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New York Yankees: 2014 Season Preview

30 Mar

Standing O Sports is previewing all 30 Major League teams seasons, division by division, team by team. Up next in the American League East is the New York Yankees.

What Happened Last Season

To say the New York Yankees 2013 season did not go as planned would be an understatement. Derek Jeter played in just 17 games, Mark Teixeira appeared in 13 games, and after a hot start, Kevin Youkilis only played in 28 games. That, along with the team getting next to no production from the catcher spot, and Hiroki Kuroda falling apart for the final 6 weeks of the regular season, Phil Hughes failure to do anything right, and CC Sabathia having his worst statistical season 2005 resulted in the Yankees missing the playoffs for just the 2nd time since 1995. On September 12th, the Yankees were somehow in prime position to make the post-season sitting just one game back of the Tampa Bay Rays. That was as close as they would get. As a new season gets set to commence, the Yankees are hoping Derek Jeter gets the farewell tour he deserves, with the last stop being a World Series championship.

Offseason Headlines

  • Signed Japanese phenom  Masahiro Tanaka to a 7-year $155 million dollar contract, not including a $20 million dollar posting fee.
  • Signed outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a 7-year $153 million dollar contract
  • Signed catcher Brian McCann to a 5-year $85 million dollar contract
  • Signed outfielder Carlos Beltran to a 3-year $45 million dollar contract
  • Signed relief pitcher Matt Thorton to a 2-year $7 million dollar contract
  • Signed Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson to one-year deals.
  • Lost closer Mariano Rivera and pitcher Andy Pettitte to retirement
  • Lost all-star second baseman Robinson Cano to the Mariners

Take: This is what happens when the Yankees miss the playoffs.  Hal Steinbrenner orders General Manager Brian Cashman to spend, spend, and spend some more.  That’s exactly what he did.  All in all, Cashman doled out nearly $500 million dollars.  In return, Cashman lured Jacoby Ellsbury away from the Red Sox, fixed the Yankees catching problem with Brian McCann, added a key bat with the signing of Carlos Beltran, and he got the best free-agent pitcher on the market in Masahiro Tanaka.  Even with everything he did, the Yankees still have major question marks at third base, second base, and an aging Derek Jeter at shortstop.

Projected Lineup

Jacoby Ellsbury (CF)
Derek Jeter (SS)
Carlos Beltran (RF)
Brian McCann (C)
Mark Teixeira (1B)
Alfonso Soriano (DH)
Brett Gardner (LF)
Brain Roberts (2B)
Kelly Johnson (3B)

Breakdown: Boy, what a difference a year makes when it comes to the Yankees lineup.  The newly acquired Jacoby Ellsbury slides nicely into the leadoff role.  Assuming he’s healthy, Ellsbury is one of the most dynamic players in baseball.  He can hit home-runs, steal bases, and more importantly, he gets on-base.  Derek Jeter will hit in his customary 2nd spot, and something Jeter has always done is silence his critics.  I don’t see why this year would be any different.  Following Jeter are two newcomers in Carlos Beltran and Brain McCann.  Playing in the American League and utilizing the short porch should pay big dividends for Beltran.  As for McCann, he was probably the most important acquisition of the offseason since he stabilizes the catcher spot.  He’s a consistent 20 home-run guy and you know what you’re going to get with him.  Mark Teixeira is being overlooked in this Yankees lineup.  When right, Teixeira is one of the better run producers in the game.  The slated DH to enter the season is Alfonso Soriano who put the Yankees on his back the 2nd half of the season.  The latter part of the order is concerning.   Brett Gardner should not be in the 7th spot, but that’s besides the point.  Brian Roberts hasn’t played more than 59 games since 2009, and Kelly Johnson can hit you a few home-runs, but not much else.  If I were Girardi, I would hit Gardner 9th and put Johnson 7th.  But that’s just me.

Projected Pitching Rotation

CC Sabathia
Hiroki Kuroda
Ivan Nova
Masahiro Tanaka
Michael Pineda

CC Sabathia enters the season as the ace of the Yankees staff after falling off hard in 2013.  Sabathia finished with an ERA above 4 for the first time since 2005 and his 13 losses are the most he’s ever had in a season.  His fastball velocity is nowhere near where it used to be, so CC will have to make some serious adjustments.  Hiroki Kuroda is back with the team.  From April through July, Kuroda was dominant.  In his last 8 starts, Kuroda could not have been worse.  He finished the season losing 7 straight with a 6.58 ERA.  It’s going to be up to Joe Girardi to keep Kuroda fresh for the entire season.  Ivan Nova is a very solid number 3 starter.  His stuff is nasty, and when he’s right, he can shut down any lineup.  The Yankees may have the strongest number 4 and 5 starters in the game.  Masahiro Tanaka is obviously an unknown, but if he’s anything like he was in Japan, watch out.  Michael Pineda brings dominant potential to the fifth starters spot.  A strong spring won Pineda the job and if he can somewhat resemble the pitcher he was in Seattle, the Yankees rotation could be the best in baseball.

X-Factor: Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda

Masahiro Tanaka’s numbers last season in Japan speak for themselves: 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA.  It does not get any better than that.  Tanaka though is still an unknown.  He opens the season as the number 4 starter, but he is more than capable of being an ace in any rotation.  How good he will be remains to be seen.  Michael Pineda was acquired by the Yankees in January of 2012 in exchange for Jesus Montero.  Talk about a trade that hasn’t worked out for either team…at least so far.  Back in 2011, Pineda was viewed as a potential phenom.  He made the AL all-star team and for the season averaged over a strikeout per inning.  Like Tanaka, Pineda has ace potential.

Season Outlook

Unlike last season, the Yankees lineup looks to be one of the strongest in all of baseball.  Alfonso Soriano hit 30 home-runs and drove in over 100 runs, and he’s batting sixth.  That’s scary.  The key though will be the pitching staff.  CC Sabathia must bounce back, Hiroki Kuroda must give the Yankees a consistent 28-30 starts, Ivan Nova needs to get his pitches under control and keep the ball down, and Masahiro Tanaka as well as Michael Pineda need to live up to their potential.  David Robertson also needs to adjust to the full-time closers spot well. If all those things happen, the Yankees could walk away with the title.

Prediction

Frankel: 95-67 (1st in AL East)

 
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Posted by on 03/30/2014 in MLB

 

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