New York Yankees: Predicting the 25-Man Roster for the Regular Season
Pitchers and catchers report in just one short day, and although the 2011 American League East Division Champion New York Yankees will go to camp with 65 players (as of right now), we all have a pretty good idea who has a chance to make the main roster, and who is just there to open some eyes for when they get released.
The Yankees' 2011 team was nothing short of a disappointment (by Yankees standards) as they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Detroit Tigers. Despite winning 97 games and the division last year, I think anybody on the team would agree that last year did not meet expectations.
The Yankees got rid of some problems and made some very smart moves for the present and the future. With all but a few moves already made, it's time to predict which men will be on the Yankees' 25-man roster come the regular season, which is a lot closer than you think.
Starter #1 (Ace): LHP CC Sabathia
This is an obvious one (as most of the players will be).
CC Sabathia is not only the best pitcher the Yankees have on their team; he's arguably the best pitcher in the American League East. CC has been nothing short of great since donning the Pinstripes in the 2009 season and has been a Cy Young Award candidate every year since.
He is obviously the Yankees' ace and will no doubt be on the roster come Opening Day—in fact, he will be starting Opening Day. He added another year on his contract during the offseason, and the big guy earned a lot of respect from Bomber fans who feared he'd opt out.
When CC's on the mound, the Yankees and their fans have nothing to fear.
Starter #2: RHP Hiroki Kuroda
This might spark a little controversy—not the fact that Hiroki Kuroda is on the roster, but the fact that he is the second starter, in my opinion. He is one of the Yankees' big pick-ups this offseason, and I like the move. Kuroda has a career ERA of 3.45, and he's coming off a great year where he posted a 3.07 ERA.
One of the golden sayings in baseball is that pitchers gain one run to their ERA when they go from the American League to the National League. For Kuroda, that means an ERA of 4.07, which is respectable in the AL.
I personally think he will have an ERA in the 3.5-plus area. He has the experience and is being paid the most out of any of the other starters in contention for the second spot.
Kuroda is also starting his Yankees career right as he chose the Yankees over the Red Sox, which will give you instant affection from the Yankees fans. Kuroda is a nice pickup for the Yankees and will help propel them into the playoffs and hopefully the World Series.
Starter #3: RHP Ivan Nova
Last year, Ivan Nova—in my opinion—was hands down the American League Rookie of the Year. He had a record of 16-4 with an ERA of 3.70 on a 97-win team, which—quite frankly—would not have made the playoffs without him.
He performed well in the playoffs as well, and he's still only 25. Yankees fans should be glad Brian Cashman would not include him in the deal that would have sent Nova to the Mariners for Cliff Lee back in 2010.
I expect Nova to progress in the 2012 season with a lower ERA and a similar win-loss record.
Nova is just one member of a very impressive, young-looking Yankees rotation. If they succeed, he Yankees might not have to spend big money for free agents in the offseason (after Cole Hamels or Matt Cain of course).
Starter #4: RHP Michael Pineda
Michael Pineda was the Yankees' biggest pickup this offseason. To get him, they traded away their best prospect, Jesus Montero, who could be one of the best hitters in baseball in the near future.
Pineda had a very successful 2011 season that earned him an All-Star nod. Although his second half was not as impressive as his first, he is still a stud in the making.
Pineda is one of the best young stars in baseball and, barring injury, he will be one of the best moves Brian Cashman has made under his tenure as general manager. At 6'7" and 260 lbs, Pineda is a power pitcher who throws down at hitters and blows them away.
All Yankees fans should be excited to see what this kid will do in the Bronx. If you're as optimistic and confident as I am, we should be looking at one of the best rotations in baseball.
Starter #5: RHP Phil Hughes
The Yankees claim the final spot in the rotation will be a battle between Hughes and Freddy Garcia. I think it will go to 2010's No. 2, Hughes, despite his disappointing season last year. Injury kept him off the field for basically the entire season, and when he did pitch, he was awful.
The Yankees are now claiming that Phil was out of shape last year because he arrogantly assumed he didn't have to get better after his success the previous season.
Phil has entered camp with an different attitude, reportedly in the best shape of his life, according to the NY Post's Kevin Kernan. Despite Freddy Garcia's great year last season, it's impossible to think he can replicate the lightning in a bottle season he had last year.
Hughes was the Yankees' best pitching prospect, and he looked like he would be a great player after the way he pitched in 2010. Look for a decent bounce back year for Phil, reclaiming a spot in future years.
Bullpen: RHP Mariano Rivera
With the rotation full of young talent, it's only suitable that we start off with the oldest player on the Yankees, but possibly the best. Mariano Rivera is still the best closer in baseball. Somebody may have better numbers, but no one can deny that if your life was on the line and you needed a save, this is the guy you want.
Rivera is undoubtedly a Hall of Famer and will be the closer for the Yankees yet again. His contract is up at the end of this year, and he has hinted at retirement.
His teammates say that he's not going to, and fans also hope he never does. Rivera is still at the top of his game, and the best part is he does it with one freaking pitch.
Bullpen: RHP David Robertson
When the awful day that Mariano does call it quits comes, Yankees have no need to fear as the guy behind him in set-up position is pretty damn good too. Robertson—or "Houdini," as he is nicknamed—is nothing short of a stud.
Robertson had an ERA of 1.08 last season. As if that's not great enough, he had 100 strikeouts in 66.2 IP. Many fans, including myself, called him the heir apparent to Mariano's closer throne.
This year will be fun to watch, knowing that every team they face is at an immediate disadvantage with Robertson and Mariano making each game just a seven-inning game.
Bullpen: RHP Rafael Soriano
The Yankees are one of those rare teams that have two set-up men. Rafael Soriano is a second set-up man making closer money. Last season was a disappointment for Soriano as he was injured for most of it.
I know most Yankees fans are down on him, but I am actually high on him. Towards the end of last year, he pitched very well coming off the disabled list, and I'm very intrigued as to how good the bullpen will be with all these great quality arms.
Soriano is definitely on the team. He'll probably pitch the eighth inning on days Robertson doesn't, and pitch the seventh on occasion. With little to no pressure on Soriano, who was accused of not being able to handle New York, look for him to have a bounce back, effective season.
Bullpen: RHP Joba Chamberlain
Joba Chamberlain was having a damn good year last season before he had season-ending Tommy John surgery. We fast forward to today, and Joba is reportedly ahead of schedule and should be ready for the start of the season.
His name alone gets him on the roster regardless of how spring training goes, so look for him to be fourth in the pecking order.
Joba was the heir apparent to Mariano years ago, then he was a starter, then he was a reliever, then he was almost a starter, but then was kept a reliever. Now he is without a doubt a reliever and, with the shape he's been working himself into, a good one.
Look for a decent year by Joba that will probably have some injury pains and rust, but he will do more good than harm for the Yankees.
Bullpen: RHP Cory Wade
Cory Wade was one of the Yankees' best in-season pickups—and one of the best pickups in baseball. In a rare screw-up by the Rays, they let Wade walk away, a move that later scalded them. Wade had a great second half in the Yankees pen, finishing the season with a 2.04 ERA in almost 40 innings pitched.
Wade was one of the many Yankees players who reported to camp early and is looking to build off his great year. He is just another piece in what is the best bullpen in baseball, hands down.
Wade will pitch mostly the middle innings and probably matchups (because we know Girardi loves the book).
Bullpen: LHP Cesar Cabral
Many of you don't know who this man is, but you soon will. His name is Cesar Cabral, and he is going to be the Yankees' left-handed specialist, replacing the incumbent Boone Logan AKA Mr. Inconsistent.
Cabral was picked up by the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft, and from what sources say, they love him. He will "compete" for the LHS job against Boone Logan. Barring an injury or a complete atrocity, he will win.
Why, you ask? Because under Rule 5 draft rules, he must be on the active roster for the entire season or will be returned to the Red Sox.
If the Yankees like him as much as they say they do, there is no way they will let him go back to their hated rival. It will be interesting to see how the young man does in his first season.
Bullpen: RHP Freddy Garcia
The Chief had a great year last year, considering that the Yankees and their fans thought they would get close to nothing from him. He will compete for the fifth spot with Phil Hughes during spring training, which is a farce because we know Hughes will get it.
Instead, he will be in the bullpen as their long man, where I think you will get more out of him than as a starter. He's a seasoned veteran with a wicked split-finger that could be like what Tim Wakefield was for the Red Sox for so many years.
If a pitcher gets rocked, the Yankees will be in good hands having a healthy and fresh Garcia ready in the pen.
Catchers: Russell Martin
Russell Martin was everything the Yankees wanted last year and more. He played tremendous defense all year and provided some good pop in the lineup as well.
The best part about Martin is that he is a catcher. He's tough, gritty and just a man. He has a different relationship with every pitcher, and I'm looking forward to seeing how he does playing catch with the Yankees' revamped rotation.
Russell will likely repeat his year of offense as well. The only complaint is his BA, which was a poor .237. I expect that to raise to about .260-.270, making him one of the best all-around catchers in the American League.
Catchers: Francisco Cervelli
Frankie is a very energetic and likable baseball player. He understands his role on the team and embraces it. Cervelli will be the backup catcher for the Yankees this season because he's done a great job at it for the past three seasons.
The pitchers trust him, and he has almost become CC's official guy. He's an okay hitter, but he really shows his bat in the biggest spots as he's proven to be very clutch.
The only negative you could say is that he needs to be more effective throwing out base runners; other than that, he's a solid back-up.
Infield: 1B Mark Teixeira
Mark Teixeira will have a lot to prove this season. His end-of-the-year numbers will always be impressive, but by his standards, he needs to work on a few things. Last season Tex's batting average was a less-than-sexy .248. He's a career .281 hitter, so look for him to hit closer to that.
Tex also needs to work on his hitting direction. Every time he gets up on the left side, the defense moves as far right as humanly possible. He needs to learn to take it the other way or bunt, as he said he will do this season.
His defense will always be stellar and Gold Glove worthy. Bottom line—the American League is chock full of great first baseman, and it's time for Tex to re-establish himself as the best all-around one.
Infield: 2B Robinson Cano
Introducing the best second baseman in baseball. He is the Yankees' best hitter and an all-around player. Better yet, he's hitting his prime. This guy is so good that I'm not going to type anything else.
Infield: 3B Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez is my favorite baseball player and I'm proud to admit it. He played only 99 games last year, but before he went down, he was going to have his typical 30 and 100 year. As many fans are, I am very optimistic that he will return and have a bounce back year.
A-Rod had offseason knee surgery, recommended by Kobe Bryant, that actually spins your own blood around and injects it into the infected area. In case you don't watch basketball, Kobe's having a good year, and I'm hopeful the same will happen with Alex.
A-Rod is important to the Yankees' success this year and if he plays like himself, the Yankees will have the best lineup in the game.
Infield: SS Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter had a bounce back year last season, hitting .297 a year after hitting .270. The Yankees' captain is not as young as he once was, but he is still Derek Jeter and he has expectations. I expect Jeter this year to play his Gold Glove defense (that's right, experts, Gold Glove defense) and hit anywhere from .280 or higher.
Jeter will likely be the team's leadoff man, so it is important for him to get on base this season with the big bats behind him. Jeter is playing with house money for the remainder of his career, so whatever he does, fans will still love him. I think he's going to have a great year.
Infield: 1B / 3B Eric Chavez
Despite spending much of the season on Chavez's home away from home, the disabled list, he did a great job for the Yankees when he was actually playing. He played a very solid 3B for the Bombers when A-Rod was hurt, and he played a not so bad 1B when they needed him to.
His offense is not what it once was, but when healthy, Chavez is an above-average bench player who has accepted his role with the Yankees. The Yankees will use the money they received from unloading A.J. Burnett to re-sign Chavez.
Infielder: 2B / SS Eduardo Nunez
He will likely play shortstop and second base for the Yankees on days that Jeter or Cano are out. He's a solid hitter, but his defense last year was hard to watch. With a full season-and-a-half under his belt, he should be ready to take the field and be a solid defender.
He could be a future option for SS after Jeter retires. Other teams (such as the Braves) wanted him this offseason, so the Yankees aren't the only ones who like this guy.
Outfield: LF Brett Gardner
Brett Gardner is an offensive catalyst. The Yankees have been waiting patiently for him to explode, and I think this year will be the year for Brett the Jet. He's an excellent outfielder and was statistically the best outfielder in baseball last season.
Apparently stats don't mean anything to the "experts," unless they are stating reasons why a deserving Yankee shouldn't win an award, but that's a rant for another day.
Brett's batting average must increase, as well as his OBP. If he's not on base, he can't steal, which is a big part of his game. Look for Brett to finally have that big year everyone's been waiting for. If he shouldn't, then Yankees may need to consider other options in left field.
Outfield: CF Curtis Granderson
Two years ago, a lot of Yankees fans did not like the Granderson trade because they felt the Yankees gave up too much in OF Austin Jackson, SP Ian Kennedy and LHS Phil Coke. Fast forward to today, and those same fans wish they would have never second-guessed it.
Granderson has become one of the most feared hitters in the game with his huge 41 HR season. Hitting from the two hole again this season, Granderson should have a close to identical season, maybe even better (from batting average standards). Granderson's defense is also excellent as he showed last season you will not hit anything in front or behind him.
Outfield: RF Nick Swisher
Yankees fans have come to love Nick Swisher. He came to the Yankees in a trade from CWS three seasons ago. He was supposed to be the first baseman until Tex came, so he was a backup outfielder instead. Then Xavier Nady got hurt, and Swisher became the starting right fielder. Since then, he has taken his position and run with it.
It's a contract year for Swisher, so he can either put up and show the Yankees why they should re-sign him come next offseason, or shut up and leave on a bad note. I think Swish puts up.
Outifield: DH Andruw Jones
Andruw Jones was once one of the most feared hitters in the National League. Now he is a bench player on the Yankees, but it's not all bad—he's a really good bench player.
Andruw will have an advanced role on the Yankees this season. Not only will he be the back-up outfielder for the Bombers, but he'll also be the DH against left-handed pitching.
Last season Jones had some pop with 13 HR in 190 AB, so he has proven he can still hit the long ball. With his above-average defense and pop against lefties, he's just another really good bench player for the Yankees. Plus he stayed and didn't go to the Red Sox, so I like him for that.
Outfield: DH Raul Ibanez
With Andruw Jones being the DH against lefties, Ibanez, who has bit one of the longest bombs in New Yankees Stadium history, will bat against righties. He played left field for the Phillies all of last season, so he can still play the field if needed to.
He still has some pop, hitting 20 HR last season. Look for that to increase playing at Yankees Stadium. Ibanez is the final piece to a complete Yankees lineup that possesses power, average, speed and clutch.
This Yankees team is one of the most stacked in recent memory. They have one of the best lineups, benches and pitching rotations in baseball, and without a doubt the best bullpen in baseball. From top to bottom, I see no holes on this team. If there is one by the trade deadline, the Yankees will take care of it, as usual.
I see the Yankees winning the Division as well as 104 games this season. If everyone does their job and stays healthy, the Yankees will be bringing No. 28 home where it belongs—to New York, to stand next to the Lombardi Trophy the Giants won this year.
Thanks for reading and be sure to comment.
- Nick Finocchio
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