As spring training rolls on for the New York Yankees, there is optimism to be had.
Although the 2012 season ended in a disappointing series sweep by the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS, 2013 is a new year.
And with a new year comes a new outlook.
During the offseason, New York made few moves to bring in new players, and aside from re-signing a few players, only brought in one new everyday player—Kevin Youkilis.
Even with New York’s quiet offseason and recently tight pockets, the 2013 season is looking up.
Amongst other things, baseball is back, and here are five reasons Yankee fans should be excited for this season.
The ankle injury to shortstop Derek Jeter seamed to be the finishing touch on a dreadful ALCS for the Yankees.
But this spring, the Yankees captain has returned and says he is determined to start on opening day (h/t Andrew Marchand, ESPNNewYork.com).
Even with Jeter turning 39 this upcoming June, his return is a good sign.
Jeter successfully fought the battle with Father Time in 2012—until breaking his ankle.
Although we may not see the .316 average and 216 hits again for Jeter in 2013, he will be back to lead his team.
His presence both on and off the field is something New York needs.
This one is pretty self-explanatory; all of New York’s starters are back for the 2013 season.
Although the 2012 season was full of injuries for the starting rotation, nonetheless everyone is back.
This means we’ll be seeing more CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes.
The fifth spot is still up in the air between Ivan Nova, David Phelps and possibly Michael Pineda when he returns from shoulder surgery.
Whether or not Yankees pitching seemed to be good last year, it nonetheless was.
New York’s pitchers finished in the top three in games won and finished 12th in the major leagues in ERA.
These starters are all back.
With his prior history in Boston, Kevin Youkilis may not be anyone’s favorite player in New York—yet.
Youkilis has come in to replace to injured Alex Rodriguez at third base, and at first glance, this move seems questionable at best.
Since 2008, Youkilis’ batting average has steadily declined, as have his hits per year. But Youkilis wasn’t brought in to be a top player in this lineup; that’s simply not his role.
The Yankees needed a seasoned, smart hitter who can get on base—exactly what Youkilis does.
New York was second in the majors in on-base percentage last year with a team average of .337, which is only one point off the mark from Youkilis’ OBP in 2012.
Youkilis won’t impress you with speed or power, but look forward to his consistency and maturity at the plate.
It will be a reason why New York has success.
Losing Brett Gardner last year was severe enough that New York traded for a new left fielder near the trade deadline.
But Gardner is back, and it is something to look forward to.
Gardner brings speed, quickness and athleticism to a lineup full of aging veterans that are slowing down.
Having Gardner ready for 2013 leaves absolutely no questions about who will play in the outfield in the Bronx, something fans didn’t have the luxury of when Gardner went down.
Whether Curtis Granderson or Gardner should be in left field, though, is a whole other topic to be discussed, and I have previously.
But wherever Gardner plays (currently he his listed as the left fielder), it is a positive to be excited about.
Beginning in 2010, Robinson Cano has turned into the top player in the New York lineup.
With Jeter and Rodriguez aging, Cano is in his prime.
The Yankee second baseman finished 2012 winning both Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. Over the past four years he has hit over .300 with 25 or more home runs each season.
To put it simply, Cano has been dominant.
Last season, Cano played in 161 games and barring injury, expect to seem him almost every day again.
It’s not very often you see a second baseman with the skill set Cano has, and getting to see him as he hits his prime is something special.