10 Reasons to like the 2013 Yankees
It’s been a rough Spring Training for the NY Yankees and coming on the heels of an unspectacular off-season has many fans very pessimistic about 2013. In fact, some could argue that since the WS win in 2009, Yankee management have made a series of bad decisions that have the organization set up for its worst stretch since the early 90s. The end of the line for “the Core”, the lack of young talent on the MLB roster and the upper minors combined with the decision to significantly cut payroll in coming years makes for a rough outlook for 2013 and beyond. There are many things to be concerned with but for today, let’s put on our optimistic hats and look at some positives for the 2013 season.
1 – Robinson Cano – As bad as things get, you can always look forward to Robbie’s 4-5 ABs every game. He’s hands-down, the best 2B in MLB and one of the top 2-way players in all of baseball. Cano is a superstar and MVP-caliber talent who is a magician with the glove at 2B and is as durable as anyone in the sport. He’s looking to show the league that he is worthy of the monster contract he’s asking for so I’d expect a huge year. Last yr he struggled vs LHP and with RISP yet he still had a career year (.929 OPS) and he has shown he can hit well in both situations in the past so look for a bounce-back there. The biggest question is can he remain patient and wait for his pitch when pitchers are sure to pitch around him given the team’s lack of dangerous bats around him. Last yr his Walk rate jumped from 6.1% with no one on base to a whopping 16.9% with RISP. Expect that to rise even more but Cano has to accept those Walks rather than get himself out this yr for the team to succeed.
2 – A healthy Brett Gardner – Gardy missed nearly all of last year and the team became a plodding station to station offense without him. Brett is healthy, in his prime at 29 and will be given a premium spot at the top of the order to start 2013. He is a valuable weapon who can see a ton of pitches, get on base a lot, steal bases and generally annoy the heck out of opposing pitchers. If he can avoid the freak injuries I see a big year for Gardner with a .350-.360 OBP, 50 SBs, 100 Runs Scored and dozens saved in CF/LF as a Gold Glove defender.
3 – An opportunity for Eduardo Nunez – Jeter’s injured ankle has opened a door for Nunez to start as the team’s everyday SS. While he has been an adventure defensively, he played his best defense in 2011 when he played Short on a daily basis when Jete was on the DL and he’s had the same chance this ST and it will extend into at least April. I like Nunie’s offensive potential as a guy with a quick bat and blazing speed. I see someone who could be a .280 hitter with 10 HRs and 35+ SBs if he played every day for a full year. However, he must show he can be trusted at SS and if he does the yanks will be able to let Nunez and Jeter share SS and right-handed DH. They need his speed and RH bat in the lineup this year and beyond as the 25-yr-old is one of the team’s few young position players.
4 – A Strong Rotation – the Yankees rotation was solid last year finishing 5th in the AL with a 4.04 ERA, and 2nd in both IP & Ks. It returns intact with a nice blend of 3 vets and 3 kids and it has the potential to be stronger in 2013. Ace CC Sabathia dealt with injuries all season and had his elbow cleaned up in the off-season so I expect a typical great season from the big fella. Hiroki Kuroda was the team’s most consistent starter in his first A.L. season and Andy Pettitte is healthy after only making 12 starts a year ago. Phil Hughes improved as the season wore on last yr and will have a lot to prove in his Walk yr this season. He’ll begin the yr on the DL with what is hopefully a minor back issue thus opening up a spot for David Phelps who was the team’s most pleasant surprise last yr and has looked great again this ST. Ivan Nova has made some mechanical changes working with Larry Rothschild as he looks to return to the form that saw him be the team’s #2 starter as a rookie in 2011. Rothschild has had a positive impact on the staff as all of the starters have lowered their Walk totals while also raising their K rates since Larry took over. The Yankees will rely on their staff more than ever as they will score less runs and this staff has the horses to rise to the occasion.
5 – Walk Years – With the goal to get under the Luxury Tax Threshold in 2014, the front office has been very reluctant to lock players up past 2013 so the result is a ton of players reaching Free Agency in 2014. While Cano is the big FA, the majority of the team will also be due including key players like Granderson, Youkilis, Hughes, Kuroda, Hafner, Joba, Aardsma, Logan, etc. That’s a lot of key players who will have something to prove in 2013.
6 – A More Dynamic Approach? The yanks crushed a record 245 HRs in 2013 with 10 players hitting 14+ HRs. This year’s lineup won’t come close to duplicating those power numbers. However, they have players with other skills that could lead to a more diversified offense. They’ve added some hitters with better contact skills and also have many hitters that can work a count. In Gardner, Ichiro & Nunez, they have 3 players capable of stealing 40+ bases each which is a big change for a team that was 22nd last yr with just 93 total SBs. A HR is the best possible outcome in baseball but last year’s team struggled moving runners, hitting with RISP and cashing in runners on 3rd with less than 2 outs. This year’s team will have to be better fundamentally because they don’t have the power to make up for their mistakes.
7 – Old Nemesis Kevin Youkilis was a hated opponent for years with Boston but will be counted on heavily this season as the likely cleanup hitter. I think Youk will have a bounce back year and will be a very important cog batting behind Cano this year. With Jeter down, the Yanks will also count on Youk for his leadership in the infield with the young Eduardo Nunez playing next to him. Fellow old nemesis, Ichiro will also be counted on for a big season. He saw a nice bounce in performance after coming to NY last yr and I hope he can maintain it for a full season in 2013. Ichiro will be counted on to not only set the table but also to help drive in runs this yr. I think he’ll come close to his carer-high 15 HRs playing a full yr in YS.
8 – Underdog Status? For the last 15+ years, the Yanks have always started the season with huge expectations and a big target on their backs as preseason favorites. This year, most “experts” and projection tools are not picking the Yankees to win the AL East. Toronto is the popular choice with Tampa also often picked ahead of NY. While ownership and the fans always expect the team to make the playoffs, perhaps the Yanks can use the doubts and picks to lose as motivation. Let Toronto deal with the lofty expectations while perhaps the Yanks can sneak up on people as underdogs.
9 – Minor League Development Yankee prospects received a lot of accolades this Winter with most publications rating the team’s system in the 11-14 range despite not having ANY top prospects above A-ball. A strong yr could vault the system into the Top 5 in all of baseball. This year, most of the top prospects will either start the yr in AA or will be there by mid-season. OFs Slade Heathcott, Tyler Austin & Ramon Flores will start in AA Trenton and could move up fast with some success. The team’s 2 top-rated prospects – Gary Sanchez & Mason Williams – are a step behind but could see call-ups to AA by June. The prospects are more important than ever with the Yankees apparently sticking to a lower payroll in 2014. if a prospect or 2 can take a starting job, it will leave more money to spend on other positions. It is without a doubt, a huge year for the Minor League system.
10 – Farewell to Mo…..the G.O.A.T. – Rafael Soriano did a tremendous job last year as the team’s closer after Mariano injured his knee but the greatest ever is back this year for one last season. We should all treasure watching Mo pitch in 2013 because we will be witnessing the best reliever ever to pitch for the last time. He has the best ERA+ of ALL-TIME with a 206+ mark. His standard ERA of 2.21 is 13th best ever but the ERA+ accounts for the era he pitched in, his ballpark and his relation to other pitchers of his time. Not only is his 206+ ERA the best ever it is 52 points better than the #2 pitcher, Pedro Martinez at 154+. Mo is 1st All-Time in Saves (608), 2nd all-Time in WHIP (0.98), 4th All-Time in so/BB rate (4.04), 5th All-Time in H/9 (6.9). And his Post-season records are even more amazing – a 0.70 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 42 Saves and just 2 HRs allowed in 141 IP. Savor this last season of Mo. There will NEVER be another player so dominant for so long while at the same time doing it with basically 1 pitch…..and always doing it with dignity & class.