at the plate with a walk, an RBI and two runs scored. He recorded multi-hit games in the Bombers’ next two contests as well. Through the first week of the season, he’s batting .450/.522/.650 with six RBIs.
With Mark Teixeira on the 15-day disabled list, Kelly Johnson has become the everyday first baseman and Solarte has taken over at third. This is another reason why Solarte has been tremendous for the Yankees. In addition to a hot bat, he’s provided defensive stability to a patchwork infield. He’s learned firsthand why third base is called the hot corner; he’s faced some absolute rockets, yet he has played solid defense and hasn’t committed an error.
Solarte has played himself onto the major league roster and into the starting lineup. The season is young, but thus far the 26-year-old has clearly been the best player on the team.
He’s already got Yankees fans hoping he can move to shortstop next year.