The New York Yankees’ major league infield is graying fast, and will have at least two vacancies as soon as next season. Derek Jeter is retiring, Brian Roberts is signed to a one-year contract and no one really knows what Brian Cashman plans to do with Alex Rodriguez.
Of course there are unpredictable variables, like whether or not Yangervis Solarte plays well enough to earn a starting job next season. Rodriguez could also retire for a number of reasons, or Cashman could just buy out his contract. Either way, he’s not going to be the every day third baseman.
So who steps up? My best guess, and this is long term, is Eric Jagielo. He’s currently hitting for a .256/.339/.500 line for the advanced Single-A Tampa Yankees with 10 home runs and eight doubles.
As the fifth overall prospect in the Yankees’ system, scouts graded Jagielo’s hitting and power as a 50 and 60, respectively, out of 80. The product of Notre Dame is also a lefty and therefore a perfect fit for Yankee Stadium.
The likely scenario is the Yankees pick up a third baseman sometime before the start of the 2015 season. Martin Prado, for example, can play several infield positions and is signed through 2016, which would make him a perfect stopgap while Jagielo, 22, climbs the minor league ranks.
Peter O’Brien, a catcher who the Yankees recently promoted to Double-A, and who the team envisions at third base or right field, would have made an even more immediate impact in the majors. The problem is he made 18 errors in 38 games at third, which resulted in him playing right field.
The Yankees’ farm system, especially Trenton, is crowded with outfielders and their major league squad is as well. O’Brien’s quickest path to the majors is by playing third or first, as Pinstripe Alley’s Jason Cohen opined.
In 12 games for the Trenton Thunder, O’Brien, 23, has a .280/.280/.740 line, but the good sign is he’s been able to keep his bat hot since being promoted from Single-A Tampa. He’s hit 17 home runs and posted a .981 OPS in 44 games between the two levels. The only bad sign about his offense is he does not walk, and he’s totaled four free passes compared to 42 strikeouts in 2014.
If not O’Brien, the Yankees could see Zealous Wheeler man the hot corner in 2015. At 27, Wheeler needs to make his transition to the majors soon before reaching his physical peak. He’s currently hitting for a .307/.364/.465 line in Triple-A with less power, but a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than O’Brien. Given his age, Wheeler could even see time in the majors in 2014, but that remains to be seen.
At 26, Roller finally made the jump to Triple-A in his fifth year in the minors and is hitting for a .262/.347/.500 line. Roller is as close to being called up as he could be, but there is simply no place for him. Bird, 21, is the seventh overall prospect in the Yankees’ system, but is currently teammates with Jagielo in Tampa. The latter two are most likely long-term answers if they can move through the ranks in the next few years.