Yankees fans, the Steinbrenner family and New York City as a whole can breathe a collective sigh of relief: The organization of unreasonable expectations is once again baseball's best.
The Yankees sounded the alarm after going eight straight years without a World Series title, doling out huge contracts to Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett last offseason. Not only did the long-term deals pay off in October, but they left the Yankees poised to go just as far this season, needing only to retool rather than make sweeping changes.
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Then again, "retool" has a completely different meaning for the Yankees. With their roster more or less set, they still managed to pull off the biggest coup of the offseason, acquiring Javier Vazquez for Melky Cabrera and a couple of prospects. Sure, Vazquez struggled in his first stint with the Yankees during an injury-plagued 2004, but he has ace stuff and is coming off a near-Cy Young season in Atlanta. He doesn't just make the rotation deeper; he completely changes its identity, perhaps slotting behind Sabathia as the No. 2 starter.
The Yankees chose not to re-sign free agents Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, losing two proven winners in the process, but they found younger and perhaps even more talented replacements. They acquired Curtis Granderson in a trade for Austin Jackson, preferring (in true Yankee fashion) to go with the proven commodity over the prospective one. They also brought back former farmhand Nick Johnson, who perhaps suits the lineup better with his ability to get on base in front of mashers Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez.
Really, age isn't even a concern for this incarnation of the Yankees, with only Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada knocking on the door of retirement. If they do have a shortcoming, it's their bullpen, but with Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes -- whichever one doesn't start -- setting up for Mariano Rivera, the starting rotation should take care of the rest.
With all the established (and expensive) arms in the starting rotation, the Yankees have the luxury of selecting one young hurler or the other to man the fifth spot. Leaving Hughes in the bullpen would make the most sense after he dominated as a setup man last year, but Chamberlain struggled so much as a full-time starter that the Yankees might ditch that plan altogether and instead groom him as Mariano Rivera's eventual replacement. In a perfect world -- perfect for Fantasy owners, anyway -- both would get to start as potential strikeout-per-inning guys with the best run support in baseball. But in this less-than-perfect world, both will slide on Draft Day because of the uncertainty surrounding them. Competition tends to bring out the best in players, making a breakout likely for the victor here. Pick the right one and you might just land a 15-game winner.
Bust: Curtis Granderson, OF
If simply donning pinstripes for the first time didn't put Granderson in the spotlight already, his move from a pitcher's park to the best park for left-handed hitters makes him potentially too hot to handle on Draft Day. See, for as much as the move might improve his chances for big numbers, it doesn't make up for the fact he was overrated to begin with. He hit only .249 last year, which might not be such an isolated incident given his low contact rate. And for all his speed, he has yet to steal 30 bases in a season, combining for 32 over the last two. You think the Yankees will ask him to run more with so many big boppers in the lineup? Granderson is capable of hitting .260 with 30 homers and 20 steals, but those numbers would rank him closer to Nate McLouth than Matt Kemp.
Sleeper: Nick Johnson, 1B
Johnson managed to stay relatively healthy last season after injuries plagued him for most of the previous two, but he didn't look like the same player who broke out with 23 homers when last healthy in 2006. Good thing he's now in Yankee Stadium, where the short porch in right field and the jet stream blowing out that way turn pop-ups, not to mention gappers, into long balls. Johnson still has power potential even if he didn't show it last year, and in his new environment, he could hit 15-25 homers. Even if, through some miracle of science, he doesn't, his .420 on-base percentage will make him a run-scoring machine batting in front of Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Health remains an issue, which is why he might go undrafted in mixed leagues, but in AL-only leagues, his production should exceed his draft position.
| ||Pos.|| |
|1||Derek Jeter||SS||1||CC Sabathia||LH|
|2||Nick Johnson||DH||2||A.J. Burnett||RH|
|3||Mark Teixeira||1B||3||Andy Pettitte||LH|
|4||Alex Rodriguez||3B||4||Javier Vazquez||RH|
|5||Robinson Cano||2B||5||Joba Chamberlain||RH|
|6||Jorge Posada||C||Alt||Chad Gaudin||RH|
|7||Curtis Granderson||CF||Top bullpen arms|
|8||Nick Swisher||RF||CL||Mariano Rivera||RH|
|9||Brett Gardner||LF||SU||Phil Hughes||RH|
|Top bench options||RP||Damaso Marte||LH|
|R||Randy Winn||OF||RP||David Robertson||RH|
|R||Marcus Thames||OF||RP||Alfredo Aceves||RH|
|Mike Piazza-like with bat, but also with glove. Substandard defense could force eventual position change.|
|2||Slade Heathcott||19||OF||Rookie league||Class A|
|First-rounder in '09 is raw, but tools are second to none. Could become superstar if develops as hoped.|
|3||Austin Romine||21||C||Class A||Double-A|
|More likely than Montero to replace Posada behind the plate, but not as much of a hitter. Has pop, though.|
|Sinkerballer putting up impressive numbers in minors. Not a huge prospect, but neither was Brandon Webb.|
|5||Andrew Brackman||24||SP||Class A||Class A|
|Looked rusty in first full season after injuries held him back. Potential ace if he makes up for lost time.|
|Best of the rest: Juan Miranda, 1B; Gary Sanchez, C; Dellin Betances, SP; Mark Melancon, RP; Ivan Nova, SP; J.R. Murphy, C; Humberto Sanchez, SP; Romulo Sanchez, SP; Alan Horne, SP; Jeremy Bleich, SP; Jairo Heredia, SP; Carmen Angelini, SS; Manny Banuelos, SP; David Robertson, RP; Christian Garcia, SP; and George Kontos, RP.|
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