It has been a pretty exciting week in sports with the Final Four, hockey and basketball’s playoff race heating up, as well as baseball’s official Opening Day. We saw the Red Sox season preview last week so now let’s take a look at the defending AL East Champions, the New York Yankees.
Projected Line Up
1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Curtis Granderson, CF
3. Robinson Cano, 2B
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Mark Teixeira, 1B
6. Nick Swisher, RF
7. Raul Ibanzez/Andruw Jones, DH
8. Russell Martin, C
9. Brett Gardener, LF
Projected Starting Pitchers
1. CC Sabbathia, L
2. Hiroki Kuroda, R
3. Ivan Nova, R
4. Michael Pineda, R
5. Freddy Garcia, R
6. Phil Hughes, R
7. Andy Pettitte, L
Infielders – Eric Chavez, Eduardo Nunez
Outfielders – Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones,
Catchers – Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine
Players to watch in the minors
Pitchers – Manuel Banuelos, Dellin Betances
Infield – Romiro Pena
Catcher – Gary Sanchez
The only change in terms of positions from last year is at DH. Raul Ibanez looks to receive a majority of the at bats at DH with Andruw Jones also seeing some time. These two also represent the outfield depth which is a little concerning because they are both very old and very slow. One other fairly significant change is something seen towards the end of last year of Cano batting third and Teixeira batting fifth. Cano has established himself as the Yankees best position player and hitter so I am in favor of the permanent change. There were not a lot of position battles in spring training this year for the Yankees so hopefully everyone can stay focused and not have to look over their shoulder. If A-Rod can stay healthy (here’s looking at you Ivan Drago’s doctor) the Yankees should challenge for the most potent offense in baseball.
There is an old baseball saying that you can never have enough pitching; the Yankees may challenge that this year. Right now the Yankees have 7 players who can start. This is in stark contrast of last year when going into the season they had maybe three. In the span of about an hour in January the Yankees changed that by trading for Michael Pineda, a move I am a big fan of, and signing Hiroki Kuroda, a move I am lukewarm on. Kuroda had a pretty good year last year but he is switching from the NL West to the AL East and is no spring chicken; however he is a proven pitcher that hopefully can have a solid season. I am very high on the Pineda move; I have been a fan of Pineda for a little while now and was ecstatic to hear about the trade. Montero was a pretty big chip to give up, but I do not believe the Yankees will miss his offense all that much. Pineda is a huge, young power pitcher that at the time is very cheap. There are concerns about how he showed up at camp and his decline at the end of last year but I think he will be a stud. He will begin the year with tendinitis in his shoulder but he hopefully will be back soon enough. The fortunate thing about having 7 starters is that if someone gets hurt we will not have to see a guy on the mound that has never pitched in the majors and was playing in Scranton the week before. Who knows how Pettitte will be after taking a year off, but I would much rather see him on the mound than an unknown. I would like to see Phil Hughes moved to the bullpen, somewhere he has had success before but the Yankees want him to be a starter. Regardless of how the rotation shapes out it is nice to have some legit options instead of hope and prayers.
The age-less Mariano Rivera returns again to be the closer, in what he has hinted maybe his last year. Mo has hinted at this before so I am not going to worry about it until I hear either way. It is a nice feeling to not have to worry about your closer and the Yankees have not had to do that since Hansen was making music. The rest of the bullpen is rounded out by David Robertson, who had a great year last year, Rafael Soriano, who missed a lot of time and hopefully can bounce back to his Tampa form, Boone Logan, the lefty specialist, and my hope of Phil Hughes. We probably won’t see Joba or Pedro Feliciano this year, but a bullpen of Robertson, Soriano, Hughes, and anchored by Mo is pretty damn strong.
The Yankees do not have many question marks going into this season. Yes they are older at some positions but if age is the only real question mark I will take that going in. This past offseason the Yankees identified their weakness, starting pitching, and turned it into a strength. My bold prediction is that the Yankees will win the AL East (I have the Rays in second) and will challenge for the World Series.