New York Yankees' Biggest Early-Season Surprises and Disappointments
The New York Yankees have already given us a lot to analyze in the season's first couple of weeks.
A rash of injuries in 2013 led to a reconstruction of the roster this offseason by general manager Brian Cashman, and the new faces have (for the most part) been major contributors. How well the team does in 2014 will inevitably rest on the shoulders of Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Masahiro Tanaka and others.
Those guys got off to "expected" starts. The team knew what it would be getting from the likes of them. There are several players who were question marks heading into the season, however.
The early games of 2014 have been full of surprises and disappointments for the Yankees. Some guys have stepped up in a big way, while others have let the team down mightily. There's still time to right the ship, but it will be hard for a few players to do so.
Note: All stats as of Tuesday, April 15.
Surprise: Yangervis Solarte
He's "Never Nervous."
Yangervis Solarte has taken the Yankees by storm in 2014. Thrust into everyday action at third base following an injury to Mark Teixeira that required Kelly Johnson to shift to first, Solarte has raked at the plate.
He's hitting .357/.413/.500 with six doubles and seven RBI in 42 at-bats this year. After making the team with a hot spring training, Solarte has made it seem as if he's here to stay.
Solarte was so good, in fact, that the Yankees designated long-time utility man Eduardo Nunez for assignment. The Yankees (for some reason) had a strange infatuation with Nunez. Solarte was good enough to compromise that relationship.
The Yankees are hoping Solarte will be able to keep up a similar production level throughout the remainder of the season. Asking the rookie to slash what he is now is unfair, but I think anything over .270/.330/.450 would do.
Disappointment: Francisco Cervelli
Another year, another injury.
Francisco Cervelli is back on the disabled list already. He's on the 60-day DL with a strained right hamstring, reports ESPN.com. This happened when he tweaked the hamstring running through first base trying to beat out a double-play ball. While initially ruled out, he was deemed safe following the replay.
Cervelli was given the reserve catcher's role out of spring training after absolutely mashing in Tampa. That didn't translate to the regular season, as he slashed just .188/.235/.250 with one RBI in 16 at-bats before getting injured.
John Ryan Murphy will now assume Cervelli's role on the roster.
One can't help but wonder if the Yankees aren't kicking themselves for not trading Cervelli when there was interest this spring.
Surprise: Kelly Johnson
Kelly Johnson's swing is made for Yankee Stadium.
The lefty swinger has a nice, looping swing that allows him to get under pitches and lift them into the outfield. Factor in the short porch in right field and the jet-stream effect that occurs in the stadium, and you've got yourself a few extra home runs if you're Johnson.
He was never expected to anchor the lineup when brought aboard this offseason, but Johnson has done a nice job at the plate already. He has three homers and seven RBI through 12 games and has even slashed a respectable .263/.333/.605 in the process.
The batting average of .263 might be maintained, but we'll have to watch the on-base percentage. His career mark is .335, but he has hovered around .310 for the past few seasons.
Johnson is a candidate for 25 homers and 70 RBI as a Yankee as long as he stays healthy. The fact that he has gotten off to a surprisingly hot start suggests that he'll have no troubles adjusting to being a Bomber.
Disappointment: Mark Teixeira
It only took 12 at-bats for Yankees fans to get angry once again at Mark Teixeira.
Teixeira missed nearly all of last season with a wrist injury and the ensuing complications following the injury. He's already back on the disabled list, but this time it isn't his wrist that's causing the trouble.
A hamstring injury has shelved Teixeira until May, in all likelihood. For now, the Yankees will continue to roll with Kelly Johnson at first and Yangervis Solarte at third. Now that Francisco Cervelli is also injured, Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano could get interesting reps at the position as well.
The depth of the Yankees infield was pretty much nonexistent prior to this recent string of injuries, but now there are just glaring holes all over the place. Despite this, Hal Steinbrenner told ESPN.com that his team doesn't need Stephen Drew:
I'm pretty content with our infield right now. I think guys like [Dean] Anna and [Yangervis] Solarte have been pleasant surprises. Kelly Johnson has been good. Derek [Jeter] is healthy. So so far, so good. But it's early.
Whatever you say, Hal.
Surprise: Michael Pineda
Michael Pineda really shouldn't surprise me anymore, especially given his hot spring training. That being said, his start to the regular season still has me surprised.
"Big Mike," as Joe Girardi calls him, has been dominant. In 12.0 innings, Pineda has allowed only nine hits and two walks while striking out 12. His 1.50 ERA is a result of smart pitching and an ability to hit his spots. His slider is also pretty darn nasty.
Pineda has allowed just one run in each of his first two starts, both coming against division rivals. The Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox could not figure him out, and that should bode well for both himself and the team moving forward this season.
Defeating AL East rivals is what is going to give the Yankees the advantage in the division, and Pineda will be a key factor in that fight for the top.
Disappointment: CC Sabathia
I might be one of the only people left that still believes in CC Sabathia.
He's simply too good of a pitcher to struggle this bad for so long. He's off to another slow start in 2014, allowing 21 hits and 14 runs (five home runs) in 19.0 innings this year. He has only walked three and has struck out 21, but hitters are capitalizing when he misses his spots.
Sabathia goes through stretches of dominance during games, but he also goes through similar stretches of futility in the same starts. He simply can't put it all together for one great start.
Velocity loss is really just a small issue. I think it's all in his mentality at this point. Sabathia is a competitor, and all he needs to do is regain that edge that made him so valuable to the Yankees from 2009-2012.
The Yankees are relying on Sabathia to anchor the rotation this year. He needs to turn it around.