Projecting New York Yankees' Final 25-Man Roster at the Start of Spring Training
Anything can happen between now and when the New York Yankees break from spring training at the end of March, but barring injuries, it doesn't appear as if the 25-man roster will be too difficult to project.
The team's star-studded cast makes a vast majority of the 25-man roster easy to predict. In fact, there are really only two places where there are no guarantees. The final infield spot should end up being a battle between Eduardo Nunez and Scott Sizemore, and the final spot in the bullpen could seemingly be won by a bevy of pitchers.
There are certainly favorites in each battle, though, and the Yankees will likely head into camp with a roster extraordinarily similar to this one—if not identical.
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Starter: Brian McCann
Reserve: Francisco Cervelli
Catching was a big issue for the Yankees in 2013, but signing Brian McCann this offseason alleviated all of those issues for at least the next several seasons. McCann's left-handed swing will translate perfectly to Yankee Stadium, and the lineup will get a huge boost from behind the dish.
McCann will also make an impact in the field. He is a well-respected signal-caller, and the Yankees pitchers will learn to love throwing to him. His veteran presence behind the plate will also help to ease young pitchers like Ivan Nova, Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda.
There's a small competition between Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine and, presumably, John Ryan Murphy for the role of reserve catcher, but Cervelli more than likely has the upper hand at this point.
He's a fan favorite that is known for his hustle and propensity to come through in the clutch. Factor in that he's pretty athletic behind the dish and pitchers like throwing to him, and you've got yourself the team's backup.
This duo will provide much more consistency in 2014 than the likes of Chris Stewart and Romine did in 2013.
First Base: Mark Teixeira
Second Base: Brian Roberts
Shortstop: Derek Jeter
Third Base: Kelly Johnson
Reserves: Brendan Ryan and Eduardo Nunez
There are question marks all over this infield, though the potential is there for it to be a productive unit.
Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter and Brian Roberts are all legitimate injury concerns. Roberts hasn't played in 100 games since 2009, while Jeter and Teixeira might still be nursing injuries sustained last season.
Teixeira has even admitted that it may take some time for his wrist to get back to normal. Teixeira told Matt Ehalt of ESPNNewYork.com of his goals:
The first step is making sure you're healthy. If I'm not healthy then obviously I won't be the same player. That's why my concentration right now is making I'm sure 100 percent healthy. We'll worry about the swing, we'll worry about 162 game season after I know I'm healthy.
The Yankees have no insurance to take over for Teixeira should his wrist act up again. Kelly Johnson can slide over to first, but that would leave a gaping hole at the hot corner that would likely be filled by Eduardo Nunez. Needless to say, that is not an ideal situation.
As reserves, Nunez and Brendan Ryan can be very valuable. Nunez is best suited in a smaller role that focuses on pinch-hitting and pinch-running. He handles the bat pretty well and is exceptionally quick on the bases, but saying that he is a liability in the field is an understatement.
Ryan, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. He can field his position (shortstop) with the best of them, though he puts up terrible numbers at the plate. He'll spell Jeter at short from time to time, but how frequently that happens will depend on the captain's health.
Right Field: Carlos Beltran
Center Field: Jacoby Ellsbury
Left Field: Brett Gardner
Reserves: Alfonso Soriano (DH) and Ichiro Suzuki
General manager Brian Cashman spent a ton of money on his outfield this winter. As a result, the team needs all three starters to produce at a high level.
In order to produce, they'll need to stay healthy. That's where it all starts for this group. Jacoby Ellsbury has a pretty extensive injury history (even if they were a result of bad-luck outfield collisions), Carlos Beltran's knees aren't what they used to be and Brett Gardner has also had run-ins with the injury bug from time to time.
When healthy, this outfield can rank among the top units in the American League. Beltran will benefit from the short porch in right field when he bats lefty, and Ellsbury could see his home run totals rise because of the short field as well.
Alfonso Soriano will spell Beltran in right field from time to time, though he'll serve as the primary designated hitter this season. Of course, he'll relinquish that role when Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and others need a half-day off.
The player with the most questionable role on the team is Ichiro Suzuki. It's really unclear as to where he fits in. With just one more year left on his contract, Ichiro might be forced into a full-time bench role before testing free agency after the season.
He would be valuable in that role, as he can play all three outfield positions well. His bat is a liability at this point, however.
I wouldn't be surprised if he was dealt by the end of spring training.
No.1 Starter: CC Sabathia
No. 2 Starter: Hiroki Kuroda
No. 3 Starter: Ivan Nova
No. 4 Starter: Masahiro Tanaka
No. 5 Starter: Michael Pineda
A weakness heading into the offseason, the starting rotation appears to be somewhat of a strength if the individual parts can hold together and live up to their potential.
CC Sabathia needs a bounce-back season in a big way. The big left-hander suffered his worst season as a Yankee in 2013, and he took steps during the offseason to get healthier. That should bode well for him in 2014.
Hiroki Kuroda is a workhorse, and manager Joe Girardi will have no qualms in throwing him out there every fifth day. Had it not been for Sabathia's track record, Kuroda would be the ace this season.
A pitcher to watch this season is Ivan Nova. Brian McCann recently told Brendan Kuty of NJ.com that Nova has "no ceiling," and that type of confidence from his new catcher should propel him to new heights in 2014. I view him as a candidate for 16 wins and a sub-3.50 ERA.
The face of the rotation this season will be Masahiro Tanaka. It'll be hard for him to match Yu Darvish's rookie numbers (16-9, 3.90 ERA, 191.1 IP, 221 SO, 1.280 WHIP), but anything close should be considered a success for the 25-year-old.
The battle for the No. 5 starter's job will be won by Michael Pineda. The Yankees have too much invested in him to keep him in the bullpen or Triple-A. He'll be looking to regain his 2011 form, and he's a serious contender for American League Comeback Player of the Year.
Closer: David Robertson
Lefty Specialist: Matt Thornton
Setup Man: Shawn Kelley
Middle Relief: Preston Claiborne, Dellin Betances and Adam Warren
Long Relief: David Phelps
The bullpen is where the Yankees should be slightly concerned. Outside of Matt Thornton, it will be comprised of extraordinarily young pitchers with little experience in high-pressure situations.
David Robertson will do his best to take over for Mariano Rivera, but I foresee a situation in September where Andrew Bailey returns from injury and battles him for the ninth-inning job. Even if that doesn't happen, Bailey will help provide more stability.
A pitcher of note in the bullpen is David Phelps. Phelps will be fresh off losing the battle for the No. 5 starter's job to Michael Pineda, relegating him to mop-up duty. The right-hander is a better pitcher than your traditional mop-up guy, but the Yankees need him to stay stretched out in long relief.
If Pineda falters at any point as a starter, then the Yankees will ask Phelps to make a spot start or two. He needs to be prepared.