One of the most underrated and underappreciated Yankees from the 2012 season was Jayson Nix. With injuries to Alex Rodriguez and the incomparable Eduardo Nunez waiting in the wings, Nix provided a solid replacement at third and in relief of Derek Jeter. In his first go-around in the big-leagues, Nix was a genuinely great surprise. With solid defense and a couple of big hits, Nix proved to be a valuable piece of the puzzle.
Nix probably saw a lot more action that originally anticipated by the Yankees when they signed him to a Minor League contract, with an invite to Spring Training in November 2011. However, with his versatility in the infield and his sure-handed defensive play, he got a lot of action for Alex Rodriguez. Over 74 games and 202 PA, Nix hit .243/.306/.690. While those numbers weren’t off-the-charts, it is worth nothing that he did hit for his highest BA across his major league career. Additionally, while the sample-sizes are extremely small, it is worth nothing Nix’s slash line against some of the toughest pitchers in baseball, as well as those who historically have done well against the Yankees: versus Jon Lester, .333/.391/.857 (24 PA) and versus Ricky Romero, .500/.588/.571.
Given the number of times the Yankees face the division-rival Jays and Red Sox, even though those teams and players have had down years, it was necessary for the Yankees to win each and every divisional game possible. He also had substantial success, though admittedly in smaller sample sizes, against Gio Gonzalez and Felix Hernandez. Nix isn’t exactly an offensive mega-star, but given that Mark Teixeira and Russell Martin had down years, Robinson Cano struggled at times, A-Rod missed a ton of games, and Curtis Granderson maintained his homer-or-strikeout pace, it was extremely beneficial to have a bench player offensively contribute in such a meaningful way.
Most importantly for the Yankees, Nix was a solid defensive replacement. Realistically, Nix is not a superstar defense talent, but he was drastically better than the alternative. Given Nunez’ propensity to the make even the most routine of throws an adventure, Nix provided stability: when a ball was hit to hit, it was a safe assumption that he’d cleanly make the play without much breath-holding. (Note: Nix did appear in limited action in the outfield, but given that his primary positions were in the infield, these numbers will be the primary focus of this analysis.) Compared to Nunez (7 E), Nix only made four errors over 489 innings in the field all season. Interestingly, though Nix maintained a Rtot/yr of -7, it was markedly better than Nunez, who clocked in at a shocking -27 total zone fielding runs above average defensively. Further illustrating the point, while Nix was not an offensive juggernaut, he didn’t cost the Yankees runs, either. When looking at Rdrs/yr, Nix saved no defensive runs above average (0), but Nunez cost the Yankees -4 runs. Given that runs were at a premium at times with the offensive woes, every run mattered more than usual this season. Again, Nix was not an offensive or defensive powerhouse, but the consistent play and better defensive ability than Nunez helped the Yankees to have options at 3B, 2B and SS as the injuries mounted.
– Serviceable replacement
– Defensively sound
– Made a case for his place on the 2013 roster
FINAL GRADE: B
To say that Jayson Nix was a welcome surprise was an understatement, particularly in light of the Yankees’ team age and the injuries to Rodriguez. He should be considered an option as a bench player for 2013, as he cleared waivers this past winter, and was assigned to the Yankees AAA club after signing a one-year $900,000 contract should he make the pro squad. Given the question marks about Jeter’s ankle, A-Rod’s torn hip labrum, and the departure of Eric Chavez, bench depth with be critical for the Yankees moving forward. Further, with a cheap salary and team control until 2016, Nix will be useful as a supplemental roster addition. He won’t be the difference between winning a championship or not, but Jayson Nix will continue to be a solid bench/depth option moving forward.
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