Spring Training Preview: New York Yankees

With pitchers and catchers reporting in Tampa, it’s time to look at the New York Yankees‘ 2015 season.

The 2014 Yankees missed out on the post season for the second time in as many years despite an 84 win season. Although many teams would consider an 84 win season a good year, the Yankees, who always have high expectations and World Series aspirations, would consider 84 wins abysmal. In fact, the team has not had this few wins since 1995, the year before the beginning of the Joe Torre and Core Four era. Now, both the Core Four and Torre era is officially over with the retirement of Derek Jeter. So how can a Yankees team that won 84 games in 2014 improve in 2015? Well, let us look:

Projected Lineup –

LF Brett Gardner

3B Chase Headley

CF Jacoby Ellsbury

1B Mark Teixiera

C Brain McCann

DH Alex Rodriguez

RF Carlos Beltran

2B Stephen Drew

SS Didi Gregorius

To the normal baseball fan, this line-up looks menacing and, in all honesty, it could be, but it won’t be. Teixiera has been injured in recent seasons and can really only contribute with the glove. Within a season or two the Yankees will enter a Ryan Howard-like situation with Teixiera, that is an albatross of a contract for an unproductive player that they won’t be able to move. Rodriguez has been out of the game for a year due to suspension and is now entering his age 39 season so there is really no telling what he will, or won’t do. Beltran missed many games due to injury and is starting to look like a DH-only player. Drew hasn’t been able to hit as the Yankees continue to go with various second basemen in the post-Robinson Cano years. In fact, he was the least productive player last season with at least 150 at bats. Gregorius is going to play his first full professional season. Gardner, McCann, Ellsbury, and Headley have high expectations entering this season after having had a productive season, but four good players can’t earn a playoff berth alone. If there is anything silver lining here is that the five least productive Yankees in 2014 in terms of wRC+, excluding Drew, (Jeter, Alfonso Soriano, Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson, and Ichiro Suzuki) are no longer on the team. All in all, it is going to take a wing and a prayer for the team to make the playoffs.

Projected Rotation –

RHP Masahiro Tanaka

LHP C.C. Sabathia

RHP Michael Pineda

RHP Nathan Eovaldi

LHP Chris Capuano

The biggest question is: Can this rotation stay healthy? Tanaka, Sabathia, and Pineda all missed time last season with injury. Additionally, the workhorse in 2014, Hiroki Kuroda, is now playing in Japan and young star, Ivan Nova, is out for the first half of the season due to Tommy John Surgery. The biggest need for the rotation this off season was to find an ace. They haven’t been able to do so, but they have been able to achieve need number two: rotation depth. Last season, nine players made at least 12 starts which doesn’t even include Sabathia (eight starts) and Nova (four starts) who started the year in the rotation. This winter they were able to acquire Eovaldi whose 95 mph fastball has been much publicized and also they resigned Capuano who FIP has been under 4.00 the past three seasons. These two are going to be rotation staples while the team was able to bring in some guys with experience on minor league deals as added depth. In fact, the team has even thought about employing a six man rotation just proving that depth won’t be an issue. Perhaps I’m crazy, but I like the rotation. Although some analysts have their doubts about the rotation, I think that it could actually be strength.

Projected bench –

INF Brendan Ryan

1B/DH Garrett Jones

OF Chris Young

C Austin Romine

I’m trying to find a nice way to talk about the bench, but I really can’t. I just can’t. Young has little to no value; he offers a career .234/.313/.427 line with the bat and is only the fourth outfielder because of a lucky 23 game stretch with the Yankees last season. Jones is primarily on the roster as insurance for Teixiera, but offers little after that. He has not been wanted on the last two teams he’s played for. Ryan offers respectable defense, but the Yankees need more than that from their infield; Drew and Gregorius are defensive specialists, Ryan’s role is redundant and lucky to be on the roster. Romine isn’t a starting quality catcher, but is respectable as a backup. If one of the regulars goes down to injury or the like, then I’m concerned if one of these players takes the spot. Not one of these players is qualified to be a regular.

Projected bullpen

RHP Esmil Rogers

LHP Chasen Shreve

RHP David Carpenter

LHP Justin Wilson

RHP Adam Warren

LHP Andrew Miller

RHP Dellin Betances

The obvious strength is the bullpen. The Yankees were not able to retain David Robertson, but that’s not a big deal because his replacement is better than him anyway. Although the term “closer by committee” has been tossed around, that will not happen. Betances will take over the job this spring. He was the best pitcher for the Yankees last season, not just in the pen, but in general. He made the All Star team as a relief pitcher; it’s hard enough for a closer to make the All Star team. Miller is a pretty expensive set-up man, but also well worth the investment. He has been dominant over the last few years and was pretty well sought after this winter. The team has the eighth and ninth innings on lock. As for the rest of the bullpen, I’m not too worried. Carpenter and Warren are great pitchers with respectable career numbers. Wilson will surely be the lefty specialist. Rogers and Shreve will probably see fewer innings than the other pitchers, but do offer insurance. Like the rotation, the Yankees have plenty of bullpen depth that they could rely on at any point of the season.

In general, I do agree with the analysts in that the Yankees will miss out on the post season again. Although positions and players are set, there are still issues and questions regarding several of these player. That being said, I also wouldn’t be surprised if they do make the post season, or at least fight for a Wild Card spot. But the year doesn’t have to be a complete bust. The franchise has many young players waiting in the minor leagues just waiting to prove themselves at the major league level. There are also going to be plenty of headlines to follow this year that will make the Yankees more interesting. What will Rodriguez be like? Will the team stay healthy? How many games will Betances save? How will Gregorius do in Jeter’s shadow? It is still a team worth watching, they ARE the Yankees after all, but keep an open mind.

Alek Miletic

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