Projecting the Yankees' 2015 Opening Day Roster

Gary Phillips@@GPhillips2727Contributor IIJanuary 25, 2015

Projecting the Yankees' 2015 Opening Day Roster

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Spring training is almost here, which means Opening Day and the 2015 season are getting closer and closer with each passing day.

    A lot has changed with the New York Yankees since the last time fans saw the team. This year's bunch is younger and better defensively, but it also comes with plenty of question marks. As he pays attention to various positional battles throughout spring training, manager Joe Girardi will have a few tough choices to make when it comes time to decide the final Opening Day roster.

    Here is an early prediction of what the Yankees' 2015 squad will look like when the team opens its season on April 6.

Catchers

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    1. Brian McCann C
    2. John Ryan Murphy C

    The battle behind the plate should have a clear favorite as the team heads into camp.

    McCann is obviously the starter. Even after a disappointing first year in pinstripes, there is no question about that. The question is, who is going to back him up?

    After trading longtime backup catcher Francisco Cervelli to the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier this offseason, the job is now open. The Yankees have plenty of young catchers in their system including Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine, but it is most likely Murphy who will win the job.

    Murphy batted .284 with 23 hits in 32 games for the Yankees in 2014 while filling in for an injured Cervelli. He showed good contact at the plate and played strong defense in his second partial season in The Show. With Sanchez still not ready for the majors and Romine a weak offensive player, Murphy is the obvious choice to be the Yanks' backup.

Infielders

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    3. Mark Teixeira 1B
    4. Stephen Drew 2B
    5. Chase Headley 3B
    6. Didi Gregorius SS
    7. Garrett Jones 1B
    8. Jose Pirela IF
    9. Alex Rodriguez IF

    The Yankees infield corps is going to look a lot different on Opening Day in 2015 than it did in 2014.

    At first base, Teixeira is projected to be the only holdover from last year's start to the season. Drew, whom the Yankees acquired midseason, will return and most likely start the year as the team's second baseman despite talented prospect Rob Refsnyder waiting in the wings. Another new face, Gregorius, will bring youth and elite defense to the shortstop position, while Headley is also back at the hot corner.

    Figuring out the Yankees bench will be a tricky one. Given the quality defense Gregorius and Drew provide up the middle, Brendan Ryan's services are no longer needed. Instead, the Yankees should opt to go with Pirela. The would-be rookie is more versatile and better at the plate.

    Meanwhile, Jones will give the Yankees two things their bench lacked all of last season: a legitimate backup first baseman and some pop.

    Then there is Rodriguez. The disgraced slugger is coming off a year-long suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, and the Yankees have made it clear they do not expect him to spend much time in the field, per the Associated Press via ESPN.com. It remains to be seen what his exact role will be. Who knows, perhaps by the time Opening Day rolls around, he will not have one at all.

    For now, let's assume he will.

Outfielders

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    10. Carlos Beltran RF
    11. Jacoby Ellsbury CF
    12, Brett Gardner LF
    13. Chris Young OF

    The Yankees outfield is another area that should come with few questions.

    Gardner had the best season of his career in 2014, so the Yankees are hoping he can play up to that level once again. Ellsbury was solid and should put up similar, if not better numbers in 2015 after hitting .271 last year with 16 homers and 70 runs batted in.

    The biggest question will be Beltran's health. The veteran slugger dealt with all kinds of issues and ailments last year and his play was clearly affected. Beltran was downright terrible at the plate and his defense seemed to be well below what fans have come to expect from the three-time Gold Glove winner. He is going to have to spend some significant time as a designated hitter (again, what is A-Rod's role going to be?).

    That means Young, the team's fourth outfielder, is going to see some action. The same could go for Jones, who can also play in right.

Starting Pitchers

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    14. Masahiro Tanaka SP
    15. Michael Pineda SP
    16. CC Sabathia SP
    17. Nathan Eovaldi SP
    18. Chris Capuano SP

    While many Yankees fans were hoping for another big-time pitcher like Max Scherzer or Jon Lester, the Yankees decided to mostly stand pat. The only guy they brought in was Eovaldi via trade. Gone are Brandon McCarthy, Hiroki Kuroda and Shane Greene.

    The Yankees rotation is actually more talented as it stands than people think. Tanaka and Pineda have the stuff of aces, Eovaldi is regarded as a lot better than the 4.37 ERA he put up last year and Sabathia, if healthy, can at least get this team 180-200 innings, if not pitch well.

    Capuano is there to fill in for Ivan Nova, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery and will not be back until midseason.

    If the Yankees starting staff can stay healthy, they could surprise a lot of people. However, several guys there are huge injury risks, so it may be wise for the Yankees to add one more arm on a cheap contract before Opening Day comes around.

Relief Pitchers

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    19. Dellin Betances CL
    20. Andrew Miller SU
    21. Adam Warren RP
    22. Justin Wilson RP
    23. David Carpenter RP
    24. Chasen Shreve RP
    25. Esmil Rogers RP

    The Yankees bullpen will be the most talented part of this team. In fact, it will be one of the better bullpens in Major League Baseball in 2015.

    Some fans may be worried about Betances as he moves into the closer role in place of David Robertson, but the kid has done everything to show that he possesses the stuff and the mentality to handle the ninth. Setting him up will be Miller, one of the most electric relievers in baseball. A towering lefty, opponents hit just .153 against him last year.

    Miller will not be the only southpaw in the Yankees pen, as Wilson and Shreve will also provide power pitching from the left side. Carpenter, acquired with Shreve in a trade with the Atlanta Braves, will bring some durability to the group. He made 121 regular-season appearances over the last two years.

    Filling out the pen will be Warren, who had a surprisingly-strong first year in relief in 2014, and Rogers, who will likely be the long man.

    All stats were obtained via Baseball-Reference.com.

    Question or comments? Feel free to follow me on Twitter @GPhillips2727 to talk New York Yankees and Major League Baseball.

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