New York Yankees: 5 Starters Most in Danger of Losing Their Spot in 2012

John Nizinski@@jniz73Analyst IIIMarch 30, 2012

New York Yankees: 5 Starters Most in Danger of Losing Their Spot in 2012

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    The New York Yankees look like one of the most complete teams in all of baseball this season.

    They always seem to have a top-notch offense every season—this year is no different.

    Heading into this past offseason, the main issue with their team was a lack of starting pitching. But, the moves they have made has turned the tables and the Yankees currently have a surplus of starting pitching. In a long 162-game MLB season, a surplus of starting pitching is a positive thing to have.

    With Opening Day around the corner, the Yankees roster is filling out. For some players, their starting positions could be in jeopardy depending on how they perform. Here is a look at five Yankee starters who could be in danger of losing their spots in 2012.

Phil Hughes

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    The Yankees starting rotation is slowly filling out. According to NY Daily New, sources say that Phil Hughes has locked up one of the spots in the rotation.

    This is interesting because Hughes has claimed a rotation spot before Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda. Nova was very significant in the Yankees' success in 2011, and Pineda is a solid young starter with a lot of potential. All three could start the season in the rotation, but one will probably have to come out when Andy Pettitte returns. 

    Hughes struggled in 2011, going 5-5 with a 5.79 ERA. He has yet to be the consistent-dominant starter he was projected to be. If he pitches like he did in 2011, Hughes could easily lose his starting rotation spot when Andy Pettitte returns. Luckily for Hughes, his past success in the bullpen could get him a significant role in the there.

Raul Ibanez

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    Raul Ibanez will be the Yankees DH to start the 2012 season. He will not be the DH every game but is currently at the top of the depth chart

    Ibanez has been a consistent producer throughout his career. Over the last five seasons, he has averaged 23 home runs and 95 RBI.

    He is 39 years old and has struggled this spring, hitting just .125. It is quite possible that his age is a factor and his best days are behind him.

    Older players like Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter will need some time as the DH. This could cause Ibanez to struggle because of the lack of consistency. If Ibanez struggles, the Yankees have guys like Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones that could possibly take his place.

Andy Pettitte

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    Andy Pettitte is returning to baseball after being retired for the 2011 season. He will be a starter and get a spot in the rotation when he is ready to pitch at the major league level. 

    In 2010, Pettitte was 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA. The hopes are that he can return to that form and give the Yankees another veteran presence.

    After a year off and at age 39, it is a mystery whether or not he will be able to get back to his old form. It is very possible that he does not get back to the "Pettitte of old." If Pettitte struggles after about 10 starts, he could easily lose his spot in the rotation.

    The Yankees have depth in their starting pitching and may have to go to it if Pettitte can no longer pitch at a high level. He could even decide to officially retire if his return turns out to be a failure.

Nick Swisher

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    Nick Swisher is a fan favorite with the Yankees, but his contract is up at the end of the year. The Yankees are going to have to make an important decision on whether they will re-sign him or let him walk. Another option could be a trade.

    Swisher has been productive with the Yankees. In three seasons, he has averaged 27 home runs and 85 RBI. That kind of production has to be intriguing to most teams, including the Yankees.

    If the Yankees decide that they are not going to re-sign Swisher, they could trade him during the season. Also, if Swisher struggles and guys like Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez are hitting well, he could lose playing time and ultimately his starting job to them.

Russell Martin

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    Even after trading Jesus Montero, the Yankees have plenty of solid catching prospects in their farm system. This is very rare and many teams are desperate for solid young catchers.

    Austin Romine played nine games for the Yankees in 2011 and is a strong candidate to become the everyday starting catcher in the future. Gary Sanchez is also emerging as a candidate to be the Yankees' future starting catcher. He may need more time to develop, but in two seasons in the minor leagues, Sanchez has had 25 home runs, 95 RBI and a batting average of .283.

    Russell Martin's batting average has been on a steady decline and it reached a career low in 2011. He hit .237 and had a .324 OBP. While Martin did hit for decent power and drove in 65 runs, his inconsistency is concerning.

    If Martin continues this trend of a declining batting average, he may lose his starting catching position. With the young prospects knocking on the door, Martin's job could very well be in jeopardy.