New York Yankees: 5 Players Who Must Improve for the Bombers to Contend in 2013
As the signings of Kevin Youkilis and Ichiro Suzuki are in the near future for New York, it seems as though Brian Cashman is finished attempting to improve his roster.
The organization unsurprisingly made no big moves in the offseason so far, bringing back Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and Suzuki while signing Youkilis.
So with a roster that essentially only lost two contributors in Nick Swisher and Russell Martin, the Yankees are going to try to win next season with the same core team.
However, age and injury are already slowing this veteran team, and some of the (relatively) younger members are going to have to step up if the Bombers are to be contenders next season.
Here are five players on the roster in the Bronx that must improve.
In 2010, it looked as though all the hype about Phil Hughes was true.
The right-hander posted a 4.19 ERA and won 18 games in 2010 and was selected to play in his first All-Star game.
Since then, however, Hughes has been inconsistent at best.
In 2011, Hughes only won five games and had an ERA of over five, and this past season Hughes went 16-13.
At 27 years old, he is in the prime of his career and really needs to step up in the rotation.
Joe Girardi is depending on CC Sabathia, Pettitte and Kuroda, and the latter two are both going to be over 37 years old next season.
If Hughes can find consistency and be a solid back end of the rotation pitcher, the Yankees starting rotation will be solid.
With a solid rotation, the Bombers will be able to contend.
Much like Hughes, Joba Chamberlain had a lot of hype surrounding him.
From the “Joba Rules” to the infamous bug attack in Cleveland in the 2007 ALCS, Chamberlain has provided New York fans with many memories in his short career.
Unfortunately, in recent times Chamberlain hasn't been around to provide much of anything.
Over the past two seasons, Chamberlain hasn’t appeared in more than 29 innings and appeared in a combined 49 games.
With Rafael Soriano gone and Mariano Rivera coming off ACL surgery, Chamberlain will have to return to his early career form of being a power pitcher.
New York’s bullpen last season was pretty solid, but Soriano was the glue that held it together when Rivera went down.
This might be the last season for Rivera, and Chamberlain will need to be one of the late inning bullpen pitchers that can step up.
If Chamberlain can get big outs and help build the bridge to Rivera, New York will have a dominant late-inning bullpen.
When Mark Teixeira signed with New York before the 2009 season, many Yankee fans knew they were getting a solid first baseman.
However, Teixeira was more than solid in 2009, winning the Gold Glove Award, being named a Silver Slugger and an All-Star, and winning a World Series.
Since then, however, the first baseman hasn’t had another dominant season.
This past year, Teixeira had a career-low 113 hits and only 84 runs batted in. He looked lost at the plate at times, and teams put a shift on when he hit lefty adding to his struggles.
Throughout his time in pinstripes Teixeira has shown that he is a great clubhouse guy and an even better defensive first baseman.
With Alex Rodriguez sidelined with an upcoming surgery and Swisher gone to free agency, New York is going to need someone to step up and hit near the top of the lineup with power.
Teixeira has the tools and skill set to be a dominant hitter at the major league level and he has proved that he can be.
For the Yankees to contend in 2013, though, it’s imperative that Teixeira has a dominant season.
After a solid season in the bullpen in 2010, David Robertson was lights out in 2011.
He posted a 1.08 ERA in 66.2 innings during 2011 and struck out 100 hitters.
This past season for Robertson wasn’t quite as dominant, though.
After Rivera went down, Girardi turned to Robertson to close, but the 27-year-old struggled and eventually surrendered the job to Soriano.
In 2012, Robertson posted a 2.67 ERA, which is very solid, but the right-hander just didn’t seem to have that same confidence.
If Robertson can return to dominance in the eighth inning, both him and Chamberlain can create lethal punch in the last three innings of games.
With both Robertson and Chamberlain being power pitchers and Rivera being the best closer ever, comeback wins against the Yankees could be few and far between.
It’s tough to say that Robinson Cano needs to improve after finishing the year with a .313 batting average and 33 home runs. Cano was an All-Star in 2012 and earned the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards.
Why does he need to improve then on a good season?
Two reasons: First of all because he can, and secondly because the Yankees need him to.
Cano has one of the best swings in baseball and has proved that he’s a great defender. However, he has yet to reach his ceiling, and at 30 years old, Cano has the ability to improve to MVP status.
The second baseman has shown he can hit for both average and power, and that he can drive runs in.
For the Yankees, with Rodriguez sidelined and struggling and Jeter on the mend, there will need to be a new face driving the offense.
Cano needs to be the man to do it.
If Cano can have an MVP season like he is capable of, New York will be a serious contender.