So many question marks remain for the Yankees this off-season.
Will Cliff Lee go for the money in the Bronx, or will he stay close to home and return to Texas? Will Derek Jeter be in a different uniform next season, and if so who is the starting shortstop for the Yankees? Is Andy Pettitte coming back for one last title run? Will Posada, Montero or Cervelli be the starting catcher? What is the bullpen going to look like?
Those are the hot topics around the Yankees camp this winter, and who knows how they will all turn out?
This is how I see things stacking up for the Yankees when they face the Detroit Tigers on March 31, 2011.
1. LF Brett Gardner: Takes over lead-off spot in the lineup after proving his ability to hit consistently in the big leagues last year. Adds a ton of speed and athleticism.
2. SS Derek Jeter: Coming off of his worst year offensively, Joe Girardi will move him back to his traditional two-hole in the lineup, hoping the Captain can bounce back and turn in a solid performance. He is also looking for his 3,000th career hit.
3. 2B Robinson Cano: He gets a promotion to number three in the lineup after posting MVP caliber numbers last year behind Mark Teixeira and A-Rod, plus his higher batting average and on-base percentage fits the spot better than Teixeira.
4. 3B Alex Rodriguez: A-Rod remains the cleanup man after leading the team in RBI last year, and should do the same in 2011.
5. 1B Mark Teixeira: Perhaps one of the players happiest to begin a new season, because 2010 was dreadful. He got off to a terrible start, couldn’t rebound and finished with his career-worst BA of .256, certainly not good enough to remain in the three-hole.
6. RF Nick Swisher: Coming off the best season of his career, Swish will look to continue his success at the plate and cash in on it, because 2011 is a contract year for him.
7. DH Jorge Posada: The change had to be made at some point, and Jorge might as well ride out his last season in comfort, taking over as the primary DH.
8. C Jesus Montero: The star prospect that we have all been hearing about and waiting for will get his chance to live up to all the hype and show his true potential on the brightest stage in all of baseball, Yankee Stadium.
9. CF Curtis Granderson: Curtis revamped his swing and finally warmed up to the pinstripes at the end of last year, and I expect a big season out of him in 2011. His combination of speed and power could land him in the leadoff spot if Gardner can’t handle it.
1. CC Sabathia: He’s the ace of the staff and arguably the MVP of the Yankees last year, being the one constant in the starting rotation all year.
2. Cliff Lee: The Yankees have the most money and that’s what Lee wants, so I believe he will be in pinstripes next season. If he is, the Yankees certainly have the best one-two punch in baseball, which always helps in the postseason.
3. Phil Hughes: Coming off an 18-win season in 2010, look for him to improve in 2011 without the innings limit.
4. Andy Pettitte: You can’t say enough about his performance last year when he was healthy. An unfortunate groin injury halted the best start to a season in his career, and Cliff Lee out-dueled him in the ALCS, but that just might drive him to give it one more shot in 2011.
5. A.J. Burnett: A repeat of 2010 simply cannot happen for A.J. The Yankees can’t afford to drop him from the starting rotation or trade him away due to his $16 million salary. Larry Rothschild thought Carlos Zambrano was a hard case. Wait until he gets a load of this guy.
Good luck, Larry.
CL Mariano Rivera: The Sandman will be back and probably just as good as always, looking to join Trevor Hoffman in the 600 saves club.
David Robertson: With Kerry Wood likely gone, Robertson will look to fill the void with his high strikeout ratio.
Joba Chamberlain: He was the eighth inning man last year, but too many blowouts quickly dropped him from that role. The Yankees have not given up completely on him and still feel he has value, so we shall see what happens next year but he could be on the move at the trade deadline.
Boone Logan: The lefty specialist was probably the best part of the Javier Vazquez trade last off-season, and he looks to carry over his success from 2010 to 2011.
Alfredo Aceves: He wasn’t much of a factor last season, having been injured early but according to recent reports he is healthy and expected back in 2011. He played a big role in 2009 and is vital to the bullpen’s success.
IF Eduardo Nunez: Has a solid bat and can play the infield and possibly the corner outfield positions if needed.
C Francisco Cervelli: Doesn’t add much with the bat, but is full of energy behind the plate and pitchers seem to feel comfortable with him. However, with Montero the starting catcher and Posada the DH, Cervelli might see his playing time severely reduced if Posada fills in for Montero.
OF Colin Curtis: Has some pop with the bat, but will be used primarily as a late defensive substitution.
IF Brandon Laird: A big run producer in the minors and could add a strong bat to the big league bench, but he certainly doesn’t have the versatility of Ramiro Pena.
That’s what my 2011 opening day Yankees lineup look like, but obviously March 31 is a long ways away and much could change between now and then.