Grading Each Position on New York Yankees Halfway Through Spring Training
With less than three weeks remaining until Opening Day, it is time to grade each position for the New York Yankees at the midway point of spring training.
Injuries and shuffled lineups have made projections and predictions for the upcoming season impossible. However, baseball's version of the preseason is what it is: an evaluation of talent.
So, here we are to examine, evaluate and scrutinize some of the most meaningless games in all of sports.
It might sound comical at first, but spring training is where names are made and jobs are lost.
Here's an idea of what the Yankees position players are looking like thus far.
Projected Starting Lineup
According to our very own Adam Wells, the New York Yankees lineup might look something like this come Opening Day.
|1. Derek Jeter, SS|
|2. Ichiro Suzuki, RF|
|3. Robinson Cano, 2B|
|4. Kevin Youkilis, 3B|
|5. Travis Hafner, DH|
|6. Brett Gardner, CF|
|7. Juan Rivera, 1B|
|8. Melky Mesa, LF|
|9. Francisco Cervelli, C|
The loss of Russell Martin to free agency made the catcher position a giant question mark for the New York Yankees entering 2013.
With Jesus Montero in Seattle, and prospects like Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez not quite ready for the big leagues, the battle will likely come down to veterans Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli.
While Cervelli figures to get the nod because of his versatility and history of timely hitting, the outlook for the upcoming season isn't all that pretty.
Halfway through spring training, Cervelli has accumulated just one extra base hit (five overall) in 22 at-bats.
His familiarity with the pitching staff is a bonus, but any sort of consistency in the batters box could help propel Stewart, or maybe even one of the young guns, ahead of Cervelli for the Opening Day job.
First it was A-Rod, then Curtis Granderson, and finally Mark Teixeira.
The New York Yankees have experienced their fair share of injuries before game one of the 2013 MLB season. But perhaps none hurt more than the loss of their All-Star first baseman.
A loss that sent management searching for retired players, including Derrek Lee, will likely force the Yankees to confide in 34-year-old Juan Rivera for the time being.
He likely won't provide the power numbers that Teixeira is accustomed to producing, but Rivera is a seasoned veteran who offers New York a temporary solution at first base.
Thus far, Rivera is batting .345 in limited action in spring training. With four XBH and three RBI to his credit, it could be worse in Yankeeland.
Second base is one of few positions on the field where the Yankees know what they are getting. Robinson Cano has been an elite player for the past handful of seasons and New York doesn't expect that to change in 2013.
The World Baseball Classic has limited Cano's time in Tampa; however, the All-Star second baseman did collect five hits, one HR and three RBI in his abbreviated spring training action.
Cano has a tendency to hit in streaks throughout his young career. So this early into the season, there is little that can be taken away from his .278 AVG and .722 OPS.
It is tough to give an evaluation of a player after two games in spring training. So instead, we will take a look at some of the guys who filled in for Jeter during his absence.
The sample is small, but Walter Ibarra has been, far and away, the most impressive at the plate thus far. His fielding could use some work, but Ibarra has collected five hits in 10 at-bats and has made the most of his limited time on the field.
Eduardo Nunez, on the other hand, has struggled immensely at the dish. As one of the Yankees' primary utility players, Nunez has stuck around New York for his ability to hit.
However, the 25-year-old infielder has done everything but that at spring training.
In 29 AB, Nunez has a .138 AVG and .242 OBP. His fielding has failed to show considerable improvements, and he isn't making manager Joe Girardi's decision process any easier entering 2013.
Kevin Youkilis is another guy that the Yankees added to fill a gaping hole in their infield. With Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list for an uncertain period of time, New York turned to a former rival for help.
Through the first half of spring training, we still aren't quite certain what we are getting from Youkilis. He has collected just two hits in 13 at-bats so far, but he does have one double and one RBI to his credit.
Gil Velazquez and Jayson Nix have also seen time at third base in the early going. And while Velazquez has singled four times in 12 at-bats, the job doesn't figure to slip away from the experienced Youkilis anytime soon.
The loss of Nick Swisher to free agency and Curtis Granderson to injury has made the 2013 Yankee outfield quite a mess.
As of now, it seems as though both CF and RF will be anchored by Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki, respectively. However, a question mark in LF means that guys have been moving all over the outfield during spring training.
The projected opening day starter, according to Adam Wells, might be 26-year-old Melky Mesa. And if the early numbers are any sort of indication for Mesa's future production, Yankee fans might have to be concerned they have another Shelley Duncan on their hands.
Sure his defensive abilities are something to be content with. But with just six hits in 31 at-bats, the .194 AVG and eight strikeouts are not going to get it done in New York.
His power potential will likely help Mesa beat out Zoilo Almonte and Ronnier Mustelier for the starting job. However, don't be surprised if inconsistent production results in a midseason switch.
Coming off a nagging elbow injury, Brett Gardner must be excited to be back on the diamond. And the Yankees should be thrilled to have him.
The speedy outfielder spent the majority of the 2012 season on the bench where, fortunately for opponents, he wasn't a threat to steal second base.
This season, that will all change.
Gardner was impressive in limited at-bats before being sidelined a year ago. And the trend thus far in spring training hasn't wavered one bit.
With 12 hits in 30 at-bats, the left-handed center fielder has been one of the few constants for New York so far in 2013. He has successfully stolen bases on both of his attempts and added five walks to his abbreviated resume.
Gardner has given fans reason for optimism following multiple critical injuries and adds a different dimension to the Yankee offense. And for that, he deserves the first "A."
Who saw this coming?
No, really...Who saw this coming?
At 38 years of age, a declining Ichiro Suzuki came to New York from Seattle expecting to finish out a hefty contract before going elsewhere to finish his decorated career.
But, surprisingly, the move ended up being anything but a salary dump. A change of scenery sparked a revitalization in Suzuki's game and earned him a new two-year contract with the Yankees.
Ichiro's productive finish to the 2012 season has apparently spilled over into 2013. In just eight games, Suzuki has compiled 10 hits, two doubles and two SB.
His strong arm and a short fence in right field make it hard for teams to run on the experienced veteran, and his defensive range, though not what it used to be, isn't all that bad.