Projected Division Finish
1. Boston Red Sox
2. Toronto Blue Jays
3. Baltimore Orioles
4. Tampa Bay Rays
5. New York Yankees
New York Yankees
2014 Finish: 84-78 (Second Place)
Projected Batting Order My Batting Order
CF Jacoby Ellsbury LF Brett Gardner
LF Brett Gardner RF Carlos Beltran
RF Carlos Beltran CF Jacoby Ellsbury
1B Mark Teixeira 1B Mark Teixeira
C Brian McCann C Brian McCann
3B Chase Headley DH Alex Rodriguez
DH Alex Rodriguez 3B Chase Headley
2B Stephen Drew 2B Stephen Drew
SS Didi Gregorius SS Didi Gregorious
Projected Starting Rotation/Closer
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
LHP C.C. Sabathia
RHP Michael Pineda
RHP Nathan Eovaldi
RHP Adam Warren
CLOSER Dellin Betances
I will admit there is something deliciously satisfying in picking the Yankees to finish in last place. That being said, I truly believe this projection is well deserved. I live in New York. It is a great place to live filled with smart, open-minded people. But when it comes to sports, New Yorkers are some of the most close-minded and least informed people I know. Maybe they are so open-minded and intelligent on the important things in life that they need a break when it comes to sports. I have spent over a year touring the country for work and spent a lot of time visiting family or working in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida, South Carolina, Maryland, Tennessee, Massachusetts and California. I have a better than average understanding of the national sports scene and of fan attitudes in those areas. And I can tell you without a doubt that I’ve never spent time in a place where fans were less realistic than in New York. Perhaps they aren’t to blame. You see less baseball here than just about any where else in the country that isn’t effected by blackouts. It makes no sense, because there are more sports fans of other teams living in New York than anywhere else in the country. But you can pretty much only watch the Yankees and Mets. The local ESPN affiliate cannot show New York games due to the contract local cable companies have with SNY and the Yes Network. However, whenever they have the option to show a New York game or something else, they choose the New York game. Essentially that means they choose to be blacked out for 3 hours instead of showing another game from another region. The local Fox affiliate doesn’t show afternoon baseball as often as they usually do. On the Sunday of this writing, there were baseball games on all over the country on Fox, MLB Network, ESPN, ESPN 2 and local sports channels. In New York, we had TV reruns on Fox, drag racing on ESPN, boat racing on ESPN 2 and MLB Network was blacked out. The only baseball options were the Mets in the late afternoon and the Yankees re-run of the previous evening’s game since the Yanks were on Sunday Night Baseball. There was live baseball all day, and we got 1 game until Sunday night. I don’t know if it’s a ploy to get more people to root for New York sports teams but it’s frustrating and asinine. Even in other big cities (LA, Chicago, D.C.) this doesn’t happen. There may be other issues with blackouts and local teams not being on TV in those markets, but they never choose to not show baseball from other markets. So the biggest, most well connected city in the world offers you fewer sports than just about anywhere else. (It happens with football too).
So when Yankees fans are convinced they are going to be the best team in baseball, perhaps it’s because they don’t realize there are 29 other teams in the game, most of which look like they’ll be better. After a great run of 5 World Series titles and 17 postseason appearances in 18 years their style of management caught up to them. Having a lot of money keeps you competitive for short periods. But eventually other teams will catch you because they draft and develop well. The Yankees are the worst at drafting and developing players. And with more teams willing to spend a lot of money, the Yankees are finding themselves ignored this year when it comes to playoff discussions. (But if you live in the Tri-State area, you’d think they are the odds-on favorites to win it all).
Last year’s team was 84-78 and finished in second place. But with a negative 31 run differential, they were clearly not the second best team in that division and were statistically one of the luckiest teams in baseball. They are another year older and look a little worse this season than they did last year. If they want to be relevant, they have to have great years from Teixeira, Beltran and McCann as well as another good year from Ellsbury and Gardner. But they have too many holes, too many questions and too many years to be considered a threat this season.
This offense looks old. They have limited speed and power and terrible athleticism. Re-signing Chase Headley was a must. Adding Garrett Jones gives them a good bat off the bench and some insurance at first and DH. Retaining Chris Young was also big to provide insurance in right for Carlos Beltran. As much they may hate it, getting Alex Rodriguez back will be a boost to this team. But those new faces alone won’t be enough to help this offense improve. The Bronx Bombers hit 245 last year, in the lower half of the league despite the little league dimensions of the New Yankee stadium. They were third to last in runs scored and hits and were shockingly only an average home run hitting team. They did rank third in SB, primarily due to Ellsbury and Gardner, their best offensive players.
Jacoby Ellsbury is probably their best hitter. A lot of locals don’t like him because he is overpaid. But considering everyone on the roster is overpaid I don’t know why you’d pick a bone with one of the few hitters who produced. The Yankees like him leading off and there is no question he is the best leadoff option on the club. But he’s also one of the better middle of the order bats on the team. And since Brett Gardner is a good leadoff man too, I like Ellsbury hitting third because of his HR and RBI potential. He hit 271 last year with 16 HR, 70 RBI, 39 SB and 71 R. He had a 328 OBP. He will succeed wherever he hits. But considering his power potential (remember he hit 32 HR in 2011), I’d hit him third. Overall, I see him as a 280 hitter with 15 HR and 30 SB. If he’s leading off he scores 85+ R. If he’s hitting third he drives in 80+ runs.
At this point, I think you can argue that Brett Gardner is the second best hitter on the team. The only starter who is a homegrown product, Gardner got a big deal a few years ago and is as underrated as a Yankee can be (a few years ago they were talking about a Gardner for Cueto deal in NY and Yankees fans couldn’t understand why Cincinnati wouldn’t go for it). Last season wasn’t his best as he hit a career low (outside of 42 games as a rookie) 256. But he still stole 21 bags, scored 87 R, had a 327 OBP and hit a career high 17 HR with a career high 58 RBI. He’s not a power hitter, but that’s what happens when any lefty gets a lot of playing time in the new Yankee stadium. I like Gardner as a quality role player. Think 270 with an OBP around 350. That’s why I like him in the leadoff hole where he could flirt with 90 R. But hitting second will drop that number to 80 or less. Think 10 HR and 25 SB with a shot at more if he leads off (he stole 47 and 49 bases in 2010 and 2011).
Mark Teixeira is still a quality player, if not the offensive threat he once was. He’s had health issues and hasn’t appeared in 150+ games since 2011. Last year he was healthier and appeared in 123 games. He hit 22 HR with 62 RBI in that time. But that came with a 216 AVG. He’s been transitioning into a one-dimensional hitter since he arrived in New York and it’s been more obvious in recent years. His AVG has dropped every season he’s been in pinstripes. While he was initially hitting 30+ HR and driving in 100+ runs, he hasn’t reached either plateau since 2011 (though he was on pace in 2012 with 24 HR and 84 RBI in 123 games). He still has value as a power hitter and that’s what they count on from him. Put him down for 220 with 25 HR and 75+ RBI.
Brian McCann predictably became a similar hitter to Teixeira last season. Any lefty with power sees the short porch in the new Yankee stadium and immediately thinks they can hit 60 HR in a season. Last year he slugged 23 and drove in 75, but only hit 232. He’s a career 271 hitter who generally hits around 20 HR. But he hasn’t reached 270 since 2011 and his highest AVG from that point on was 256. Again, 20 HR and 75 RBI is valuable, especially from a catcher. I think he may improve some, but think 250 is his ceiling and doubt he hits more than 25 HR, even in that park (career high 24 HR). I’m guessing 240 with 22 HR and 68 RBI.
Carlos Beltran was supposed to be a major part of this offense, but his age and injury history have caught up to him. To be fair, most everyone outside of the Bronx knew the signing was a bad idea. Last year he hit 233 with 15 HR. The 15 HR are valuable, but not worth what he’s paid. They want him to be their number 3-hitter, which is funny. He’s had roughly 76 knee surgeries, so you can expect him to be injury prone. This year, I’d be shocked if he reached 120 games. I really do think he’s going to be a 230 hitter again with perhaps 10 HR, depending on how much time he misses (and he will miss time).
The Yankees added Chase Headley in a trade with the Padres last year. He was solid and better upon leaving the hitters graveyard in San Diego. He hit 13 HR between the two clubs, 6 of which came with New York in fewer games. His 31 HR/115 RBI season of 2012 is certainly an aberration. I’m putting him down for 260 with 12 HR, 60 RBI and 8 SB. He’ll be a solid bottom of the order bat, better than most other number 7 hitters.
Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorious were added for defensive purposes. Drew is manning second and will be great defensively. But his offense has fallen off a cliff. Gregorious is much better defensively than Jeter, but that’s not saying much. Additionally, he didn’t win out the battle with Owings in Arizona last year despite being better defensively. Neither one will do much at the plate.
The last piece of this puzzle is Alex Rodriguez. After a crazy ride, A-Rod is back and playing baseball with the Yankees, something many people would have considered impossible last offseason. He’s served his time, made amends and is back. Many will never forgive him, and I don’t think they should. But on this team, he looks like he may be one of the better offensive options. Even with his full year off, he has a dynamic sort of game and enough natural talent to fall into 270 with double-digit HR. While he’s no longer the player he used to be, he’s playing good baseball for the Yankees right now and has tied Willie Mays with 660 HR at the time of this writing. What do I think he can do? I truly have no idea. But I’m guessing 270 with 12 HR. Can’t guess what he does in the RBI/R departments because I don’t know where he’ll hit. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the Yankees best run producer this year.
The bench includes Chris Young and Garrett Jones. Young proved to be a great bench option for the Yankees last year after the Mets cut him. He hit 282 in 23 games with 3 HR and 10 RBI. He’s been hot out of the gate to start 2015. He can play all three outfield positions and was a former highly touted prospect who isn’t that old. He may end up taking over right field. Garrett Jones can be a DH option and backup first baseman. He’s always been solid, but has never really stuck as a starter for a long time. He hit 27 HR in 2012 and then 15 HR the last two years with the Pirates and Marlins. Moving to the new Yankee stadium could help his HR total, but it looks like he won’t play nearly as much. I’ll call 15 HR again, even in limited time.
This offense looks limited. It won’t be terrible. Teixeira and McCann can be good power hitters. Gardner can get on base. And Ellsbury can both score and drive in runs. However the production at second, short and right will likely be subpar. Headley and A-Rod will be solid, but neither can do enough to pick up the lack of offense from the other three positions. I think this team will score runs but not as many as they are hoping to score. And their offense looks to be the fourth best in the division, significantly behind Baltimore, Toronto and Boston.
The defense should be okay. Teixeira is good at first, though not as good as he used to be. Drew should be excellent at second and Headley is fine at third. Gregorious is supposed to be a great defensive shortstop, but many scouts question his range and arm. He’ll be better than Jeter, but that’s not a high bar. McCann is solid behind the plate, but doesn’t throw well. Beltran is a statue in right. Ellsbury is good in center and Gardner is good in left, but neither have great arms. A-Rod will play some in the corners, but that’s likely not going to work out well. Chris Young can cover all three-outfield spots well. This won’t be the worst defense in baseball, but there are some definite weaknesses in the field.
The biggest area of concern for the Yankees is on the mound. Their offense looks old and brittle, but it can score runs. There are holes on defense, but they will make most of the plays. The pitching staff is a major question mark and looks like it could be the true Achilles Heel for the Yankees woes this season. Last year, the Yankees pitched to a 3.75 team ERA, which was pretty average. They were a middle of the road team in hits allowed, but did have the third most Ks and fewest walks. But that was bolstered by Tanaka’s great first half and Pineda’s great second half. Neither played a full season. In addition, that staff has lost Brandon McCarthy, David Phelps and Hiroki Kuroda. The Yankees have to be better on the mound this year than they were last year to make the playoffs. And that seems unlikely to happen with the personnel they have.
Their ace is Masahiro Tanaka. He was excellent last year, certainly better than many (me included) thought he’d be. But he was shut down early because of a tear in his UCL. It was a small tear and so they took the rest and rehab approach to fixing it not wanting to see him miss a whole year. It will likely tear again, but in true Yankee fashion they took the immediate fix route instead of setting themselves up for the future. It’s worked in the past, but what’s the rush? They aren’t going to be good this year anyway. In 20 starts last season, Tanaka went 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA. He struck out 141 in 136 IP and had a sparkling 1.06 WHIP off the strength of few walks. But that was a fully healthy Tanaka. Coming into this year he admitted that he doesn’t have all his velocity and won’t throw as many 4 seam fastballs. But you need to see the 4 seamer for the split to be effective. I think it’s a recipe for disaster. I also think it’s just a matter of time before his elbow tear grows and he can no longer pitch. I doubt he finishes the season and until he does, he will get hit much harder with his diminished stuff. Think 12 starts, 4 Wins and an ERA around 4 until he goes down.
Michael Pineda may be the best hope for the Yanks going forward. In 13 starts last year he was excellent going 5-5 with a 1.89 ERA. He had a 59:7 K:BB ratio last season and hitters only hit 200 off of him. I had a conversation with a Yankees fan who said Pineda was a top 10 pitcher in the AL. I laughed, but admitted he was good. (For reference, the pitchers I would pick ahead of him: Chris Archer, David Price, Chris Sale, Jeff Samardzjia, Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Garrett Richards, Sonny Gray, Dallas Keuchel, Felix Hernandez and Hishashi Iwakuma…..not to mention the injured Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb and Matt Moore). I like Pineda for 12-15 Wins with an ERA around 3. If he reaches 200 IP, he could have 180 Ks.
C.C. Sabathia is no longer the pitcher he once was. Injury limited him to 8 starts last season going 3-4 with a 5.28 ERA. He has been similarly roughed up to start off this year. He’s getting older, has a ton of innings on his arm and is losing velocity. Since 2011, his ERA has climbed every year and in his last full season it was 4.78. The more alarming signs are his WHIP and BAA, which are both terrible. I think the Yankees best hope for him is that he can be an innings eater, but pitching like he’s currently throwing you don’t want him out there for too many innings. I expect a losing record, 8 wins and an ERA around 4.50 or higher.
The Yankees let a lot of guys go last year, and par of the return was Nathan Eovaldi. Eovaldi was solid for the Marlins last year going 6-14 with a 4.37 ERA. That’s not good, but he was healthy and threw 199 IP, which makes him valuable to the Yankees. The year before he had a 3.39 ERA in 18 starts. He’s still young so the Yankees are hoping he grows into a talented pitcher. But even in his better seasons, his WHIP and BAA have been below average to bad. Moving from Miami to the tough pitching dimensions of the new Yankee stadium won’t help him either. This may be another pitcher flirting with an ERA of 5 and double-digit losses.
With Ivan Nova on the shelf recovering from Tommy John and Chris Capuano making his way back from his own injury, the fifth spot in the rotation goes to Adam Warren. Warren is a young guy with 3 starts to his name between 2012 and 2013 and then 69 relief appearances last year for the Yankees. It’s too small of a sample size to be sure what he can do starting, but he was more than solid as a reliever with a 2.97 ERA last year and 23 holds. His WHIP and BAA were solid, so they’ll see how he does starting. He has a short leash though as Capuano is likely due back in May and can challenge him for his starting job. They also know he’s good in the bullpen, which could hurt him in the decision as to who starts.
The bullpen actually looks pretty decent. Dellin Betances didn’t have the makeup to start, but has turned himself into a great reliever with 135 Ks last year, the most of any reliever since 2010. They will let him get the first crack at closing. With his stuff (97 MPH fastball and hard slider) I think he’ll succeed to the tune of 30+ Saves and an ERA around 2.50. He is supported by a lot of solid arms in Andrew Miller and David Carpenter, not to mention the loser of the last starting spot battle between Capuano and Warren.
This pitching staff was solid last year. But they got worse in the offseason. Sabathia is a shell of himself. Tanaka is a time bomb. Pineda hasn’t had a full season in the majors since his rookie year. Eovaldi, Warren and Capuano are question marks. The bullpen looks solid, but like most bullpens has weaknesses after the top 3 arms. If they have to pitch too often to make up innings for the struggling starting staff (which seems likely), then things could get ugly. And with their ballpark and the offenses they have to face, I see things getting ugly fast.
The problem with the Yankees this year is that nothing is good. The offense isn’t bad, but it’s not good. The defense is average at best. The starting rotation isn’t good and looks like it will be bad. The bullpen isn’t bad, but too many innings will hurt them. They are old, un-athletic and overpaid. They have the second worst offense in the division and the worst pitching staff. That’s a prelude to disaster. Add to that the pressure of expectations playing in NY, and I think this team crumbles and falls hard.
I’m putting them down for a surprising last place finish and 70 Wins.