2016 Statistics: 140 games, .251/.329/.383, 14 home runs, 51 RBI
2017 Roster Status: 3rd year of 4 year/$52 million deal signed prior to 2015 season
After his first full season, Yankee fans were already getting tired of Chase Headley. Understandably, fans wanted to see drastic improvement from the third baseman this year. Outside a couple very good months, 2015 Headley was bad enough to earn an overall grade of D+/C- from me. Because I did this same report card last year, I signed up to grade him this year as well since I was really curious about his progress.
April and Chase Headley are not the best of friends. In fact, one can pretty much consider them enemies. Though he wasn’t the only Yankee to start off slow (there’s a reason the team only had eight wins through April), Headley was absolutely dreadful. His slash line in April was a paltry .150/.268/.150. He had nine hits in 60 at-bats in the first month, all of which were singles. Yeah, he was that bad. Bad enough that fans were calling for Ronald Torreyes to take his job.
Fortunately, Headley bounced back in a big way in May and was the least of the Yankees problems through the end of July. From May to July Headley hit .286/.349/.452 with 10 home runs and a 116 wRC+. While the Yankees 2016 ship was sinking, Headley was one of the only Yankees trying to keep the sinking ship afloat. He couldn’t carry the team, but he was proving that the Yankees investment in him wasn’t a terrible decision. With no one really coming through the system and the only free agent options at the time being Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, the Yankees still made the right decision in signing Headley.
Funnily enough, when the Yankees were playing poorly Headley was hitting well. When the team started playing well with the arrival of Gary Sanchez in August, Headley started coming back down to earth. Hitting .247/.322/.390 in August, while not awful, shows a dip in production evidenced by his below-average 83 wRC+. In September/October, Headley’s numbers dipped even further as he hit just .218/.322/.333.
Towards the end of the year, Headley was suffering from back problems that just would not go away so I’m willing to forgive his numbers dipping there. He was held out of a handful of games, and with his back ailing it’s possible that could have affected his swing. Still though, overall not a bad season at the plate, especially after accounting for the injury.
Outside of his roller coaster hitting season in 2015, the biggest concern with Headley was how terrible he was fielding his position last year. Headley led MLB third basemen with 23 errors in 2015, but was able to drastically reduce that number to 10 in 2016. Prior to arriving to the Yankees, Headley always had a reputation as a sure-handed third baseman, so I’m willing to buy into the notion that 2015 was an anomaly and that his 2016 fielding was a return to norm.
Headley’s biggest fielding issue last year was his inability to throw the ball to first base. He seemed to have developed a case of the yips as 12 of his errors last year were throwing errors. Fortunately, he cut that number in half with only six throwing errors this season. While that’s still more than half of his 2016 total errors, it’s still a more tolerable number.
Overall, Headley had a solid bounce back year and performed pretty much on par with his contract. He’s giving the Yankees exactly what they’re paying for, which is an average ballplayer. Were it not for his injury, he could have perhaps gotten a higher grade but still, not bad for the Yankee third baseman halfway through his contract.
He’s not exactly blocking the position, but there isn’t really anyone knocking on the doorstep either. He’ll be manning the hot corner for the foreseeable future, but that’s not exactly a bad thing right now. Maybe after next year they can try and upgrade the position during his final year, but at this rate even if he plays out his contract it won’t be a bad thing for the Yankees.
*Season statistics provided by FanGraphs and Baseball Reference.