By Will Carroll
February 29, 2012
The New York Yankees head into a new era, starting a season without Gene Monahan on the bench for the first time since 1973. Monahan deserves not just memories, but some kind of lasting memorial the way other great Yankees have at the ballpark. The Yankees will miss Monahan for their trust and his experience, but as one of the last "old school" athletic trainers, is there a discernible difference between the old school and the new? Age and experience is relative in any endeavor but for athletic trainers, there's also the matter of dealing with personalities in the clubhouse, changing faces in the dugout and front office, and keeping up on new technologies. Steve Donohue has been with the team since the mid-80s and should allow for continuity while Mark Littlefield finally gets the chance that many have felt he's deserved for years. (Yes, he's Dave's brother and the Yankees longtime rehab guru.) Expect more of the same from the Yankees medically as they skew older, accept risk, and balance health with a relentless drive for playoff success. They'll gladly trade off losing days and dollars -- which they still have plenty of-in return for performance.

Health Keys: Maintaining their older stars while finding a way to keep their young pitching (Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova) healthy enough to support CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera.

(HEAD TRAINER: Steve Donahue (R); FIVE YEAR RANK: 27; 2011 RANK: 30)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
1B Mark Teixeira
Teixeira would be green anyway, but would be helped by time at DH, which isn't factored in here.

CF Curtis Granderson
Granderson is close to being yellow because of the power surge. Why? Power surges actually tend to be one of two things -- a fluke career year that's often followed by a drop-off and often injuries, or a conscious choice by a player to stop running around the bases and start jogging around. I'm not that concerned by either possibility.

DH Andruw Jones
Jones is green based on playing time. He's not likely to get enough PAs to have many real chances to get hurt. His risk shoots up the more he plays, especially if he's pushed to play in the field.

SP CC Sabathia
Sabathia will absorb the innings until he doesn't, but there's no sign that the "doesn't" comes in '12. He's as sure a thing as exists among pitchers right now.

Also Green:
2B Robinson Cano
RF Nick Swisher

SS Derek Jeter
The question is whether Derek Jeter is seeing the first real signs of aging, or whether last year was a fluke. The System is undecided and doesn't really mind. Jeter could well be helped by time off and even the rehab he did getting back last midseason. Time at DH could help Jeter as well, though he gets a bit more perturbed about it than the rest of the guys who'll rotate through the slot. There's no reason to think Jeter's injuries will be significantly worse than last year and there's hope it could be better. We'll see if Joe Girardi helps out.

CF Brett Gardner
Gardner is a pure speed player and those tend to be risky. Gardner hasn't had the leg problems that could sap that speed and range, so the low yellow is more of a reminder than a warning.

SP Hiroki Kuroda
Kuroda has an odd injury history, filled with flukish injuries. His age alone would put him yellow, but his almost binary history makes him a tough risk to read. He could be an easy 15-win pitcher in New York if he can stay at the 190-plus innings mark.

RP David Robertson
We don't know much about keeping pitchers healthy. We know less about relievers, where the effects of rest patterns, recovery, and usage makes the tools we've developed for starters moot. Robertson isn't that young and few relievers in the matchup era rack up innings totals that look like Scott Proctor or Scot Shields. Robertson isn't a very elevated risk.
C Russell Martin
Catchers tend to be risky by definition and with Russell's odd injury history, it's little surprise that The System seems him as a high risk. That said, he did have a nice comeback season, and Joe Girardi manages rest pretty well for all his catchers. There was a weardown in Martin last season, so that will be key.

3B Alex Rodriguez
Rodriguez famously sought out a blood spinning procedure in Germany this offseason, the same that helped Kobe Bryant's knees. Rodriguez is aging and his knees are showing the signs. He'd be better off if he could DH more often and it appears the Yankees constructed their roster to allow this. Rodriguez appears to be following the Cal Ripken career path and it's a very telling comp. Rodriguez has the resources and natural talent to fight the aging curve as much as possible, but gravity always wins.

SP Michael Pineda
The Pineda trade seems like a coup for the Yankees, even giving up a solid hitter in Jesus Montero, but Pineda is in a bad situation. He's young, coming off a season where he saw a massive innings increase and a hit-the-wall moment as bad as any we've seen in several seasons. He's a red flag risk on that alone, which is horrible. (DAN STAT). On top of that, the records of Joe Girardi and Larry Rothschild in dealing with precisely this type of situation is terrible. As much as I like Pineda the pitcher, I can't handle Pineda the risk.

SP Ivan Nova
Nova had a huge rookie campaign, but it came with a huge innings increase as well. His playoffs ended with a flexor strain, often a precursor to more serious elbow problems. Watch to see if he has his full fastball velocity back or if he's throwing more curves. He's high reward as well as high risk, but he's a tough player to take high in any draft.

SP AJ Burnett
The System doesn't like inconsistency, sometimes seeing huge variations as injuries that a player worked through or playing time changes as a result of a day-to-day injuries. It's both a feature and a bug. Burnett defines this and is as risky as Sabathia is stable.

RP Rafael Soriano
Soriano didn't seem to adjust well to the setup role. Pitchers are often allowed to get into routines by managers and pushed out of them; they often change things, even small things, and see injuries result. Soriano just never got comfortable, leading to him being risky again this year.

CL Mariano Rivera
Rivera does this every year and this year will be no different. He'll have a couple weeks where his arm acts up. He'll rest a bit and come back with that hammer of God cutter, just like always, taking a few more steps toward Cooperstown. There are no performance signs that he's dropping off, and healthwise there's no real change either. Rivera seems capable of pitching as long as he chooses, which might not be much longer.

You May Like

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)