The role of the utility infielder has been pretty important to the Yankees over the years. From Miguel Cairo to Eduardo Nunez, utility infielders can add depth to any team. This year though, Corban Joseph has a legitimate shot at winning a spot on the opening day roster as the utility-man.
Heading into Spring Traning, many thought that the battle for this role was going to be highly competitive. While it still is competitive, it lost a big competitor in David Adams. Earlier today, Joe Girardi announced that Adams would not be joining the team this spring, as he is currently suffering from a back injury. This is a bad break for Adams, who was considered by many to be a possible leader for the spot. People have raved about Adams’ potential for a long time, but with his injury history, it appears unlikely that he will ever see significant playing time in the Bronx.
Therefore, this battle essentially comes down to Corban Joseph vs Eduardo Nunez. While Nunez is definitely a familiar face, he should not be considered to be a guaranteed lock for the role. He possesses a good bat, but his defense is still spotty at best.
As fellow writer Benjamin Orr pointed out in an article he wrote last month, Joseph was very impressive in his first year at AAA. Like Nunez, it is obvious that he has a good bat, and his defense really can’t be any worse – so what do the Yankees have to lose?
Since I live close to the Trenton area, I am able to attend many Trenton Thunder games. I recall seeing Corban Joseph play down in Trenton two years ago, and I remember him being one of the few players that really stood out to me. If he can prove to Yankees brass that he deserves the role over Nunez, then he should get it in a heartbeat.
Unfortunately, I get the feeling that the Yankees are going to want to keep Joseph in AAA to start the season, no matter how well he does during Spring Training. It seems as though the team really has a hard time “pulling the trigger” on a player who is ready for “The Show” because they may not have spent enough time in the minors. Hopefully with the emergence of players like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Mike Trout being called up at such young ages and succeeding, it will change the Yankees’ philosophy. I am in no way saying that Joseph will turn into one of those three players, but he definitely deserves to be given a fair chance regardless of how much time he spends in AAA.
It is going to be fun to watch Nunez and Joseph compete for a spot during Spring Training. Of course, there is always the possibility of a “dark-horse” coming out of nowhere and overtaking the both of them. So while this will essentially be a two-man battle, keep an eye out for players like Dan Johnson, Jayson Nix, and Addison Maruszak – all of whom could also prove themselves worthy.