2014 MLB Preview and Rankings: #9 New York Yankees

Published: Apr 01, 2014 05:43am EDT
By Michael Owen, Sports Writer for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated Apr 01, 2014 @ 05:43am EDT


Opening Day has finally arrived and the rite of passage that comes every Spring where every team still has a chance to make "this the year" in their own mind is enough to get any fan going.

There is still a lot of work to be done for some teams, position battles, last minute signings, injury struggles coming out of camp and so on. While one of the best things about Spring  is that when the season starts, anything can happen and every team has a chance.  Unfortunately for many teams those hopes can be shattered and lost by mid-May.

As we begin playing ball, we have a pretty good idea of where each team stands and while each season is unpredictable, things can change at the drop of an Ace lefties torn rotator cuff.  

Over the next few days I'll finish out the preseason rankings and analysis of the remaining teams as we have finally gotten to the teams that will likely contend for the playoffs.  Feel free to disagree and voice your differences.

Next up:

9. New York Yankees

There is a changing of the guard going on in the Bronx.  Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte have retired, Robinson Cano has left via free agency, Alex Rodriguez is out due to a yearlong suspension and Derek Jeter has announced that 2014 will be his final year.  What does that mean to the New York Yankees?

Time to return to the spending habits that made the Yankees both famous and hated.

In one of the busiest off seasons in recent Yankee history, the Yankees committed over a half a billion dollars to sign some of the top free agents available, none of which were named Robinson Cano.

The popular opinion is that the Yankees took a hit by losing Cano but I tend to disagree with that stance.  I believe that NOT re-signing Cano was the biggest offseason move by any team this past winter. For one, the money and given to Cano was ridiculous. Choosing to part ways with Cano was one of the smartest moves this team has made in decades. Granted, Cano is a nice player, but certainly not worth the money (or the years) he got from Seattle.

The bigger factor in not resigning the veteran second baseman and to some extent the loss of Rodriguez to suspension, it allowed the Yankees to completely reload on offense by adding catcher Brian McCann, outfielders Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury plus infielders Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts, who will take over for Cano at 2nd base.

Offensively, this lineup has some punch.  The return of Mark Teixera and Derek Jeter, if they’re healthy (Teixera has already said he doesn’t believe his wrist is completely healed) plus a full season of Alfonso Soriano can only help. Teixera, Soriano, Beltran, McCann should all hit close to 30 homers or more each this year, while Jeter, Johnson and Roberts all have 20+ homer potential.  But power isn’t the only thing going for this offensive juggernaut. Both Ellsbury and Gardner will likely have over 40 steals each. Don’t forget also that they’ll also have possibly the best 5th outfielder in the majors in Ichiro Suzuki now on the bench. For the first time in recent memory, the Yankees have a truly diverse lineup.

There is a tradeoff for all of this offensive firepower. Defense.  Without a doubt, the Yankees may just have the worst defensive infield in all of the majors.  Concerns about Teixera and Jeter coming back from their injuries not to mention their lack of range are quite legitimate. The same can be said for Roberts at second and Johnson might just be at risk of being exposed playing every day at third.  The combination of Soriano and Beltran in right will could also potentially be a sieve due to their lack of range. Defensively other than left field, center and catcher, it leaves a lot to be desired.

Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka was another major signing by the Bombers during the offseason and a lot of eyes will be on him and with good reason.  Tanaka was given a contract that guarantees him $150 million before he’s even thrown a pitch in the majors. That’s a ton of money to spend on an unknown that figures to be the Yankees #3 starter.  C.C. Sabathia, coming off a horrible 2013 campaign will head up the rotation hoping he can return to the pitcher he used to be.  Cy Young candidate Hiroki Kuroda looks to expand on his fantastic 2013 campaign in the 2nd spot of the rotation while Ivan Nova, who showed flashes of brilliance in 2013, will hold down the 4th spot. The real wild card of the rotation will be in 5th starter Michael Pineda and his ability to return to form after not pitching in the majors the last 2 years due to a torn labrum. As of this writing, he looks good to go as his fastball is in the mid 90’s and his secondary pitches seem very effective.  He may not get back to his strikeout an inning, overpowering self, but signs look good to him being highly effective again

How do you replace one of, if not THE greatest relievers of all time? The answer is, well, you can’t. The Yankees have promoted one of the better setup men in recent years, David Robertson, to take over for Rivera as the closer.  If Robertson can continue to pitch the way he did in the setup role, he could be as good as any closer in the game and they should be just fine, but replacing a guy like Rivera will subject him to fine tooth comb treatment by a fan base that can be downright brutal.

Matt Thornton will serve in the setup role along with Shawn Kelly but the rest of the Yankee bullpen leans toward the shaky side as middle men David Phelps, Cesar Cabral, Dellin Betances and Adam Warren are all either untested or unproven or both. Manager Joe Girardi has always found a way to make his bullpen work one way or another and I don’t expect that to be different in 2014.

The Yankees, despite all the drama and the many documented injury issues they had in 2013, managed to win 85 games anyway in what may have been Girardi’s best managing job yet. Aside from the shaky bullpen and a terrible defensive infield, the Yankees did on paper improve themselves over the offseason. The question still remains whether it is enough to return to the playoffs after missing out in 2013 for just the 2nd time in the past 19 years.

The Yankees are full of “ifs” as they move into the regular season and should they all pan out, Yankee fans should expect that not only will they challenge for a wild card spot but they could very well have a shot at a division crown in a very, very tough AL East. If they don’t, it could be a very long season in the Bronx.

Prediction: 91-71


                                                           **PREVIOUS RANKINGS***

                                                         (click link to view story)  

10. Detroit Tigers 90-72

11. Arizona Diamondbacks 89-73

12. Cleveland Indians 88-74

13. Cincinnati Reds 87-75

14. Los Angeles Angels 86-76

15. San Francisco Giants 85-77

16. Pittsburgh Pirates 84-78

17. Baltimore Orioles 82-80

18. San Diego Padres 81-81

19. Kansas City Royals 81-81

20. Seattle Mariners 80-82

21. Milwaukee Brewers 78-84

22. Philadelphia Phillies 76-86

23. New York Mets 75-87

24 Colorado Rockies 74-88

25. Toronto Blue Jays 71-91

26. Chicago Cubs  70-92

27. Minnesota Twins 67-95

28. Chicago White Sox 66-96

29. Miami Marlins 64-98

30. Houston Astros 62-100


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