New York Yankees: Michael Pineda, 8 Players You Should Be Excited to See in 2012

Michael Desjardins@TheMDesjardinsCorrespondent IIFebruary 27, 2012

New York Yankees: Michael Pineda, 8 Players You Should Be Excited to See in 2012

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    Spring training is finally here and the New York Yankees are looking forward to showing their newest players to the rest of the world, along with the rest of the guys you've come to know and love over the years.

    Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, the last of the "Core Four," still remain after Jorge Posada retired earlier this year.

    Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira are looking to continue delivering power in the lineup.

    Brett Gardner will be looking to bat leadoff more often this season and continue to show his speed and base-stealing abilities.

    The team has a deep pitching rotation, with workhorse CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes (two guys brought up through the farm system), newcomers Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda and Freddy Garcia (brought back for another year).

    And Alex Rodriguez is still here, whether you want him to be here or not.

    But here are the nine players that fans should look forward to the most in the 2012 season.

Michael Pineda

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    Michael Pineda was acquired in a trade from the Seattle Mariners for Jesus Montero during this offseason.

    Though Pineda is only 23 years old, he is already shown how great of a pitcher he is and could be the ace of the Yankees in the future.

    Last year was his first season in the big leagues. He started off strong, going 8-6 in the first half, and replaced Justin Verlander in the All-Star game.

    However, afterward the All-Star break, he won just one game as the Mariners lightened his workload and Pineda finished with a 9-10 record.

    Don't let that discourage you, though. After all, this is the Seattle Mariners we are talking about here.

    Pineda had 173 strikeouts with just 55 walks in 171 innings, 3.74 ERA, and his opponents' batting average were limited to just .211 (fourth-best in the American League).

    At 6-foot-7, 260 pounds, is an imposing figure, but how he pitches is even scarier.

    He throws a fastball that averages nearly 95 mph, with a wicked slider to boot. Yet, despite his fast pitches and young age, he also shows great control in nearly all of his pitches.

    This kid's got the stuff and fans are definitely going to enjoy seeing him on the mound.

Robinson Cano

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    Robinson Cano might be my favorite player on the New York Yankees.

    I enjoy watching Cano because he a mix of both power and contact hitting, with the speed to go for extra bases.

    Though his overall numbers last season weren't as good as 2010, Cano still had an excellent year nonetheless.

    He had 188 hits (seventh-best in the American League) with a .302 batting average, 28 home runs, a career-high 118 RBI (which were also the second-most in the AL), eight stolen bases, 46 doubles (third-most in the AL) and tied a career-high with seven triples.

    Any time you have someone who can hit between 25 and 30 home runs, with a .300+ batting average, you have a great player on your hands.

    The Yankees used a club option on him for 2012 and can do the same next season. But I think it would be wise to re-sign him to a new contract.

Ivan Nova

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    Ivan Nova is another great young starting pitcher on this team.

    He had his first full season in the big leagues last year and  rose to the challenge to have a great year.

    He posted a 16-4 record, with a 3.70 ERA, over 165 1/3 innings.

    Nova won't wow you with strikeouts (he had just 98 last year), but he does possess great control with his pitches and a five-pitch repertoire. He has a four-seam fastball, a sinking two-seam fastball, a circle changeup, a slider and a 12-6 curveball. He also use varying speeds on each of these pitches, so you never know what he'll throw.

    What's also great is that a lot of pitches are hit as ground balls, which is always nice, especially when you have to play at home at such a homer-friendly park.

    He just turned 25 in January, but he's another young gun who can do great things for the Yankees in 2012 and beyond.

Mark Teixeira

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    Mark Teixeira had a mix 2011 season.

    He posted a mediocre .248 batting average, yet he had 39 home runs (third-most in the American League) and 111 RBI (fourth-most in the American League).

    He also continued to show his Gold Glove-caliber abilities, posting a .997 percent fielding rate.

    That batting average will give some people grumbles. But if can improve on that, while continuing to contributed on defense and deliver the same amount of power he's done throughout his career, Teixeira will be another player to look forward to in 2012.

Hiroki Kuroda

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    The Yankees signed Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $10 million contract during the offseason and it will be interesting to see how he transitions from Los Angeles and the National League to New York and the American League.

    Though his 13-16 win-loss record last season doesn't look great, the rest of his numbers were very good.

    He pitched over 200 innings for the first time in his MLB career and had career highs in ERA (3.07, ninth-best in the National League) and strikeouts (161).

    Pitching alongside a powerful offense like the New York Yankees this year, if he can continue to pitch like he did last season, he'll do just fine.

Curtis Granderson

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    Curtis Granderson had a fantastic 2011 season.

    He posted a .262 batting average and had career highs in home runs (41, second-most in the American League), RBI (119, most in the AL), runs (136, most in the AL) and walks (85, fourth-most in the AL). He was also one short of tying his career high in stolen bases, with 25, and had 10 triples (third-most in the American League).

    His year earned him fourth place in the MVP race.

    It will be interesting to see if Granderson can duplicate or even improve on his numbers.

    Like Robinson Cano, he also has a club option in 2013. But he should also receive an extension, as Cano and Granderson will be counted on more often in the years to come to provide in the middle of the lineup.

Phil Hughes

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    Phil Hughes is yet another young starting pitcher on this team. In previous years, the Yankees would use plenty of aging veterans.

    But now the Yankees have three pitchers 25 years old and younger to use as starting pitcher.

    However, unlike Pineda and Nova, Hughes will be looking for a return to form in 2012. He went 0-1 with a 13.94 ERA in his first three starts before ending up on the disabled list for shoulder inflammation.

    He returned in July and posted a 5.79 ERA in 17 games (14 starts) over 74 2/3 innings. His opponents' batting average was a .283 and his WHIP was at 1.49.

    However, he did pitch in his first complete game (a shutout on August 2, on the road against the Chicago White Sox.

    Unless something goes awry, he should take the fifth spot in the rotation over Freddy Garcia and hopefully, he'll return to how he pitched in 2010.

CC Sabathia

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    When you want a workhorse who has the ability to dominate each game he pitches in, CC Sabathia definitely comes to mind.

    Last year, Sabathia had, statistically, his best year since 2008, when he pitched for the Cleveland Indians and the Milwaukee Brewers.

    He posted a 19-8 record, with a 3.00 ERA and threw 230 strikeouts in 237 1/3 innings. He also gave up 17 home runs, his lowest since 2006.

    He has so far lived up to his 10-year, $257-million contract and has shown no signs of slowing down. Look for him to continue pitching effectively this season.

Mariano Rivera

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    Whether you are a fan of the Yankees or not, you can't help but respect Mariano Rivera. He is the greatest closer of all time.

    With 603 saves plus another 42 in the postseason—the most of any closer in history—he is sure to be in the Hall of Fame; the only question is whether or not he'll get in when he's on the ballot for the first time (personally, if I could vote for him, I would).

    However, everyone in sports must face the inevitability of ending their careers. Rivera is no exception and 2012 might just be his last.

    If it truly his last season, let us remember what he has done for so many years with this team, and how he has dominated at the closer position, despite playing in the ultra-competitive AL East throughout this entire career.

    The thing is, even at 42, Rivera still possesses the ability to close out plenty of games and he should still do the same this year, barring any possible injury.

    Last year, he made 64 appearances, pitching in 61 1/3 innings, posted a 1.90 ERA, and converted 44 of his 49 save opportunities (second-most in the American League). I expect similar numbers this season.