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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
Nationals sign pitcher Rich Hill to minor-league deal
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:26 pm ET) The Nationals signed pitcher Rich Hill to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training, the team announced Friday night

Hill spent time with the Angels and Yankees in 2014 and posted a 3.38 ERA in 16 appearances. 

His career ERA is 4.72 over 10 years, which includes additional stops with the Cubs, Orioles, Red Sox and Indians. 


Tim Melville, Kyle Lobstein to start Monday and Tuesday for Tigers
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:18 pm ET) Tigers coach Brad Ausmus announced that pitchers Tim Melville and Kyle Lobstein, respectively, will get starts in upcoming games on Monday and Tuesday, according to MLB.com

Melville will start in an exhibition between the Tigers and college team Florida Southern. Lobstein will start in Tuesday's Grapefruit League game against the Orioles. 


Diamondbacks' Mark Trumbo more comfortable in right field
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:55 pm ET) Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart decided after last season that Mark Trumbo would be better in right field than left, where he started the 2014 season, MLB.com reports.

"From what I understood from talking to [Trumbo's former manager] Mike Scioscia, he's a much better right fielder than he is in left," Stewart said.

Trumbo indicated that he feels more comfortable in right field.

"Just reads off the bat, what I feel more comfortable with," Trumbo said. "Being right-handed I've just found right field, especially with some of those balls coming in, it's much easier for me with that angle as opposed to the one in left."

Trumbo has seen most of his defensive work in his five-year career at first base but has made 65 appearances in right field. He hit .235/.293/.415 with 14 home runs and 61 RBI in 328 at-bats last season.


Padres, Tyson Gillies agree to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:49 pm ET) The Padres have agreed to a minor-league deal with outfielder Tyson Gillies, ESPN.com reports.

Gillies has spent time in the Seattle and Philadelphia organizations since being selected in the 25th round of the 2006 draft. He hit .214/.270/.289 with two home runs, 10 RBI and three stolen bases in 159 at-bats with Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2014.


Pirates' Hurdle: Jose Tabata 'worked very hard' on swing leverage
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:46 pm ET) Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata drove three balls over the left-field fence and onto the roof of the indoor batting cages, and manager Clint Hurdle said Friday that the team wants the outfielder to mash longer drives, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

"We've talked to Jose about putting more leverage in his swing,” Hurdle said. “He worked very hard with that through the winter. He's shown a liking for it. It's something that takes time."

Tabata recreated his swing during a stint in the Mexican League and increased his power production. He had a conversation with Marlon Byrd about it this past offseason.

"He's always had a forward-down strike and a lot of ground balls have come off his bat," Hurdle said of Tabata. "We talked to him about hooking up with Marlon Byrd."

Tabata hit .282/.314/.333 with no home runs in 174 at-bats with the Pirates in 2014.


White Sox SP Jose Quintana ready to go after Friday session
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:34 pm ET) White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana began his throwing program later than normal at the team's request but said Friday after throwing two simulated innings that he's ready to go, CSNChicago.com reports.

"I feel really good, my arm is good and I’m ready for the first day against the Dodgers," Quintana said. "I’m excited for opening day. It’s spring training, but it’s Opening Day, you know?"

The White Sox asked Quintana to delay his throwing program in the hopes of having him stronger and fresher if the team makes the postseason. After throwing 200 innings in each of the last two seasons, he hopes to feel strong long after he has in the past.

"It’s good for your arm because here you throw a lot, eight months throwing and you need a good rest," Quintana said. "I feel really good, better than last year. I hope this year I’m better."

Quintana went 9-11 with a 3.32 ERA and 178:52 K:BB ratio in 200 1/3 innings in 2014.


Rangers' Banister talks about Choo's move to right field
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:27 pm ET) Rangers manager Jeff Banister spoke about moving Shin-Soo Choo from left field to right field for the first time Friday, MLB.com reports.

"We think he'll be more comfortable in right field," Banister said.

Choo spent six years in right field with the Indians but played center field with the Reds in 2013 and left field in most of his first season with the Rangers. He'll have less ground to cover in right field than left during Rangers home games.

"It doesn't matter to me where they put me. I can play all three positions," Choo said.

Choo is returning from elbow and ankle surgeries. He hit .242/.340/.374 with 13 home runs,40 RBI and just three steals in 455 at-bats last season.


Diamondbacks' Brandon Drury to split time at 2B, 3B this spring
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:21 pm ET) Diamondbacks infielder Brandon Drury will split time at second base and third base this spring, the Arizona Republic reports.

Drury will pick up work at second base after the team signed Yasmany Tomas this offseason. He saw time at the position during the Arizona Fall League and also spent two games there with Double-A Mobile last season.

"I don't feel like I need extra reps at second to be game-ready there," Drury said. "I felt good there."

Drury approached starting second baseman Aaron Hill for advice during fielding drills Friday, impressing Hill with his ability to ask for help as well as the quickness of his adjustment to the advice.

"He made the adjustments easy. Easy," Hill said. "What's great, too, is when a guy is willing to ask question. He's a sponge and he wants to learn. I think it's awesome."

Drury hit .299/.362/.510 with 23 home runs and 95 RBI in 535 at-bats between high Class A Visalia and Mobile in 2014.


Blue Jays' Michael Saunders to miss 5-6 weeks after procedure
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:05 pm ET) Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders underwent successful surgery on his knee Friday, and he is now expected to be sidelined for five-to-six weeks, the team announced.

Saunders was initially expected to miss half the season while recovering from a meniscus tear. He had 60 percent of the meniscus removed from his left knee Friday, MLB.com reports. The cartilage was unable to be repaired, which would have resulted in a longer recovery time for the outfielder.

On his new timetable, Saunders could be back in action by early-to-mid April if the team chooses not to have him open the season on the disabled list.


CC Sabathia not expected to be among Yankees' first spring starters
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:00 pm ET) Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia is not expected to be among the team's first starters this spring as he continues to focus on his return from knee surgery, MLB.com reports.

"We're taking it slow with him, knowing that we don't really think that he's behind and he's got plenty of time," Girardi said. "We're not rushing it because of his knee, and we want to take it step by step."

Giradi also added that he has no issues with Sabathia continuing to wear his knee brace during the season, though he has yet to talk to the team's trainers about it.

"I've said all along, you're really not going to know until we get into the season and he's going every fifth day, how his leg is going to do," Girardi said. "I've said all along, it's a concern of mine. The fact that he's wearing a brace or not wearing a brace doesn't concern me anymore. If [trainers] feel that he'll stay healthier wearing the brace, then I would tell him, wear the brace."

Sabathia was held to just eight starts last season, going 3-4 with a 5.28 ERA and 48:10 K:BB ratio in 46 innings.


 
 
 
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