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2012 Fantasy outlooks: New York Yankees

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When the Yankees win the AL East, it's usually the expectation. But considering their starting rotation last year was a collection fringe prospects, injury-plagued journeymen and stem cell test subjects, the fact they came out six games ahead in a three-horse race was nothing short of an upset.

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So just imagine what they can do now that they've poured some resources into their pitching staff.

First, the Yankees traded prized hitting prospect Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda, a 23-year-old All-Star with a high-90s fastball. Then, they signed free agent Hiroki Kuroda, a veteran innings eater who was the victim of poor run support during his four years with the Dodgers. With those two moves on the same Friday night in January, the Yankees' rotation went from being just another collection of table scraps to one of the top five in the American League. So much for it being their Achilles heel. Now their starting five can hang with the Rays' as their starting nine can hang with the Red Sox's.

Speaking of that starting nine, it actually has room for improvement even with Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter on their last legs. Mark Teixeira has recommitted himself to hitting for batting average after a couple years of swinging for the fences, and Curtis Granderson's adjustments against left-handed pitchers have made him a legitimate 40-homer threat. Raul Ibanez stepping in for the now-retired Jorge Posada should lead to better numbers for the DH platoon, and Brett Gardner, well, he's more likely to get better than worse, right?

As long as Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher continue to do what they always do, shoot, who needs A-Rod?

And that's the gist of this Yankees team. They're not so much about Rodriguez, Jeter and Posada anymore, but they're still as overrun with high-end Fantasy talent as ever. As a general rule, when you draft a Yankee, you're drafting a known quantity. They don't like to work with anything less, even if they've shown they can.

Breakout ... Michael Pineda, SP

Pineda is going from a pitcher's park to a hitter's park, sure, but before you condemn him to a higher ERA and WHIP, think back to just how dominant he was early last season. Through 17 starts -- the first 17 of his career, mind you -- he went 8-5 with a 2.58 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP and 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings. In other words, as a 22-year-old fresh out of Triple-A and with virtually no offense backing him, he was an ace. And it's not like Pineda was overachieving then, not with his high-90s fastball and stellar strikeout-to-walk ratio. More likely, the innings simply caught up to him. He had never pitched more than 139 1/3 in a minor-league season. With a year of experience, he'll be better equipped to handle a full workload, which could lead to 15-plus victories with the Yankees' stellar lineup backing him. And most likely, any rise in ERA will be in relation to the early 2.58 mark, not the final 3.74 mark.

Bust ... Alex Rodriguez, 3B

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Well, this is just overkill. Honestly, how much farther can the mighty fall? Rodriguez says he's in great shape -- just like he did last year -- but the difference is he had Kobe Bryant's miracle Orthokine treatment this offseason. No more knee aches. No more shoulder pains. Yup, he's all better now. That's the story anyway. You can delude yourself into believing it if you want, but unless that centrifuge spun his blood so fast that it went back in time, any difference the procedure makes won't last over the 162-game grind. A-Rod turns 37 this year. He's beyond the point of no return as far as aging sluggers go, which means his steadily declining slugging percentage the last four years is likely to continue, as is the time lost to injury. He will get hurt at some point this year. Maybe he won't need midseason surgery again, but he'll miss enough time that, combined with the less-than-stellar OPS, his production won't live up to the price tag.

Sleeper ... Phil Hughes, SP

Over his last 35 appearances -- 30 of them starts -- Hughes has a 5.39 ERA, which might lead some Fantasy owners to believe he's a lost cause. But if the Yankees felt that way, they wouldn't have been so quick to deal A.J. Burnett. In 2010, Hughes' second-half struggles were predictable given the sudden rise in innings. As for 2011, it was doomed from the first reports of his velocity being down in spring training. Hughes' excuse is simple enough. He showed up out of shape, causing him to fall behind. With an improved workout program this offseason, he should be able to pick up where he left off late last year when he was throwing in the low-to-mid 90s. True, Hughes wasn't exactly an ace then, but just by holding a regular rotation spot for the high-scoring Yankees, he's a sleeper in Fantasy. And if he can recapture the form he showed in the first half of 2010 when he was an All-Star, he's a late-round steal.

2012 New York Yankees Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Derek Jeter SS 1 CC Sabathia LH
2 Curtis Granderson CF 2 Hiroki Kuroda RH
3 Robinson Cano 2B 3 Michael Pineda RH
4 Alex Rodriguez 3B 4 Ivan Nova RH
5 Mark Teixeira 1B 5 Phil Hughes RH
6 Nick Swisher RF Alt Freddy Garcia RH
7 Raul Ibanez DH
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Russell Martin C CL Mariano Rivera RH
9 Brett Gardner LF SU David Robertson RH
Top bench options RP Rafael Soriano RH
R Andruw Jones OF RP Cory Wade RH
R Eduardo Nunez IF RP Boone Logan LH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Dellin Betances 24 SP Majors Triple-A
A hard-throwing strikeout artist, Betances could occupy a spot at the top of the Yankees' rotation in the near future. Control issues are the main reason he isn't there already.
2 Manuel Banuelos 21 SP Triple-A Triple-A
Banuelos and Betances have similar strengths and weaknesses, with Betances getting a slight edge since he's older and has already debuted. Banuelos could arrive this year, though.
3 Gary Sanchez 19 C Class A Class A
As far as power-hitting catcher prospects go, Sanchez is as good as it gets. Of course, much like his predecessor, the now-departed Jesus Montero, his catching skills are lacking.
4 Austin Romine 23 C Triple-A Triple-A
Romine doesn't have nearly the offensive potential of Sanchez, but given his superior defense, he's a safer bet to stay at catcher. And he could arrive this year if Martin falters.
5 Dante Bichette 19 3B Class A Class A
Less than a year into his professional career, Bichette already looks like he'll follow in his father's footsteps as a significant Fantasy contributor. He'll succeed A-Rod one day.
Best of the rest: Mason Williams, OF; Jose Campos, SP; J.R. Murphy, C; Slade Heathcott, OF; David Phelps, SP; Cesar Cabral, RP; Adam Warren, SP; Cito Culver, SS; Brett Marshall, SP; David Adams, 2B; Zoilo Almonte, OF; Corban Joseph, 2B; George Kontos, RP; Brandon Laird, 3B; Chase Whitley, RP; Adam Miller, SP; and D.J. Mitchell, SP.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Reds sign Brennan Boesch to minor league deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Reds have signed outfielder Brennan Boesch to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. Boesch, 29, is a career .256/.309/.412 hitter over five seasons for the Tigers, Yankees and Angels.

He was in the minors for most of last season, hitting .332 with 25 homers for the Angels Triple-A affiliate. 


Royals acquire infielder Ryan Jackson from Dodgers
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Royals have acquired infielder Ryan Jackson from the Dodgers for cash considerations. Jackson was out for most of last season with a wrist injury. 

Jackson hit .278 with 34 RBI at Triple-A Memphis, playing 122 games at shortstop and third base in 2013.


Report: Talks break down between Yanks, Phils about Rollins deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Yankees and Phillies reportedly discussed a deal for 35-year-old shortstop Jimmy Rollins before talks broke down, according to ESPN reporter Jayson Stark.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Rollins is "one of the best shortstops in baseball still" but wouldn't confirm Yankees interest in the veteran. Amaro also said Rollins is "somebody we want on our club and would be very hard to replace."

Rollins is due $11 million this season and his contract is up at the end of 2015. Rollins hit .243 with 55 RBI and stole 28 bases in 2014. 


Padres' Blaine Boyer clears waivers, heads for free agency
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) Padres right-handed pitcher Blaine Boyer cleared waivers Wednesday and will enter free agency, according to U-T San Diego. Boyer was designated for assignment last week.

Boyer appeared in 32 games last season for the Padres and posted a 3.57 ERA. 


Rays designate Sean Rodriguez for assignment
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Rays have designated 29-year-old Sean Rodriguez for assignment. 

Rodriguez hit .211 with 12 home runs last season. 


Jose Molina, Cole Figueroa clear waivers, released by Rays
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) Catcher Jose Molina and infielder Cole Figueroa cleared waivers and were released by the Rays Wednesday. 

Both Molina and Figueroa were designated for assignment Thursday. Molina, 39, hit .178 over 225 at-bats last year, while Figueroa hit .233 in 43 at-bats. 


Rays sign right-hander Ernesto Frieri to major-league contract
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Rays have announced signing of right-hand pitcher Ernesto Frieri to a one-year contract. Frieri will make a base salary of $800,000, going up to $3.15 million with incentives, according to the Tampa Tribune.

Frieri, who had a career-high 37 saves in 2013, had 11 last season with a 7.34 ERA.


Yankees' Sabathia confident he can return to being 200-inning pitcher
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia continues to deliver positive updates coming off July knee surgery.

"The knee, I have no complaints," Sabathia told YES Network. "I’m able to do all of my workouts. … I’m changing a few things. Not as much pounding and running. I’m in the pool a lot, on different machines to get cardio, (on the) bike. Just adding a few different things to get some cardio in."

Despite coming off surgery and being limited to eight starts (46 innings) in 2014, Sabathia feels he can get back to being a 30-start, 200-inning pitcher in 2015.

"Yeah, for sure," he said. "I feel like I can. If you asked me that a couple of months ago, I would have said, ‘I don’t know,’ but the way I’m feeling now and being able to work out, definitely."


Report: Indians expressing interest in Kendrys Morales
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Indians have expressed inerest in DH/first baseman Kendrys Morales

Morales, who split time between the Twins and Mariners last season, hit .218 with 42 RBI.


Brewers' Ryan Braun 'cautiously optimistic' coming off thumb surgery
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is optimistic coming off October thumb surgery. Braun underwent a cryotherapy procedure in Los Angeles on Oct. 2, in which a needle was inserted at the base of his right thumb to essentially freeze a nerve.

"It definitely worked," Braun said Wednesday, per MLB.com. "It makes a huge difference."

Braun swung a bat 10 days after the procedure and was happy the pain in his thumb was gone.

"Right now, I don’t feel any [discomfort], and I haven’t been able to say that for two years," he said. "I think I’ve told you guys, it [bothered him] shaking hands, writing -- you know, just everyday activities. Now I don’t feel it at all, so I’m excited."

While Braun is definitely optimistic, he is also a bit cautious because he isn't in the grind of playing baseball every day. He has received full clearance, however, for all offseason activities.

"I’m encouraged by how it feels, but at the same time, I think I have to be cautiously optimistic [until] I get into spring training and see how it responds," Braun said. "But it hasn’t felt this good in a really long time."


 
 
 
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