2014 Season Preview: New York Yankees
This week, SI.com is previewing all 30 MLB teams, counting down to the No. 1 team in the league. At No. 15: The New York Yankees. You can find previews for teams 30 through 16 here.
2013 Record and Finish: 85-77, tied for third place in AL East (15th overall)
2014 Projected Record: 82-80, third place in AL East
The Case For
The Yankees won 85 games last year and over the offseason added Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Masahiro Tanaka. They are also getting Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira back from injury and will get a full season from Alfonso Soriano. Michael Pineda has looked great this spring and will be the team's fifth starter, and there’s hope that CC Sabathia can rebound from a season in which he posted the only below-average ERA+ of his career.
The Case Against
The Yankees also lost Robinson Cano, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte this winter. Their infield is a potential disaster, with the oft-injured Brian Roberts at second base, Kelly Johnson something of an after-thought replacement for Alex Rodriguez at third base, and Jeter and Teixeira, who combined for just 32 games last year, both shells of their former selves with significant chance of re-injury given that both suffered reoccurrences of their key injuries last year. Jeter, who has already said he will retire after this season, will be 40 in June. Hiroki Kuroda is 39. Soriano is 38. Beltran will be 37 in April. Roberts is 36. Teixeira will be 34 in April. Sabathia, who will be 34 in July, has been throwing in the upper 80s in camp. Ellsbury and leftfielder Brett Gardner are often injured themselves, with Ellsbury averaging 96 games a year over the last four seasons, and Gardner having missed most of the 2012 season. An injury in the outfield would greatly increase the playing time of 40-year-old Ichiro Suzuki, who looks every bit his age at the plate. Pineda hasn’t thrown a major league pitch since 2011 due to a major shoulder injury. Ivan Nova has been erratic in his young career and has never made 30 starts in a season. The bullpen is understaffed, and David Robertson is unproven as a closer.
Heading into Opening Day, the Yankees look dramatically improved with a roster packed full of big names and former All-Stars, but it is a long season, and that roster is filled with players in the latter stages of long careers or coming off significant injuries and time missed. The Yankees could very well be one of the best teams in baseball in May, once all of those old bodies get warmed up, but the chances of the majority of their roster remaining healthy and productive over the entire six-month season seem slim.
Number To Know: 72-90
That was the Yankees' third-order record last year, a full 13 wins worse than their actual record, and is the baseline from which the team’s improvements this winter should be measured.
Most overrated: Mark Teixeira
"Mark Teixeira is still dangerous, and he's going to hit some home runs, but he's just not the feared hitter for the money they signed him for. I think his bat has slowed some. In the past, he was more dangerous from the left-hand side, and he was a better hitter from the left-hand side, and I think I’ve seen a decline in the hitability and the bat speed from the left-hand side."
Most underrated: David Phelps
"The value David Phelps brings to this team is like that of Kyle Kendrick for Philadelphia and Craig Stammen for Washington. You can run him out to do just about anything. He commands four pitches. He’s not afraid of contact. He'll take the ball. He’ll have a day when he'll get his ass handed to him, but he'll eat the innings for the team. He'll go out and start. He'll come out of the bullpen and pitch in the middle, and he always does a good job. He just does a very, very steady job for them. He can pitch."
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