Ranking the New York Yankees' Most Exciting Players Heading into 2014
After failing to make the playoffs in 2013, the New York Yankees have been working (and spending) hard to make sure that 2014 is a successful year.
New signings, such as Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury, will provide much-needed offensive help. Veteran players, like Alfonso Soriano, will give leadership in addition to contributing some home run pop. The team is also planning on returns from offensive threats such as Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter.
The Yankees are certainly looking for a consistent lineup this upcoming season. Although there is still time to move the pieces around before the beginning of the season, the current roster is already an upgrade over the 2013 roster.
The following are the most exciting players entering the 2014 season, based on offensive support that they are expected to bring to the Yankees.
Honorable Mentions, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira
After an injury-ridden 2013 season for Jeter and Teixeira, both players are set to return to the diamond in 2014.
In 2013, Jeter played 17 games between July, August and September. The Yankees great batted just .190 but had seven RBI. After dealing with multiple injuries including a calf strain and ankle problems, Jeter is preparing to play in 2014.
On November 1, Jeter signed a one-year, $12 million deal with the Yankees.
Jeter playing shortstop will undoubtedly be more limited than previous years due to the fact that he is aging. He will be 40 years old this upcoming June.
But that doesn't mean he won't be a phenomenal player. He still has quick hands, and he is more than capable of snagging a ball during routine plays. He will find a way to make great plays, as he always does.
Jeter will also bring back some power offensively. As a doubles machine, as long as he gets his ankle healthy, there is no reason why he can't go back to hitting doubles and the occasional triple.
Besides, having him on the team will provide leadership as the Yankees rebuild (sort of).
Teixeira is now entering the sixth year of his eight-year, $180 million deal that he signed with the Yankees back in December 2008.
Year five of the deal, 2013, was a complete disaster for Teixeira and the Yankees. He suffered one too many wrist injuries which limited him to only play 15 games for the entire season.
But Teixeira has it all figured out. He spoke to MLB Network Radio and said that he is now able to swing a bat since the surgery. Teixeira is also hoping that he will begin hitting activities on January 1.
What does that mean for the Yankees? Well, if Teixeira starts hitting activities on January 1, there is a likely chance that he can build his way up to fighting form by spring training. And if can work on activities like live batting practice and hitting drills until he's at 100 percent, he can definitely be ready by April 1.
The prospects of a healthy Teixeira will provide the Yankees with yet another offensive threat that they lacked in 2013. And during this offseason, the Yankees can also then focus less on first base and pay more attention to who can play at second and third.
4. Alfonso Soriano
Alfonso Soriano was one of the feel-good stories of last season when he finally rejoined the Yanks. He had signed as a free agent with the Yankees back in 1998 and then returned to the team in 2013 after being traded to the Texas Rangers in 2004.
For 2014, Joe Girardi recently told Brendan Kuty of NJ.com that he was "unsure" about 37-year-old Soriano's status as an everyday right fielder. After all, baseball is a young man's sport.
But like other Yankees, such as Jeter and Rivera, Soriano proved that his talent hasn't deteriorated with age.
He can still hit with the best of them during the middle of those long dog days of summer. In fact, on August 13, 2013, Soriano hit two home runs and had a career-high six RBI. The next day, he drove in seven RBI, breaking the previous day's career-high total. His big offensive moments are featured in the video above.
The home run bug hasn't left him either. In 2013, he hit for 34 home runs, 17 each with the Yankees and the Chicago Cubs. The last time Soriano has hit for less than 20 home runs in a season was back in 2001.
Whether Soriano is an everyday right fielder or not, he is definitely a solid starter.
3. Carlos Beltran
All eyes will be on Carlos Beltran—that's for sure.
Not only because of the fact that he signed a three-year, $45 million deal with the Yankees. But also due to the fact that he played with the New York Mets from 2005 to 2011. And during that time with the Mets, Beltran was a hot topic of the New York sports world. So, yeah, you can say everyone will be watching Beltran again.
But Beltran can handle the pressure. Even if he's getting older and may not be as quick as he used to be, Beltran can still provide help to the outfield. Offensively, the Yanks can't go wrong with Beltran.
He has consistently hit for a decent average over the years, posting a batting average of .296 in 2013 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
And he has typically excelled in the postseason, as seen in the video above with the Cardinals. He hit .268 with two home runs and 15 RBI in the playoffs.
Throughout baseball history, Beltran is ranked No. 10 in the postseason with a 1.128 OPS per Baseball-Reference.com. Players like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig have an OPS at 1.211 and 1.208, respectively.
He is also ranked No. 9 with 16 home runs in 219 postseason plate appearances. Basically, if the Yankees make it to the 2014 playoffs, Beltran can help them out tremendously.
On December 10, Beltran revealed his new number via Instagram and Twitter, choosing the No. 36.
Who knows, maybe Beltran believes he can belt out 36 home runs this season.
2. Brian McCann
When Brian McCann first stepped onto the scene, it appeared that he was going to be an Atlanta Brave for his entire career. But like former teammate Jeff Francoeur, Georgia native McCann decided to venture out. He did so with a five-year, $85 million (plus vesting option) deal with the Yankees.
Hopefully things turn out better for McCann than they did for Francoeur.
Things are looking good for McCann and New York. Yankee Stadium is known for being a hitter's ballpark where home runs run the game. And McCann is ranked as one of the league’s best power-hitting catchers.
McCann batted in 20 homers and 57 runs in 2013. He can definitely expect an increase in his offensive production when he moves to Yankee Stadium next season. Especially since left-handed batters thrive against the right field porch at the stadium.
The Yankees' other options for the catcher position were Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Austin Romine. None of these players really compare to McCann. The Yankees have definitely upgraded well.
1. Jacoby Ellsbury
Whenever the Yankees take on the Boston Red Sox, Jacoby Ellsbury is going to hear it.
But Ellsbury now has a new seven-year, $153 million contract deal. He is going to be a staple player for years to come, and he appreciates his time with the Red Sox. So, he isn't really worried about the boos, per Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe.
In 2013, Ellsbury had a .298 batting average while his slugging percentage came in at .426. His WAR was a 5.8, indicating that the player had finally picked up from a stellar 2011 season.
Ellsbury was also a big factor in the Red Sox's World Series title in 2013. In 16 games played, he earned 22 hits and six stolen bases. His average was an impressive .344, and he had an .846 OPS.
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner called Ellsbury "dynamic" as he spoke to Mark Feinsand of New York Daily News. Steinbrenner also said that Ellsbury was mentally tough after experiencing many freak injuries throughout his career.
Ellsbury stressed that being at Yankee Stadium won't be overwhelming. “I always liked playing here. It’s a comfortable place," he said to Cafardo. "I don’t have to change my swing. My style plays well in this ballpark.”
And he's right. Of the 53 home runs Ellsbury hit within the past four seasons, 48 home runs went to either right or right-center. Like McCann, expect Ellsbury to crush the right field porch. After all, there have been 598 left-handed home runs to the right field porch since Yankee Stadium opened in 2009, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Welcome to New York, Jacoby.