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Fantasy baseball 2014 team previews: New York Yankees

Photo: John Minchillo/AP

Jacoby Ellsbury is the one of the Yankees' major additions of a busy, expensive offseason.

Fantasy baseball 2014 draft prep: Player rankings, position primers, burning questions and more

Just like Yankee great Yogi Berra once said, "It's like déjà vu, all over again."

The 2014 New York Yankees once again looked to solve their problems by throwing money at them. While we won't know if they were successful with this strategy until season's end, we can play the addition-subtraction game to figure out who should be successful in fantasy baseball leagues.

Their big contracts in 2013 only earned average numbers in both runs scored and runs allowed, and that's not something Yankees ownership thought they were buying. As a matter of fact, they allowed more runs than they scored last year for the first time since 1992, when Andy Stankiewicz was manning shortstop in pinstripes.

PRINTABLE DRAFT SHEETS: Top 300 | Rankings by position

Just a sampling of some of their big-contract disappointments: Derek Jeter came off a big 2012 season to play in just 17 games in 2013 because of ankle issues. That was two games more than Mark Teixeira, who lost nearly all of 2013 because of a wrist injury. Mariano Rivera closed out his career of closing games. CC Sabathia won 14 games, but the rest of his numbers looked downright bad, as his velocity was down and he was unable to strike batters out like he used to. Alex Rodriguez battled a 162-game suspension and hip surgery, in a Jason Voorhees-like 2013 season. He just wouldn't go away.

Finally, the Yankees missed the playoffs for just the second time in 19 years.

But the 2014 New York Yankees tried to solve some of their issues by signing Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, catcher Brian McCann, outfielders Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury. Both Jeter and Teixeira are expected to be back from their injuries, but fantasy owners are hesitant, and with good reason.

When you look at the 2014 lineup, you realize -- there are only four names left from the 2013 season. Most importantly, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson will be wearing different jerseys than last season.

MORE TEAM PREVIEWS:

AL EAST: Orioles | Red Sox | Yankees | Rays | Blue Jays
AL CENTRAL: White Sox | Indians | Tigers | Royals | Twins
AL WEST: Astros | Angels | A's | Mariners | Rangers

NL EAST: Braves | Marlins | Mets | Phillies | Nationals
NL CENTRAL: Cubs | Reds | Brewers | Pirates | Cardinals
NL WEST: Diamondbacks | Rockies | Dodgers | Padres | Giants

Projected Roster

Lineup:

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. Brett Gardner, LF
8. Kelly Johnson, 3B
9. Brian Roberts, 2B

Starting rotation:

1. CC Sabathia, LHP
2. Masahiro Tanaka, RHP
3. Hiroki Kuroda, RHP
4. Ivan Nova, RHP
5. David Phelps, RHP

Others: Michael Piñeda, Vidal Nuno

Bullpen: David Robertson (Closer), Matt Thornton

Key Questions

When is the right time to pull the draft trigger on Tanaka? There are plenty of similarities between Tanaka and fellow Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda. Obviously, they're both Japanese pitchers, but it goes a little deeper than that. They throw similar pitches, including a fastball in the low '90s, and they both have decent command.

One of the biggest differences, however, is that we know already what to expect from Kuroda, especially two years after his transition into the AL.

We don't know how Tanaka will deal with the peripheral issues of being a rookie pitcher with the Yankees. Thankfully, he signed with a team that knows how to help imported rookies deal with those outside factors. Dating back to their days with El Duque, Orlando Hernandez, the Yankees have always been a step ahead in preparing their non-American players.

Tanaka should finish with double-digit wins, like most Yankees starters, a quality ERA and WHIP, but fewer than a strikeout per inning. That puts him as about a Top 25-30 starting pitcher this season, but it's doubtful your leaguemates will let 25 pitchers go by before someone takes a chance on him in the middle rounds.

If someone else drafts Tanaka before you, feel free to belt out, "There goes Masahiro" sung to the Foo Fighters' tune, "My Hero." It's always fun to be "that guy" at the draft!

Is CC Sabathia a buy-low option or should we happily allow him to pitch for another fantasy team? "Carsten Charles" was a major pothole in anyone's fantasy team last season, as he posted his highest ERA and WHIP in his major-league career.

Fantasy owners have been waiting for Sabathia to have a major injury over the past eight seasons or so, dating back to his time in Cleveland, when he started five consecutive seasons of 230-plus innings pitched. But Sabathia went over 30 starts for the 11th time in his 13-year career, yet he lost more games (13) than any other season.

In early Rotisserie mock drafts, Sabathia is being drafted around Round 15, after 40 or so starting pitchers are off the board.

So the question remains -- is he a good buy-low option? Well, he reportedly lost some weight this offseason, which tells you he intends to take 2014 seriously. The Yankees might not get back to their '90s squads again, but you have to expect them to do better than 2013 -- if for no other reason than management will not allow another horrible season. Finally, his xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching) was 3.76 last season, which actually has him as an above-average pitcher, that just was down on his luck a bit.

He's a mid-round pick with upside -- plain and simple. Just make sure you talk up how horrible he was last year, as you try to steer others away from him.

Will new closer David Robertson be able to handle the pressure as Mariano Rivera's successor? Closers are a tricky bunch. They let you down about as often as they come through for you, it seems like, and now, the greatest closer in baseball history has hung up his cleats.

Robertson steps into some mighty big shoes, and he has already proven to be one of the best relief pitchers in the eighth inning, so how hard can it be in the ninth?

People are already getting in line to add the six-year veteran, but I'm still skeptical. In 2012, when Rivera went down with a knee injury, Robertson had his first shot at closing games for the Yankees. He pitched in four games before injuries sidelined him, too, and by the time he came back, Rafael Soriano had the job secured.

That season, Robertson had two saves in five save opportunities. Very small sample size, for sure, but it's enough for me to say I want other closers among the top 10. His ADP sits inside the top 10 closers, however, near Round 9. So you've got a decision to make.

Sleeper

Brian Roberts, 2B -- The fact that there are three players for two positions (2B and 3B), Roberts, Kelly Johnson and A-Rod (who is appealing his suspension) should make most Fantasy owners leery of all three players. But if A-Rod's suspension holds up, and Kelly Johnson plays third, then Roberts will have second base to himself. If he could put 500 at-bats together, in a miraculously healthy season, he could still hit at least 15 homers. (There were only 10 second baseman with at least 15 homers last season.)

Bust

David Robertson, RP -- Look at it this way -- of all the saves the are recorded every season, about one-third of them come from players that don't get drafted in mixed leagues. That means about one-third of those saves should have gone to closers drafted -- but they lost their jobs before getting the chance.

We know Robertson's good, but we don't know how well he can handle the ninth inning in Yankee Stadium -- or Fenway Park. Worse yet, we know he'll eventually blow a save, but we don't know how he'll bounce back from it just yet. For his career, he has eight saves -- and 10 blown saves.

Breakout

Ivan Nova, SP -- Nova shook off his shakiness from his first few seasons to put together a fantastic second half of the season last year. Now, he enters 2014 with a rotation spot locked down, and confidence after putting up one of the best seasons by any Yankees starter in 2013. He's never going to be a big strikeout guy, but he should be able to keep the grounders coming. That makes for an excellent late-round pick -- especially in head-to-head leagues as a fifth starter. He should close in on a dozen wins, with an outside chance at 200 innings if his shoulder stays healthy.

AL-Only Guys to Know

Kelly Johnson, 2B/OF: Johnson resurrected his career after a season with Tampa Bay in which he poked 15 homers and knocked in 52 RBI in 366 ABs. His power and position versatility is nice, but it might not overshadow his .235 batting average.

David Phelps, SP: He'll likely start the season as the team's fifth starter, but he could end up being used for the bullpen at some point. That would mean Michael Pineda would have taken over the starting reins.

Michael Piñeda, SP: After getting traded to New York for Jesus Montero, Piñeda has suffered multiple injuries. He's close to being healthy now, and the talent he flashed early in Seattle makes him an intriguing AL-only pickup.

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