After New York Yankees young utilityman Tyler Austin suffered a foot fracture, veteran slugger Chris Carter’s role just got a whole lot bigger.
Just one day before position players reported to New York Yankees camp, the battle for backup first baseman settled.
Tyler Austin, who slashed .241/.300/.458 with five homers in just 90 plate appearances and was a favorite to enter the regular season as a backup or platoon option wth Greg Bird, suffered a fracture in his left navicular bone during batting practice and will be out for six weeks.
New York will probably be without him until mid-May or even June, depending on the rehab assignment, but there’s no such thing as too much depth and that’s exactly what the Yankees have.
The lefthanded-hitting Bird, assuming he makes it through camp healthy, is the favorite to secure the Opening Day roster spot at first. Although his 2015 cameo in the bigs was impressive, there are a couple of asterisks attached to his numbers to keep in mind.
First is, of course, the fact that he also missed all of 2016 after operating on a torn right labrum. Even if he didn’t show rust in the Arizona Fall League (17 games, 1 HR, .215 BA) having him play at first every day is a disaster waiting to happen.
Secondly, Bird struggled mightily against left-handed pitchers during his first 46 games in the bigs. The 24-year old went just 10-for-42 (.238) with just two home runs and struck out in more than a third of his at-bats (35.7 percent).
That’s why Austin’s backup role was so crucial. In his stint at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre preceding his promotion to the Bronx, he slashed .365/.459/.698 with a 1.158 OPS against left-handed pitching. At the major league level, he went 8-for-23 (.348) against lefties compared to 12-for-60 (.200) against righties.
Now, with Austin out for a considerable amount of time, there is a formidable bat in Chris Carter that has shed light on what could have been a detrimental injury for the Yankees.
In 160 games a year ago, Carter slashed .222/.321/.499, maintained a .821 OPS and was tied with Nolan Arenado for the most home runs (41) in the National League. The righty also slugged the sixth-most home runs (131) in major league baseball since 2013.
When his numbers are compared to other Yankee hitters with at least 500 plate appearances last season, Carter leads the list in home runs, RBI’s, walk percentage, isolated power, slugging percentage and OPS.
He is flawed, though. Carter also led the NL in strikeouts, has the second-most since 2013 and is categorized as a man who will strike out a ton and hit for low average. However, should take walks, maintain a respectable OBP and hit a ton of home runs.
Not the slugger you want to depend on to lift an offense, but the cushion of Chris Carter is much more comfortable than the rotation of Dustin Ackley, Chris Parmelee, Rob Refsnyder, Ike Davis and Billy Butler that New York had to turn to in order to replace the ineffectiveness of Mark Teixeira.