First Pitch: Nunez's potential


Eduardo Nunez has traits that both fans and reporters look for in athletes.

He is enthusiastic, eagerly caring about his performance. He appears to be having a good time, smiling in the clubhouse and on the field. And he has that word that is so much fun to write and read about -- potential.

Nunez makes you dream. He has some dynamic skills with his speed and his bat. The Yankees used to talk very highly about him, which translated into high expectations.

Brian Cashman used to say all the time that Nunez could be an every day shortstop one day. Nunez seemed like the guy that the Yankees might turn to if No. 2 ever gave up short. Nunez was an exciting, young player, dripping with potential.

But now, Nunez is turning 26 this June and is still unclear what the Yankees have in him. Even Cashman has played down expectations, pointing to Nunez' minor league OPS as a reason he couldn't really be a corner outfielder or a third baseman.

Nunez, in his minor league career, has an OPS of .679. In 2012, which was plagued by a thumb issue, he only had a .554 OPS in 44 minor league games.

We haven't gotten to Nunez' defense yet, which was reason No. 1, 2, 3 and 4, he was in the minors in '12. He is an adventure in the field. Watching him this spring, he doesn't seem anymore steady at short than before.

With Derek Jeter hurt and with the possibility he won't trot out to short on Opening Day, Nunez' potential is a quandary for the Yankees. If Jeter is healthy or not, they could bet on Nunez, as the backup for the Captain. But going with Jayson Nix would mean a steadier presence. There is a chance he could provide as much offense. His career major league OPS is .655, which is not as good as Nunez' .701, but is in the same ballpark.

Nix could be needed at third if the Yankees decide to have Kevin Youkilis go across the diamond for the opener against Jon Lester and the Red Sox. The Yankees could turn to Ronnier Mustelier's potential at the plate to help an ailing offense. Mustelier, who is a third baseman/left fielder, also comes with defense questions.

Nunez is one of the few Yankees on an upward trajectory, and he might not even make the team.

So Nunez is at the stage in his career when the annoying thing about potential arrives -- you have to live up to it, at some point.

UP NOW: Jeter was scratched on Tuesday and we reacted.

ON DECK: Wally Matthews will have an update on the Jeter situation. The Yankees face the Red Sox at 1 p.m. The game will be on ESPN.

QUESTION: Do you want Nunez to make the team this year?