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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: New York Yankees

Senior Fantasy Writer
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For just the second time in the last 19 years, the Yankees missed the playoffs in 2013, and though it wasn't the scandal it would have been under George Steinbrenner, the team ended up making some drastic changes in response.

For starters, Robinson Cano is now in Seattle. Normally, giving up your best player of the last five years isn't the best way to make up ground in the standings, especially when the replacement is a 36-year-old who has averaged 48 games the last four (looking at you, Brian Roberts), but the Yankees used the money they would have paid him to address several other needs, signing Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann to multi-year deals. Yes, gone are the days of them counting on Vernon Wells for 400 at-bats. Or even Ichiro Suzuki. The 40-year-old speedster, a mainstay in Fantasy lineups since breaking into the big leagues in 2001, is now confined to a backup role, buried beneath the Yankees' latest assortment of sluggers.

2014 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

Notice anything special about this particular assortment? Yup, they all bat left-handed (or primarily left-handed, in Beltran's case), which means they'll get every last benefit of playing half their games with a short porch in right field. McCann in particular is known for being a dead pull hitter. Ellsbury may not be a "slugger" in the truest sense, but he showed he's capable of hitting for power with his 32 home runs in 2011 and seems like the type of well-rounded player who would adapt his game based on his surroundings. Given everything else he does, he's a stud either way, but Fantasy owners would certainly welcome a resurgence in home runs.

The coup of the offseason for the Yankees, though, was landing Masahiro Tanaka, a 25-year-old right-hander who was putting up record numbers in Japan. Going in, he was considered the best free agent available at the Yankees' biggest position of need. He doesn't have Yu Darvish's stuff by all accounts, but with better command and a deep secondary arsenal, he's a legitimate top-of-the-rotation guy. Of course, he'll probably be in for an adjustment period, but as long as he's not the first pitcher you draft, you'll be satisfied with the results.

The only other major change to the pitching staff is at closer, where longtime setup man David Robertson takes over for retired legend Mariano Rivera. CC Sabathia showed last year he may be on his last legs at age 33, but fortunately, the cost on Draft Day should reflect it. The same is true for Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter. Not so much Alfonso Soriano, who is entering crash-and-burn territory at age 38, but players who consistently deliver 30-plus homers have become so scarce that he's worth a middle-round pick, even with the risk.

No mention of Alex Rodriguez, huh? It's only fitting. Fantasy owners turned the page on him long ago.

Breakout ... David Robertson, relief pitcher

2014 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Jacoby Ellsbury CF
2. Derek Jeter SS
3. Carlos Beltran RF
4. Mark Teixeira 1B
5. Brian McCann C
6. Alfonso Soriano DH
7. Kelly Johnson 3B
8. Brian Roberts 2B
9. Brett Gardner LF
Bench Eduardo Nunez IF
Bench Ichiro Suzuki OF
You've seen this movie enough times to know how it turns out. Though the career setup man's transition to closer is met with great skepticism, with no one completely sure he'll still know which way is up with an elusive save on the line, he ends up being as effective as ever in the role when given a chance to settle into it. Robertson will most certainly get that chance. The owner has already said as much. The Yankees backed themselves into a corner by going over budget to sign Tanaka and have nowhere else to turn for the ninth inning. Fortunately, they're in good hands with the 28-year-old, who compiled a 1.91 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 12.0 strikeouts per nine innings over the last three years as Mariano Rivera's setup man. In an era when more and more teams have entrusted their best reliever with closing duties, Robertson has the ratios to measure up. Don't hesitate to draft him as a top 12 reliever, despite his lack of experience in the role.

Buyer beware ... Mark Teixeira, first base

His right wrist surgically repaired and his spirits high after a long layoff, Teixeira is poised this year to pick up where he left off in 2012, some would have you believe. Maybe he will. Maybe he won't. But no matter where you fall on that spectrum, you shouldn't lose sight of what exactly that means. In 2012, his OPS dropped for the fifth straight year, settling at a .807 mark that wasn't too unlike what Darin Ruf delivered last season. He began to have trouble staying on the field, his batting average hovered in the .250 range for a third straight year, and his walk rate dipped to where it no longer made up for his shortcomings. Now, he's coming back from surgery to his wrist, which, like the shoulders and hips, doesn't regain its strength as quickly as it heals. So in Teixeira, you have a first baseman quite evidently on the decline whose latest injury is a threat to the one area where he still excels, hitting home runs. Yeah ... a late-round pick sounds about right.

Sleeper ... Michael Pineda, starting pitcher

2014 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. CC Sabathia LHP
2. Masahiro Tanaka RHP
3. Hiroki Kuroda RHP
4. Ivan Nova RHP
5. Michael Pineda RHP
ALT David Phelps RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. David Robertson RHP
2. Shawn Kelley RHP
3. Matt Thornton LHP
4. Preston Claiborne RHP
5. Adam Warren RHP
It seems like ancient history now, but Pineda was the rookie pitcher who took the league by storm in 2011, earning a trip to the All-Star game with an overpowering arsenal and poise beyond his 22 years. Thanks to a torn labrum suffered in his first spring training with the Yankees the following year, he hasn't pitched in a major-league game since. That includes last year, even though he returned to make 10 minor-league starts, which led some to believe the Yankees didn't like what they saw. But the numbers suggest he was as overpowering as before, striking out more than a batter per inning with relatively low hit and walk rates. More likely, the Yankees didn't want to force the issue and add to his service time in what was shaping up to be a lost season. From the general manager on down, they seem all about him winning a rotation spot in 2014. He has shown he can still hit the mid-90s with his fastball, and his secondary stuff remains intact. For a late-round pick, the reward outweighs the risk.

Prospects Report

Catcher Gary Sanchez is the one prospect in the Yankees system who Fantasy owners can trust to become an impact player someday, but that's at least partially because of the position he plays. He has legitimate middle-of-the-order power but underwhelmed between high Class A and Double-A last year and is still a ways from breaking into the big leagues ... Mason Williams looked like a front-line outfield prospect at this time a year ago but then hit .245 with a .641 OPS in 478 at-bats between high Class A and Double-A. Tyler Austin's stock also plummeted, but at least in Williams' case, the tools are good enough for long-term keeper owners to hold out hope for a rebound ... Slade Heathcott has long been a tools-over-production prospect, but he's practically to Triple-A now with nothing to hang his hat on. Don't hold your breath on him contributing this year ... In terms of ceiling, second base Gosuke Katoh has some Fantasy appeal for his combination of power, speed and patience at a premium position, but at age 19, he's for dynasty leagues only.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite .

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Player News
Diamondbacks' Brad Ziegler to face hitters soon
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:33 pm ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Brad Ziegler will face hitters soon, according to FoxSports.com.

Ziegler had microfracture surgery in September, and is working his way back. He threw a bullpen session on Friday, and should face hitters pretty soon. The 35-year-old is expected to open the year in the bullpen if healthy. 

Ziegler posted a 3.49 ERA over 67 innings last season. 


Yankees' Carlos Beltran says his elbow feels fine
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:23 pm ET) Yankees outfielder Carlos Beltran said his elbow felt fine after Friday's game, according to the Journal News.

Beltran went 0-2 with a walk during the game, but didn't wear a brace on his arm. He said it's now just a matter of getting his timing down before the regular season. The 37-year-old is expected to open the season as a starter in the outfield.

Beltran hit .233/.301/.402 over 403 at-bats last season. 


Pirates' Jameson Taillon to face hitters next week
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:50 pm ET) Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon will face hitters next week, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Taillon underwent Tommy John surgery last April, but is working his way back. Taillon tossed a 30 pitch bullpen session on Friday. He's expected to do it again on Tuesday. If his Tuesday session goes well, Taillon will throw live batting practice on Friday.

Taillon said he's feeling pretty good about his progress. "I'm feeling really strong, throwing the ball cleaner than I ever have," Taillon said. "Everything has been feeling really good. The elbow has been responding really well."

Taillon is expected to open the season in the minors, but could be promoted to the majors if he gets off to a strong start. 


Brewers' Adam Lind dealing with back injury
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:23 pm ET) Brewers first baseman Adam Lind is dealing with a back injury, according to MLB.com.

Lind's back flared up while taking grounders on Thursday. He was scratched from Friday's game, and is considered day-to-day. Lind was acquired by the club during the offseason, and is expected to see significant time at first base.

The 31-year-old Lind hit .321/.381/.479 over 290 at-bats last season. 


Report: Mets' Daniel Murphy dealing with bruised hand
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:18 pm ET) Mets infielder Daniel Murphy is dealing with a bruised right hand, according to ESPN.

X-rays reportedly came back "OK," and Murphy shouldn't miss much time. Murphy was hit in the hand during Friday's game against the Tigers. He stayed in the game to run the bases, but was replaced at the start of the next inning. 

The 29-year-old Murphy hit .289/.332/.403 over 596 at-bats last season. 


Diamondbacks' Chris Owings takes batting practice on Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:10 pm ET) Diamondbacks shortstop Chris Owings was able to take batting practice on Friday, according to MLB.com.

Owings is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, and has been limited early in camp. Manager Chip Hale said he was happy with Owings progress, and noted it was a big day for the infielder.

"Everything he's done has been right on time," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "We've slowed him down, because it's important that that swing is right. This was a huge day for him."

Owings will likely go through another round of BP before he's ready for game action. The team may also opt to give him at-bats in minor-league games before using him during actual spring training games.

The 23-year-old Owings hit .261/.300/.406 over 310 at-bats last season. He's expected to open the year as the team's starting shortstop. 


Angels' Matt Lindstrom feeling 100 percent this spring
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:03 pm ET) Angels reliever Matt Lindstrom is feeling pretty good after having ankle surgery last season, according to the Los Angeles Times

Lindstrom struggled with oblique and ankle injuries last season, but has drawn some rave reviews during camp. "Right now, his stuff is very similar to when he was throwing the ball well early last year," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "That's exciting. This guy has closer's stuff. It's just a matter of how consistent he is and if he can keep it going."

Lindstrom admitted he came back from ankle surgery too soon last year, and it impacted his numbers. He was able to rehab the injury during the offseason, though, and feels much better now. "I can tell the ball is coming out of my hand better, the way it's supposed to," Lindstrom said. "It wasn't right last year, but now, I don't have any reservations. I can concentrate on getting people out."

The 35-year-old posted a 5.03 ERA over 34 innings last season. He's competing for a role in the Angels bullpen this spring. 


Orioles sign Elih Villanueva to a minor-league deal
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:54 pm ET) The Orioles have signed pitcher Elih Villanueva to a minor-league deal, according to MLB.com.

Villanueva has played in just one game in the majors. He gave up eight runs over three innings in a start for the Marlins back in 2011. Villanueva had a strong showing in the Dominican League, leading the circuit with a 2.63 ERA.


Reds' Stephenson hoping to make an impact this season
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:49 pm ET) Reds pitcher Robert Stephenson is hoping to make an impact in the majors this season, according to MLB.com.

Stephenson may not open the year in the majors, but is hoping he arrives sooner rather than later. "My goal by the end of the year is to be in Cincinnati," Stephenson said. "It's your dream growing up as a kid. It would be awesome to be there but at the same time, I want to get to a point where I deserve to be there and belong there."

Stephenson is considered the team's top prospect. He dealt with shoulder issues earlier in camp, but is cleared for action now. 

Manager Bryan Price said Stephenson has a few things to work on, but seemed optimistic about his long-term outlook. With Robert, it's command -- not necessarily throwing strikes, but the quality of the strikes," Price said.

The 22-year-old should start the year in the minors, but could earn a promotion based on how well he pitches.


Mariners' Chris Taylor homers, triples on Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:42 pm ET) Mariners shortstop Chris Taylor hit a home run and tripled on Friday against the Dodgers.

Taylor came into camp competing for the team's shortstop position with Brad Miller. While Miller likely has the upper hand, he's coming off a down season. Taylor, on the other hand, played well in the minors in 2014, and hit .287 in a brief major-league debut. It's believed whoever loses out on the starting role will be sent to the minors. 


 
 
 
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