For months - and especially since A-Rod's suspension became official - people have speculated about the big gaping hole on the left side of the infield, at both shortstop and third base. As we all know, Derek Jeter is no longer the infielder he once was, but to be honest nobody in the organization has the guts to put him at third. That said, with Robinson Cano's departure, the Yankees are projected to start Kelly Johnson at third and Brian Roberts at second, with perhaps instead a double platoon where Johnson plays either position depending on the day.
That doesn't have to be the only option, especially since many (myself included) expect a Brian Roberts injury or two over the course of the season. At the moment, the Yankees minor league infield depth is shorter than Miley Cyrus's shorts, so if such an injury happens, the team would be stuck. Or would it?
Because of this, I've decided to explore a few options the team has within the organization, guys who either have or could learn to play the hot corner in the infield. Hey, if it works, you might see them on a regular basis there, with Roberts on the bench, since the most important thing is putting your best players on the field at all costs.
1. Francisco Cervelli, C
This time last year, Cervelli was the favorite to land the starting catching job, which he ultimately did, but he played a mere 17 games before being sidelined by a broken hand, followed by a shoulder injury and a 50-game Biogenesis suspension. Now, with Brian McCann's arrival, he is relegated once again to backup duty.
Question is, is that where he belongs? The career backup does have a career .271 average with a .367 SLG; if you're into sabermetrics, he has a career WAR of 3, and in just 17 games last year he had a WAR of .8. He hits in the clutch. He already has experience (albeit extremely limited) at the hot corner, and a slight amount at 2B. If he hits better than Roberts, would it be worth having someone else back up McCann and turn Cervelli into an infielder?
2. Ronnier Mustelier, OF, AAA
What people might forget is that, before his injury last spring, he had a serious shot to make the team out of spring training; don't be surprised if he does the same again. In parts of 2 seasons in AAA (173 games), the 28-year-old outfielder has hit .288 with 17 HR and 88 RBI. Additionally, he has played 69 games at 3B and 8 at 2B, which would provide not only fill the whole on the big league club but also give Girardi additional flexibility. However, he is not on the already-packed 40-man roster, so that means if he comes to the bigs, either somebody has to be placed on the 60-day DL or somebody has to go. Either way, if he hits like he did last year, I'd be surprised not to see the Yankees make room for him somehow.
3. Dean Anna, 3B, recently acquired
A career minor leaguer at 27, Dean Anna was recently acquired from the Padres back in November, slipping under the radar. While he has not been a part of the Yankees Universe-wide discussion over next year's 3B, Anna could be a dark horse to earn the spot in spring training. Last year, in his first season at AAA, the infielder hit 9 HR and 73 RBI with a .331/.410/.482 line (AVG/OBP/SLG). He has shown an ability to play all infield and both corner outfield positions with some skill, which could potentially allow him to spell the aging outfielders once in a while. As with Mustelier, this might come down to how he hits in spring training; if he performs, I see no reason why he should not break camp in pinstripes.
In my opinion, any three of these options would work as either potential alternatives in case of injury or even as the 3B themselves, making Johnson man Cano's old spot. Sure, everybody has their drawbacks - Cervelli would have to learn the position, Mustelier would have to prove himself enough to make the 40-man, and Anna has yet to see big league action - but when you're looking at the trash heaps, it's not about finding a pot of gold, it's about turning the lead you find into gold.