There will be more than one New York Yankee destined to have a career year in 2013
Many believe that the New York Yankees will be relieved of their spot on top of the AL East division by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013, but a look at the roster reveals some possible hidden gems ready to be found in the upcoming season.
The Blue Jays have been aggressive this offseason in revamping their look at the plate and on the mound with acquisitions like Jose Reyes, R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Melky Cabrera and Josh Johnson.
At the same time, Yankees GM Brian Cashman has been relatively quiet in keeping things status quo in New York. To date, his biggest splashes were in signing third baseman Kevin Youkilis to man the hot corner while Alex Rodriguez recuperates from hip surgery, and bringing back the ever-popular Ichiro Suzuki to play right field.
It's easy to admire what the Blue Jays have done, but keep in mind they brought in a number of players that will be new to American League style of play. Toronto's fate lies in those calculated risks.
The Yankees, on the other hand, know what they are getting. While critics are more than happy to point out the advancing age of the team, there are still four players poised for career years in 2013. Each of them may prove to be the deciding factor in ensuring that the Yankees remain active participants in mid- to late October.
Cano's numbers will be enhanced by the fact that 2013 is a contract year
Second baseman Robinson Cano is the primary threat in the Yankees lineup. Over the past four seasons he has hit .314 and averaged 29 home runs, 102 RBI and 104 runs scored for the Bombers. On the diamond, there is no other second baseman in Major League Baseball with a better arm, and his fielding prowess has resulted in two Gold Gloves in three years.
This is a contract year for Cano.
There have been reports that Cano won't be lenient with the Yankees once he becomes a free agent (his agent is Scott Boras), and a big season will mean big dollars on the open market.
Given that he is in the middle of his prime, look for Cano to post the best season of his career.
The speedy left fielder will more than make up for an injury-filled 2012.
Last season began with Brett Gardner hitting .321 over his first nine games, picking up where he left off in the 2011 playoffs (he hit .412 in the series against the Detroit Tigers). He had already established himself as one of the best left fielders in the American League, and it appeared that at the plate he was finally coming into his own.
Then the bottom fell out.
He wouldn't return until September 26.
A season that had started with so much promise was lost, and now the Yankees speedster (he averaged 48 SB in 2010 and 2011) will attempt to regain the momentum he had last April.
At 29 years old, Gardner has entered the prime years of his career, and he will become arbitration eligible in 2014. That makes this season a make-or-break of sorts for him, and he'll be determined to make amends for time lost.
Phil Hughes will be a free agent after 2013
New York Yankees fans have had a roller-coaster affair with Phil Hughes. There is no middle ground—they either love him or they hate him.
One could say that fans' emotions mimic the hurler's career as it is littered with numerous peaks and valleys.
It is difficult for Yankees followers to remind themselves that Hughes is only 26 years old. His best seasons still lie ahead.
Perhaps that is why the team recently announced that it avoided arbitration with the pitcher and signed him to a one-year contract.
Following a disappointing 2011 season (five wins and an ERA of 5.79), Hughes bounced back in 2012 with 16 wins and a respectable 4.23 ERA. He regained confidence, and his fastball to establish himself in the Bombers rotation.
This season becomes a key year for Hughes as he tries to put together consecutive successful full seasons for the first time in his career. If he can, he will be looking at a large salary increase in 2014.
Given his recent progression and the fact that he remains on the upside of his career, look for the right-hander to have his best season to date.
Joba's role will be well defined in 2013
Like Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain has had a career full of ups and downs. Unlike Hughes, Joba's wild fluctuations in performance from year to year can be attributed in part to lacking a well-defined role on the club.
When he began his career as a Yankee in 2007, Chamberlain was used as a reliever and immediately wowed the team and fans with his incredible combination of above-average fastballs and breaking balls.
Before he could establish himself as a reliever, he was placed into a spot in the starting rotation for 2008 and 2009, and when his performance as a starter seemed to fizzle in 2009 he was put back into the bullpen for 2010.
The 2011 campaign opened well for the 27-year old and through 27 games he carried a 2.83 ERA out of the pen. Unfortunately, the season would be cut short as it was discovered that he required Tommy John surgery.
His 2011 offseason turmoil is well documented (broken ankle suffered while on a trampoline), but he recovered and saw action as a reliever in 22 games last season. By the time the year was over, Chamberlain had put together a September that included a 2.19 ERA and 16 strikeouts in a little over 12 innings of work. Even more impressive was the fact that he walked just two batters during the month.
The Yankees avoided arbitration and signed Chamberlain to a one-year, $1.87 million contract for 2013.
With the return of the great Mariano Rivera to the closer's spot and with David Robertson occupying the eighth inning for the Bombers, Chamberlain knows he will be the go-to guy in the seventh inning. It's a formula that manager Joe Girardi has used with success in the past, and it is a chance for a healthy Chamberlain to prove he is a worthy successor to Rivera.