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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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