It was another banner year in the Bronx, though not the type that excites the Yankees or their fans. They won their division but fell to the Tigers in the ALCS, which amounts to a near failure in the Derek Jeter era. Speaking of Jeter, he had a resurgent 2012, but took a backseat to teammates Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, who were both fantasy stars.
Surprisingly, the Yankees' strength may have been their starting pitching. They lost Michael Pineda for the season during spring training, but didn't miss a beat. CC Sabathia had his third consecutive All-Star year in pinstripes, Hiroki Kuroda proved to be one of the biggest bargains of the entire offseason, and Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova served as reliable No. 3 and No. 4 starters all season long. When Andy Pettitte returned, the Yankees had one of the strongest rotations, top to bottom, in the entire league.
New York returns largely the same roster from a year ago in name, but it might not be the same product on the field. The Yankees are one of the oldest teams in the majors, and the AL East remains as tough as ever. Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez will all miss significant time at the beginning of the season due to injury; meanwhile the Blue Jays loaded up this winter, the Rays have a lights-out rotation, the Orioles won 93 games last year and the Red Sox are still the Red Sox. And despite all that, the Yankees are still a favorite to make the playoffs. There's plenty of value here for fantasy owners.
Lineup (with injuries):
1. Derek Jeter, SS 2. Ichiro Suzuki, LF 3. Robinson Cano, 2B 4. Kevin Youkilis, 3B 5. Travis Hafner, DH 6. Juan Rivera, 1B 7. Brennan Boesch, RF 8. Chris Stewart/Francisco Cervilli, C 9. Brett Gardner, CF
Lineup (without injuries):
1. Derek Jeter, SS 2. Ichiro Suzuki, RF 3. Robinson Cano, 2B 4. Mark Teixeira, 1B 5. Curtis Granderson, CF 6. Kevin Youkilis, 3B 7. Juan Rivera/Travis Hafner, DH 8. Chris Stewart/Francisco Cervelli, C 9. Brett Gardner, LF
1. CC Sabathia 2. Hiroki Kuroda 3. Andy Pettitte 4. Phil Hughes 5. Ivan Nova
Bullpen: Mariano Rivera (closer), David Robertson, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, David Aardsma, Cody Eppley, Clay Rapada, Shawn Kelley
? How should we treat Curtis Granderson? Granderson, who will be out until early May with a fractured forearm, has been an absolute monster the last two years, hitting 84 homers and driving in 225 runs since 2011. However, six weeks is a lot of time to miss. That's about one-third of the fantasy regular season, and even the best hitter in the world won't do you any good in September if you miss the playoffs.
Whether or not you draft Granderson should depend on roster composition. Obviously if you're doing well in the power category, you won't have any reason to risk going after him. If you find yourself needing power, though, Granderson could be a stealthy pick. Comparing him with outfielders who fill up similar categories, I'd rather have him than Nelson Cruz, Chris Davis and Josh Willingham. For me, he's still a top-30 outfielder.
? And what about Mark Teixeira? Teixeira suffered a torn tendon sheath in his right wrist and will be out at least 8-10 weeks. There's a chance the injury could require surgery that would keep him out for the entire season, but the Yankees don't believe that's the case. Still, even if they did announce he's definitely returning in that optimistic time frame, Teixeira would remain undraftable. Here's why:
First of all, Teixeira had been falling off from a batting-average standpoint for the last three years, and he hit just .251/.332/.475 last year. In 2012, his power fell off a cliff when he hit 24 homers, the lowest total of his career. His 16 percent home run/fly ball ratio was the second worst of his career. On top of all that, a right wrist injury has a tendency to completely sap all the power from a left-handed hitter. Your bottom hand is crucial when hitting, and we have plenty of evidence that shows power hitters aren't the same when they first return from wrist injuries. No matter what you might think about when Teixeira will return this season, cross him off your cheat sheet now.
? Is there any reason to believe CC Sabathia is slowing down? Sabathia Last season marked Sabathia's sixth straight season with at least 200 innings, which means he'll be remembered as one of the true workhorses of his time. In a year in which he turned 32 in July, Sabathia whiffed 8.87 batters per nine innings -- his best total since 2008 -- and walked just 1.98 batters per nine innings, his lowest since 2007. In the last three seasons, he has even started inducing ground balls at a rate he had never previously approached as a younger pitcher. Last year, his ground-ball rate was 48.2 percent, up slightly from 46.6 percent in 2011 and down a bit from 50.7 percent in 2010. He may be on the wrong side of 30, but he's every bit the dominant pitcher he has always been.
The one area Sabathia regressed last year was his susceptibility to the long ball. He allowed nearly one home run per nine innings and posted a 12.5 percent home run/fly ball ratio, both career highs. Despite the fact that Yankee Stadium is one of the most homer-friendliest parks in the league, Sabathia pitched much better in the Bronx than he did away from it. He had a 2.69 ERA and 0.95 WHIP, and gave up nine homers in 97 innings at Yankee Stadium. On the road, he had a 4.02 ERA and 1.32 WHIP, and allowed 13 homers in 103 innings. The fact that he pitched so well at Yankee Stadium gives me confidence that he'll continue along his elite 12-year trajectory. Draft him with alacrity, as you've been doing all these years.
Ichiro Suzuki: Ichrio looked like himself again after a midseason trade to the Yankees, hitting .322/.340/.454 with five homers, 14 steals and 27 RBI in 67 games after he got out of Seattle. His skill set is perfectly suited to Yankee Stadium, and he'll be back atop a lineup that, while missing some of its biggest bats, still should be able to help him cross home plate 90 or 100 times. He could add 15 homers and 30 steals, as well.
Derek Jeter:Jeter keeps on beating Father Time, hitting .316/.362/.429 with 15 homers at 38 years old. This call has less to do with Jeter and more to do with his counterparts at the shortstop position. What was once a shallow pool is shallow no longer. Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes, Starlin Castro, Hanley Ramirez, Ben Zobrist, Ian Desmond, Jimmy Rollins, Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera, Martin Prado and Danny Espinosa are all superior options in my opinion. That makes Jeter a borderline starter in a 12-team league.
Travis Hafner:Given that everyone on the Yankees has been in the majors for something like 20 years, there isn't a true breakout here. So how about someone ready for a re-breakout? Between the at-bats he should get at DH and the opportunties he could get at first with Teixeira out, Hafner could be a very cheap source of power all season long. He's a batting-average killer, but he had a .346 OBP and 12 homers in 263 plate appearances last year. He could get to 25 homers with a full complement of at-bats.
AL-only guys to know
Ivan Nova: Nova's 5.02 ERA and 4.60 FIP make me wary about recommending him in mixed leagues, but he did strike out 153 batters in 170.1 innings. Another positive statistic of note: His .331 BABIP from last year will likely come down this season.
Brett Gardner: Gardner missed nearly the entire 2012 season due to injury, but a full year of health should yield somewhere between 40 and 50 steals and 80 and 90 runs.