Hole at the Hot Corner
Now that Major League Baseball has confirmed that A-Rod will be suspended for the entire 2014 season, the obvious question surrounding the Yankee lineup is who will fill the void that the Bronx Bombers have at the hot corner? In the 152 games that A-Rod did not play at third base for the Yanks last season, Bronx Bomber third basemen combined for a measly .216 average, hit only 7 home runs and drove in 42. Yankee GM Brian Cashman expects more power from his corner infield positions and will need to decide if his third baseman will come from their inventory of internal candidates, or if he can find a replacement via a trade or free agent signing.
The Yanks do not have a home-grown prospect anywhere near ready to make the big league club this coming opening day, but there are several players within the organization that have the potential to be part of an Opening Day third base platoon. At present, the projected favorite to be the Bronx Bombers’ primary option at third is Kelly Johnson. Obtained this offseason, Johnson has some power; however his natural position is second base, and he played just 16 games at the hot corner last season. Other internal options include Eduardo Nunez, who played 14 games at third base for the Yanks last season, Brendan Ryan, and Scott Sizemore, who was recently signed to a minor league deal. Any one of these candidates has a shot of being part of a platoon with Kelly Johnson. Another player to keep on your radar is Dean Anna, a AAA player obtained in an offseason trade with the San Diego Padres, who has played third base, shortstop, second base and the outfield during his long minor league career. He hit .331 last season in the Pacific Coast League, but at 27 years old he is a long-shot to make the Yankees opening day roster.
Unfortunately for the Yanks, the current free agent market for third basemen is pretty thin. They were rumored to have offered a minor league contract to Mark Reynolds, who played 30 games for the Bombers last season; however, he reportedly rejected their offer. The Yanks were also said to be in the early stages of negotiating with 37-year-old career .300 hitter Michael Young. Although his offensive numbers have recently been on the decline he does have the ability to play every infield position. Stephen Drew is available, however he is a natural shortstop who the Yanks would need to coax into playing third base. Placido Polanco’s name has also been named as a potential Yankee target but the 38-year-old free agent who hit just one homerun last season is not likely to be on the Yankees’ radar.
Third basemen Chase Headley, Pablo Sandoval, Aramis Ramirez, and Hanley Ramirez may all be available via free agency come next season. Any one of these teams might feel they'll lose their player to free agency, and the Yanks know that there is always the possibility their respective teams may be looking to make a deal before the trade deadline in July. Rest assured the Yanks will work day and night to explore all options available at third base this year.
Big Additions to the Lineup
For all the murkiness surrounding who the Yankees third basemen will be this upcoming season, we cannot forget that the Yanks made some moves that, on paper, will help their offense rebound from the ineptitude of 2013 caused by long-term injuries to key offensive contributors like Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and the aforementioned Alex Rodriguez.
First on their list was the addition of Jacoby Ellsbury, a legitimate leadoff hitter, who’s signing helped the Yanks, and just as importantly weakened their arch-rivals, the defending world champion Boston Red Sox. The Bronx Bombers also finally found a long-term replacement for Jorge Posada in Brian McCann, one of the premiere catchers in the game today. Lastly they signed power hitting rightfielder Carlos Beltran, who will get to fulfill his life long dream of playing for the New York Yankees. These players improved the Yankee lineup, but some question if Ellsbury has the ability to stay healthy this season and beyond or if he is just an injury prone centerfielder with amazing talent? Also, how much does 37-year-old Carlos Beltran really have left in the tank? Will these additions be enough to make up for the subtractions of Robinson Cano and Arod? We shall soon see.
2014 New York Yankees Lineup Analysis and Projections
The below is a potential New York Yankee lineup for the upcoming season. Of course, it may look different come Opening Day. As discussed, at this point, we anticipate that Kelly Johnson will get a majority of the starts at third base, but he could be part of a platoon depending on who impresses manager Joe Girardi and GM Brian Cashman the most during spring training. Some have suggested that Derek Jeter should not be the automatic choice to bat second this year and that Brett Gardner may be the Yanks’ lead-off hitter with Ellsbury batting third. That all remains to be seen but for now we project the 2014 Yankee lineup as follows:
Jacoby Ellsbury, Centerfield
Derek Jeter, Shortstop
Carlos Beltran, Rightfield
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Brian McCann, Catcher
Alfonso Soriano, DH/OF
Brian Roberts, 2B/SS
Brett Gardner, Leftfield
Eduardo Nunez SS, 2B, 3B
Brendan Ryan SS, 2B, 3B
Scott Sizemore, 2B, 3B
Jacoby Ellsbury, Centerfield
Bats Left, Throws Left, Opening Day Age: 30
Twitter handle: @jacobyellsbury
When it comes to offense, Jacoby Ellsbury has proven that he can just about do it all. This gifted centerfielder can hit for average, score a bunch of runs, steal a ton of bases, and he has proven that he is capable of hitting for power. The New York Yankees expect their marquee signing to make lofty contributions to the top of their lineup for the next 7 years. Some feel that the Yanks overpaid for Ellsbury, but if he approaches his 2011 season numbers, when he batted .321, hit 32 homeruns, drove in 105 runs, scored 119 runs and stole 39 bases, they will consider his $153 million dollar contract money well spent. The short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium should help the lefty swinging Ellsbury improve upon the 9 homeruns that he hit in 2012, and if the Yanks do not trade Brett Gardner, and it appears as though they might not, the Bronx Bombers will potentially have a couple of speed demons batting at the top or bottom of their lineup. If he stays healthy, expect Ellsbury to put up some impressive offensive numbers. He should be considered a late first round or early second round pick in all draft formats.
Projected 2014 statistics: .305 BA, 18 homeruns, 57 RBI’s, 50 SB’s, 102 runs scored
Derek Jeter, Shortstop
Bats Right, Throws Right, Opening Day Age: 39
After he missed virtually all of the 2013 season due to injuries, what can kind of offensive numbers can Yankee fans expect from Derek Jeter this upcoming season? It is unlikely that we will ever see him post stats close to those from his 2009 season when he reached the pinnacle of his fantasy baseball career, by batting .334, while slugging 18 homeruns, scoring 107 runs and stealing 30 bases. Can Jeter even approach the numbers he put up in 2012, his last full season, when he batted .316 with 15 homeruns and 99 runs scored? If hard work was all it took for him to reach those stats then no one should ever count Jeter out. The modern day pride of the Yankees has heard all of his critics who claim that his days as the everyday shortstop are behind him and you can be sure that he is working his tail off so that he will be ready to anchor the Yankee infield on opening day 2014. Will Jeter’s 39 year old body, which bitterly betrayed him last season, allow him to produce the kind of statistics that Jeter expects from himself? We have penciled in Jeter in the number 2 slot in the Bronx Bombers’ power laden lineup but there have been some whispers that he may be moved down the lineup and that could impact the number of runs that he will score this season- and lets face it, the only categories that he can still help your fantasy baseball team with this year are runs scored and batting average. His tenacity and will to win may help the Yankees contend for a World Series title but his days as being considered a viable option in your quest to win a title in your fantasy league are long gone. We have made adjustments based on Derek Jeter’s age and recent health woes and have projected that Jeter will get approximately 550 at-bats this season, which is far less than the 600 plus at-bats that have been historically typical for him while he was in his prime and completely healthy. Jeter will be available in the late rounds of your draft. You can take a flier on him as a back up on your fantasy team but our advice is to monitor his season and pick him up as a free agent if his statistics warrant it and your regular shortstop or middle infielder has gone down with an injury.
Projected 2014 statistics: .301 BA, 9 homeruns, 49 RBI’s, 8 SB’s, 77 runs scored
Carlos Beltran, Rightfield
Bats Both, Throws Right, Opening Day Age: 37; Twitter handle: @carlosbeltran15
After back-to-back solid seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, Carlos Beltran is finally playing for the New York baseball team that he has always wanted to play for. Beltran will be 37 years old on opening day 2014 and although he may not be able to steal bases like he once did, the rest of his offensive tools are intact. Residing smack dab in the middle of the Bronx Bomber’s revamped lineup, Beltran should benefit from having a healthy and motivated Mark Teixeira batting behind him. He is a much more effective hitter when batting lefty and will definitely benefit from the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium. If you combine the fact that Beltran is happy to finally be playing in Yankee pinstripes along with the fact that he wants to show the crosstown rival Mets that letting him go was a big mistake, then Beltran should be a productive outfielder on your fantasy squad. You should be able to pick up Beltran somewhere between the 8th and 10th rounds of your draft.
Projected 2014 statistics: .292 BA, 27 homeruns, 101 RBI’s, 86 runs scored
Mark Teixeira, First Base
Bats Both, Throws Right, Opening Day Age: 34; Twitter handle: @teixeiramark25
Complications from suffering a strained wrist tendon as a member of Team USA at the World Basic Classic caused Teixeira to miss all but 15 games of the 2013 baseball season, Yankee fans are eager to find out what Tex is capable of in 2014. Having hit at least 30 homeruns and driven in at least 100 runs in eight of 11 seasons during his career, he has been one of the most productive first basemen in fantasy baseball. What concerns some is that after 7 consecutive seasons where Teixeira had a batting average of .281 or better he has had 3 consecutive seasons where he hasn’t batted higher than .256. Is this the new normal that we should come to expect from Tex and can he rebound and stay healthy in 2014? Tex has made some adjustments to his workout regimen that he thinks will help him become the fantasy player that he once was. He will be cutting down on the number of daily practice swings he takes, from 100 to only 70 or 80, and he will no longer take practice swings using a weighted bat. Teixeira knows that opposing pitchers will want to test his surgically repaired wrist by pitching him inside and he looks forward to it, recently telling a YES network interviewer “I love it when guys try to come in and I can use that short porch at Yankee Stadium.” Tex is a proven fantasy baseball star whose skills are eroding slightly but it appears that he is in a good frame of mind coming into the 2014 season, and is taking proper precautions to ensure that he has a solid bounce back year. There will be many fantasy options available for first basemen on draft day. It is a deep position and you should grab Teixeira in the 10th to 12th rounds of your draft.
Projected 2014 statistics: .267 BA, 32 homeruns, 105 RBI’s, 97 runs scored
Brian McCann, Catcher
Bats Left, Throws Right, Opening Day Age: 30
The Yankees have been struggling to find a long term replacement for “Core 4” member Jorge Posada for the past few years and in Brian McCann they have one of the best backstops in the game. The 30-year-old McCann has hit at least 20 homeruns in all but one of his 8 full seasons in the big leagues and his lefty bat should produce close to 30 homers this season within the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium. Hitting in a lineup with table setters like Jacoby Ellsbury and either Derek Jeter or Brett Gardner batting in front of him should help boost McCann’s RBI totals. Although they didn’t sign him for his ability to hit for average, the Yanks are hoping that McCann can raise his batting average from the .230 and .256 marks of the past two seasons to a more respectable number, closer to his .277 career average. Being able to DH from time to time should help the durable McCann stay fresh for the entire season and help fantasy owners since his bat will remain in the lineup. You will probably see the more glamorous options at catcher, like Buster Posey or Yadier Molina, start getting drafted after the 5th round. Consider McCann as one of the top 10 catchers in your fantasy league and target him in the 14th round.
Projected 2014 statistics: .259 BA, 29 homeruns, 88 RBI’s, 64 runs scored
Alfonso Soriano, DH/OF
Bats Right, Throws Right, Opening Day Age: 38
What a homecoming for Alfonso Soriano in 2013! The Yanks were desperately looking for some pop from the right side of their lineup last season and traded for Soriano, who they had originally traded away in the deal that brought A-Rod to New York after the 2003 season. Soriano quietly put up some solid offensive numbers last season, clubbing 34 homeruns (17 of which he hit in only 58 games for the Yanks) and driving in 101 runs, and at age 37 he even stole 18 bases. Provided he gets his 500-plus at-bats, Soriano should put together another productive season. His biggest weakness is a batting average that has been declining in recent years. Earlier in his career Soriano would routinely hit for a batting average of somewhere between .280 and .300 but as of late his batting average has hovered around the mid .250 range. Soriano will work great as a 4th or 5th outfielder on your team. Target him between the 15th and 17th rounds of your fantasy draft.
Projected 2014 statistics: .254 BA, 28 homeruns, 82 RBI’s, 72 runs scored, 12 SBs
Kelly Johnson, Second Base/Third Base
Bats Left, Throws Right, Opening Day Age: 32
Kelly Johnson showed some promise as a fantasy player early in his career, but at 32 years of age he is playing for his 5th team since 2005. His previous stats project that over the course of a full season he is capable of hitting between 15 to 20 homeruns, driving in anywhere from 50 to 60 runs and stealing upwards of 10 to 15 bases. Although he has a lifetime .253 batting average, Johnson hasn’t batted higher than .235 over the course of his past 3 full seasons. He also strikes out way too much, having whiffed more than 147 times per season three different times. It is difficult to determine how much playing time Johnson will receive and therefore doubtful that he is a player that you would want to target on draft day. Instead, monitor his season, and if need be and you’re lucky, you can catch lightning in a bottle, and you can pick him up as a free agent to be used as a short term replacement should your regular third baseman or second baseman go down with an injury. The below projections are based on Johnson seeing most of the at-bats at third base for the Yanks this season.
Projected 2014 statistics: .234 BA, 12 homeruns, 42 RBI’s, 39 runs scored, 8 SBs
Brian Roberts, Second Base/Shortstop
Bats Both, Throws Right, Opening Day Age: 36; Twitter handle: @1brianroberts
In his prime Brian Roberts was a solid fantasy baseball producer who would consistently hit for average, steal anywhere from 30 to 50 bases and score 90 to 110 runs. Recently plagued by injuries, Roberts has had a hard time staying in the everyday lineup and has not come close to matching his previous stats. Brian Roberts was signed to a free agent contract in order to help fill the void left when Robinson Cano signed a long term contact with the Seattle Mariners and it looks as if Roberts’ impact on the Yankee lineup will depend on his ability to stay healthy and the amount of playing time he gets, since he will probably be part of a platoon situation. Roberts will not be much of a factor on draft day. The below statistics are based on Roberts getting approximately 250 at-bats.
Projected 2014 statistics: .262 BA, 5 homeruns, 27 RBI’s, 28 runs scored, 3 SBs
Brett Gardner, Left field
Bats Left, Throws Left, Opening Day Age: 30
Brett Gardner is a gritty, hard nosed player who can help your fantasy team in the stolen base and runs scored categories. Although he has been the speculation of several trade rumors and there is no guarantee that he will be in the Yankee lineup on opening day, batting Gardner ninth or second will provide the Yankees with a couple of serious base stealing threats batting back to back. Although a healthy Gardner can provide your team with 80 plus runs and 30 plus stolen bases he typically does not add much fantasy value other than in those two categories. Gardner will be available in the later rounds of your draft.
Projected 2014 statistics: .277 BA, 11 homeruns, 43 RBI’s, 84 runs scored, 32 SBs
Next week we'll look at the Yanks' starting rotation with the same in-depth analysis and projections.