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Don’t count on Eduardo Nunez becoming the next great Yankees shortstop

Jul 5, 2011, 12:16 PM EDT

eduardo-nunez-yankees Getty Images

A funny thing happened while Derek Jeter was on the disabled list with a calf injury, as the Yankees went 14-4 without him in the lineup and fill-in shortstop Eduardo Nunez hit .339 with a .906 OPS.

Jeter’s ongoing decline combined with Nunez’s impressive work in his absence has an awful lot of Yankees fans thinking ahead to the future of the shortstop position in New York, but before anyone gets too carried away allow me to burst a few bubbles: Nunez isn’t that great.

Sure, he’s 24 years old and played well in Jeter’s place, but youth and a nice two-week stretch does not a future star make. Prior to Nunez’s strong run filling in for Jeter he hit just .255 with a .293 on-base percentage and .355 slugging percentage in 63 games as a big leaguer and his minor-league track record isn’t a whole lot more encouraging.

Nunez has hit .274 with a .318 on-base percentage and .369 slugging percentage in 656 games as a minor leaguer, including .289 with a .340 OBP and .381 SLG in 118 games at Triple-A. That works out to a .687 OPS in the minors overall and a .721 OPS at Triple-A. Last year, in what was the worst season of his career, Jeter had a .710 OPS against big-league pitching.

Nunez has also flashed 20-steal speed and shown signs of improvement that you’d expect from a young player, but at 24 years old he’s not that young and there’s little in his track record to suggest an upside beyond “solid regular.” Obviously even “solid regular” is plenty valuable in a 24-year-old shortstop, but there’s also a strong chance Nunez tops out as “utility man.”

Either way, he’s far from the type of long-term solution optimistic Yankees fans started dreaming about during the past two weeks and may not even be good enough to eventually push Jeter off shortstop. Assuming, of course, that Jeter will some day cease playing shortstop for the Yankees. You know, in 2050 or so.

  1. yankeesfanlen - Jul 5, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    No one is fooling me about how long it’s going to take to fill our shortstop situation, Jeter not withstanding. Before Jeter appeared (and took a while to get broken in) the Yankees had had 6 shortstoos in five years.
    Most fans say Reyes, the better answer is Tulowitzki, and I know he just signed a big long term contract.
    Put a man on it, Hank, it will take a couple of years to get rid of the incumbent anyway.

    • itsacurse - Jul 5, 2011 at 12:50 PM

      THIS is why most people hate Yankee fans.

      • yankeesfanlen - Jul 5, 2011 at 1:06 PM

        Cause they can’t be as intelligent (and good lookin’)?

      • dirtyharry1971 - Jul 5, 2011 at 4:20 PM

        The real reason people hate on the Yankees is the same reason they hated on the 49’ers in the 80’s and more recently the Pats. its because they win too many titles and if your not a fan of them then you are either tired of them or usually jealous which leads to hatred. ANy other reason is total BS

      • purdueman - Jul 5, 2011 at 5:03 PM

        djrtyharry, you make a good point, but you’re not completely accurate. True, many of us come down with bad cases of “Patriot-Fatigue”, “Laker-Fatigue”, and similar cases of bad fatigue when there’s way too much media coverage and adulation heaped upon any team.

        There are though individuals who polarize the general public against their teams too. For me, I can’t stand teams who have pompous, a-hole management. Greaser Riley in Miami, the old, late windbag Auerbach in Boston, dolt Dean Spanos in San Diego (Chargers), and Belincheat in Boston are all self-centered, humility-less despicable characters.

        Then there’s the “gas bag” bandwagon fan factor too. If the Patriots gas bag would have gotten any bigger, when it finally popped the resulting rush of hot air would have caused a major earthquake and title wave across the entire northeastern coast.

        Le Bum is an example of one player polarizing the public against his team.

        None of these factors have anything to do with jealousy; it’s just a sense that these type of low lifes sense of entitlement warrants a good swift kick to their groins.

  2. Jonny 5 - Jul 5, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    But Nunez smiles just as good as Jeter does.

    BTW, look at shortstops across mlb. There are few known for their offense anyway. Do the Yankees really need a batting genius there or could they just use more D there? I’d think a defensive upgrade on an already good hitting team would be a good direction to head in.

    • yankeesgameday - Jul 5, 2011 at 1:01 PM

      This is the best way to go for the immediate post jeter world. After jeter retires, Arod will be in his final few years and on his decline, so the future of the Yanks has this being Robinson Cano’s team.

      Cano is the infielder this team will be built around for the next 10-12 years.

      replace jeter with a great defender and find compliments to Cano in the lineup.

  3. jeffrp - Jul 5, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    Who exactly was getting carried away? Nobody thinks of Nunez as the next great Yankee shortstop and there are no bubbles that needed bursting.

    • Ari Collins - Jul 5, 2011 at 1:00 PM

      Maybe you talk to a brighter breed of Yankee fans, but PLENTY of fans think Nunez would be at the least better than Jeter and many of them think he’s very good.

    • seattlej - Jul 5, 2011 at 1:16 PM

      Who exactly is getting carried away, you ask? Hmmmm… look at the post right below yours.

      • jeffrp - Jul 5, 2011 at 2:07 PM

        “he has a good shot at being a respectable big leaguer.”

        Really? That’s what you call getting carried away?

      • Ari Collins - Jul 5, 2011 at 5:51 PM

        Agreed, that’s not getting TOO carried away, although I think “good shot” is probably way off. More like “outside shot.”

        But read a Yankee blog. LOTS of people are sure that Nunez will be a good SS for the next several years. Or more than good.

  4. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 5, 2011 at 1:02 PM

    Come on. I don’t necessarily disagree with the overall conclusion, but citing 63 ‘games’ at the big league level, spread out across 2 seasons, seems like a poor batch of evidence to support it. in 2010, it was 30 games and 53 ABs, so he was obviously brought in as a replacement mid-game in most of those. Even this year the playing time was sporadic.

    A .721 OPS is not bad for a kid’s first year in AAA. I don’t think anyone expects him to match Derek Jeter’s career numbers, but he has a good shot at being a respectable big leaguer.

  5. droogleeddie - Jul 5, 2011 at 1:34 PM

    Did anyone else watch the YES broadcast and hear Michael Kay mention that Nunez was the dealbreaker in the Cliff Lee trade, that the Yankees would not include him? I do not remember that being the case last year…

    If that is true, what is it about Nunez that the Yankees see as so special?

  6. RickyB - Jul 5, 2011 at 1:52 PM

    While Nuñez does seem to be improving at the plate, he will always be BA dependent to keep his OBP up. But the killer is the fact that he simply is not a good shortstop defensively. He plays infield like an outfielder, and his bat simply does not warrant time in the outfield. Good utility infielder to have on a roster, yes. Regular who plays 150+ games a year, no.

  7. purdueman - Jul 5, 2011 at 2:15 PM

    “Don’t count on Eduardo Nunez becoming the next great Yankees shortstop”
    Aaron Gleeman Jul 5, 2011, 12:16 PM EDT
    Don’t worry about that, Aaron! ROFLMAO at the mere suggestion of it! Must be a really slow news day, huh?

  8. genericcommenter - Jul 5, 2011 at 4:35 PM

    Jeter’s OPS is NOT .710. It is .639. You are thinking of last year (which was bad enough). Last year he was almost average. This year he is 74% of an average batter.

  9. lady2di4 - Jul 5, 2011 at 5:59 PM

    Jeter’s replacement? Wow, ok he’s getting up in years, but my observation is that Nunez is a very talented guy who makes a lot of errors, and makes mistakes on the basepaths. Yankee fans are not used to that…the Captain is solid when it comes to the fundamentals. PERIOD!

    • purdueman - Jul 5, 2011 at 6:55 PM

      Do I understand your post correctly? Jeter’s decline again this year is because when he’s not on the disabled list he’s on his period?!!! Who knew?!!!

  10. uyf1950 - Jul 5, 2011 at 6:27 PM

    Nunez may not be the end all for the Yankees at SS. But there probably isn’t one poster on here can can say with the straight face that Jeter would be a better option then Nunez in the final 3 years of Jeters current contract. Nunez if he can improve his defense which I believe he can with “regular” playing time and some more experience would be a much more viable option at SS in 2012 and beyond then Jeter, in my opinion.
    As for the comments about he probably won’t amount to much (much words, but the general theme of this blog) in the future because of his very limited past. I wonder how many of you in 2007, 2008 and 2009 had words of praise for Bautista or would have written him off. Let’s get past the 1st chapter of a players career before we decide to close the book on him and write him off. That’s just my opinion.

    • pisano - Jul 6, 2011 at 12:11 AM

      Well said my friend. I still think the Yankees see him in multiple roles, such as outfield, dh, and the infield. He reminds me a little of Alfonso Soriano when he first came up. As he fills out a little more I feel we’ll see alot more pop in his bat.

      • purdueman - Jul 6, 2011 at 12:22 AM

        I see Nunez as excelling at only one position… “DS”, as in “Designated Scrub!”. 😮

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