Well, now that the Super Bowl is over, we can all get down to the serious business of second guessing the GM moves of Brian Cashman. For the most part, the Yankees are bringing back a lot of the players that won 97 games a year ago. There are some new additions and some losses, and no doubt there will be a piece or two added during the spring or near the trading deadline. On offense, the biggest questions are weather R-Rod will continue his decline, how Jeter will fare, and weather Granderson will have another career year. The big defensive question is who will win the starting job between Hughes, Garcia and AJ and whether this will finally be the year that Rivera becomes a mortal. Actually, with the Yankees, there is always the big question of whether they will make a major move between now and the trading deadline. With a wealth of pitching depth, both at the major league and AAA levels, a trade seems almost inevitable.
There are other smaller questions as well. Will Romine play a roll backing up Martin and giving the Yankees a younger option for 2013? Will Soriano bounce back from a disappointing season? Will Tex continue his decline as hitter for average and a guy who does nothing with the bat in the playoffs?
I'll break these and other questions down by offense, defense, the bench, starting pitching and the bullpen, with player by player profiles. And then predict how the season will turn out.
Offense: the lineup
Much more after the jump.
The Yankees were tied for second last year in runs scored and were third in OPS (for any Redsox fans lurking around here, OPS combines on base percentage and slugging percentage), and that was with A-Rod having a very sub-par year. Tex had a lot of homers and RBIs but his batting average also fell last year. Still, the Yankees raked. And they'll do so again. Don't be surprised to see them land a hitting stud with their wealth of pitching depth.
Here's my take on the lineup.
Jeter. Projections: 105 runs scored, .290 average, very little power. I wouldn't be surprised if Joe Giradi puts Brett Gardner at the top of the line up at some point in the season. Remember, Girardi didn't hesitate to move Posada down in the order. Gardner is obviously faster and right now, their ability to get on base is about the same. The Yankees stuck with Jeter for nearly a year while he wallowed in a prolonged slump over the last half of 2010 and the first half of 2011, and since he finished last year strong, I expect he'll be back at the top. But this spot bears watching. Expect Nunuz to give Jeter lots of time off. Nunez could also get more at bats if his glove would match his bat.
Granderson. Projections: 135 runs scored, 110 RBIs, .280 batting average, 44 home runs. 20 stolen bases No, I don't expect a drop off at all from Granderson. He was an MVP calibre hitter last year and he'll be the juice in the line up again, hitting from the #2 hole.
A-Rod. Projections: 100 runs scored, 115 RBIs, 35 homers, .280 average. I am sure the years of 50 homers and 140 RBIs are a thing of the past. However, A-Rod's bat didn't appear to have slowed down. It was all a matter of injury. No one should be surprised if he only plays 80 games because of injuries. I won't. I also won't be surprised to see him have a solid year, and that's what I think will happen. As far as putting him and not Tex or Cano in the #3 slot, I think the Yankees would be better served to have a right-left-right array so see below.
Cano. Projections: 125 runs scored, 130 RBIs, 32 home runs, 50 doubles, .345 batting average. Cano will be the American league MVP. Putting him in the 4 spot will give him the most RBI opportunities, and that's what I think Girardi will do.
Teixiera. Projections: 115 runs scored, 120 RBIs, 40 home runs, .280 batting average. Tex batted .248 last year and .256 the year before. Remember, this is a guy who hit over .300 three different years. I think he's obviously gotten pull-happy. He's threatening to bunt. He should. And I think he will.
Swisher. Projections: 90 runs scored, 95 RBIs, 25 home runs, .280 average. Swish is solid, at least during the regular season. I don't think the Yankees will resign him after this season, especially if they think one of the kids could take over. But a lot of teams would like to have his production from the number six hole and his upbeat attitude in the clubhouse.
Jones/Chavez. Projections. 25 home runs. 95 RBIs. Right now, the Yankees haven't signed Chavez. They have signed Bransom and Hall, two guys who have hit a lot of homers in years past. Someone will get a lot of left handed at bats as DH. And it won't surprise me if the Yankees pick up someone special near the trading deadline. Lord knows the Yankees have lots of minor league pitching trading chips at the AAA level. But my guess is that they'll sign Chavez and he and Jones will rotate here. And they will hit some homers.
Martin. Projections. 20 home runs, .255 batting average, 75 RBIs. Martin could do even better if Romine or Cervelli can do a reasonable job of giving him a breather. He was worn down early in the season and I think that hurt him.
Gardner. Projections: .290 batting average. 95 runs scored. .370 OBP. 60 stolen bases. His numbers could go much higher if Girardi puts him at lead off and he handler the pressure. I think he's ready to blossom.
The Yankees have a reasonably good defensive outfield with Gardner and Granderson, who both have great range. The left side of the infield is stellar. A-Rod, if he's healthy, is a plus defender at 3rd. Jeter is solid but has lost range. Martin is a man behind the plate, especially his handling of pitchers.
This is really a TBD. But Nunez would appear to be the key player to back up Jeter and Cano. His glove is what to keep an eye on because for a middle infielder, he's got a good bat. I assume the Yankees will bring back Eric Chavez. Before he got injured, he looked like a treasure. Jones will back up in the outfield and get many DH at bats. Would anyone be surprised to see him hit 20 home runs or more if he gets the at bats? Once a Gold Glove center fielder, he's still good in the outfield, but not what he once was. Cervelli will probably be the back up at catcher and is solid, but Romine is certainly in the hunt and has more upside long term, especially with the bat. I"m guessing he wins the back up job out-right and allows the Yankees to let Martin go after this season.
A fifth outfielder will come from among Dickerson or maybe one of the young guys like Melky Mesa or Zoilo Almonte. Mesa looked like he was really coming into his own in 2010 at Tampa but went backwards at Trenton. He and Almonte have a lot of tools and Almonte is on the rise. But with all the talent (Raval Santana, Slade Heathcote, etc.) at the lower levels at this position, looking at one of these guys as a role player is not out of the question. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Yankees trade for someone with real talent here, though.
Bill Hall, Russell Branyan (two guys who are on the decline but once hit a lot of homers, perhaps with the aid of juice), Pena, Laird and possible Corbin Joseph are in the mix as a back up infielder. Then there are the guys who can really only hit who could be signed, like Damon, Matsui, and Ibanez. In all, the Yankees will probably have some great contributions from one or two players here, the way they did last year. This is one of the tributes to Cashman's new-found eye for bargains and for cultivating talent on the farm.
The Yankees will have the best and the deepest starting rotation in baseball. The team is so deep, Garcia will be in long relief and AJ will be playing for another team. Morever, the Yankees will have the best AAA rotation in baseball, with Banuelos, Betances, Bryan Mitchell, Adam Warren, and DJ Mitchell. Here's how good that rotation is. DJ, most likely the number 5 starter, is big league ready now, with three plus pitches. Last year, he pitched 160 innings and his fastball, which has wicked sinking action, gained a couple of ticks in velocity and his control got better. If that continues, someone will trade for him and the Yankees will get a young bat back, would be my guess.
CC Projections: 22 wins. 2.80 ERA. Cy Young. He's been close. Last year, I thought he was really hurt by the use of a six man rotation down the stretch. While he's a power pitcher, it's his great control that makes him elite and during the middle of the year, there wasn't a pitcher who was better. This year, with all their pitching depth - probably the deepest team in baseball, he won't have to throw 130 pitches ever time out and so won't need the same rest going down the stretch. I expect him to be a stud in the playoffs as a result.
Nova. Projections. 19 wins. 3.20 ERA. I know everyone has him as the number four starter and maybe that's the way it will turn out. But he was the Yankee's second best pitcher after June (even when he got sent down he was on a roll). The kid has ice in his veins.
Pineda. Projections: 14 wins. 3.60 ERA. He's a stud but he's moving out of Safeco and into the AL east and into the bandbox that is Yankee Studium and into the glare of New York city. He'll be a stud in the long run but I think he'll need time to adjust. Still, I expect him to shine in the playoffs.
Hughes. Projections. 17 wins. 3.80 ERA. Hughes will benefit from the competition. He'll also benefit from the Yankee offense raking over the fourth and fifth pitchers in the other team's rotation. Remember: he won 18 games two years ago and was widely considered the best pitching prospect in baseball for a couple of years.
Kuroda. Projections. 14 wins. 4.1 ERA. Good pick up. Solid innings eater. But he's not going to have an ERA of 3.07 at Yankee stadium, facing the AL East. Won't happen. Still, every team in baseball would love to have a guy this good as the number five starter.
The best rotation, and, as long as old man Rivera keeps rolling, the best bullpen, by far.
Rivera. Projections: 35 saves. 1.90 ERA. I hope it doesn't happen this year. But at some point, he'll either retire or lose his effectiveness. I think they'll work him less than normal, both because they have so much depth in the bullpen and because their won't likely be as many close games to save.
Robertson. Projections: 8 saves. 2.20 ERA. It's not realistic to expect him to have the year he had last year. But he's still a guy a lot of teams wouldn't mind having close.
Soriano. Projections. 5 saves. 2.70 ERA. He'd also close on most teams. And go to the All Star game.
Chamberlain. PR=rojections: 2.80 ERA. I can't believe this guy isn't going to be at least an eight inning guy. He had gone 11 games without allowing an earned run when he went down last year and really seemed to take to the role of set up man.
Boone Logan. Projections: 3.30 ERA. This is one of the few vulnerabilities the Yankees have: left handed relief. I wouldn't be surprised to see them pick up someone here.
Freddie Garcia. Projections. 3.70 ERA. 8 wins. What a luxury to have a guy like this in the bullpen. He's start on most teams, not be a mop up guy.
Final projection. World Championship. What else?