Hiroki Kuroda is coming off of a career year in 2012, hoping to continue his success in the Bronx
Just days into the regular season, there is no better time to predict the future of every current player on the New York Yankees active roster.
Speculation is tough at this point. However, past tendencies and unexpected circumstances have made it easier to suggest what could result from an atypical baseball season in the Bronx.
For the Yankees, the offseason has been brutal. Several key losses to free agency were only magnified with a heap of unexpected injuries.
Now, the team has been forced to adjust.
A different playing style can be expected from manager Joe Girardi, and role players like Eduardo Nunez and Francisco Cervelli might be asked to shoulder more than they ever have.
Anyway you look at it, we can't truly know what to expect in the unpredictable sport of baseball.
But I have done my best, and here is one prediction for every member of the Yankees 25-man roster.
Joba Chamberlain got roughed up against the Boston Red Sox on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium
Prediction: Joba Chamberlain will avoid the Disabled List for the entire 2013 season.
Since breaking into the big leagues as a dominating setup man in 2007, Joba Chamberlain has struggled with consistency.
His failed transition to a starter in 2009 was largely unsuccessful, and a multitude of injuries have prevented the 27-year-old righty from exceeding the 75 innings mark ever since.
Hopefully, the trials and tribulations are over for Joba.
He enters 2013 as one of many talented relievers who have something to prove in New York. And maybe, just maybe, this is the year Chamberlain returns to dominating form
Cody Eppley shows off his unconventional delivery during Game 4 of the 2012 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers
Prediction: Cody Eppley will find his niche in the Yankees bullpen as a rare right-handed specialist and will make 60+ appearances for New York this season.
It wasn't all that surprising that Joe Girardi elected to go with a 12-man pitching staff to begin the 2013 season.
It was; however, a bit unexpected when he announced that Cody Eppley and Adam Warren would fill the final two slots on the 25-man roster.
With such a move, the Yankees open up regular season play with Boone Logan as the only left-handed reliever in the bullpen. And while Cody Eppley's unorthodox delivery can trouble hitters at times, many believed that Girardi would keep the left-handed Clay Rapada around just in case.
Eppley does have more big league experience than Warren, and wasn't too shabby in 46 innings of work in 2006.
But can he play an instrumental role in the Yankees bullpen in 2013?
Shawn Kelley was in the Seattle Mariners' organization for three years before coming to New York prior to the 2013 season
Prediction: Shawn Kelley will not be on the Yankees 25-man roster come July 1.
Shawn Kelley earned another shot at the major league level a when he posted a respectable 3.25 ERA in just over 44 innings of work last season in Seattle.
The 28-year-old pitcher from Louisville, KY has been back and forth between the minors and majors since he was drafted in 2007, and has yet to solidify himself as a reliable right-handed reliever.
His sample size is minimal, but the talent is there.
The only question is whether or not Kelley will be able to handle the spotlight in New York.
Any predictions at this point are certainly premature. However, with viable competition from the minor league level in the Yankees farm system, don't be surprised if we see someone like Vidal Nuno take Kelley's spot in the bullpen by season's end.
Hiroki Kuroda delivers a pitch to home plate during Game 2 of the 2012 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers
Prediction: Hiroki Kuroda finishes the season as the Yankees third best starter and an ERA closer to 4.
After finishing in the top 10 of nearly every American League pitching category last year, it might be tough for Hiroki Kuroda to top his first season in pinstripes.
The Japanese native surprised everyone when he successfully made the transition from the NL West to the AL East in 2012. However, now that opponents are more familiar with him, Kuroda may struggle a bit his second time around.
One thing he does have going for him is his age and experience. At 38, Kuroda has seen all types of professional hitters and typically doesn't allow his command to get him in trouble.
But with all the additions to the already competitive AL East, a slight drop off in production can be expected from Hiroki Kuroda.
Boone Logan is the only left handed reliever on the New York Yankees' active roster
Prediction: Boone Logan will appear in 80+ games for the second consecutive season
If you haven't already heard, the Yankees decided to carry just one left-handed reliever into the start of the 2013 season.
So, with that being said, who do you think is likely getting the call for any late-inning matchup against a southpaw?
That's right, Boone Logan.
The specialist appeared in 80 games for New York in 2012 despite finishing the season with just 55.1 innings pitched.
And that was with the left-handed Clay Rapada also in the bullpen.
Smart move or not, Joe Girardi will likely be faced with fewer options in regards to lefty batters for at least the early parts of 2013.
We'll have to wait and see how it pans out.
Ivan Nova hopes to return to his 2011 form when he won 16 games for the New York Yankees
Prediction: Ivan Nova loses his spot in the rotation at some point during the season.
When Ivan Nova posted a 16-4 record his first full season in the majors, the future appeared promising.
But since that time, the Dominican native has faltered and is now in jeopardy of returning to the minor leagues.
Despite the ongoing competition between he and David Phelps for the fifth spot in New York's rotation, Nova was essentially guaranteed an opportunity as a starter when Phil Hughes went down with a back injury.
A relatively disappointing spring for both candidates has turned the outlook bleak, but we can say that Nova is capable of winning at the highest level.
However, if the trends continue, and the 26-year-old right-hander fails to produce through his first handful of starts, there are plenty of options in waiting.
Don't be too shocked if we see Ivan Nova slip out of the picture for the Yankees in 2013.
Andy Pettitte exits the field after starting Game 1 for the New York Yankees during the 2012 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers
Prediction: Andy Pettitte will win 15 games
It's tough to predict the production of a player when he is over the age of 40.
Some of the only guys who have experienced success at the age in recent times are Mariano Rivera and, well, Andy Pettitte.
Most people were shocked when the 17-year veteran posted a 2.87 ERA in 12 starts last season.
To be completely honest, even I was a bit skeptical.
But, as always, Andy proved us wrong. He showed why he is a true professional and, arguably, a Hall of Famer.
A reinvented pitching approach means that Pettitte is capable of winning 15 games provided he can stay healthy for a majority of the year.
It might not be likely, but if anyone can turn in an All-Star caliber season at the age of 41, it's this guy.
David Phelps figures to slot as the fifth starter in the New York Yankees rotation early on in 2013
Prediction: David Phelps will solidify himself as a formidable fifth starter for the duration of the 2013 season.
The spring training numbers weren't pretty, but David Phelps still managed to make his way into the Yankees rotation entering 2013.
Thanks to a few injuries and the relative insignificance of preseason performance in the sport of baseball, Phelps has earned another opportunity to prove himself as a capable major league starter.
His overall sample was widely successful in 2012 when he surrendered just 81 hits in 99.1 innings of work. But much of that sample came from Phelps' time as the long-reliever.
This time around, Phelps will be getting the ball every fifth day. And while he has shown that he can get batters out, he must exhibit the consistency needed from a reliable starting pitcher.
Look for Ivan Nova to struggle keeping runners off base, and for David Phelps to post respectable numbers early on.
Then, when Phil Hughes returns from injury, it will be Nova losing his job.
Mariano Rivera experiences the Opening Day ceremonies for the final time in his decorated career
Prediction: Mariano Rivera will save 35 games in his final season.
At the age of 43, the greatest closer of all time has repeatedly defy logic before our very eyes.
So why expect him to stop now?
Sure, he is returning from a torn ACL in 2012. Yes, his velocity might drop another digit or two on the radar gun.
But the crazier assumption might be to suggest that the man they call "Mo" will drop off in production.
His last full season (2011) was arguably one of his greatest—an accomplishment that should be considered remarkable given his age and unprecedented resume.
So with his countdown to retirement in place, I expect little to stand in Mariano Rivera's way of success.
In my eyes, only unforeseen circumstances (like injury or an abysmal season by the Yankees collectively) could prevent Mo from adding another 35 saves to his record-breaking total.
David Robertson delivers a pitch toward home plate during a March 20 exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox
Prediction: David Robertson will finish among the top-10 in strikeouts among all major league relievers.
The Alabama graduate sailed through the minor leagues thanks to immense talent and a hard work ethic.
Now, he has the opportunity to succeed one of the greatest players to ever step foot on a baseball diamond.
As the heir-apparent to Mariano Rivera's thrown as the closer of the New York Yankees, David Robertson will garner an enormous amount of attention during the 2013 season.
In his first few years as a major league reliever, Robertson emerged as one of the best strikeout pitchers in the business.
His 2011 performance in which he recorded 100 K's and a 1.08 ERA in 66.2 innings of work earned him Cy Young and MVP votes at season's end.
Provided that he can keep his composure and spot his fastball effectively, look for Robertson to post relatively similar numbers in 2013.
CC Sabathia continued his Opening Day struggles on Monday against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium
Prediction: CC Sabathia will turn in his worst record as a Yankee.
Since 2006, CC Sabathia has been a model of consistency for pitchers and coaches league-wide.
He has won at least 15 games in each of the past six seasons and seemingly contends for the Cy Young award on an annual basis.
But, in a surprising turn of events, the streak could end in 2013.
I say "surprising" because nobody could have ever predicted the offensive futility that the Yankees may very well experience this upcoming season.
Injuries and taxes have crippled a New York team that has provided Sabathia with league-leading run support for much of the past five years.
And just like that, it's gone.
Sure, I would be surprised if Sabathia's individual statistics suffer significantly, as he has shown few signs of decline. However, those victories might be harder to come by in 2013.
Adam Warren pitches against the Chicago White Sox on June 29, 2012
Prediction: Adam Warren will be the first of the Yankees' 12-man pitching staff to receive a demotion
At 25 years of age, Adam Warren will be the only rookie on the Yankees active roster.
And unfortunately for him, that may not bode well in a competitive New York bullpen.
His one and only major league start was ugly (2.1 IP, 8H, 6ER), and as the most inexperienced member of the staff, don't expect Warren to get a plethora of appearances early on in 2013.
A 7-8 record and 3.71 ERA in 26 starts for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season wasn't exactly extraordinary. And Warren hasn't given many reasons to believe that will change.
The opporunities will be few and far between, so unless he opens eyes with shockingly impressive statistics, Warren might be the first Yankee to get shipped out of New York.
Francisco Cervelli provided New York with their only two RBI on Opening Day against the Boston Red Sox
Prediction: Francisco Cervelli's bat will force Joe Girardi to implement him as the primary catcher.
One of the biggest question marks entering the 2013 season for the Yankees was the catcher position.
Following Russell Martin's departure, New York was left with two guys with significant big-league experience to their credit.
Months later, we still don't know who the primary catcher will be.
Chris Stewart offers a superior defensive option, while Cervelli possesses the bigger bat. But two days into the regular season, neither has separated themselves from the competition.
That could change sometime soon if the Yankees struggle to score runs like many are expecting them to do.
His penchant for timely hitting goes back more than one season, and for a team who has been notoriously bad with runners on base, Cervelli could find himself in the lineup more times than not in 2013.
Chris Stewart high-fives Freddy Garcia following an October 1, 2012 game against the Boston Red Sox
Prediction: Chris Stewart will settle into the role of a specialty catcher.
The previous slide makes this prediction rather—let's say—predictable.
Girardi's decision to open the season with a catching tandem of Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli wasn't all too surprising in itself.
A perfect complement of skill sets gives the Yankees a great-all around talent at the catcher position.
The only problem is the two can't play at the same time.
As such, the tandem technique likely won't last long if and when New York struggles to produce runs for the first time in, seemingly, a century.
Late inning pinch-hitting opportunities for Cervelli will help the Yankees realize that, what Cervelli sacrifices at defense, he more than compensates for with his bat.
Look for Stewart's offensive production to stand out in low-scoring games as Cervelli continues to come up with timely hits. Eventually, I wouldn't be surprised if Stewart was getting the call every fifth day to catch a particular starter.
It wouldn't be the first time.
Robinson Cano carried the Dominican Republic to a WBC Title this past offseason
Prediction: Robinson Cano's numbers will suffer from the lack of support around him.
It doesn't take a genius to suggest that Robinson Cano might not post the same type of numbers that have distinguished him as the game's premier second baseman over the past few seasons.
With a fraction of the support he once had around him, there is no way that opposing teams are going to show Cano much to hit during the early months of the season.
Of course, Robinson possesses the raw talent to win an MVP on any squad in the bigs.
But as a notoriously streaky hitter, an early struggle might put Cano in a hole too deep to dig out of.
When it is all said and done, I would expect the Yankees world-class infielder to end up batting somewhere close to .300 with 90+ RBI.
And while those numbers would be impressive for virtually any other second baseman in the game, they fall short of Cano's expectations.
Jayson Nix follows the ball during Game 2 of the 2012 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers
Prediction: Jayson Nix will be wearing a different uniform before season's end.
As nothing more than a utility infielder, Jayson Nix isn't going to attract any sort of bold predictions from the average spectator.
He is what he is, and at this point in his career, that likely isn't going to change.
In five years of MLB experience, Nix has worn five different uniforms.
And if he wasn't so versatile positionally, he may have already been out of the league.
But the fact remains that he's not.
He has remained in New York because he offers them a flexible option to support an aging and depleted infield.
And as the starters begin to return from injury, I wouldn't expect Nix to supercede his versatile counterpart, Eduardo Nunez.
Eduardo Nunez will be expected to carry much of the load early on in 2013 for a depleted Yankees infield
Prediction: Eduardo Nunez will record 100+ hits as a utility player
As I alluded to in the previous slide, the Yankees are in desperate need of capable utility players during the early parts of the 2013 season.
With three of their four starting infielders currently on the DL, bench players like Eduardo Nunez should expect to see a lot of action during the first handful of weeks.
The opportunities; however, shouldn't fade entirely once the starters return from injury.
Aging superstars like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez will undoubtedly receive routine rest in the field, which opens the door for Nunez to accumulate plate appearances.
He may continue to struggle defensively as he has his first few seasons in the majors, but Eduardo Nunez could very well see career-high numbers in multiple offensive categories in 2013.
Lyle Overbay was a last-minute addition to the Yankees roster and is expected to provide veteran experience while many of New York's players recover
Prediction: Lyle Overbay will be cut before season's end.
For a while, it appeared as though Lyle Overbay might find himself out of the majors in 2013.
And then the New York Yankees experienced injury after injury, leaving the team in desperate need of veteran hitters.
Overbay joined the team shortly before Opening Day and offers the Yankees an experienced bench player who can play a subpar first base if needed.
But nothing more.
At the age of 36, Overbay is a role player at best in the major leagues. He could be considered a defensive liability and has seen significant drop offs in production over the last handful of seasons.
To put it bluntly, I would be surprised if Overbay was wearing pinstripes in September.
Kevin Youkilis will likely play both first and third base for the Yankees after coming to New York in the offseason
Prediction: Kevin Youkilis will struggle to produce in pinstripes.
For a while, the collective chant of "Youk" reverberating throughout Fenway Park could be easily mistaken for boos.
This time around, there likely won't be as much confusion.
The proverbial leash for a guy who spent the past decade killing the Yankees while playing for their division rival is about as short as it comes.
So if Youkilis doesn't produce early and often, the pressure is only going to mount.
At 34, he is a seasoned veteran capable of producing professional at-bats and getting on base. He will be infinitely valuable for the Yankees if he can hit, but his track record the past two seasons isn't pretty.
Youkilis' average has plummeted more than 70 points over the last two years with Boston and Chicago.
His age is starting to show, and unless he experiences a significant revitalization quickly, he won't be a fan favorite in New York for long.
Brennan Boesch now wears pinstripes after helping eliminate the Yankees in the 2012 ALCS as a member of the Detroit Tigers
Prediction: Brennan Boesch will help carry the Yankees offense for the first month or two of the year.
It didn't take long for Brennan Boesch to find a home once he was released by the Detroit Tigers last month.
Less than two days went by before the Yankees inked a deal to bring Boesch to town to fill some voids in the outfield.
A move that likely wouldn't take place without injuries is one that could pay dividends if Boesch gets significant playing time in 2013.
The 27-year-old posted respectable numbers in his first three seasons playing in Detroit and will likely benefit from the short wall in right field at Yankee stadium.
Look for the pinstripes and change of scenery to play to Boesch's advantage during the earlygoing and don't be surprised if he, like Nick Swisher did in past years, carries a good portion of the offensive load during the season's 30+ games.
Ben Francisco gives the Yankees an outfielder with MLB experience while Curtis Granderson recovers from a broken forearm
Prediction: Ben Francisco will play fewer than 50 games for the New York Yankees
Much like Jayson Nix, Ben Francisco is a guy who has jumped around the league during his MLB career.
Playing for five different teams in six years, the 31-year-old outfielder has struggled to find a permanent home in the major leagues.
And New York should be no different.
He signed a minor league deal with the Yankees last month to strengthen the competition for the remaining outfield spots.
Mostly because of their experience, he and Brennan Boesch beat out the likes of Zoilo Almonte and Melky Mesa for the Opening Day roster.
Now, only production will keep him there.
As a .257 career hitter, he might not get the same volume of opportunities that Boesch or Vernon Wells may receive. But he will have to make the most of them.
Because if anyone at the minor league level is turning heads, Francisco will be one of the first Yankees on the way out.
Everyone in the Yankees organization hopes Brett Gardner can return to form following a severe elbow injury that kept him out most of 2012
Prediction: Brett Gardner will steal 55 bases in 2013.
With all of the injuries and losses to free agency this past offseason, the Yankees now lack the luster that makes them the "Bronx Bombers".
Of the top-10 home run producers from the 2012 roster, only Robinson Cano remains on the active roster.
So Joe Girardi has no choice but to alter the game plan a bit.
For the first time in seemingly forever, look for New York to try and manufacture runs on a regular basis. Station-to-station small ball isn't typical for the Yankees, but it might be the only way to score runs in 2013.
Stealing bases is key for a team playing such a style of baseball, and few players in the entire game are more successful at doing so than Brett Gardner.
Returning from an injury that kept him out most of 2012, Gardner's expectations are high for this season. If he can keep his OBP anywhere near .400, I think he has a good shot at swiping at least 55 bags.
Ichiro Suzuki looks to continue the resurgence he had after being traded to New York late last season
Prediction: Ichiro Suzuki will bat .300 for the Yankees in 2013
Ok , it might be one of those "bold" predictions, but it certainly isn't impossible.
The 39-year-old veteran experienced tremendous success in pinstripes after coming to New York in a midseason trade with the Seattle Mariners last year.
In fact, the argument could be made that Ichiro was the best Yankees hitter for the last two months of the 2012 season.
Now he has a fresh start and a change of scenery. The slate is wiped clean and he isn't forced to dig himself out of a bottomless hole that began in Seattle.
A career-high in power numbers wouldn't be shocking given his transition from Safeco Field to Yankee Stadium, and a disciplined approach at the plate might warrant a top of the order spot for the remainder of the season.
Like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, Ichiro is undoubtedly on the back-end of his career. But with two living examples of elderly success beside him in the locker room, there is no reason to believe Ichiro can't experience some himself.
Vernon Wells could provide the Yankees with unexpected production at the age of 34
Prediction: Vernon Wells will be the Raul Ibanez of 2013.
When the deal was announced that was bringing Vernon Wells and his outrageous $126 million contract to New York, the entire fan base went up in flames.
Well, not literally. But you might say that the comments and complaints could be heard all the way from Los Angeles.
Brian Cashman's decision to take on such a hefty salary turned out to be nothing more than an organizational move for the future—A deal that would benefit the team's effort to avoid the luxury tax in the coming seasons.
But any sort of production could make the Yankees GM out to be a genius.
It's early, but Wells has already showed signs of a resurgence. An impressive spring training has been followed by a hot start to the regular season as he represents one of three Yankees to drive in a run through the first two games.
No I'm not suggesting Wells will return to All-Star form or drive in 100 runs in 2013. But don't be surprised if he provides New York with exceptional bench production.
Travis Hafner is another seasoned veteran hoping to provide the Yankees with production off the bench
Prediction: Travis Hafner will hit 20 home runs for the Yankees
After spending almost the entirety of his 11-year MLB career in Cleveland, Travis Hafner joins the Yankees in 2013 as a left-handed power threat that could see significant time at the DH position.
At the age of 35, Hafner, like many other current Yankees, is past his prime.
He is no longer the same guy who will bat .300 and drive in 100 runs on a consistent basis.
But he doesn't need to be.
The Yankees will be satisfied with any sort of production they receive from the oft-injured veteran. A one year, $2 million deal is not going to break the bank; however, it is worth the risk.
If Hafner can hit well enough to sustain his position as the DH, look for his power numbers to spike as a result of the Yankee Stadium effect.
Opportunities should be aplenty given the current New York lineup and while an average near .270 would be nice, anything higher would be an unexpected bonus.