Yankees: Biggest Winners and Losers so Far This Season

Anthony Maimone@@amaimone4Featured ColumnistMay 20, 2013

Yankees: Biggest Winners and Losers so Far This Season

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    Havng played a little over a quarter of the MLB regular season, the New York Yankees can consider themselves big winners.

    Despite all the preseason talk of the end of the Yankee era, the Yanks are once again in familiar territory in the AL East—first place.

    The Yankees are 27-16 on the season and own a half-game lead on the rival Boston Red Sox for the lead in the AL East while trailing only the Texas Rangers for the top record in the American League.

    The Yanks have achieved that spot despite more injuries and poor starts to several key players.

    However, it is the production from several newcomers, as well as some familiar faces, who have kept the Yankees more than afloat

Winner: Vernon Wells

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    Vernon Wells might be one of the biggest winners in all of baseball let alone on the Yankees.

    An afterthought in Anaheim, Wells has come to New York and already given the Yanks more than they could have imagined, batting .286 with an OPS well over .800.

    Wells is second on the team with 10 homers, providing the much-needed power for the Yankees on the right side of the plate.

    His early-season success has earned Wells the right to more playing time despite the potential of sharing time in left field with the return of Curtis Granderson.

    The Yankees can ill-afford to lose Wells' bat in the lineup, which is a sentence that seems unbelievable to even type.

Loser: Eduardo Nunez

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    Eduardo Nunez was given the golden opportunity to show what he was made of with everyday at-bats due to the prolonged injury recovery of Yankees captain Derek Jeter.

    Nunez has been less than impressive with that opportunity. In 80 at-bats, Nunez is sitting on the Mendoza line, batting an even .200.

    His OBP of .290 has limited his attempts to steal bases for the Yankees, as he only has two in three chances all season.

    To make matters worse, Nunez found himself on the disabled list with a ribcage injury.

    Nunez could be back in the Yankees' lineup soon, but he is going to have to improve on his numbers prior to his injury.

Winner: Hiroki Kuroda

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    Hiroki Kuroda is an absolute stud for the New York Yankees. He was the Yankees' best pitcher last season and has carried it over into 2013.

    Kuroda is 6-2 on the season in nine starts. He has an ERA of 1.99 which is third-best in the American League with a WHIP of .95, as batters are only hitting .201 against him.

    CC Sabathia may be the pitcher getting paid to be the ace of the staff, but there is no doubt that Kuroda has taken that title away from him with how he has pitched so far.

    I don't see Kuroda slowing down and wouldn't be surprised if he hung around the Cy Young Award conversation all season.

Loser: Ivan Nova

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    Ivan Nova won the the fifth spot in the New York rotation out of camp, but was well on his way to losing it through four starts in the regular season.

    In those four starts, Nova failed to pitch more than five innings in any of those starts and has a .648 ERA on the season while opponents are batting a whopping .354 against him.

    Like Nunez, not only is Nova not performing, but he also is injured, being placed on the 15-day disabled list with triceps inflammation.

    His replacement, David Phelps has sparkled in the rotation and has more than likely removed Nova from the rotation, even when Nova comes off of the DL.

Winner: Robinson Cano

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    Robinson Cano isn't doing anything out of his normal capabilities this season.

    Cano is a winner so far because it is clear he has accepted his position as the new leader of the Yankees. The Yanks could not afford a slow start from Cano and he has obliged.

    Cano is tied for the American League lead in home runs with 12 and batting .295 with an OPS of just under .900.

    Cano has been the most talented Yankee for years now and with the spotlight solely on him to begin this season, he has been a major reason why his team sits in first place.

Loser: Ichiro Suzuki

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    Ichiro Suzuki has not gotten off to the type of start the Yankees had hoped after bringing him back with the team for a two-year deal.

    Ichiro seems to be showing his age with a bit of a slower bat these days.

    Ichiro's .241 batting average to go along with his unacceptable .281 on-base percentage is going to be the biggest reason why his playing time may begin to dwindle.

    With the return of Curtis Granderson, the Yankees now have a crowded outfield. The odd man out seems to be Ichiro.

    As stated earlier, Wells' right-handed bat is too important to take out of the lineup right now while Granderson and Brett Gardner are similar to Ichiro, but capable of producing at a higher rate.

Winner: Mariano Rivera

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    Mariano Rivera continues to defy odds and make his stamp as one of the greatest players to ever step on the field.

    Coming off a torn ACL and heavily considering retirement over the offseason, Rivera decided to come back for his swan song.

    In 2013, Rivera has simply been perfect and looks better than ever at age 43. Rivera has converted all 16 of his save opportunities this season with an ERA of only 1.56 and batters hitting .219 against him.

    Yankees fans are going to be in for quite the shock once Mo hangs them up at seasons end. How will they ever replace somebody who is one of a kind?

Loser: Phil Hughes

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    Someone in the Yankee system should remind Phil Hughes that he is pitching for his next contract.

    The soon-to-be free agent has had a roller-coaster start to the season with what seems to have had more lows than highs, as the 26-year-old is 2-3 with a 5.88 ERA.

    There were high hopes for Hughes coming into this season as a potential breakout year, but  that has not come to fruition. If he slumps his way through the entire season, it surely will be his last in a Yankees uniform.

    If the Yankees can't get the most out of their young pitcher in a contract year, there is no real hope going forward for the right-hander.

Winner: Brian Cashman

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    For years, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman just couldn't win.

    Despite all the success the Yankees have had, most critics have stated it is because of the deep pockets of ownership.

    People are quick to point out all the busts Cashman has signed over the years, just handing out big contract after big contract.

    It is only fair to give credit when credit is due. Cashman hasn't signed a major free agent in years.

    He has avoided the traps on players like Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke, focusing on re-signing his own players and attempting to rebuild through the draft.

    Last offseason, just about every move Cashman made paid off as he attempted to fill several holes due to injuries and free agent departures.

    Along with Wells, Travis Hafner and Lyle Overbay have been keys to the Yankees' offense early on.

    There is no telling whether that production will continue all season and I don't expect it to, but the Yankees will get healthier and for now, they have done their job better than expected.

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