USA TODAY Sports
Fangraphs released their rankings for positional depth at first base, second base, shortstop, third base, catcher , DH, left field, centerfield, and right field. The rankings are determined by the accumulative ZiPS/Steamer projected WAR of the players that are most likely to play at each position for each team.
1B - The Yankees rank #10 at first base, though this was before it was announced that Mark Teixeira had a torn tendon sheath in his wrist. The combination of Tex, Juan Rivera and Dan Johnson amount to a 2.9 WAR, one spot behind Allen Craig and the Cardinals and one spot in front of the Braves and Freddie Freeman. Kevin Youkilis will likely also figure into this equation at some point, but he was left out of the WAR calculations. Matt Klaassen believes that despite the way Spring Training is unfolding for the team, if Tex can return and be productive then the Yankees will still be around the top third in rank.
My Take - Juan Rivera might be a decent first baseman to make up for Tex while he is out, but he won't be able to keep it up indefinitely. If Teixeira needs surgery Juan Rivera won't be enough, both with the bat and in the field. Klaassen himself believes that Teixeira is no longer a superstar and is merely a still productive veteran on the decline and I have to agree with him.
2B - The Yankees rank #1 at second base with Robinson Cano and, oddly enough, Corban Joseph as depth for a combined 5.6 WAR. Cano singlehandedly beats out Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Chase Utley, and Brandon Phillips. He has seven out of the 41 total seasons where a second baseman has posted an above average strikeout rate and an above average ISO.
My Take - Robinson Cano is the best second baseman in baseball, so it's no wonder the Yankees would rank on top for this position. He's also one of the best players in baseball, so the Yankees need him to lead the team at this point now that it's possible Derek Jeter won't be healthy to start the year.
SS - Derek Jeter is now 38 years old and coming off injury, which is why the Yankees rank #20 on the list. Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix will likely fill in for Jeter at times, but neither look to contribute much to the projected 2.3 WAR from shortstop this year. That sticks them just behind the Brewers and right in front of Alcides Escobar and the Royals. Only Asdrubal Cabrera of the Indians is projected to be a worse defensive shortstop at a -4.5 fielding rating, compared to Jeter's -4.2.
My Take - Derek Jeter is still going to find a way to be productive this year, at least I hope so, but it might not always be at shortstop. Girardi has spoken of DHing him against lefties and that would give more playing time to Nunez. That might not be helpful towards the Yankees projections, but it will keep Jeter healthy enough to contribute somewhere.
3B - A combination of Kevin Youkilis, Eduardo Nunez, and Alex Rodriguez place the Yankees at #11 with a combined 3.8 WAR. They place just behind Chase Headley and the Padres and in front of David Freese and the Cardinals. Klaassen notes that Youkilis has not had 600 plate appearances in a season since 2008, so Jayson Nix and Ronnier Mustelier can also enter into this mix, but neither look to add a lot of value to the team.
My Take - this ranking is a little misleading. Nunez is likely to see very little time at third base, if any at all, due to his inability to play multiple positions effectively. The projections have A-Rod managing only a 0.2 WAR for the season, but even if he's out until July I think he can offer more than that to the team, especially if his power returns. Youkilis will need to stay healthy for this projection to be accurate, so hopefully when A-Rod returns they can switch between third and DH.
C - Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart, and Austin Romine fill out the roster to put the Yankees #29 out of 30 in catching depth. Miraculously, their 1.9 WAR ends up ranked above the Marlins' Rob Brantly and Jeff Mathis, creating the possibility that they actually might not be the worst. Klaassen puts Stewart ahead of Cervelli for his defense, but it seems more likely that Cervelli is given the starting job and will likely see more playing time.
My Take- Both major league catchers are projected to get more plate appearances than they have ever had in a season, but it's unlikely they can each put up 0.9 WAR over that long. The Yankees might not be the worst, but an upgrade needs to be found.
DH - With Travis Hafner, Brennan Boesch, Juan Rivera, and Alex Rodriguez in the depth chart, the Yankees rank #9 in the league at DH. Hafner is an injury waiting to happen, but if he gives the team around 385 PAs he could provide a 1.1 WAR and batting in Yankee Stadium will help. The Yankees actually place here behind the Astros, thanks to Carlos Pena, but are ahead of the Rays.
My Take - I don't expect Travis Hafner to last very long, since he's Travis Hafner. If he can make those projections I think the Yankees should be pleased with what they get out of him. The DH role will probably be filled by the likes of Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and Eduardo Nunez, so there will be plenty of value coming in.
LF - The Yankees rank #12 in left field and projected Yankees Brett Gardner, Ben Francisco, Juan Rivera, Ichiro Suzuki, and Brennan Boesch all look to contribute there. Their 2.5 WAR ties them with Starling Marte and the Pirates and Ryan Ludwick and the Reds. Gardner is projected to contribute 2.2 WAR of that total, but his 385 plate appearances means that he won't be providing a full season of value at left field.
My Take - There are a lot of extenuating circumstances surrounding the other left fielders behind Gardner, so who actually plays where is yet to be certain. Gardner's production will actually come from centerfield until Curtis Granderson returns, so the position's production is still very much up in the air.
CF - Center field looks to be Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner and Melky Mesa and they could accumulate a 3.9 WAR, good for #8 on the list. They place right behind Austin Jackson and the Tigers and in front of Shin-Soo Choo and the Reds. Gardner will replace Granderson in center for the first month of the season, so his value will be spread between left field and centerfield.
My Take - Granderson might take awhile to rev up to full speed after he comes back from injury, so the projections might be off by a little. Whoever wins the outfield spots in Spring Training will likely not have a huge impact on their positon's overall performance and at this point Melky Mesa might not even make the team. It would be interesting to see how they would rank if Granderson and Gardner actually switched positions like originally intended.
RF - Ichiro Suzuki, Brennan Boesch, and Juan Rivera are all projected to be in right field for the Yankees in 2013, but unfortunately that group gets ranked at #27 out of 30. Their 1.2 WAR is only better than the Mets, Mariners, and Royals, and is only just below the Indians with Drew Stubbs and Nick Swisher. Boesch and Rivera don't look to contribute much in terms of defense or offense, so the depth chart is incredibly thin here unless Brett Gardner can be borrowed as well.
My Take - It seems that an aging Ichiro will not be able to make up for Swisher's lost production. When the primary right fielder, Ichiro, is only going to manage 1 WAR, then it's clear that this position is going to be trouble for the Yankees this year. Right field might be the Yankees' biggest hole behind first base and catcher, and that's even with the intended starter actually healthy and producing.