Greetings! If you thought the Giants at #13 was low...
Projected Starters - Chris Stewart/Francisco Cervelli (C), Mark Teixeira (injury) (1B), Robinson Cano (2B), Derek Jeter (SS), Kevin Youkilis (3B), Curtis Granderson (injury)/Matt Diaz/Juan Rivera (LF), Brett Gardner (CF), Ichiro Suzuki (RF), Travis Hafner (DH)
I'm sure to catch some flack for this low ranking of the Yankees, but look at this lineup! Gone are the days where this was a full-on gauntlet, and there are actually some pretty huge question marks. First of all, the lineup wasn't particularly scary to begin with, but now there are three severe injuries to deal. Alex Rodriguez is the one that the Yanks knew about before the season, and the future Hall-of-Famer may not see a pitch all season. The other two came in Spring Training and they are the big ones to worry about. Curtis Granderson went down in early March, and while he did hit 43 homers in 2012, he posted a ghastly batting average of .232 (.319 OBP) and is trending in the wrong direction there. Then, Mark Teixeira hit the shelf for an extended time period, and he's not the same player (.251/.332/.475 with only 24 homers in 2012) as the guy they signed to that massive deal. There is virtually zero depth behind either guy, and the opening lineup is alarmingly bad. Robinson Cano is one of the best players in baseball, and he's honestly the only "sure thing" in the entire line-up. He's the best 2B on Earth, and Cano hit 33 homers with a .313/.379/.550 slash line last year. From second base. He's a monster. Derek Jeter is back, and while he missed the end of the playoffs with a broken leg, he's back for another year. I expect a .300 average with semi-bad defense (at this point) and not much else. He's solid, but not better. Kevin Youkilis was signed in the wake of the A-Rod mess, and he's suddenly the only healthy corner infielder of any substance. Youk was great for years in Boston, but last year, he fell off the table in both Boston and Chicago, combining to hit just .235 on the season with mediocre power. He still takes walks (OBP over 100 points higher than batting average), but he's no longer a top option, and there's injury concern with an older player. The outfield (outside of Granderson) is filled with two nice speed options in Gardner and Ichiro, but both guys have questions. Gardner basically missed the entire 2012 season (only 37 PA's) and has a checkered injury past. If he's right, he'll steal 40 bases and play top-level defense in center, but no one can assume he's right until we see it. Ichiro is one of my personal favorites, but he's 39 years old and had an OPS under .700 last year. He was much, much better after he arrived in New York, but there's obviously concern with a speed player who is that age. Did I miss any other negatives?
Projected - CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova
The funniest thing I am hearing with regard to the Yankees this season is that somehow their starting rotation is their "strength". Do you remember when (cough, last year) it was their glaring weakness? Yikes. CC Sabathia is a guy I'm in the tank for, and while he had off-season elbow surgery, I still think he's 200 innings in the bank with top-end production. Even with the injury, he had a 3.38 ERA and he's a number one starter for most anyone. After that, the old guys fill the #2 and #3 spots with Kuroda and Pettitte. Kuroda is also a long-time favorite of mine, and he threw 219 innings of 3.32 ERA ball last season. That said, he's 38 years old and coming off of a career year. Pettitte was retired before last season, before emerging with 75 quality (sub-3.00 ERA) innings in 2012. Again, however, he's 40 years and he'll be 41 in June. Come on. Hughes had a 4.23 ERA last year, and he's an average 4th starter, but no longer are the expectations high for the former uber-prospect. Nova and David Phelps are battling for the 5th spot, and their performance will likely range between "meh" and "average".
Projected - Mariano Rivera (closer), David Robertson, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, David Aardsma, David Phelps
I can't say anything bad about Mariano Rivera. My disclaimer for him is that a) he missed an entire season, and b) he's about 1,000 years old. That is all. I really, really like David Robertson (12.02 K/9 in 2012, sub-3.00 ERA) as a set-up guy and he's one of the best. They round out the pen with a quality LOOGY in Logan, a former closer in Aardsma (meh), and Joba Chamberlain! Remember him!?
I'm sure it's jarring to see the Yankees in 4th place, but if you took their team name away, you can't argue that this is a better team than this prediction indicates. If anything, I'm giving them the respect of expecting big things from Sabathia, Kuroda, Ichiro, and Youkilis to even get them to 84 wins. It's not great, folks, and I'd be shocked if they won this gauntlet of a division.
84-78, 4th in NL East