- FanGraphs Fantasy Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy -

New York Yankees Infield: Depth Chart Discussions

The Yankee lineup is a bit of a mess. And that’s being nice. With Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez all ailing, guys like Juan Rivera and Brennan Boesch will start the season in a lineup that is usually one of the most formidable in the league. With Travis Hafner and Chris Stewart also figuring to see regular at-bats, this lineup is anything but formidable.

But this post is just about the infield, not the whole lineup.

Let’s start with the Teixeira injury. Teixeira was originally reported to be out with a strained wrist injury until sometime between the first and middle of May. But it now appears that Teixeira has a partially torn tendon sheath. This is the same injury Jose Bautista had last year that ended his season early. Teixeira’s injury is supposedly a bit different in that the tendon under the sheath is stable whereas Bautista had an unstable tendon, which is the reason Bautista’s injury required season-ending surgery.

If we could be sure Teixeira would be back sometime in May, he might still be worth drafting as your corner infielder. But with so much uncertainty about the timeline after this latest development concerning his injury, there’s probably too much risk to take on. However, if you play in a league with more than one DL slot, he might be worth stashing if he falls to the last couple rounds of your draft.

Derek Jeter is questionable for the start of the season, but even if he’s not quite ready for Opening Day, he shouldn’t miss much time at all. But you obviously have to wonder how the injury will affect him at the start of the season. And you must also have some concern about the risk of sharp decline because of his age, despite the renaissance he had last year when he hit .316 with 15 home runs and almost 100 runs.

He’ll still probably give you a good batting average and a solid run total, but the power is likely to decline. His fly ball percentage has been on the decline since 2007, and he hit the lowest percentage of fly balls in his career last year. But he still managed to pop 15 home runs because of the second highest HR/FB of his career, which was about 3.5% higher than his career average.

As the 10th shortstop being taken on average in ESPN drafts with an ADP of about 150, Jeter is probably being overvalued. If you’re going to wait on shortstop, look elsewhere. Alcides Escobar is a better option going a few spots behind Jeter, and Josh Rutledge is a 15/15 guy going five or six rounds later.

At third, A-Rod is out until at least June, and Kevin Youkilis will man the hot corner in his stead. Rodriguez isn’t really worth drafting unless you want to grab him in the last round in a league with deep benches and/or several DL slots. And Youkilis is nothing short of a flier. You absolutely cannot bank on Youk to be your starting third basemen or even your corner infielder. There are too many good first basemen to rely on Youk in that slot. If you miss out on top flight third basemen and end up with someone like Moustakas or Alvarez as your starter, Youk could be a backup option. But Kyle Seager, Will Middlebrooks and maybe even Jeff Keppinger are probably better backup options that you should target before Youkilis.

Robinson Cano is the only healthy, stud hitter left in this lineup. Over the last four years he has averaged the following roto line: .314, 29 HR, 5 SB, 104 R and 102 RBI. As a result, he’s basically a consensus first round pick and a popular choice at #4 after the big three. But that might be a mistake. I wrote a long piece on this topic for another site (which you can read here), but let me summarize the argument.

First, I’m not a believer in drafting based on positional scarcity, especially in the 1st round. By taking Cano at #4, you’re passing up several guys who can contribute similarly to Cano in four of the categories and can provide the steals Cano can’t. Those five category contributors are more valuable because they establish a base for your roster.

And I also don’t think second base is as shallow as most would make it out to be. After Cano there’s a nice little tier of Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Ben Zobrist, Brandon Phillips, Jason Kipnis and Aaron Hill, all of whom I’d be perfectly fine with at 2B. Even the next tier of Jose Altuve, Neil Walker, Chase Utley, Howard Kendrick, Danny Espinosa, and Rickie Weeks isn’t wholly unappealing. Altuve, Walker and Weeks in particular are plenty fine by me.

Second, Cano is unlikely to repeat last year’s career year. He hit more home runs despite hitting fewer fly balls than he had in any of the three previous seasons. He’ll also be 30 this season, and second basemen have been proven to hit the backside of the aging curve sooner than players at other positions. And finally, he really struggled against lefties last year. His wRC+ against lefties was just 78 last year, down over 50 points from 2011. And his ISO against lefties dropped by more than 100 points.

None of this means Cano is going to fall off the map. He’s still likely to be a very good fantasy player. But prior to the career year last year, Cano was consistently drafted as a second round option. Because I don’t think he can repeat, I think that’s still where he should be going.

Aside from that, the Yankees have Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli catching. Not that you need to be told this, but they have little to no fantasy value. The same can be said of Rivera and Dan Johnson while they fill in for Teixeira. However, Eduardo Nunez could have some value in deeper leagues. He can play in multiple spots around the infield, so he’ll probably fill in for Jeter when needed as well as for Youkilis at third if necessary. His only real fantasy value is speed, but his average won’t kill you when he’s in there. For those in leagues where simply finding guys who get at-bats is part of the battle, Nunez will return some value.

Early Depth Chart

Catcher: Chris Stewart / Francisco Cervelli

First Base: Juan Rivera/Dan Johnson until Mark Teixeira returns

Second Base: Robinson Cano

Third Base: Kevin Youkilis / Eduardo Nunez / Alex Rodriguez

Shortstop: Derek Jeter / Eduardo Nunez