New York Yankees: 10 Predictions for 2012

Phillip BrownSenior Analyst IINovember 27, 2011

New York Yankees: 10 Predictions for 2012

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    The New York Yankees were knocked out of the 2011 postseason by the Detroit Tigers in five games in the ALDS. So, the Yankees will probably change up their team in order to succeed in 2012. Will it work? Nobody knows but we can always speculate.

    The 2012 season has yet to start but it is never to early for some season predictions.

Yankees Trade for a Frontline Starter

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    The Yankees have a weak starting rotation.

    CC Sabathia is a sure thing to pitch for 220 innings with 20 wins and an ERA around 3.00 but other than that, do the Yankees have another pitcher you wholeheartedly trust? Ivan Nova might fit that bill but he has only 207.1 innings in the major leagues under his belt. Yes, they have been very impressive, but I would be much more comfortable if Nova was the Yankees' No. 3 starter instead of their No. 2.

    Outside of Sabathia and Nova the Yankees have Phil Hughes, who is inconsistent but has shown some promise, AJ Burnett, who has great stuff but is a headcase, and Freddy Garcia, who was excellent last year but did fall off after the All-Star break.

    Now let's turn to possible trade targets. If I were Brian Cashman, I would focus on Tim Lincecum, Gio Gonzalez, Josh Johnson and Felix Hernandez. Let's say the Mariners refuse to trade Hernandez and the Marlins refuse to trade Johnson because they need to fill seats in their new ballpark—that narrows it down to Lincecum and Gonzalez.

    Tim Lincecum is one of the seven best pitchers in the majors in my opinion, with Verlander, Kershaw, Hernandez, Sabathia, Lee and Halladay. So, in order to trade for him it will take a huge return. If I was Cashman I would start off a package with Jesus Montero, Dellin Betances, Phil Hughes and Nick Swisher and see what the Giants GM, Brian Sabean, says.

    Gio Gonzalez would cost considerably less but he is still a very good pitcher. Gonzalez is a 26-year-old lefty with a 94 mph fastball, two straight seasons of 200-plus innings of work, a 3.17 ERA in those seasons and is under team control for four more years. If Brian Sabean nixes a trade for Lincecum, the next person on the phone should be Billy Beane.

Continued Struggles Against the Red Sox

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    Unfortunately, the New York Yankees went 6-12 against the Boston Red Sox in 2011.

    This mostly was due to their predominately left-handed pitchers and batters. The Red Sox may have lost Jonathan Papelbon and David Ortiz could be on his way out as well, but if Clay Buchholz comes back from his fractured back, I don't see this changing until the Yankees can become a more complete team.

    If the Yankees grab an ace, like Tim Lincecum, I can see the Yankees and Red Sox splitting the season series but if they do not, then the Red Sox will probably have the advantage yet again.

Ivan Nova Improves Greatly

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    Ivan Nova went 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 2011. That is very good but I think he can do better, as seen by his 3.18 ERA after the All-Star break.

    Ivan Nova may not have that same incredible winning percentage but I think his ERA will drop down to about 3.20 mainly due to substantial improvements to his 5.3 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9. Not only will Nova improve in the regular season, but his postseason will be one to remember—think Andy Pettitte in 2000.

Alex Rodriguez Has a Comeback Season

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    Alex Rodriguez had surgery on his meniscus last year and missed over a month. Despite his injury, he was on pace to hit 29 home runs and drive in 101 runs. If Rodriguez's knee is truly healthy I expect him to continue to be a star in the majors, hitting at least 35 home runs and driving in 110 runs.

    Rodriguez has always been very good with a glove and despite his knee injury last year, he had a 20.2 UZR/150, which is the best of his career. While I do not expect him to keep that up and win a Gold Glove, I do expect him to be a Gold Glove finalist and show that he can stay at third base for at least two or three more years.

Rafael Soriano Justifies His Contract

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    Rafael Soriano was signed to a three-year $35 million deal last offseason against Brian Cashman's wishes, and it did not go well. Soriano got injured and when he did come back he was the seventh-inning man, not the setup man the Yankees were looking for.

    Rafael Soriano showed how dominant he can be by posting a 1.93 ERA against the Detroit Tigers in the postseason. I expect him to keep that up and solidify the seventh inning and in doing so, give the Yankees the best bullpen in baseball.

CC Sabathia Wins the AL Cy Young Award

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    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.

    I expect CC Sabathia to enter 2012 in much better shape and prove that he is deserving of his new contract. Let's 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, 176.2 IP, 16-5, 2.55 ERA

    Sabathia in 2011 with Six-Man Rotation:
    9 starts, 60.2 IP, 3-3, 4.35 ERA

    Expect over 20 wins and an ERA under 2.60 for Sabathia in 2012.

Yankees Win the AL East

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    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.

    If the Yankees do trade for an ace, then the Yankees will be the runaway favorite to win the AL East.

Yankees Win the World Series

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    This is the only thing that matters on this list in the long run.

    If the Yankees trade for an ace, like Tim Lincecum, then they will become the favorites to win the 2012 World Series but as we saw last year, neither of the preseason favorites—Red Sox and Phillies—even made the World Series.

    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 the ALCS and finally the Phillies in an epic rematch of the 2009 World Series.

Mariano Rivera Retires After the Season

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    Mariano Rivera will have a great season in 2012, but I think he will walk away from the game.

    I expect Mariano Rivera to finish his illustrious career with just over 650 career saves, as the best relief pitcher of all time, as the best pitcher of our generation and the best postseason pitcher we have ever seen. Rivera will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and will find himself in Monument Park.

    I think Rivera's career will end by striking out the last batter in the World Series. It may be a little storybook, but that is how I think Mo's great career should and will end.

David Robertson Takes Over as Closer

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    When Mariano Rivera retires somebody will have a big job to fill his shoes. That person is David Robertson.

    The 26-year-old righty showed he can handled New York by posting a 1.08 ERA and striking out 100 batters in 66.2 innings. Robertson may not see that kind of success in 2012 but I do think he will be dominant yet again.

    David Robertson may not be Mo but he will be the next best thing.