New York Yankees: Projecting the Full Starting Lineup and Rotation for 2011
After an embarrassing ALCS loss to the Rangers, their inability to sign key players and losing both Kerry Wood and the heart of the New York Yankees, Andy Pettitte, the Yankees have had an offseason filled with both disappointment and discouragement.
With questionable pitchers (A.J. Burnett) and players (Derek Jeter) not playing up to par, the Yankees are in need of an aid to their troubling situation.
Unless the Yankees can magically sign an ace pitcher with the caliber of CC Sabathia or postseason Pettitte, the Yankees will need some type of change to ensure a successful season. That success can all come down to both the starting lineup and rotation.
Here is a projection of both the starting lineup and rotation for the 2011 season.
1. Derek Jeter
I know what you are all thinking about having Derek Jeter as the leadoff hitter, especially after his 2010 season. Having him as leadoff hitter would be an obvious mistake, but realistically, Jeter is not going to be placed sixth or seventh in the lineup. Therefore, he will most likely be in this position once again.
Having his worst season in 2010 with a .270 batting average and declining in hits from 2009, I would personally like to see Jeter more towards the end of the rotation, as do many others. However, spending most of his years on the Yankees at the top of the lineup, Jeter would not settle for anything less, he is most likely there to stay for the upcoming season.
After coming off his worst season and anticipating his 3,000th hit, the captain has an opportunity to rebound and play to his full potential.
With this in mind (and trying to stay positive) Jeter may actually be a good choice as leadoff hitter. He had 179 hits last season, more than Gardner (132) and Swisher (163) who were both considered for the leadoff spot.
With only 10 home runs, 30 doubles and three triples last season, this may be best position for Jeter this season. Also, with Jeter's ability to easily get out by double plays, this may be the best spot for him.
2. Nick Swisher
Just like the 2010 lineup, (I promise, after Swisher you will see changes) I would place Swisher number two.
With an on base percentage of .359 and 163 hits, Swisher was great in the position last season and will continue that success this season.
Swisher hit 29 home runs, 33 doubles and three triples last season. With Derek Jeter hopefully playing up to par, Swisher's ability to hit home runs, doubles and his dependency as a hitter, can give the Yankees both an early lead and a good setup for the following hitter.
Swisher had his best season last year and I expect nothing less this season.
3. Robinson Cano
It would be a mistake for the Yankees to place Cano anywhere but in the number three position. He is one of their best hitters and he should be recognized for that. Playing clearly better than Teixeira last season, Cano deserves this spot.
With an outstanding 200 hits, 29 home runs, 41 doubles and 3 triples, Cano will provide both strength and consistency to the rotation. He had his highest OBP this season (.381) and a batting average of .319. He continues to remain dependent and improves as a player each upcoming year.
Only 28 years old, Cano has a long and successful career ahead of him. It is time to make a drastic change in the rotation, and moving Cano will provide a much needed change.
4. Alex Rodriguez
As far as Alex Rodriguez goes, there should be no changes.
If one or two of the first three players are having trouble getting on the base or advancing into scoring position, Rodriguez will be there, as he was in the past, to hit and drive in runs.
Despite the fact that his last season was definitely not his best, Rodriguez is still a major contribution to the team. He drove in 30 home runs, 29 doubles,142 hits and three grand slams, adding to an overall of 21, placing him third behind both Ramirez and Gehrig. With only two more grand slams to tie, A-rod has his opportunity to accomplish that feat this season and in this position.
He is untouchable.
5. Mark Teixeira
After a disappointing season, Teixieria should take over Cano's former position.
In 2010, Texieria posted a batting average of .256, the worst in his career. He had 154 hits, 36 doubles, 33 home runs and no triples. Removing the first baseman from the pressures of being the Yankees’ “go-to hitter” will result in Teixeria being more comfortable on the plate and hopefully more reliable this season.
Teixeria is a great first baseman and a clutch hitter; however, giving up his spot to Cano can give the Yankees the change they need to improve from last season.
Cano should be given the credit he deserves and if all goes well for Teixeria this season, he can always be moved back to third, he just needs the drive and previous success to do so.
6. Brett Gardner
In Brett Gardner's three years on the Yankees he has contributed to them in more ways than one.
Gardner posted an overall .268 batting average and 228 hits. He improved dramatically from his first two seasons on the team going from 67 hits, six doubles and six triples in 2009 to 132 hits, 20 doubles and seven triples in the 2010 season.
Gardner is drastically improving and his exceptional outfield performance and speed makes him a great player to follow up Teixeria. If Gardner keeps it up, he may one day soon be leadoff hitter himself.
7. Jorge Posada
As a member of the core four, Jorge Posada is respected for his endless contributions throughout the years, especially in regards to his position as catcher. Despite this, I do not believe he should be given a DH position full-time when there are other players on the team who can pose a greater threat. However, Posada is a DH and when placed in the lineup, he should be seventh.
In 2010, Posada recorded a batting average of .248, 95 hits, 23 double plays and one triple. With Posada able to get doubles, this can put Gardner in scoring position, setting up a play for the next two hitters.
Because he is the slowest runner in the rotation, Posada would be more suited in this position than towards the further end of the rotation where speed is needed most.
8. Jesus Montero
The eighth position belongs to newcomer Jesus Montero. With him and Granderson (sorry for giving it away) at the end of the lineup, they will give the Yankees the kick they need to ensure runs. Let's look at the damage this newcomer can do.
In four seasons, Montero posted a .314 batting average, 449 hits, 99 doubles, 21 home runs and an on base percentage of .353. Montero improved in the 2010 season and deserves his spot on the Yankees roster.
I am personally excited to see what this player will bring to the plate and I believe eighth in the lineup is a good starting position for Montero, especially with Granderson behind him.
The 21-year-old has been named the Yankees' second best prospect and Baseball America’s third best prospect in 2009. He has a long and successful future ahead of him and I would not be surprised if he stuck with the Yankees and made his way up in the lineup very soon.
9. Curtis Granderson
Due to Curtis Granderson's dependability and speed, he should be placed ninth in the lineup.
Granderson had a disappointing 2010 season, declining in batting average, runs, home runs, etc. Granderson, however, has had his slumps in the past and has made up for them in the future. An example of this would be in 2006 where Granderson posted a .260 batting average and rebounded back the following year with a .302, where he also led in triples that year with 23.
His ability to drive in runs for the back end of the starting lineup and his ability to get on base can have Jeter picking up right where Granderson left off and so on.
At 29, Granderson has the opportunity to rebound like he had so many times before.
Starting Rotation: 1. C.C. Sabathia
Was there ever any doubt that Sabathia wouldn't be first in the rotation? Probably not.
Coming off the 2010 season strong, Sabathia was one of the only players to perform to their full potential. He recorded a 3.18 ERA, allowed only 92 runs and had a WHIP of 1.191.
He helped bring the Yankees to their 2009 World Series title and ever since he has been on the team he has been their only consistent pitcher.
When C.C is on the mound there is no need to worry, the ball is in his hands and he knows exactly what to do with it.
After everything he has done for the Yankees and for the other teams throughout the years, Sabathia deserves to be number one in the rotation.
If this is Sabathia’s last season on the Yankees, it will take them a long time to find a pitcher who can possess the ability and skill as Sabathia has brought to the Yankees throughout the years.
2. Phil Hughes
When Hughes is up to pitch there is always a little doubt in the back of my mind on if he will pitch well. Proving he is a great reliever, the Yankees gave him a chance as a starter again and although his performance has been questionable throughout the years, his performance last year makes him a reliable number two.
He recorded a 4.19 ERA in the 2010 season coming off the season with both confidence and poise. Unfortunately, the postseason got the best of him, as it did with many of the other players, and Hughes posted an 11.42 ERA.
Despite this bump in the road, Hughes is young, healthy and most definitely capable of an even better improvement than the improvement he made last season.
3. A.J. Burnett
Number three in the rotation would be A.J. Burnett. In his 12 seasons as a pitcher, Burnett has posted a 3.99 ERA and the worst ERA in his career least season, 5.26.
As we have all seen by his performance this season, Burnett is not the most reliable and dependent pitcher on the team, but hey, the man can rebound.
In 2002, Burnett rebounded from his 2001 ERA of 4.05 to an ERA of 3.30. He did the same in 2004 when he rebounded from a 4.70 ERA to a 3.68 ERA the following season.
There is no predicting what the outcome of this season will be for Burnett, all we can do is hope for the best and hopefully Burnett can relieve himself of the pressure or whatever may be causing him to pitch the way he did this past season.
We need Burnett now more than ever.
4. Freddy Garcia
Freddy Garcia would be a solid number four for the Yankees' starting rotation.
With 12 seasons of experience under his belt, Garcia has proved that he is a dominant starter. He has maintained a consistent ERA throughout the years, despite in 2007 where he posted a 5.90 ERA. Thankfully, Garcia rebounded in 2008 with a 4.20, proving that he cannot be defeated my any means.
Starting Garcia would also be a smart decision due to his postseason experience. In three seasons and seven series, Garcia recorded a 3.11 ERA.
He has remained consistent and he has proved that he possesses the potential of starting this upcoming season.
5. Ivan Nova
For the final position in the rotation, the spot should be given to Ivan Nova.
The 24-year-old pitched one season for the Yankees where he posed a 4.50 ERA. Nova proved his potential in the minors and was called up to the majors. Getting the major league nerves out of the way last season, Nova should be good to go in 2011, hopefully pitching brilliantly.
It would be a wise decision for the Yankees to give Nova a spot in the rotation over Colon and Mitre. With Mitre's inconsistency putting them into more trouble at times and Colon's age, having this young addition to the rotation would make it more dominant.
The Yankees have made many few changes to the roster this offseason that will benefit them. Let's hope they can change the lineup and starting rotation in a clever way.