New York Yankees: The One Thing Each Hitter Needed to Improve This Offseason
The Yankees' offseason has been quiet. With less than a month until spring training, the only major acquisition Brian Cashman has made has been to sign Kevin Youkilis to fill in for the injured Alex Rodriguez at third base.
That means the burden to improve rests on the players currently on the team. The team's 2012 lineup was second in baseball in runs and first in home runs, but it struggled in the clutch, relying on the long ball to score runs.
The Yankees have lost Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones, but will have a full season of Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki, health-permitting.
Here's what each player needs to improve to make this year's offense even better than last year's.
If the season started today, Francisco Cervelli would likely be the Yankees' starting catcher. This would surely make many fans happy, as Cervelli has become a sort of cult hero since he broke into the majors as a backup in 2009.
But they wouldn't be happy for long, assuming his offensive numbers don't improve.
In 2011, Cervilli appeared in 43 games and hit .266 with four home runs and a .719 OPS. With his solid defensive skills, the Yankees would certainly take those numbers over a full season. But it's unlikely he could keep up that pace as opposing pitchers saw him more regularly.
More likely, Cervelli's offensive statistics would look more like his 2012 numbers from Triple-A, where he hit .246 with a .657 OPS in 99 games.
Cervilli needs to improve his ability to get on base.
While Mark Teixeira's power numbers have stayed consistent during his four years in pinstripes (he hit 39 home runs in 2009, 33 in 2010, 39 in 2011 and 24 in 2012 in 123 games), his ability to reach base has not.
In 2009, his on-base percentage was .383. Since then, it has fallen to .365 in 2010, .341 in 2011 and .322 in 2012.
Teixeira needs to improve his ability to make contact and draw walks.
Cano is the Yankees' best hitter, so it's hard to ask a player who hit .313 with 33 home runs and 94 RBI in 2012 to improve on those numbers.
But he does need to get better at driving in runs with runners in scoring position. Last season, Cano hit just .268 with runners in scoring position.
That was not an outlier, either. Cano has a .308 career average but has hit just .274 with runners on second or third.
It's great that Cano rakes with a runner on first or with the bases empty, but he needs to take his skills to the next level by working on his situational hitting.
El Capitan had one of his best seasons in 2012 at age 38, hitting .318 with 15 home runs and an American League-leading 216 hits.
He's not going to have much he can work on this offseason as he recovers from surgery on his fractured ankle.
All Yankee fans can hope he is that he's healthy so he can return on Opening Day as the team's starting shortstop.
Much like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez has nothing to work on this winter but his health. After having had surgery on his right hip, A-Rod had surgery on his left hip this week and should be back on the field sometime around the All-Star break.
While fans would love to see A-Rod's power return, at this point he just needs to get healthy. Let's hope he does that soon.
Yankee fans have high expectations for the team's sole offensive newcomer. They remember Youkilis in his prime when he beat them as a member of the Red Sox.
But the 2012 version of Youkilis, who split time between the Red Sox and White Sox, had a .336 on-base percentage after having a previous low of .373 since he became a starter in 2006.
Fans are hoping that Youkilis had an off-year and that his work with hitting coach Kevin Long this offseason will bring his on-base percentage back to his normal level.
Like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, the key to Brett Gardner's offseason is health.
He only played in 16 games in 2012, some of which were at the end of the season as a pinch-runner. He only had 31 official at-bats, hitting .323 (10-31).
He missed most of the season recovering from elbow surgery. He needed to spend most of the offseason strengthening that elbow so he can be a full-time left fielder (or center fielder?) in 2013.
Curtis Granderson needs to cut down on his strikeouts, period.
Despite hitting 43 home runs in 2012, Granderson's OPS was just .811, which is incredibly low considering his power output.
It was so low because he struck out 195 times. By the end of the season, it felt like Granderson either struck out or homered every at-bat.
He needs to make more contact so he can have a solid 2013 going into free agency.
There's not much the Yankees could ask Ichiro Suzuki to improve on after his impressive second half of 2012.
When they traded for Suzuki, he was hitting just .261 with four home runs in 95 games with Seattle. In pinstripes, he hit .322 with five homers in just 67 games.
The Yankees can only hope the Suzuki they saw in 67 games last year is the same player for a full 162 games in 2013.
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