Landing on the DL in each of the last 3 seasons, which includes missing all but 15 games in the 2013 season, Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira was all but an afterthought in fantasy drafts this season and overlooked by many, including myself. But he is showing an immense amount in his on-field performance to earn the $22.5 million that he’s due this season. So after hitting a grand slam off Felix Hernandez on Monday, Tex is now hitting .241 with 15 HR, 39 RBI, 26 R, and 1 SB, but should he be expected to keep up this type of performance?
From 2003-09, Tex hit for over a .300 AVG in three seasons and compiled a .290 AVG over the whole time frame. With that type of ability to hit for AVG combined with the 35 HR per season on average that he posted in that same period, he had firmly established himself as one of the best hitters of the decade. But once 2010 came around, his ability to hit for a good AVG took a turn for the worse as teams began to collect and use different types of data more to their advantage. Tex became just one of many sluggers who became greatly impacted by the increased implementation of defensive shifts by teams all around the league. So gone were the days of hitting .290-.300. From 2010-14, Tex hit for a rather paltry .242 AVG as he also began to pull the ball into the shift and fly out a lot more.
However, something that never really evaporated was his ability to go yard. Over the last three seasons, his power has been sapped a bit as he only homered once every 19.27 AB, opposed to once every 16.60 AB from 2003-11. Also, his ISO fell below .200 for the first time in his career in 2012 and 2013. But this slight loss in power can largely be chalked up to the injuries that he dealt with. The main injury that plagued his performance was a wrist injury that began as inflammation during the 2012 season and it carried over to 2013 before worsening to the point where he needed to have season-ending surgery to repair it. While the wrist injury wasn’t what sidelined him in 2014, it surely had to have been something that affected his swing.
This season he is showing himself as healthy as ever, appearing in 49 of the Yankees 52 games so far. And other than the low AVG, which should be a continuous occurrence because of his inability to hit around the defensive shifts, Tex is a better hitter than ever. The power is incredibly off the charts with a current .325 ISO, which is well beyond his career high of .279 from his 2004 sophomore season. But what might be even more impressive is the locked in and refined approach at the plate he appears to have. Tex is 1 of 8 players in the Majors who currently has more walks than strikeouts, and at a 14.9 BB% and 13.4 K%, he is on pace for career bests in both categories.
One could point to his average distance on his HR + fly balls is only 279 feet compared to 294 feet last season (according to Baseball Heat Maps) and believe that perhaps this rebound in his HR total is a bit of a mirage. But the ESPN Home Run Tracker shows that only 2 of his 15 HR this year are categorized as “just enough,” as in having just enough distance to clear the fence. So I wouldn’t worry a whole lot about the average distance since most of his HR are clearing the fence by more than enough — it’s just the fly balls that have stayed in the park that are bringing his average distance down.
There can always be some sort of injury that comes up, but with the wrist appearing to be fully healed and his excellent plate approach and discipline, I remain optimistic for Teixeira to remain productive and a fantasy asset the rest of the season. I will give him the rest of the season line of (from June 2 onward): .242 AVG, 21 HR, 68 RBI, 52 R, 1 SB, 54 BB, 70 K
Let’s see what else Monday baseball brought to us…