Predicting New York Yankees Team Awards for 2013
With a week remaining before opening day, the sharks are circling around the New York Yankees.
Already projected for their worst season in nearly two decades, New York set the Internet ablaze by trading for Vernon Wells on Sunday. Yes, the same Vernon Wells that has a .258 OBP over the last two years.
Ready or not, the season is about to start for the defending American League East champions.
Injuries and age have piled up for Brian Cashman's roster, but the 40-man roster will provide some individual standouts over the next six months.
The following are predictions for New York Yankees team awards in 2013.
MVP: Robinson Cano, 2B
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Robinson Cano has blossomed from prospect to bottom-of-the-order bat to middle-of-the-order threat to one of the best overall players in the sport.
Now, he's easily the MVP and leader of the Yankees' offensive attack. Along with that, the first half of his career ranks near the top of second baseman in history.
Using Baseball-Reference.com's Play Index, Cano's first eight seasons rank among the greatest second baseman of all-time. His career .854 OPS ranks fourth all-time, behind only Jackie Robinson, Chase Utley and Tony Lazzeri.
Factor in a contract drive, led by agent Scott Boras, and Cano is poised for a monster season in the middle of the Yankee order.
If he can carry over a WBC MVP performance—.469 (15-for-32) with two home runs, six RBIs and six runs scored—the AL East is in for a rude awakening.
Cy Young: CC Sabathia, SP
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With all of the bad long-term contracts handed out by the Yankees over the last decade, don't forget to praise them for one that has been nothing by great—C.C. Sabathia's $161 million deal prior to the 2009 season.
In addition to anchoring a World Series Championship staff in his first season in New York—while pitching on three days rest through October of '09—he has been a model of durability and consistency in pinstripes.
Through the first four years of his Yankee tenure, he has averaged 226 innings per season while pitching to a 3.22 ERA.
While the majority of the Yankee rotation changes from season to season, Sabathia has been a rock. If he's healthy, New York will ride his arm all summer long.
Biggest Letdown: Andy Pettitte, SP
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If Andy Pettitte shows the kind of inning-by-inning dominance from last year, the Yankees will be getting a $12 million bargain.
Of course, some of that hinges on how many innings he will be able to throw.
Factoring in age, recent injury history, and a year off in 2011, it's hard to imagine a 40-year-old Pettitte surpassing the 200-inning plateau in 2013.
After posting his highest K/9 mark since 2004, New York welcomed back the lefty with open arms this winter hoping he can give them one more high-level season while the organization develops young arms,
But asking for a full season is a stretch. One hundred-fifty high-level innings seems to be what Pettitte has in the tank.
For Yankee fans expecting six months of production, Pettitte will let down.
Biggest Surprise: Joba Chamberlain, RP
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At some point, Joba Chamberlain went from phenom to injury prone, mustachioed seventh inning guy.
Despite the fall from prospect grace, the Yankee reliever could be in for a big season before heading out into free agency with a versatile arm and limited career innings.
After returning from a severe and strange trampoline injury, Chamberlain struck out more than a batter per inning and pitched to an xFIP of 3.55 last summer.
If his BABIP and home run rate fall in line with league averages, New York could see the best Joba since his debut in '07.
Breakout Young Star: David Phelps, SP
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In a world of baseball coverage, it's hard to fly under the radar as a mid-20s pitcher who struck out nearly a batter per inning.
Especially if it's done in the biggest media market in sports.
Yet that's exactly what David Phelps did in limited big league innings in 2012. Now he's in a competition for the 5th spot in the Yankee rotation, with the chance that he'll receive a turn or two—due to Phil Hughes' back injury—regardless of his battle with Ivan Nova.
Always a favorite of general manager Brian Cashman, Phelps received a chance to pitch in the big leagues as a swingman last year due to injuries and versatility.
In a Q & A with Andy McCullough of the Star Ledger, Phelps said he doesn't look at his ability to pitch out of the pen or rotation as a detriment.
Is it strange that your versatility may hamper your chances of beating Ivan Nova for the fifth spot, because the team knows you can serve as the long man?
"I don't look at it like that. My goal is to help this team, in whatever role that might be. I don't really see it as a problem. If anything, I see it as making myself more versatile, just open(ing) as many doors as I can."
If injuries and age hamper the rotation again in 2013, Phelps could springboard his status once again.
WAR Star: Brett Gardner, OF
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While many fans consider Brett Gardner a complementary player, baseball analytical research tells a different tale.
Between 2010-2011, the Yankees outfielder ranked 13th among all position players in baseball with an 11.3 composite Wins Above Replacement mark, according to FanGraphs version of WAR.
His defense—in left or center—is as good as any outfielder in the game. His baserunning adds runs to the scoreboard. His ability to work the count and drain a pitcher hearkens back to the patience of the late-'90s Yankee teams.
If he can stay healthy after missing most of 2012 with an elbow injury, it will be Gardner's time to be recognized as the All-Star caliber player he has become.
Comeback Player of the Year: Kevin Youkilis, 3B
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The following are Kevin Youkilis' BABIP (batting average on balls in play) marks prior to 2012—.296, .327, .359, .339, .330, .327, .356, .296. Last year—due to injuries, losing his job in Boston, and bad luck—that number fell sharply.
With a line drive rate still among the best in the game, there's a good chance that 2012 was more about bad luck than a player who has lost his ability to hit at a high level.
Factoring in luck, a new batting stance, and a return to the AL East, Youk is the pick to bounce back in New York.
With injuries at the corner positions to Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, he'll have to for the Yankees' offense to score runs.
The New Alex Rodriguez: Mark Teixeira, 1B
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Over the past month, the following words have been used to describe Mark Teixeira on WFAN airwaves in New York—Injury prone, done, overpaid, washed up, not tough enough, overrated, finished.
If you didn't know better, the conversation sounds much like what baseball fans have heard about Alex Rodriguez over the years.
Now, with Tex out at least until May with a wrist injury, the ire of New York has moved onto his contract, dip in production, and self-awareness that he's no longer the player Brian Cashman signed in 2009.
If he doesn't hit immediately upon returning in May or June, New York won't let him forget it.
Key Second Half Addition: Michael Pineda, SP
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To the surprise of few, New York moved Michael Pineda to the 60-day disabled list last week in order to make room on the 40-man roster for the recently inked Brennan Boesch.
What might surprise some—he could be a major factor for the 2013 Yankees. In fact, if he can join the team by mid-season, a healthy Pineda could be the difference between making or missing the postseason for the Bronx Bombers.
Between injury, showing up to 2012 spring training overweight, a DUI, and coming at the expense of former prize prospect Jesus Montero, the 24-year-old right-hander hasn't exactly endeared himself to Yankee fans thus far.
On the other hand, Hal Steinbrenner has no regrets about the deal consummated last year to bring him to the Bronx.
"That is a trade I would do again tomorrow," Steinbrenner told the Daily News. "It's going to be a good one. It's case by case. We do the same thing every year at the offseason. We leave no stone unturned, no possibility unlooked at. We do what we feel is best for the franchise and what we feel is best for us to field a championship-caliber team for the fans. That's not going to change. It never will."
If Pineda can bring his strikeout ability to the big league rotation by summer, many fans will agree with the new boss.
Kangaroo Court Judge of the Year: Judge Mo Rivera
Assuming Mariano Rivera can come back from ACL surgery at age 43 is difficult. He's a great athlete, but it wouldn't be very surprising to see some side effects from nearly a full season away from the mound.
On the other hand, if justice is needed in the Yankees clubhouse, Rivera is the man for the job.
Starting in 2009, 'Judge Mo' became the man with the robe and gavel in the locker room. Four years later, with a team of new faces, he could be asked to preside once again.
40+ saves, a sub-2.00 ERA and multiple Kangaroo Court decisions are on the horizon for the future Hall of Famer.