New York Yankees: 1 Bold Prediction for Every Player on the 25-Man Roster

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistMarch 7, 2012

New York Yankees: 1 Bold Prediction for Every Player on the 25-Man Roster

0 of 32

    New York does bold better than anyone else.

    Our food is bold—we dare you to finish a Carnegie Deli sandwich in one sitting.

    Our celebrations are bold—from New Year's Eve in Times Square to a victory parade down the Canyon of Heroes.

    The fact is, New York does it bigger and better than anyone else.

    So when I was asked to come up with a bold prediction for each member of the Yankees' 25-man roster, my first reaction?


    Just covering the 25-man roster isn't bold enough.

    No, the readers of B/R demand more.

    So we will look at the 25-man roster—but we will also look at the guys who will start the year on the disabled list, some prospects and maybe a move or two along the way.

    Enough posturing—let's do this.

Russell Martin Will Flirt with the Mendoza Line

1 of 32

    Russell Martin may have had a power renaissance in 2011, but his batting average continues its precipitous drop into dangerous territory.

    Since hitting .293 in 2007, Martin's average has slipped in each successive year: .280 in 2008, .250 in 2009, .248 in 2010 and .237 last year for the Yankees.

    That's not a promising trend, and there is no reason to expect things to get better in 2012.

    Couple his downward spiral with his impending free agency, and Martin could start to press at the plate.

    While he has gone on the record stating that he wants to remain a Yankee: “I love being here. Just the guys, the organization, the way they handle their business, it’s a fun environment,” he and his agent were unable to reach an agreement on a long-term deal this winter.

    “What they want to do is not something we want to do, and what we want to do is not something they want to do. But we’ll continue talking,” said Martin's agent Matt Colleran.

    Brian Cashman was pretty clear about where the team stands on things: “I’m willing to make a commitment to Russell Martin, under the right circumstances.”

    Martin may finish the year with 15 or 20 home runs, but it'll come with a Rob Deer-esque batting average, and if he lets his impending free agency get into his head, Martin could finish the year below the Mendoza line.

Mark Teixeira Will Buck the Trend

2 of 32

    Mark Teixeira isn't clutch.

    There, I said it.

    "I’d hate for people to say I’m not clutch," Teixeira told reporters last week. "But the fact is I’m not getting a lot of hits in the postseason."

    The stats don't lie.

    Over 27 games, Teixeira is hitting .170 with three home runs and 12 RBI. His .276 OBP and .578 OPS are equally as bad.

    But wait, there's more.

    If you take out the one series that he actually showed up ready to hit in, the 2010 ALDS against the Minnesota Twins, the numbers are even more alarming—a .151 average with a .266 OBP, .578 OPS, two home runs and nine RBI.

    But this year, Tex is going to break out of his slump.

    With the help of Yankees' hitting coach Kevin Long, he has closed his batting stance, something they hope will allow him to drive the ball with authority.

    He's also dropped 15 pounds from last season, which Texeira thinks will be a big help in 2012: "I can already tell there’s a difference in the way I feel," Teixeira said. "I definitely felt tired at the end of last season; September wasn’t fun. I’m hoping this will keep me strong throughout the year."

    He'll have a big postseason in 2012, hitting well over .300 and flashing the plate discipline and power that made him the superstar he was when the Yankees signed him.

Robinson Cano Will Win the AL MVP Award

3 of 32

    By anyone's standards, Robinson Cano had a great year in 2011.

    He hit .302 with 28 home runs, 118 RBIs and solidified his place as the best second baseman in baseball.

    Cano spent the offseason working on being more selective at the plate.

    “My biggest weakness is chasing pitches that I know I should lay off,” Cano told reporters last week.

    Now set to bat third in the Yankees lineup, Cano thinks that having Alex Rodriguez hitting behind him can only help things: “You’ve got A-Rod hitting behind know what he’s capable of doing and what kind of hitter he is.”

    With Cano intent on not getting himself out as much as he's done in the past, his numbers and the status of his name around the game will continue to increase.

    Robinson Cano, 2012 American League Most Valuable Player sounds about right.

Alex Rodriguez Will Have a Big Season

4 of 32

    Although he has five years remaining on his contract after the 2012 season, it's fair to say that Alex Rodriguez's days as a superstar player in baseball are coming to an end.

    A-Rod is coming off of a dreadful 2011 campaign that saw him put out his lowest offensive numbers since first breaking into the league in 1994 and 1995 with the Seattle Mariners.

    But Alex Rodriguez isn't done quite yet.

    After spending the offseason receiving Orthokine therapy in Germany on his knee and shoulder, A-Rod mentioned to reporters that he was able to work out at an intensity that he'd not been able to reach in years.

    That being said, he was quick to not get ahead of himself after an impressive 2012 debut against the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday:

    “Last year, I stood here and had a really good spring and felt really good and the results during the year weren’t what we all wanted. But one day at a time. It’s a good start and hopefully, the first of many more games to come.”

    Sandwiched between Robinson Cano and Mark Texeira in the Yankees lineup, A-Rod should be able to produce big numbers—a .300 average, 30 home runs and 120 RBIs are certainly attainable numbers for the man who was, at one time, the best player in the game.

Derek Jeter Will Silence His Critics—Again

5 of 32

    I took some abuse last season in my defense of Derek Jeter.

    When I said at the beginning of May that fans needed to get off of Jeter's case, I was called a homer.

    When I called the fans and media out for having a double standard when it came to Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, I was told to sit down and be quiet.

    All Jeter did following the All-Star break was hit .331 with a .384 OBP, .831 OPS, four home runs and 41 RBIs.

    Like I tried to explain at the beginning of last season—Derek Jeter has plenty of gas left in the tank.

    The captain tried to explain as much when he arrived at spring training:

    “If I didn’t think I was capable of playing at a high level then I would go home. If I wasn’t enjoying myself, enjoying the competition, then it would be time to go home...Right now I think I’m capable and enjoying myself. I have a lot of confidence. If that starts to waver, then I wouldn’t do it.”

    Derek Jeter is getting older, there is no denying that..

    But Jeter has never given people a reason to doubt him—he's not once ever been disingenuous with the fans or the media.

    So when he says that he can perform at a high level—at a Derek Jeter level—there is no reason to doubt him.

    Not only don't I doubt him, but I say that his performance in the second half of the 2011 season is a precursor of things to come.

    Derek Jeter will win the 2012 AL batting title.

Brett Gardner Will Steal Three Bases in the Same Inning

6 of 32

    You read that correctly.

    It is a feat that has only been accomplished 24 times in the history of baseball, accomplished by 19 players.

    Ty Cobb did it four times, and Devon White was the last player to pull it off, against the Baltimore Orioles in 1989 as a member of the California Angels.

    But in 2012, Brett Gardner will become the 20th player to steal second base, third base and home plate in the same inning.

    To make it an even bolder prediction, he'll do it against the Boston Red Sox.

Curtis Granderson Will Hit 50 Home Runs

7 of 32

    Entering 2012, Curtis Granderson is realistic about what lies ahead.

    "There's always room to improve across the board, no matter what. Could I do it again? The answer is, it is possible," Granderson told reporters last week. "Could I do better? It is possible. Could I do worse? That's also possible, too. They're all options."

    Granderson had a MVP-caliber season in 2011, hitting .269 with 41 home runs, 119 RBI and 136 runs scored—the last two numbers leading the league.

    Of his 41 home runs, 25 came in the first half of the season—Granderson's numbers in the second half were slightly down across the board.

    With Robinson Cano hitting behind him this season, teams are going to have no choice but to pitch to Granderson—and he will capitalize.

Nick Swisher Will Hit His First Grand Slam as a Yankee

8 of 32

    Since becoming a Yankee in 2009, Nick Swisher has stepped to the plate with the bases loaded 64 times.

    He has a .226 average with three doubles, seven walks, three sacrifice flies and 36 RBIs.

    Aside from spending his offseason trying to get into optimal physical shape, Swisher decided to spend time working on the mental part of the game as well, and he was open about the time he has spent with a sports psychologist:

    "When you talk to these guys, they start spinning your mind and making you think of things you normally wouldn’t think of. I wanted to work on all the things I was bad at; my mental game was something I wanted to get better."

    Being a threat at the plate in the postseason is certainly one part of Swisher's game that we can label as "bad"—and his production with the bases loaded would be another.

    Entering his walk year, Swisher seems to be focused on coming through in big spots for the Yankees in 2012.

    A bases-clearing blast into the bleachers would fit that criteria, and Swisher will finally get off the schneid with the bases loaded.

Raul Ibanez Will Put Up 30 Home Runs and 100 RBIs

9 of 32

    While fans wanted to see the return of Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui to the Bronx, Brian Cashman and the Yankees ultimately decided to bring in 39-year-old Raul Ibanez to serve as the left-handed designated hitter against right-handed pitchers.

    "He's a guy that's hit right-handers very well over his career, can still play the outfield," manager Joe Girardi told reporters at the onset of spring training.

    As we can see from his 2011 hitting charts, the majority of the balls Ibanez put into play headed to the right side of the field—and the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium plays right into his strengths.

    Ibanez will bat somewhere from fifth to eighth in the lineup, so chances are that there will be runners on base when he comes to the plate.

    A 30 HR, 100 RBI season is certainly attainable for the aging slugger.

Andruw Jones Will Hit .300 Against Lefties

10 of 32

    Far removed from being thought of as one of the best center fielders in the game, 35-year-old Andruw Jones says that he is fully recovered from offseason knee surgery to correct an issue that limited him in 2011: “I feel great. I’ve been running a lot. My goal was to get back in great playing shape and be a little lighter on my legs so I can go out there and play any time they call my name.”

    Against left-handed pitching in 2011, Jones hit .286 with a .924 OPS and eight home runs in 126 at bats.

    Now that his knee is no longer an issue, Joe Girardi envisions using Jones in a variety of roles, not just as a designated hitter: “You look at Andruw and the defense that he’s played over the years, maybe he’s not what he was when he was 24, 25 years old but he still really knows how to play the outfield."

    Jones will see more playing time in 2012 than he did in 2011, and with that will come increased production against left-handed pitching.

    A .300 average against southpaws is in the cards for Jones in 2012.

Francisco Cervelli Will Hit for the Cycle

11 of 32

    After having his 2011 season cut short by concussion problems, Francisco Cervelli reported to spring training in good health and good spirits.

    I feel great,” Cervelli told reporters last week.. “I don’t have any symptoms. The first two concussions were two days and that’s it. This one was a longer one, but there is no problem with my brain.”

    With his concussion issues hopefully behind him, Cervelli can turn his focus to familiarizing himself with the Yankees' pitchers and getting himself ready to fill in behind the plate for Russell Martin once a week.

    Cervelli is not exceptionally fast, nor does he possess out-of-this-world power, but he has enough of both that he is a threat when he comes to the plate.

    Last year, he hit four home runs and stole four bases. In 2010, he did not go deep once, but had three triples.

    2012 is the year when it will all come together for the 26-year-old, and he will do something that has not been accomplished by a Yankee since Melky Cabrera in 2009—hit for the cycle.

Eric Chavez Will Avoid the Disabled List

12 of 32

    Injuries have limited Eric Chavez to 212 games over the past five years—that's 42 games a season.

    With the Yankees in 2011, the 34-year-old Chavez was having a solid season before injuring himself and missing nearly three months of the season.

    Even with that history, Yankees' manager Joe Girardi is optimistic about Chavez entering the 2012 season:

    “I actually felt that when he got hurt we missed him...He was playing really well for us. He plays an excellent third base, swings the bat. The big thing about Chavvy is keeping him healthy. Last year was kind of a freaky thing that he had. We hope that he’s beyond the freaky things, but you don’t know.”

    Like Giradi, I am optimistic about Chavez entering this season.

    With A-Rod claiming to feel “like a 27-year-old again,” Girardi should be able to space out Chavez's playing time, avoiding the wear-and-tear that playing the field on a daily basis brings with it.

    In 2012, Eric Chavez will stay healthy. He will stay productive. And he will stay off of the disabled list.

Eduardo Nunez Will Lose Whatever Value He Still Has

13 of 32

    Everyone was giddy last July when Eduardo Nunez "arrived", hitting .333 with eight extra base hits, 12 RBIs and five stolen bases.

    Even Yankees' captain Derek Jeter bought into the hype, telling Nunez that "his time was coming."

    Allow me to rain on your parade: minus his July hot streak, Eduardo Nunez is a .244 hitter with 18 extra-base hits and 18 RBIs for the rest of the season.

    A .244 hitter who plays below average defense.

    Some have said that his defense will come, but I don't see it.

    Nunez was a subpar defender in the minor leagues, posting a .938 fielding percentage over six seasons.

    While there may not have been better options available via free agency and while the Yankees are trying to be fiscally responsible for the first time in a long time, Eduardo Nunez could wind up costing them more than money this season—he could cost them games if he has to play for an extended period of time.

    Nunez is currently nursing a hand injury, but if the chance presents itself this season, Brian Cashman should ship Nunez out of town before he can no longer get anything in return.

CC Sabathia Will Reach 200 Career Victories (and Win the AL Cy Young Award)

14 of 32

    One of the first things that I noticed when I sat down with CC Sabathia last month was how much weight he had lost. CC looked svelte—or as svelte as a behemoth of a man can look.

    It's no secret that as the 2011 season grew longer, CC's waist grew wider, and GM Brian Cashman decided to have a discussion with Sabathia about it at Yankee Stadium after Sabathia re-signed with the Yankees, along with manager Joe Girardi and trainer Steve Donahue. Did the team believe that his weight negatively affected his performance in 2011?

    I don’t know,” Cashman told reporters. “I can’t tell you it did or didn’t. I just know we obviously thought it was important enough to have the conversation because obviously in the second half he got bigger. I know he was having some patella tendon problems with the knee. You could argue, is that from the excess weight? Is it just the season? Is it because he had that knee surgery? No one has those answers. The best you can do is try to eliminate possibilities."

    Whether he or the Yankees care to admit it or not, his weight gain certainly affected his stamina and performance down the stretch. Case in point—from August until the end of the regular season, Sabathia went 6-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 1.50 WHIP over 68.2 innings pitched.

    Had he been in better physical shape, there is no doubt that his numbers across the board would have been better over this period—and that he would not have finished the year barely missing out on the 20-win mark.

    As we enter the 2012 season, CC sits with a career record of 176-96, 24 wins shy of 200.

    CC will put together a monster season—a CY Young Award winning season—and notch at least 24 wins for the Yankees in 2012.

Michael Pineda Will Breakout

15 of 32

    This past weekend I wrote about every team's top breakout candidate in 2012, and while it was largely well received, a few people felt that many of the players I named had already had their breakout seasons.

    I suppose everyone has a different definition of the term—and in Michael Pineda's case, if you feel that he is at his best a .500 pitcher, than yes, 2011 was Pineda's breakout campaign.

    But I think Pineda, like the others mentioned in the story, are capable of far better numbers; that the best is yet to come.

    Acquired by the Yankees as part of the trade that sent über-prospect Jesus Montero to Seattle, Pineda is a hard-throwing 23-year-old who reported to camp overweight, yet in his spring training debut threw two innings of one-hit ball, striking out two.

    Pineda's talent is considerable, and so is the pressure that he will find himself under once the team heads north to the Bronx.

    It will take him a few starts to find his groove, but once he becomes comfortable with his new surroundings, Pineda will take off running, though still not a finished product.

    By year's end, 16-to-18 wins and over 200 strikeouts are feasible, but with them will come an ERA in the low fours.

Ivan Nova Will Regress

16 of 32

    Maybe regress is not the appropriate word, because Ivan Nova is a solid young pitcher, but the point is this—anyone who expects Nova to finish the year 12 games over .500 is in for a rude awakening.

    Nova seemingly came out of nowhere last season, breaking out with a 16-4 record and 3.75 ERA en route to a fourth-place finish in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.

    He, for one, expects to prove me wrong, as he explained to Mark Feinsand of the Daily News last week:

    “I came in with the thought that I have to do not only what I did last year, but more than that. My confidence is different, and I don’t have the pressure that I had last year. The pressure was much higher last year, trying to make the rotation, to make the team. I know what I’m capable of doing if I’m healthy, so why not repeat it again?”

    Confidence is essential in succeeding not only in sports, but in life in general—and if you lack it in New York, the city can eat you alive.

    The immortal Mariano Rivera offered some words of wisdom: “The goal is to maintain in the big leagues and stay in the big leagues, and that brings other things. You don’t have one year and say, ‘I made it.’ That’s where everything starts.”

    Nova will still win more than 10 games, but both his ERA and WHIP will see a noticeable jump in the wrong direction.

Hiroki Kuroda Will Throw a No-Hitter

17 of 32

    Three weeks before Christmas, I wondered aloud whether Santa would bring Brian Cashman the one present he really wanted—Hiroki Kuroda, who eventually signed with the Yankees as a free agent three weeks after Christmas.

    Two years ago, Kuroda took to the mound at the end of August to take on Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies.

    Kuroda performed brillliantly, keeping the Phillies without a hit over nearly eight innings of work before Shane Victorino broke up his bid for a no-hitter with one out in the seventh inning.

    At some point during the 2012 season, Kuroda will once again take a no-hitter into the seventh inning.

    But he'll still have it nine outs later, becoming the first Yankees pitcher since David Cone in 1999 to throw a no-hitter.

Phil Hughes Will Make the All-Star Team

18 of 32

    Yes, Phil Hughes didn't look great in his 2012 debut yesterday, allowing four hits and a run in just over an inning worth of work. By his own admission following the game, he was too wound up on the mound: "From a physical standpoint I felt pretty good for it being the first time out. I was probably a little too anxious and overthrowing a little bit."

    Who could blame him? After a miserable 2011, Hughes showed up to camp in shape and motivated:

    "For me, last year was a failure and I didn't want to do that again, so I made sure I had no excuses coming into spring. I was ready to go. I was strong. It's all on me. At the end of the day, I have to want it."

    While it was six seasons ago, I go back to the no-hitter that Hughes was throwing against the Texas Rangers before his downward spiral began with a pulled hamstring. Hughes was every bit as good as advertised that night.

    But it was only two years ago that Hughes won 18 games and earned his first All-Star selection.

    Only 25 years old, he is still young enough to get back on track.

    2012 is a big year for Phil Hughes and it will likely determine how the rest of his career is going to go, for better or for worse.

    Hughes is up to the challenge—and he will be even better than he was in 2010.

Freddy Garcia Will Become Ramiro Mendoza

19 of 32

    Ramiro Mendoza was a jack-of-all-trades for the Yankees from 1996 through 2002. He appeared in 278 games, starting 62 and finishing 76.

    That's the type of season Garcia will have with the Yankees in 2012—he will finish more games than he starts.

Boone Logan Will Continue to Struggle Against Left-Handed Batters

20 of 32

    In 2011, left-handed batters put up a .260 average and .789 OPS against Boone Logan. Right-handed bats were less successful overall, with a slightly higher .262 average but significantly lower .673 OPS.

    That's not a good sign for someone who has one job and one job only—get left-handed batters out.

    Logan is not a terrible pitcher—he's just not great.

    He'll start the season with the Yankees, but as he continues to struggle, he could find himself replaced by Clay Rapada, Mike O'Connor, or Cesar Cabral—all left-handed relievers whom I expect to start the season in the minors or extended spring training.

    Or maybe the Yankees will look outside the organization to shore up their left-handed relief situation.

Rafael Soriano Will Pitch Like Rafael Soriano

21 of 32

    It was only two years ago that Rafael Soriano led the league with 45 saves and pitched to an ERA under two and a WHIP under one.

    2011 was a year to forget for Soriano, who learned very quickly that snubbing the media in New York is not a very bright idea before finding himself ineffective, on the disabled list and generally disliked amongst the Yankee Stadium faithful.

    "Last year was not easy for me," Soriano told ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews two weeks ago. "The changing of the position to be the setup and all. This year should be better for me. At least I hope so."

    While I do not think Soriano will finish with as low an ERA or WHIP that he had in 2010, a return to an ERA in the 2.50 range with a WHIP around 1.00 while averaging over 10 SO/9 is where I expect him to be come the end of the season.

David Robertson Will Cement His Position as Setup Man Supreme...

22 of 32

    ...and not the Yankees closer of the future.

    Robertson, 26, will prove two things in 2012.

    He will prove that his remarkable 2011 season was not a fluke and that he is every bit as good as his 1.08 ERA and 13.5 SO/9 ratio show—he will come close to those numbers again this season.

    Just as importantly, Robertson will cement his place in the Yankee bullpen. It will become evident to everyone, including Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman, that what he provides in the eighth inning is irreplaceable.

Cory Wade Will Notch His First Major League Save

23 of 32

    Cory Wade had a great 2011 pitching out of the Yankees bullpen, going 6-1 with a 2.04 ERA and 1.03 WHIP.

    Wade will continue to pitch well for the Yankees in 2012, though he is unlikely to be as lights out as he was last season.

    Effective against batters from both sides of the plate, Wade has the ability to pitch in any situation.

    One thing Wade has never done in his career is save a game—and he will get his first at some point during the 2012 season.

    Unfortunately for Wade, he likely will be one of the casualties when some of the relievers who will start the year on the disabled list return to action.

Mariano Rivera Will Not Play Center Field

24 of 32

    People have been jumping to conclusions ever since Mariano Rivera arrived at spring training and said that he had already made a decision about his future.

    Most believe that Mariano Rivera has decided to retire following the 2012 season.

    I think that this is simply a case of Mariano Rivera taking advantage of the fact that he is...Mariano Rivera.

    He has nothing to prove, nothing left to accomplish. He is unquestionably the greatest relief pitcher who ever lived, and as far as I am concerned, Rivera is the most dominant pitcher to take the mound since Bob Gibson and is arguably one of the 10 greatest pitchers the game has ever seen.

    And now it's time for Mo to have some fun with everybody.

    Yes, Rivera has never wanted the spotlight, and the argument can be made that he will wait until the end of the season to announce his decision in order to avoid a "farewell tour," such as we saw with Cal Ripken Jr. when he retired from the game where opposing teams create video tributes to him and lavish him with gifts he really doesn't want or need.

    But there is only one thing that will convince me that Rivera is retiring: if he plays in inning in center field.

    Rivera stated his desire a few years ago and he is absolutely serious about his desire: "I’d love to. I’d love to. It’s not something that I’d think of as a joke. I want to do it right."

    That's the only farewell gift that Rivera wants to receive, and it won't be coming in 2012.

Mike Gonzalez Will Be Signed

25 of 32

    Remember how I mentioned earlier that Boone Logan is going to struggle against left-handed batters?

    Well somebody needs to pitch to them, and for the Yankees in 2012 it will be current free agent Mike Gonzalez

    Gonzalez, 33, has put up fairly pedestrian numbers since moving from the National League to the American League in 2010, with an ERA of 4.27 and WHIP of 1.33 in stints with the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers.

    One thing that has remained consistent, however, is his performance against left-handed batters.

    In 2011, Gonzalez held left-handed batters to a .214 average and .574 OPS, right in line with his career numbers of .213 and .616, respectively.

    There is no better option available through free agency and the Yankees in-house options at the moment—Clay Rapada, Mike O'Connor and Cesar Cabral—are either mediocre or unproven.

    Gonzalez would be an excellent fit and take pressure off of Boone Logan, or whomever the Yankees ultimately decide upon as their second option against left-handed batters.

Joba Chamberlain Will Emerge as the Heir Apparent

26 of 32

    Still months away from taking the mound for the Yankees as he continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery, Joba Chamberlain is encouraged with how he feels.

    It’s a great feeling; it’s great to just be able to get up there and trust my arm, and trust the work I’ve put in to this point,” Chamberlain said to reporters at the start of spring training as he threw fastballs off a mound for the first time in months.

    Before blowing out his elbow last season, Chamberlain was in the midst of an excellent performance for the Yankees, posting a 2-0 record, 2.83 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 24 strikeouts over 28 innings pitched.

    Most pitchers, when they return from Tommy John surgery, find that they have more velocity on their pitches than they did prior to the surgery.

    For Chamberlain, his fastball will be back in the upper 90's, a place he has not treaded with regularity since breaking onto the scene in 2007. He will touch 100 miles per hour on occasion.

    In 2012, Joba will make two things abundantly clear upon his return—that he is as good as he has ever been and that it is he, not David Robertson, who will face the unenviable task of following in Mariano Rivera's footsteps when Mo decides to retire—which will not be after the 2012 season.

David Aardsma Will Be an Important Piece in the Yankee Bullpen

27 of 32

    From 2009 through 2010, David Aardsma racked up 69 saves with a 2.90 ERA and 1.17 WHIP as the closer for the Seattle Mariners.

    After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2011, Aardsma, 30, signed with the Yankees last month because, according to him, they were the most aggressive in their pursuit:

    “There were a lot of teams that were really interested and wanted to talk. But the Yankees were in the forefront. They said, ‘Hey, we want to get this thing done. We want you in camp. We’ve got a deal that will stop you from talking to any other teams. It worked out.”

    Reportedly a month behind Joba Chamberlain in his rehab, Aardsma could be ready to join the Yankees bullpen right around the All-Star break, giving Joe Girardi another weapon at his disposal.

    A right-handed pitcher, Aardsma has historically been tough on batters from both sides of the plate, so it is possible that he becomes a situational pitcher for the Yankees and an option against left-handed batters, having held them to a .245 average and .691 OPS over his six-year career.

    Regardless of how Joe Girardi decides to ultimately utilize Aardsma, he will become an important piece of the Yankees bullpen in the second half of the season.

Austin Romine Will Emerge as the Yankees Catcher of the Future

28 of 32

    When it comes to Austin Romine, it has never been a question of whether he can handle a major league pitching staff—only if he can hit against a major league pitching staff.

    Now the Yankees top catching prospect, the 23-year-old Romine struggled in his major league debut in 2011, hitting .158 over a nine-game stint last September and generally looking overmatched at the plate.

    In 2012, Romine will spend the majority of the season in Triple-A working on refining his approach at the plate, and he will thrive.

    Not only will he be the Yankees catcher of the future, the future will begin in 2013—when Romine will replace Russell Martin as the starter in the Bronx.

Manny Banuelos Will Continue to Struggle with His Command

29 of 32

    If 20-year-old Manny Banuelos was a sure thing, Michael Pineda would not be a Yankee today.

    Instead, the most hyped Yankees prospect since the days of Hensley "Bam-Bam" Meulens, Banuelos needs to prove that he has better command than Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn did in Major League.

    In 2011 Banuelos split time between Double-A and Triple-A, posting a combined 6-7 record with a 3.75 ERA and 125 strikeouts over 129.2 innings pitched.

    Those are solid numbers—but he has had a 1.55 WHIP since being making three starts in Double-A at the end of the 2010 season, and that is a problem.

    Banuelos is still very young, so let's throw his numbers in Triple-A last season out—we'll chalk those up to nerves.

    Since 2010, he has made 23 starts in Double-A, posting a 4-6 record, 3.58 ERA and 111 strikeouts over 110.2 innings pitched. But he has a 1.53 WHIP with 10 wild pitches and nine hit batters over that period.

    He will struggle with his command again in 2012, though he will eventually get his numbers moving towards his career WHIP of 1.27—but he will show that he needs more seasoning in the minors and is not a realistic rotation option in 2013.

Dellin Betances Will Finally Shine

30 of 32

    Dellin Betances was an unmitigated disaster once he reached the major leagues in 2011, pitching to a 6.45 ERA and 2.63 WHIP over 2.2 innings pitched while walking six.

    Like Manny Banuelos, the 23-year-old Betances has some major control issues.

    But unlike Banuelos, Betances' control problems are a relatively new phenomenon.

    In 2011, splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A, Betances went 4-9 with a 3.70 ERA, 1.36 WHIP and 142 strikeouts over 126.1 innings pitched with seven wild pitches and 10 hit batters.

    Even with his control issues last season, Betances still has a solid 1.28 WHIP over six minor league seasons.

    In 2012, Betances will shine in Triple-A and make his case for a rotation spot with the Yankees in 2013.

David Phelps and Adam Warren Will Both Pitch in the Bronx

31 of 32

    While neither David Phelps or Adam Warren comes with the hype that Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances do, both right-handed pitchers are close to being finished products.

    Phelps, 25, spent 2011 in Triple-A where he went 6-6 with a 3.18 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 90 strikeouts over 107.1 innings pitched.

    Warren, 24, also spent 2011 in Triple-A and posted a 6-8 record along with a 3.60 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 111 strikeouts over 152.1 innings pitched.

    Brian Cashman mentioned both Phelps and Warren as being more major league ready than Betances and Banuelos back in November, and there is no reason to think that he would not call upon either one to take some starts when a need arises during the 2012 season.

    Neither youngster projects as a front-of-the-rotation starter like Banuelos and Betances do, but both can be solid middle-of-the-rotation starters for quite some time.

    Expect both to make their major league debuts this year.

Final Thoughts

32 of 32

    Not all of these predictions are positive ones, and that's just being realistic.

    But the bottom line is that the Yankees remain as one of the best teams in all of baseball, and they have as good a chance as anyone to hoist the World Series trophy at the end of the season.

    After all, that's what it's all about, isn't it?

    Get ready Yankees fans—the fun starts for real in less than a month.