Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Could A-Rod Be a Factor This Season?

Alex Rodriguez is hated by the majority of Yankees fans, many of whom never want to see Rodriguez put on the pinstripes again. However, with Kevin Youkilis looking really old and fragile Rodrguez actually could be a positive for the Yankees if he gets healthy and avoids suspension.

Youkilis missed Sunday's game due to his back flaring up yet again after diving for a ground ball at first base on Saturday. The Yankees say he is just day-to-day and should play today, but we have seen this song and dance with Youkilis before this season. These back problems have limited Youkilis to just 25 games and they have severely limited his production.

Youkilis was batting .279/.353/.433 before missing his first game on April 21st. However, since his first back strain against Toronto, he has hit .239/.314/.380/.604 with a .305 wOBA and 88 wRC+. That is a very small sample size, but it is hard to see Youkilis staying on the field, much less being productive.

This is hardly a surprise as Youkilis only played in 122, 120 and 102 games in each of the last three seasons.  Since his return from the DL he looks slow and stiff in the field and his bat speed looks nothing like it did in his prime in Boston. He has only six walks on the season compared with 27 strikeouts. It really does not look promising that Youkilis will return to the player that we saw in Spring Training or at the beginning of the season. Back injuries just do not go away.

With a team that already has offensive black holes at catcher, shortstop, right field and left field the Yankees can not afford another one at third base. However, it really seems like the Yankees are heading in that direction with Youkilis looking close to finished and David Adams struggling (.217/.239/.348/.587). Rodriguez may have to be the one to save the day at third base.

If Rodriguez just came back as the player he was last year he would be an upgrade at third base. He hit .272/.353/.430/.783 with a .342 wOBA and 114 wRC+, His OPS, wOBA and wRC+ all ranked among the top 10 in MLB third basemen in 2012, so he was still an above average producer at the position. He was also excellent against lefties last season (.308/.410/.514/.924), against whom the Yankees have really had a tough time with this year.

Can Rodriguez return and give the Yankees that kind of production? I have no idea. It would seem unlikely, but not impossible. His second hip surgery could really end his days as a productive player like Youkilis' back has. However, with the state of the Yankee offense right now it could not hurt them to give him a shot.

Rodriguez has only just recently started baseball activities in Tampa, so this is still a long ways off. He also has a suspension looming over his head due to his involvement in the Biogenesis Clinic. I don't think the MLB has much of a case against him, as the only evidence they have is the word of a criminal in Tony Bosch. But, even if he does get suspended, it probably won't be until after this season, as Rodriguez will almost certainly fight his suspension.

You may not like Rodriguez, but right now the Yankees can use any offensive help they can get. A lot of people think that he will never put on the pinstripes again, but if he is ready to play this season and he isn't suspended the Yankees will not have much of a choice. With the way Youkilis and Adams look right now he could surprise everybody and turn into a positive. I'm not saying it will happen, but you never know because with Rodriguez anything is possible. His return is now more necessary than it has ever been.

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