Five Most Important Yankees For 2013
Spring Training is only a little bit over two weeks away and that usually brings about optimism for every baseball fan. There has not been a lot of reason for optimism for Yankees fans this winter. Ownership has not allowed Brian Cashman to spend freely, due to the mandate of getting the payroll under $189 million by 2014. This has led to very little activity from the Yankees this offseason. They have seen other teams in the American League get better like the Angels and Blue Jays. While the pessimism is certainly justified, it is not all doom and gloom for the Yankees. While the Angels and Tigers are a step above them right now, the Yankees should still have a solid team. Toronto is the favorite in the AL East right now, but it certainly is not impossible for the Yankees to win the division. Here are the five most important players for the Yankees to have a successful year this season:
1. Mark Teixeira– While Mark Teixeira has performed like a very good player over the last three years with the Yankees, he has not been the superstar that they were hoping for and that he was in 2009. The Yankees will be counting on Teixeira to bat cleanup and provide protection for Robinson Cano. That means an .OPS in the low .800’s and a batting average around .250 isn’t going to cut it. The Yankees need his OPS back around .900 and his average around .270 or .280. Teixeira is the Yankees’ only power threat from the right side and they need him to produce. Power won’t be the issue as Teixeira has hit close to 40 home runs even in his down seasons. If the Yankees can get anything close to the 2009 version of Teixiera him and Cano would be one of the best 3-4 duo’s in MLB.
2. Curtis Granderson– Curtis Granderson is in a similar situation as Teixeira. While he hasn’t had the career success that Teixeira has had, Granderson needs to get back to his 2011 season like Teixeira needs to get back to his 2009 form. There is a ton of pressure on Granderson this season because the Yankees did not go and add another bat for the 5th spot in the lineup. Justin Upton or Michael Morse would have been perfect, but obviously the Yankees did not acquire either of them. So, the Yankees will be counting on Granderson to return to his 2011 form. Granderson hit 43 home runs last season, but his line of .232/.319/.492/.811 was simply not good enough. Worst of all, he had an egregious 28.5 K% and looked completely lost at the end of the year. Kevin Long will need to work his magic on Granderson again for the 2013 season.
3. Mariano Rivera– The biggest strength the Yankees have right now is their bullpen. David Robertson, Joba Chamberlian, David Aardsma, Boone Logan and Clay Rapada make up a very solid middle relief core. There is one question about the bullpen Can Mariano Rivera be the Mariano Rivera that we know him to be at age 43 coming off a torn ACL and meniscus? Even for the immortal Rivera it is a legitimate question. If Rivera is injured or ineffective, the Yankees would still have a good bullpen, but probably not an elite one like they do if Rivera is his dominant self. However, I will never bet against Rivera, so I expect him to be just fine.
4. Brett Gardner– The Yankees sorely missed Brett Gardner last season, as a wrist injury in April caused him to miss most of the 2012 season. Gardner, the only Yankees regular starter under 30, will be a key piece for the Yankees this season. Last season, New York’s left fielders hit .253/.315/.444/.759. They largely depended on the power of Raul Ibanez. While Gardner won’t provide that, he will provide many other good qualities. Gardner will provide great patience at the plate, as his career walk percentage (11.0%) and pitches per plate appearance (4.29) are extremely good. Gardner will be huge on the base paths, as he has stolen 47 and 49 bases in his last two healthy seasons. His defense in left field is probably the best in MLB. While we know his defense and base running will be great, his hitting is still a question mark. His career line of .266/.355/.368/.723 is only OK for a non power hitter. Also, he has been poor against lefties for his career (.256/.362/.355/.731). For the Yankees to be an elite offense, they will need Gardner to have a close to .290 average at least. He has never done that in his career, but at age 29 Gardner should be peaking.
5. Phil Hughes– Like the bullpen, the rotation is a strength of the Yankees. CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda form a very solid top of the rotation and Phil Hughes is a little bit of a wild card. Hughes overcame a rough April to have a solid season. He improved on his slider and changeup to help put more hitters away. This helped him to strikeout 7.8 per nine innings and only walk 2.2 per nine innings. Hughes is in a contract year, so he should be motivated to have a great season, as he can cash in big at the end of the year. From June through August, Hughes had a 3.19 ERA. If he can pitch even close to that for the whole 2013 season the Yankees will have a dominant rotation.