It's been a fine week for Yangervis Solarte. After having a wondrous spring and playing well right down to the crunch of roster definition, Solarte has played his way on to the starting lineup and is now a bona fide utility man. It couldn't come at a better time--with Mark Teixeira out for the foreseeable future, he can act as an every day third/second baseman until he returns. This has also been a great victory for the Yankees' front office (so far). Going into a season where they had an aging Derek Jeter, no Alex Rodriguez, and a Mark Teixeira who too is showing his age, the Yankees have managed to find a player who not only can act as a competent utility player, but is also dirt cheap. I've clamored, as well as many other Yankee fans, for the signing of Stephen Drew. The Yankees went on a massive shopping spree this winter but seemingly left the infield to fend for itself. But instead of paying a multi-year contract for Drew which would go at market rate, the Yankees picked up Solarte who is not only cheap, but at this moment has the same fWAR ZiPS projection at 1.5. For all of us that have been pulling for Solarte all spring, this has been a fun week. But what about the many weeks to come?
A long, long time ago (in April of last year), Vernon Wells was a starting outfielder for the New York Yankees. And in that month of April, he hit .300/.366/.544 (148 wRC+) with six home runs and four doubles. We all know how that ended. Granted, I don't think Solarte is a Vernon Wells--he has age on his side at 26 and all projection systems point to Solarte being a much better player; Vernon Wells was just clearly defying them. But nonetheless, the God of Regression smites all who are defiant, and Solarte is no exception. Through his 23 PA, he's hit .450/.522/.650 (234 wRC+) and has already accumulated 0.5 fWAR in just six games. The key to this, though, is that his BABIP is at an extremely high mark of .474. I'm clearly looking at a microscopic sample, and it's obviously due to regress. How much? Given his career BABIP in the minors that hovered around .290, I would expect something similar in the future. The projection systems agree, and both ZiPS and Steamer believe he'll fall between .280 and .297. That isn't too bad, considering that would make his total batting line fall at or about 100 wRC+ (plus or minus 10 points). His defense will also fall at or slightly above league average, which again is encouraging considering where we were with utility players last year.
Overall, this week has been encouraging. Instead of being stubborn and holding on to organizational depth that just wasn't working (Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix), the Yankees trusted their minor league scouting and scooped up some players like Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte, players whose combined values would probably fetch ~$20 million given the marginal cost of a win on the free agent market. Solarte is a breath of fresh air, especially coming off a 2013 where no backup alternative in the system could cut it. We should definitely temper our expectations with Solarte--he's no second coming of Derek Jeter--but we should appreciate that he is providing a service that no one on the Yankees could provide just a year ago.