New York Yankees: A Full Preview of the 2012 Projected Roster
When you look at the end of March, there's two things that come to mind.
The NCAA March Madness tournament is in full swing, but will eventually end soon, allowing for the return of Major League Baseball.
For Yankee fans: Circle the date April 6, which will be opening night in Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays.
There's been some changes made to the 2012 roster of the Yankees.
Overall, I think it's better than the team from a year ago that won 97 games and the American League East crown.
How will the roster look come April 6? Lets take a look.
Catcher: Russell Martin
Last year, a lot of people were skeptical on the Yankees signing Russell Martin to take over as the full-time catcher over Jorge Posada.
Turns out, the move worked, because Martin was an American League All-Star with good production with the bat and the glove.
Martin really did a fantastic job guiding the Yankees' pitching staff, which is really where he earned his paycheck for the Yankees last season.
Martin is looking for ax extension with the Bombers and would love to stay. I think as long as he stays healthy, when the season is over, Martin may get another two or three years in the Bronx.
2011: .237, 18 HR, 65 RBI
First Base: Mark Teixeira
People were concerned last year because Mark Teixeira only hit .248 for the season.
Big whoop. He still hit 39 home runs and 111 RBI, which is the third straight season he's hit at least 30 homers and 100 RBI for the Yankees.
Plus, he still plays Gold Glove-caliber defense over at first base, and that's something that doesn't show up in the box scores.
Teixeira said he wanted to try and take the ball the other way in 2012, which could help increase his batting average.
Even so, as long as he's putting up at least 30 and 100 for the Yankees, he's been worth every penny for them.
Now, if he can only start hitting more in the playoffs...
2011: .248, 39 HR, 111 RBI
Second Base: Robinson Cano
In 2011, Robinson Cano took the next step towards superstardom for the Yankees.
He has really transitioned himself into their most dangerous and well-rounded hitter.
Three years in a row, he's hit at least 25 home runs and had a .300 batting average. If not for an off year in 2008, Cano's streak of .300 average seasons would be at six in a row.
His defense doesn't get enough credit, mostly because he makes plays seem so effortless. But his throwing arm may be one of the best in the game at second base.
And at age 29, Cano is only getting started.
He'll likely be moved permanently into the No. 3 hole, while Mark Teixeira will take over Cano's old spot at No. 5.
2011: .302, 28 HR, 118 RBI
Shortstop: Derek Jeter
Early on in 2011, Derek Jeter struggled. Why? Because the pursuit of the 3,000 hits was on his mind.
He was never going to publicly say it, because that's not his style. But we all knew it.
And then on July 9, 2011, Jeter hit a solo home run off David Price into the left field seats to secure his place into Cooperstown and in Yankee history.
After that, Jeter turned his season around and was a more focused hitter with the pressure off his back.
On July 4, when he returned from a calf injury, he was hitting .256.
At the season's end, he was hitting .297. It was like a night and day comparison watching Jeter at the plate. In his final 64 games, Jeter was a .326 hitter for the Yankees at the leadoff spot.
He'll be 38 this coming June, but if last season was any indication, he's not showing signs of slowing down and can still be very productive as the Yankees' current captain.
2011: .297, 6 HR, 61 RBI
Third Base: Alex Rodriguez
2011 was not the best season for Alex Rodriguez.
He played in just 99 games and had to have knee surgery in July. He was also bothered by a bad thumb and shoulder.
During the offseason, A-Rod had a procedure done to his knee and shoulder that was recommended to him by NBA star Kobe Bryant, a procedure that hopefully will help with the nagging injuries.
A-Rod is getting older—he'll be 37 in July—but I think he's due for a monster season in 2012.
Call it a hunch or just a guess, but if A-Rod is healthy and can stay on the field for at least 140 games, then I am expecting a big year for the Yankees slugger.
He really needs it, especially for a guy who is making a ton of money for the next six years.
2011: .276, 16 HR, 62 RBI
Left Field: Brett Gardner
Brett Gardner brings a lot of intangibles to the Yankees.
He's got great speed on the bases and in the outfield. He can steal very well, taking 49 bags in 2011. He was tied for first in the American League with that number (Coco Crisp of the Oakland A's also had 49).
He can bunt for a base hit and can drag-bunt very well, while depending on his legs to get on.
And whenever he learns to get his average up, he will eventually become the Yankees' leadoff hitter.
His defense is pretty good in left field. He has an average throwing arm, but because of his speed, he covers a lot of ground in the outfield.
He got 60 walks in 2011. If he can get more walks and cut down on strikeouts, his stolen base numbers can only go up.
Gardner is a game-changer for the Yankees when he's on the field and on the bases.
2011: .259, 7 HR, 36 RBI
Center Field: Curtis Granderson
In 2011, Curtis Granderson could have easily won the American League MVP Award.
He hit 41 home runs, drove in 119 RBI, scored 136 runs and stole 25 bases. The RBI and runs scored were league-leading numbers and vital stats to winning games.
Yet Justin Verlander won the award, and he doesn't play every day. Go figure.
Either way, Granderson was absolutely sensational at the plate for the Yankees and really lived up to the expectations of getting traded to the Yankees back in the winter of 2009.
His swing is really custom-made for Yankee Stadium. He could easily have another 40-plus home run season for the Bombers.
Granderson could eventually be looking for an extension from the Yankees, and if he continues to put up MVP-like numbers, Brian Cashman may end up rewarding him with a new deal.
But that won't be for a couple more years.
2011: .262, 41 HR, 119 RBI
Right Field: Nick Swisher
The Yankees picked up the 2012 option for Nick Swisher, but he'll be a free agent again after the season.
He's been a solid hitter for the Yankees in his three years. In each of the three years, he's hit at least 20 home runs and 80 RBI.
He's also been one of the most popular Yankees of recent, mostly due to his easygoing personality.
The one knock on Swisher is that he has not been a good hitter for the Yankees in the postseason and tends to strike out in big situations.
In this town, Yankee fans remember the players who get big hits in the postseason. If Swisher can't do that, who knows if he sticks around past 2012?
2011: .260, 23 HR, 85 RBI
Designated Hitter: Raul Ibanez
Last year, Jorge Posada started out as the designated hitter.
He eventually lost the job to Jesus Montero, but won it back for the postseason.
After Posada retired this winter, Montero was slated to take over as the full-time DH, until he was traded to the Mariners.
So then the Yankees brought in former Phillies left fielder Raul Ibanez to take the job.
The good thing about Ibanez is that he is still in great shape and could play the outfield if needed for the Yankees.
As a lefty hitter in Yankee Stadium, I could actually see Ibanez having a better year than he did in 2011 while playing in Philadelphia.
He's no stranger to playing in the American League, as he spent most of his career with the Mariners and a few seasons with the Royals.
2011: .245, 20 HR, 84 RBI
Bench: Francisco Cervelli
Francisco Cervelli will likely be the Yankees' backup catcher for 2012. Austin Romine will push for that job, but I think he'll end up starting out in Triple-A.
He's a solid backup who can hit with some pop in his bat and won't kill the Yankees on defense.
He's not as strong on offense and defense as Russell Martin, and if the Yankees play Cervelli every day, his weaknesses end up getting exposed.
But when he plays part time, Cervelli is a solid backup who is a feisty and scrappy player and provides a spark for the team.
However, if Romine does develop and gets called up, he could end up taking the backup job and Cervelli could be used as trade bait for a team looking for catching help.
2011: .266, 4 HR, 22 RBI
Bench: Andruw Jones
When the Yankees brought in Andruw Jones as a free agent, I have to admit, I wasn't for the move.
But he turned out to be a solid part-time player, hitting 13 home runs in 77 games and playing left field when the Yankees faced lefty pitchers.
Jones will be in the same role for the Yankees in 2012 as he was in 2011, playing mostly against left-handed starters.
Jones is nowhere near the level of player he was when he was with the Atlanta Braves, hitting 30 to 40 home runs and playing Gold Glove center field.
But as a veteran player, he fits in well with the current Yankees roster.
At age 34, he has 420 career home runs. If he continues to play part time and sticks around in the league for a while, 500 home runs could be attainable.
2011: .247, 13 HR, 33 RBI
Bench: Eric Chavez
Once upon a time, Eric Chavez was an All-Star slugging third basemen for the Oakland A's who won six straight Gold Gloves.
Then the injury bug hit Chavez hard and really cut down his time on the field.
The Yankees took a chance on him in 2011 as a backup for Alex Rodriguez, and he actually started out very well, hitting .303 on May 5.
And then he again got hit with the injury bug and was limited to just 58 games.
He did get to play a lot more later in the season because A-Rod had the knee surgery, so having Chavez on the team turned out to be a good thing, and he can still play solid defense at third.
He was one of the last moves the Yankees made when spring training started, bringing him back on a one-year deal. If A-Rod needs to DH, Chavez can easily step in and play third.
I really hope Chavez can stay healthy in 2012 for the Yankees, because he adds a solid veteran presence to the team.
2011: .263, 2 HR, 26 RBI
Bench: Eduardo Nunez
Because of injuries to Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez in 2011, Eduardo Nunez got to play a lot in 2011.
Nunez played in 112 games in 2011 and he'll likely be the super-utility infielder again. They even tried Nunez out a couple of games in the outfield as well.
He's only 25, so it's still up in the air if Nunez will ever become a full-time starter for the Yankees or if he'll be relegated to bench duty while in pinstripes.
If the Yankees don't see Nunez in their future plans as a starter, another team could and might end up calling the Yankees to see what the price tag for a trade on Nunez would be.
During the winter, the Atlanta Braves were rumored to have interest in Nunez, but nothing became of it. Don't be surprised if Nunez's name gets mentioned again in July for trade talks.
2011: .265, 5 HR, 30 RBI
Starter No. 1: CC Sabathia
CC Sabathia had a chance to become a free agent, but in reality, he never wanted to be one.
On Halloween night, he ended up signing a contract extension with the Yankees through 2016. It includes a vesting option for 2017 so long as he does not end up on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.
In his first three seasons with the Yankees, he's 59-23 and has won at least 19 games in each of those three seasons.
He's also pitched over 230 innings for the Yankees and made at least 33 starts. He's been the utter definition of a workhorse and an ace.
Sabathia came into camp looking slimmer, so if he has lost more weight, that could help his knees come October if the Yankees are playing in the postseason.
If the Yankees want any hopes of winning another championship, Sabathia staying healthy and pitching well is the key.
2011: 19-8, 3.00 ERA, 237.1 innings, 230 strikeouts
Starter No. 2: Hiroki Kuroda
The Yankees were having an extremely quiet winter going into the month of January.
We all kept wondering if they were ever going to add starting pitching, and then on a Friday night, they did.
The first move they made, I'll get to on another slide.
But the second move they made that night was signing former Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $10 million deal.
The Yankees talked about trying to trade for Kuroda last summer, but never pulled the trigger on a deal. Six months later, they finally landed him.
The 37-year-old is durable, he mixes his pitches well and he'll finally play on a team that will give him some run support on offense.
He's transitioning from the National League to the American League, but he throws a lot of heavy pitches. If he keeps the ball down and forces hitters to hit a lot of ground balls, he'll do just fine.
2011: 13-16, 3.07 ERA, 202 innings, 161 strikeouts
Starter No. 3: Andy Pettitte
Who would have ever thought that Andy Pettitte was going to come out of retirement to pitch for the Yankees?
And yet, here we are, just a week after Pettitte shocked the baseball world by announcing he signed a one-year minor league deal for $2.5 million.
He'll start the season on an extended spring training and likely won't be ready to pitch for the Yankees until May 1.
But he's already begun throwing and is in the process of getting into baseball shape for 2012.
Bringing Pettitte back was a great move for the Yankees. He's a gamer who steps his game up when the lights are bright and the games are more important.
Even if he isn't ready until May, if he makes 25 to 28 starts for the Yankees and stays healthy, then the $2.5 million they signed him for is an ultimate bargain.
The Yankees offered Pettitte $12 million back in January to come out of retirement, but at the time, he wasn't ready to commit.
Pettitte is committing now, and that's great news for the Yankees.
2010: 11-3, 3.28 ERA, 129 innings, 101 strikeouts
Starter No. 4: Michael Pineda
This was the other significant move made to the rotation back in January.
The Yankees sent Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to the Mariners in exchange for Michael Pineda.
Pineda was a rookie sensation for Seattle last year, making the American League All-Star team, but he did struggle down the stretch and last won a game back at the end of July.
As a 23-year-old, Pineda has nowhere to go but up, and can be a really good pitcher in New York.
During spring training, Pineda has had some trouble with his velocity on his fastball, which has been improving.
When Andy Pettitte announced his return, it was kicked around that Pineda could start out the season in the minors if his velocity issues continued.
With two weeks left until the season starting, I think Pineda will end up starting out in the majors. If Joe Girardi senses any trouble, I don't think he'll hesitate to send him down.
2011: 9-10, 3.74 ERA, 171 innings, 173 strikeouts
Starter No. 5: Ivan Nova
The rotation got a huge uplift in 2011 when Ivan Nova pitched up to his potential as a rookie.
When Phil Hughes returned from his injury, the Yankees sent Nova down to Triple-A on July 2, but then recalled him on July 30 and he didn't lose again in the regular season.
From July 30 on, Nova finished with an 8-0 record, which helped propel him to his 16-4 record.
After the original Game 1 of the ALDS was rained out, Nova was replaced as the starter and dominated the Tigers for his first ever playoff victory.
Nova started Game 5 for the Yankees and after he gave up two quick runs, he left after two innings with forearm tightness.
That first season should give Nova the confidence going forward to help his career and become a very effective pitcher for the Yankees.
2011: 16-4, 3.70 ERA, 165.1 innings, 98 strikeouts
Starter No. 6: Phil Hughes
This is where the rotation gets interesting.
The Yankees have a surplus of starters and Joe Girardi has to figure out what to do.
When the season starts, it shouldn't be an issue, but come May when Andy Pettitte gets called up, someone has to get bumped.
It could be Phil Hughes if he shows any signs of struggling, and he could either get moved to the bullpen or sent down to Triple-A.
Last year, Hughes started out the season pitching terribly and ended up on the disabled list for two-and-a-half months with shoulder inflammation.
Hughes seems to have his velocity this spring. If he can get off to a great start, maybe Hughes doesn't get bumped.
But this won't be an issue until May. For now, Hughes will start out the season a starter.
2011: 5-5. 5.79 ERA, 74.2 innings, 47 strikeouts
Long Reliever: Freddy Garcia
Last year, Freddy Garcia was a pleasant surprise and pitched very well for the Yankees while on a minor league deal.
This winter, he re-signed for a major league deal and originally thought he would be back in the rotation.
But with the additions of Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda, plus Andy Pettitte's return, Garcia is likely the odd man out of the rotation.
Garcia is not happy that he likely could be the one that gets bumped and might end up being traded in 2012.
Whether he gets traded now or in the summer, I'm sure there will be a team willing to trade for Garcia given what he did last season.
If Garcia is in fact unhappy, trading him might be the best thing for him and the Yankees. Having a disgruntled player in the clubhouse is the last thing the team needs.
2011: 12-8, 3.62 ERA, 146.2 innings, 96 strikeouts
Reliever No. 1: Cory Wade
Cory Wade didn't start the 2011 season with the Yankees. He started out in the minor leagues with the Rays.
But with injuries to Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano, Damaso Marte and Pedro Feliciano, the Yankees needed help in the bullpen.
So the Yankees took a chance on Wade with a minor league deal, and it ended up being a steal of a deal for the Yankees.
Wade ended up with a 6-1 record and provided the Yankees with a dependable arm.
At 29, Wade could give the Yankees a few more seasons of quality innings out of the bullpen if he can stay healthy.
2011: 6-1, 2.04 ERA, 39.2 innings, 30 strikeouts
Reliever No. 2: Joba Chamberlain
Joba Chamberlain had a chance last season to regain the setup role that he once had in the bullpen.
When Rafael Soriano went down with an injury, Joba was put back into the role and was pitching well until he went down for the season with a torn ligament in his elbow.
The injury required Tommy John Surgery, and the Yankees reliever won't be ready for major league action until June.
It's been a tough road for Joba.
First, he's a nearly unhittable reliever that captivated Yankees Universe in 2007.
Then in 2008, they converted him into a starter, and he injured his arm in August.
In 2009, he was a starter again, but was too inconsistent and ended up getting demoted to the bullpen.
In 2010, he lost the final starter job to Phil Hughes and was inconsistent as a reliever.
Once upon a time, everyone thought Joba was the next heir to Mariano Rivera. Now, he'll be lucky if he can just stay healthy enough to pitch well.
2011: 2-0, 2.83 ERA, 28.2 innings, 24 strikeouts
Reliever No. 3: David Aardsma
Two years ago, David Aardsma was a very good closer for the Seattle Mariners.
Last July, Aardsma had to have Tommy John Surgery and the Mariners decided not to bring back their closer.
So the Yankees decided to take a chance on Aardsma with a one-year deal with an option for 2013.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman said that Aardsma likely won't be ready until July, and he sees the deal being more about 2013.
When he was with Seattle, Aardsma was a very good closer and if he can pitch anywhere near that level for the Yankees, he can end up being another great find for the Yankees bullpen.
2010: 0-6, 3.44 ERA, 49.2 innings, 49 strikeouts, 31 saves
Reliever No. 4: Boone Logan
With Damaso Marte and Pedro Feliciano out for the season, the Yankees only had one healthy lefty arm in Boone Logan.
Logan struggled at times, but overall, he had a solid 2011 season as the left-handed specialist for the Yankees.
Marte's contract wasn't renewed and Feliciano might not be back until September, so for right now, Logan again is the lone lefty.
The Yankees originally brought in Hideki Okajima to compete for a spot, but he failed a physical and was released.
As long as Logan doesn't get overused, especially against right-handers, Logan will be an effective arm out of the Yankees bullpen.
2011: 5-3, 3.46 ERA, 41.2 innings, 46 strikeouts
Reliever No. 5: Rafael Soriano
The Yankees signed Rafael Soriano to a three-year deal, luring him away from the Tampa Bay Rays.
Soriano had big expectations going in to be the setup man for Mariano Rivera, but Soriano ended up landing on the DL for over two months, losing his job to David Robertson.
When Soriano returned from injury, he ended up pitching much better for the Yankees, only this time in the seventh inning role.
Now as the seventh inning reliever, Soriano has less pressure on him. He makes the Yankees bullpen a stronger one and shortens the game.
When Soriano signed his deal with the Yankees, Brian Cashman put two opt-out clauses in the deal, in case Soriano wanted to be a closer again.
After battling injuries and struggling in 2011, Soriano didn't use the first opt-out.
But there could be a possibility of him using it after 2012 if he reverts back to his 2010 form.
2011: 2-3, 4.12 ERA, 39.1 innings, 36 strikeouts
Setup Man: David Robertson
In 2011, the Yankees had to shuffle around the bullpen because of so many injuries.
First, Rafael Soriano was the setup man. Then it was Joba Chamberlain.
When both were lost to injuries, the Yankees then had to turn to David Robertson, and it turned out to be a blessing.
Robertson ended up being an All Star pitcher with a microscopic ERA. He flat-out dominated hitters with his command.
Robertson's fastball has so much life on it that it makes it harder on hitters to make any sort of contact, and then throw in the fact that his curveball has sharp break to it, it almost makes him unhittable.
Robertson's 2011 season could be compared to Mariano Rivera's 1996 season when he was John Wetteland's setup man.
And with Robertson's dominance, he's likely to be the new heir for the Yankees closer job whenever Rivera decides to call it a career.
2011: 4-0, 1.08 ERA, 66.2 innings,
Closer: Mariano Rivera
2012 could be the final year for the greatest closer to ever pitch in baseball.
Mariano Rivera is in the final year of a two-year deal he signed and he has been dropping hints that he may be retiring at the season's end. And if he does, what a career it has been.
In 2011, he became the all-time saves leader with his 602nd career save, surpassing Trevor Hoffman on September 19.
Rivera didn't need the record to be known as the best closer ever, but the record cemented his legacy.
It would only be fitting if he could retire and go out on top with one last World Series championship with the Yankees.
2011: 1-2, 1.91 ERA, 61.1 innings, 60 strikeouts, 44 saves