Yankees Chase Headley Deserves More Love for Solid 2016


New York Yankees third baseman Chase Headley seems to be strangely underrated by fans in 2016 despite a solid overall performance this year.

Not that he deserves a complete pass for his terrible April, but if Yankees fans all agree to forget that month ever happened, third baseman Chase Headley has had an excellent season in 2016. Since May 1st, Headley has hit .277/.345/.439 (108 wRC+) with 13 home runs in 388 plate appearances while playing excellent defense.

In other words, the player the Yankees thought they were signing to a four year $52 million contract in the winter of 2014. Headley is never going to be an MVP candidate again like he was in 2012, but he has been a hair-above-average third baseman this year.

He currently ranks 13th in baseball with 2.4 wins above replacement according to FanGraphs’ metric. Anything over two means a player has been a quality starter. By the same measurement, he has actually been the Yankees most valuable position player in 2016 coming into Thursday’s action.

Because of his incredibly slow start to the season, Headley’s overall .259/.333/.397 (95 wRC+) line this year looks only slightly better than his much-criticized .259/.324/.369 (92 wRC+) performance at the plate last season.

While his April at-bats clearly need to be taken into account, Headley has been one of the team’s best overall hitters this season. With Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius, and Mark Teixeira regularly hitting in the heart of the order for New York, it’s not a huge leap to say that Headley might be the team’s best option to hit third or fourth in September now that Gary Sanchez has proven to be a mortal man.

Perhaps the most welcome change this year from Headley has been a return to being one of the league’s better glovemen at the hot corner. Headley has made huge improvements by nearly every defensive metric. His UZR/150 jumped from -3.0 to +10.7, his DRS has gone from negative six runs to positive five, and he’s cut his 23 errors in 2015 down to just 10 this year.

Headley often seems to be overlooked because he’s far from the most exciting player in the lineup. Being basically average in every aspect of the game doesn’t generate many headlines. Still, the team may want to think twice before dumping him for Ronald Torreyes or another unproven infielder this winter.

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Without a clear heir apparent at third base (at least not until Miguel Andujar begins to hit upper-level pitching), Headley should probably continue to go quietly unnoticed and underappreciated in the Yankees lineup for the foreseeable future.