The Yankees had a down year last year. Plagued by injuries, they finished the 2013 season 12 games behind the Red Sox and out of the playoffs. GM Brian Cashman and the Yankees had a big offseason, giving their roster a new look so they can get back on top. Despite not signing Robinson Cano, they spent an estimated $465 million on signing big-named free agents like Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Masahiro Tanaka, and Carlos Beltran.
Here’s how this ‘new’ Yankee’s team looks:
The Yankees upgraded at catcher this offseason by signing Brian McCann. Although McCann is a bit of a defensive liability, he is one of the best hitters in the league. Despite injuries, the seven-time All-star ranks first among catchers in home runs and RBIs since 2006. He could very well hit 40 homeruns in the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees do not have much depth behind McCann. Their backup, Cervelli, has below-average talent. He had just 53 AB last year and should not be expected to be much of a contribution. The Yankees better hope that McCann can stay healthy and can catch 120+ games this season.
Right now, the Yankees infield is a mess. Their four projected starters: Roberts, Johnson, Jeter and Teixeira combined for just 747 AB all of last season. Although injury prone and aged, given a full season, all of these player have potential to make a substantial impact in the Yankees order. Teixeira and Johnson have above average power and should both hit around 30 home runs. Jeter is a future hall of famer who hit .316 just two seasons ago. Roberts has always been an above average second baseman when healthy, who has a great knack of getting on base throughout his career.
They also have a lot of depth within the infield. Nunez, in Jeter and A-rods absence, hit .260 in over 300 AB last season. Brendan Ryan was a starter for most of his career in Seattle and St. Louis and is an above average fielder.
The Yankee’s strength is their outfield. They have five outfielders that could be stars on any team. When healthy, Ellsbury is the best leadoff man in the major leagues. Last season, he hit .298 with a .355 OBP. He is also a threat on the base paths, generating 52 stolen bases last year and has a career stolen base percentage of 84 percent.
Beltran is also very productive when healthy. He hit just under .300 with 24 home runs last year, and should thrive in the Yankee’s small ballpark. Gardner is a solid hitter with good speed as well. Soriano is a strong middle-of-the lineup bat who will likely playing DH. He should hit around 30 home runs next season. And Suzuki, despite his age, is a solid all around hitter and great defender who will provide tremendous depth in the outfield for the Yankees. Overall, the combination of speed and power in the outfield will make them a nightmare to opposing pitching.
The Yankees have a pretty good starting rotation heading into the 2014 season. They upgraded this offseason getting Masahiro Tanaka from Japan. He is a top of a rotation starter with a 91-95 mph fastball, above average slider, great changeup and strong accuracy. The Yankees hope he can become their Yu Darvish (Texas’ ace from Japan) and stabilize their rotation.
Behind Tanaka, they have aging ace CC Sabathia, the consistent Hiroki Kuroda, and flamethrowers Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda.
Before Sabathia lost velocity on his fastball last season, he was a Cy Young candidate every single year. Now he’s more and a number two starter at best. Kuroda was probably the Yankees best starter last season providing stability and consistency in the rotation. Nova and Pineda are both young pitchers who have shown top of the rotation potential, but also have stretches of mediocrity. David Phelps will add depth as a sixths starter or in the case of an injury if needed.
The Yankees got great production out of their top relievers last season, but a big part of that was because of Mariano Rivera. Now that Rivera has retired, the Yankees have some holes. Robertson, who did a great job last year as the set-up man, will move into the closers role. He should get about 40 saves this season. But behind him, the Yankees have some serious questions. Their next best reliever is probably Matt Thornton, a reliever who didn’t even make the Red Sox post season roster. Shawn Kelly, their next guy, is a solid arm who averages well over a strikeout an inning and could emerge as the teams set-up man. However, for the Yankees to be productive, they will probably need to pick up another solid reliever—because their bullpen in thin without Rivera.
Assuming the Yankees sign another reliever, they should be around an 88-90 win team this coming season. They made a lot of improvements over the offseason, but they have a lot of question marks. If they stay healthy and if their aging veterans like Jeter, Teixeira, Sabathia, Roberts, or Beltran can be productive, they should win 90-95 games and compete for a World Series. But if they don’t, they will struggle to be .500.