The New York Yankees season ended prematurely with a disappointing Game 5 loss to the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS.
Despite this the Yankees have a very bright future ahead of them. With aging stars, such as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, entering their final years more players must step up in order for the Yankees to remain one of the games elite teams.
Lets see some bold predictions for the 2012 season.
Most people expect Justin Verlander to win not only this year's but also next year's AL Cy Young Award, but most people forget that CC Sabathia has won one already and is a legitimate ace.
Expect Sabathia to enter the season in much better shape and prove that he is deserving of his new contract. Lets just hope that Joe Girardi does not throw off Sabathia's rhythm by instituting another six-man rotation because he was much worse after the switch.
Sabathia in 2011 with Five-Man Rotation:
24 starts, 176.2IP, 16-5, 2.55ERA
Sabathia in 2011 with Five-Man Rotation:
Nine starts, 60.2IP, 3-3, 4.35ERA
Expect over 20 wins and an ERA under 2.60 for Sabathia in 2012.
Robinson Cano has become the Yankees best player. He hit .302 while hitting 28HRs and 118RBIs.
The best part about him is that he carried that success to the postseason by hitting .318 with 2HRs and 9RBIs in 5 games against the Tigers.
Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Bautista, Miguel Cabrera and Curtis Granderson will have big seasons once again in 2012 but Robinson Cano will rise above them. Expect Robinson Cano to hit around .320 while hitting 35HRs and 130RBI.
Alex Rodriguez is the most overpaid player in the majors, he is narcissistic and had an awful season, especially in the playoffs, but he is a very good player.
Alex Rodriguez's streak of 13-straight seasons of 30HRs and 100RBIs was broken last year due to a torn meniscus that forced him to play only 99 games all season. I expect Rodriguez to play more DH to increase his rest, which should help his power.
Ivan Nova had an incredible rookie season and will be in contention for AL Rookie of the Year. He capped his great season by out-pitching Doug Fister in Game 1 (part 2) of the ALDS before he was pulled in the second inning of Game 5 with forearm tightness.
The good news is that Nova will not need surgery on his arm this offseason.
Despite his stellar season (16-4, 3.70ERA) some people doubt him by calling him the next Phil Hughes but Nova an Hughes are in no way similar. Nova was not a highly touted prospect and was not shuffled around between the rotation and bullpen.
Due to this the Yankees will be rewarded with a legitimate No. 2 starter behind CC Sabathia. Expect Nova to win about 18 games while posting an ERA south of 3.20.
Lets focus on the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
Rafael Soriano might have been the most disappointing pitcher in the majors in 2011 but he did show that he could handle seventh inning duties by posting a 1.93ERA in the postseason, albeit in only 4.2 innings of work.
Soriano is still has closer stuff and to have a player like that pitching in the seventh innings is a luxury the Yankees will need to lean on due to the rotation issues.
David Robertson burst onto the scene last year by posting a 1.08ERA and striking out 100 batters in 66.2 innings. He is the heir apparent of Mariano Rivera but until then he is the best set-up man in the majors.
Perhaps his most impressive stat is his 0.25ERA on the road. Expect him to show that "Houdini" is no fluke by having a very similar season in 2012.
The best reliever of all-time, and perhaps the greatest pitcher of our generation, will once again be closing the door in the 9th inning. He once again posted an ERA under 2.00, a WHIP under 0.90 and saved 40 games.
But the question is how much longer can he go? In a perfect world he and Derek Jeter would retire at the same time, but Rivera will not wait if he no longer thinks he can dominate.
One thing is for sure, he will be pitching in New York in 2012 but will he sign another deal after the season is anybody's guess.
Brett Gardner was robbed this year.
Despite every single statistical advantage, except assists, somehow Brett Gardner lost out to Alex Gordon for the AL Gold Glove for left field. He will only use this loss as a reason to work even harder on defense, making him the clear cut choice for the Gold Glove in 2012.
Brett Gardner stole 49 bases last year, second only to Michael Bourn, despite only hitting .259. If he can get that batting average up to about .280 then he should be on-base more, which in turn will increase his number of stolen bases.
Despite hitting only .262 Curtis Granderson hit 41HRs in 2011, mostly due to the short right porch in Yankee Stadium. With another offseason under the teaching of Kevin Long expect Granderson to refine his swing even more in order to put more balls in play, which in turn will create more home run opportunities.
Mark Teixeira's batting average has dropped from .308 in 2008 to .292 in 2009 to .256 in 2010 and to .248 in 2011.
This has to change.
Expect Mark Teixeira to put in long hours in with hitting coach Kevin Long in order to re-learn "how to hit the ball the other way" and stop trying to pull the ball out of the park at every at-bat.
I expect this to work and although Teixeira's home run numbers will drop his RBIs and batting average will increase dramatically.
This may not be the boldest prediction because despite the Yankees not having much of a pitching rotation and losing their last four games with their backups, the Yankees won 97 games and the AL East but as the Red Sox showed just because you have the talent does not mean you are guaranteed to succeed.
The Yankees will once again have one of the most talented teams in the majors and will have the veteran experience to propel them to No. 28 by rolling through the Rangers in the ALDS, Red Sox in ALCS and finally the Phillies in an epic rematch of the 2009 World Series.