Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Having as many players live up to, and in a few cases, exceed expectations is a key to any team's championship run. But in order to balance out the injuries and poor seasons that will almost always occur with key players on any team, there needs to be positive contributions from players who weren't being counted on heading into the season.
In the case of the Yankees, they are going to need at least one unproven pitcher to step up to fill out the back of the rotation and maybe four or five others to help stabilize the bullpen.
After CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova, the Yankees will hope that one of Manny Bañuelos (pictured), David Phelps and Michael Pineda will take hold of the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Some combination of the three might be necessary with Bañuelos, a former top prospect prior to undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012, and Pineda, a former All-Star with the Mariners in 2011, likely to have innings limitations after being out of action for most of the past two seasons.
Phelps is the most likely candidate to provide a solid full season of production, though the other two have the ceilings to be much better. Jose A. Ramirez, the second-best prospect in the organization, according to Baseball Prospectus, could be a dark-horse candidate to help at some point in 2014.
In the meantime, the bullpen is an even bigger enigma. David Robertson will assume closer duties from the legendary Mariano Rivera, while Dellin Betances and Shawn Kelley are the front-runners for the setup job that Robertson is vacating.
While Kelley flashed his late-inning relief ability in his Yankees debut last season with a 4.39 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 12.0 K/9 in 57 appearances, the hard-throwing Betances has only shown off his potential in the minor leagues (2.68 ERA, 4.5 BB/9, 11.6 K/9 in 84 Triple-A innings last season) after failing to show enough consistency to stick as a starter.
Mark Montgomery, who has a career 13.6 K/9 in the minors, will also likely reach the majors in 2014 while veteran journeymen Matt Daley, David Herndon and Chris Leroux will all get a long look in the spring. The potential list of names who might be able to help is at least 10-15 names long. The Yankees will need to find some stability within that group.
Without a strong bullpen to close the door on opponents late in the game, this Yankees season could be the worst of the entire Jeter era.