Entering the 2014 season, the Yankees do not have a clear cut back-up plan for Mark Teixeira. In fact, Kelly Johnson is the only other player than Teixeira on the 40-man roster to have first base experience at the Major League level and it is a whopping three games. The Yankees have invited Russ Canzler to Tampa in hopes that he can become that back-up bench role.
The 27-year-old was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 30th round back in 2004. He slugged his way up and down the minors and seemed to find a home in the Tampa Bay Rays system. In 2011, Canzler took home the International League MVP honors batting an impressive .314 with 18 HRs and 83 RBI. He was rewarded with his first stint in the majors tallying three ABs with Tampa.
Then, in 2012, his career began to resemble a chapter out of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. He went from Tampa to the Indians and from the Indians to Toronto only to return to Cleveland a few months later. Next, he signed on for a short-lived stint with the Yankees as he headed to Baltimore a month and a day later. The Orioles then traded him to Pittsburgh, who eventually DFAed him which was when he returned to the Yankees again. Dizzying, isn’t it?
Canzler has the build for your typical first baseman standing at 6’2″ and 220 pounds. The right handed power hitter brings two huge assets to the Yankees bench. Not only could he be a back up to Teixeira at first base but he has played games at every corner of the infield and outfield tallying 339 career minor league starts between third base, left field, and right field.
Secondly, he absolutely smashes left-handed pitching as evidenced by his Triple-A career slash line of .307/.390/.531. The big knock on Canzler is that he may be a career minor-leaguer or what scouts call a Quad-A player. He seems to dominate at the Triple-A level and whether it is bat speed or confidence it doesn’t translate in the bigs. Canzler has hit .271 with 3 HRs and 12 RBIs over just 96 career big league at bats.
Last season the Yankees learned the importance of having a valuable back-up on the bench after playing most of the season with Lyle Overbay, Vernon Wells, Mark Reynolds, and Brennan Boesch due to injuries. Canzler brings the possibility of a steady reliable bat to the bench and the ability to play several positions to give the aging Yankee line-up rest. He will probably begin the season as the starting first baseman in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre but if he hangs around long enough this time, he will be a nice in-season addition for the Yankees.
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