NEW YORK YANKEES
Last Year: 95-67, second in AL East
Manager: Joe Girardi
C- Russell Martin (R)
1B- Mark Teixeira (S)
2B- Robinson Cano (L)
3B- Alex Rodriguez (R)
SS- Derek Jeter (R)
LF- Brett Gardner (L)
CF- Curtis Granderson (L)
RF- Nick Swisher (S)
DH- Jorge Posada (S)
The Yankees lineup still had a great year, even when many of its stars had somewhat down.
Robinson Cano had an MVP caliber year in 2010, with a .381 OBP and .531 SLG. He is a star at 28, and will continue to produce at a high level.
A-Rod and Teixiera had down years in terms of batting average, but still were productive. I think Teixiera just had an atypical off year. A-Rod has come into the spring lighter and more flexible and might improve.
Expect Teixiera to have a better year, but A-Rod might put up the same numbers unless he gets more time at DH. Jeter struggled throughout the entire year, hitting more groundballs than ever (that is saying a lot). While Jeter improved his swing, I still think his best years are still behind him.
Granderson also really improved once Kevin Long fixed his swing in August. After that, Granderson went on a tear and he was the Yankees' most consistent hitter in the playoffs. Gardner is a valuable player who sees a ton of pitches and gets on base.
Gardner stole 47 bases last year, a number that he can improve upon in 2011. Much was made of Nick Swisher's resurgence in 2010, however that was not entirely true.
While his batting average went up, his OBP dropped from .371 to .350. I expect him to increase that total in 2011, which is a contract year.
Posada should improve on his numbers from 2010. He should benefit from the rest at DH. Russell Martin has struggled over the last two years, and I don't expect him to return to his All-Star days. Don't be surprised if Jesus Montero takes the starting job from him.
The Yankees have a strong infield defense anchored by the left side of Teixiera and Cano. The range on the right side of the infield does present a problem. Jeter isn't the same, but A-Rod might improve with his offseason conditioning. They do make all the plays in front of them.
Bill James considered Brett Gardner the best LF in baseball, and while he doesn't take the best routes to the ball, his speed makes up for it.
Granderson doesn't make the best reads either, but he does have very good range. Swisher is an average to below average RF. Martin is considered an above average catcher.
C- Francisco Cervelli (R) (on DL for April)
C- Gustavo Molina (R)
OF- Andruw Jones (R)
IF -Eduardo Nunez (R)
IF- Eric Chavez (L)
LHP- CC Sabathia
RHP- AJ Burnett
RHP- Phil Hughes
RHP- Ivan Nova
RHP- Freddy Garcia
The obvious weakness of this team is the starting pitching. It has been well documented how the Yankees failed to get Cliff Lee, and in turn screwed up their entire offseason plan. The SP market was so thin that Cashman even contacted Carl Pavano.
Sabathia is a horse, but has changed the way he has pitched over the last few years. Sabathia does not strike out as many hitters before his big contract. Sabathia has become a groundball inducing machine. Many have feared this trend, but Sabathia does not have many hard hit balls in play. I expect him to continue this success.
The key to the Yankees' season is AJ Burnett. From what has been insinuated by Brian Cashman, Burnett was dealing with some off the field issues last year. That may have led to his disastrous season, but the fact remains that Burnett has always been a question mark.
Burnett's season was not as bad as one might think. His control improved from 4.2 BB/9 to 3.76, and his XFIP was only 4.66 compared to his ERA of 5.26. Burnett may have just had an unlucky year.
Burnett lost his curveball last year, and never was able to record the amount of stirkeouts he was accustomed to and led to more balls put in play that were hits.
My guess is Burnett returns to the regular up-and-down pitcher he has always been, and not the disaster he was in 2010. After Burnett, the Yankees have some real question marks.
Phil Hughes had a very good first half in 2010 and struggled after the All-Star break. Expect Hughes to have a better overall season. Hughes looked tired in the second half, and did not have as many swing and misses on his fastball.
After July, the only time I ever saw that fastball have life like in the first half was against the Twins in the ALDS.
Ivan Nova will slot behind Hughes. He features a 92-95 moving fastball, new slider, good curve, and decent changeup. He doesn't have strikeout stuff, but he should average six every nine innings, and post an ERA around 4.30.
Freddy Garcia is the favorite to win the No. 5 spot. Garcia has only made 51 starts over the last four years, and he is essentially a junkballer now. He only throws his fastball 30 percent of the time, and it is usually hit hard. If Garcia struggles, expect Colon to get the first shot at his spot in the rotation.
RHP- Mariano Rivera (Closer)
RHP- Rafael Soriano
LHP- Boone Logan
LHP- Pedro Feliciano (Will start season on DL)
RHP- David Robertson
RHP- Joba Chamberlain
RHP- Bartolo Colon
RHP- Luis Ayala or LHP- Steve Garrison
When healthy, the Yankees might have the best bullpen in baseball, and it will need to be. Mariano still hasn't slowed down in his 40s, and Rafael Soriano might have been the best closer in baseball last year.
Both of their strikeout rates have decreased last season, but Rivera sometimes has random years where he does not record as many strikeouts.
Soriano developed a cutter last season to mix in with his 93 mph fastball and good slider. They have balance from both sides with Joba and Robertson on the right, and Feliciano and Logan on the left.
Logan learned to harness his control and became an effective setup man against left-handed hitters. Girardi loves to mix and match, and this bullpen will be perfect for his excessive managing.
Much has been made of Joba's "poor" 2010, but that was overblown by the press. His ERA was inflated to a few very poor outings. His K/BB ratio was still an impressive 3.5, and his XFIP was 3.30.
Joba started throwing in the mid 90's again, and his slider still had very good break down and away from a right-handed batter. Robertson will strike out more than a hitter per inning with his low 90's fastball and very good 12-6 curveball.
Colon will be a swingman who could give some innings if a starter does not go deep in a game. Ayala and Garrison will fill a roster spot until Feliciano comes back from the DL.
NOTABLE NON-ROSTER INVITEES
RHP- Freddy Garcia
RHP- Bartolo Colon
RHP- Mark Prior
RHP- Luis Ayala
C- Gustavo Molina (R)
IF- Ronnie Belliard (R)
IF- Eric Chavez (L)
BREAKOUT PLAYER - Jesus Montero
Here is the Yankees catching situation: Russell Martin is coming off of knee surgery, Posada has been relegated to DH duties, and Francisco Cervelli just isn't very good. The other two Yankee catching prospects, Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez, aren't ready yet.
I see Cervelli struggling again, and Montero having a hot start to begin the season in AAA. I expect Montero to be with the club in June.
There is no question Montero can hit, but the jury is still out on whether he can handle a pitching staff. No matter the question mark, there is no way he could have been as bad as Posada was last year.
PROSPECT TO WATCH - RHP Andrew Brackman
Banuelos got much of the attention this spring but I think Andrew Brackman may help this team some time this year. Brackman was the Yankees' first round pick in 2007. He missed 2008 with Tommy John surgery, struggled with his command in 2009, and bounced back in 2010.
Many have said he looked great in camp. Let's see what happens in the minors, and if he performs well, there might be a job for him.
PROJECTED FINISH: Second in AL East
The Yankees just don't have the starting pitching to take the division from the Red Sox. Cashman will be on the phone this summer trying to acquire another starter, and the Yankees have the prospects to acquire a big time pitcher.
I just don't know if one will be out there. If the Cardinals fall out of the race early, I could see Chris Carpenter becoming available.