After a bit of an extended wait, the Yankees have decided to take Yangervis Solarte over Eduardo Nunez to Houston come April 1. For me, Nunez not making the team isn't much of a surprise, considering the team has lost faith in him in recent years. The surprising thing, though, is Solarte making the team in the end. Well, at least if you told me at the beginning of camp that Solarte, a journeyman minor leaguer who has never seen the big leagues, would crack New York's 25-man roster. Based on his strong performance this spring, however, Solarte deserved an extended look.
In his minor league career, Solarte is a .286/.336/.397 hitter through 2804 plate appearances and eight seasons. In his two most recent seasons at the Triple-A level, 2012-2013, Solarte is a .282/.332/.404 hitter through 1145 PA's in the Texas Rangers' organization. While a .736 OPS doesn't appear to look too bad on the surface, it totals out to just a ~91 wRC+ because of the hitter-friendly environment of the Pacific Coast League.
A switch-hitter, Solarte has fared much better as a right-handed batter than he has as a lefty the last two years. As a righty, Solarte has an .824 OPS against left-handers, whereas he has just a .699 OPS against right-handed pitching. Because of this, Joe Girardi would be smart to insert him against left-handers, perhaps in favor of Kelly Johnson (who has struggled against lefties in recent years) at third; maybe not as a straight platoon, since the Yankees have said they won't necessarily go that route, but perhaps to give Johnson a breather. Speaking of breathers, the Yankees could afford to give the fragile Brian Roberts a breather every now and then; Solarte has experience at second base, too.
As you probably might have guessed, Solarte is versatile. Versatile in that he can at least "play" a lot of positions, with his work coming at second base (325 games), third base (137 games), left field (76 games), right field (56 games), shortstop (30 games), and even center field (two games) and first base (one game). Solarte is said to be at his best at second base, mainly because his bat profiles better there, but since he's a utility man on this team, he'll play wherever he'll be needed.
Because he has seen most of his time at second and third, Solarte should figure to see the majority of his time there when Johnson/Roberts could use a day off. Solarte does, as noted, have experience at shortstop (albeit pretty little experience), but he should be the third option there anyway since Dean Anna is Derek Jeter's primary backup at the moment. Although I'd like to see more than his 47 spring PA's against mostly Triple-A competition (8.1 opponents' quality, per Baseball Reference) to become a full believer in Solarte, I do think he has a chance to be a fairly useful utility man at the big league level (at least until Brendan Ryan gets healthy), given his ability to hit left-handers; he at least got his chance to try to prove so.