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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

HOW THE YANKEES STACK UP: SHORTSTOP

So far we've written about how the Yankees stack up when it comes to CATCHER, FIRST BASE and SECOND BASE.  We have made it to Shortstop... and that means Derek Jeter.


Shortstop

By now everyone is well aware of how shortstop Derek Jeter’s season came to a crashing halt (with a broken ankle) in the American League Championship series.  Many claimed that the captain’s age would slow down his off season recovery and that the Yankees would be without his high level of play for much of the first half of 2013.

Nothing could be further from the truth.


On January 15th, the New York Daily News reported that Jeter says his rehab is right on schedule and he expects to be in the lineup on Opening Day at the stadium when the team faces our rivals from Boston.

We never doubted the future Hall of Famer did we?

In evaluating how we match-up against the rest of the division at this position, I am going under the premise that Number 2 will walk out to his familiar spot in the diamond in the top of the first inning on April 1st at 1:05 pm.

Each time many have written the 38 year-old off, he seemingly bounces back stronger, and better.  There should be no reason for any of us to doubt his ability to once again defy time. 

In 2012 Jeter had one of his finest seasons, hitting .316 with 32 doubles, 99 runs scored, and lead the league in hits (216).  He was named to the All-Star team for the 13th time and won his fifth Silver Slugger award.
How do the rest of the AL East teams stack up against Derek?

Toronto Blue Jays: One of the Blue Jays most publicized acquisitions this off season was Jose Reyes.  The long-time Met comes to Canada via Miami, and after years of cross-town comparisons of shortstops, New Yorkers will get to see the head-to-head match up throughout the season.  Reyes sports tremendous speed and an above average bat and glove.  He is a worthy opponent to our captain, but only time will tell if he can make the adjustment to the American League style of play.

Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays benefited from the Miami Marlins fire-sale of 2012 by acquiring Yunel Escobar (as part of the back-end of the Toronto deal) for some minor league prospects.  Escobar will give them a solid glove and bat, as well as some “flare”.  He is familiar with the AL East, having spent the past three seasons in Toronto and hit .304 against the Yankees in 46 at-bats in 2012.

Baltimore OriolesJJ Hardy has given the Orioles a powerful bat (52 HR and 148 RBI in two seasons) and solid glove (2012 gold glove winner) at the shortstop position.  However, as his power has increased his batting average has dropped, and in 2012 he had a career low .238 average to go along with a career high 106 strikeouts.  That being said, he hit .286 with six home runs, 13 RBI, and 12 runs scored against out boys in the Bronx.  The RBI and runs scored were the most he had against any team last season.

Boston Red Sox: Ah the Boston Red Sox and the shortstop position.  It seems every year that the BoSox are trying a different approach at short, and this season’s “flavor du jour” is Stephen Drew.  Boston signed Drew to a one-year contract and hope that his injury plagued years are behind him (he’s played more than 150 games only once in the past four seasons).  When healthy, Drew gives the Sox a powerful bat (he averages 15 HR per “full” season) and decent average (career .265).  In the field he’s not quite up to par with the rest of the AL East (he has a .978 fielding pct), but should be adequate for what Boston is looking for.  Given his recent history, the Red Sox fans better hope there is a “Plan B” ready to go into effect when Drew is unable to take his spot in the field.

So, where do the AL East shortstops rate?

Here is my take, what is yours? Comment.
1.       Yankees (Jeter’s “intangibles” give him the edge)
2.       Toronto (I think Reyes will become a fixture for the Jays)
3.       Baltimore (Hardy is just plain solid)
4.       Boston (only if Drew can manage to play in at least 140 games)
5.       Tampa Bay (Escobar is only slightly better than Drew in the field, and not as good at the plate)


 
--Steve Skinner, BYB Guest Writer
Twitter: @oswegos1






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