The Yankees put up the fewest wins they’ve had since 1995 last year, missed the playoffs for the second straight season, and now look very different in 2015 as they parted ways with longtime mainstays while bringing in numerous veterans to replace them.
Last season the Yankees’ offense sputtered with Alex Rodriguez suspended and guys like Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran struggling with injury. Their pitching staff was also hurt by injuries to Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Michael Pineda.
Can the Yanks stay healthy this year? Of course not. What can we expect from Joe Girardi’s club? More of the same.
Batting Average: 20th
1B: Mark Teixeira, Garrett Jones
Teixeira dealt with injuries for the third year in a row, after missing almost the entire year in 2013. Tex posted career-lows in BA (.216), OPS (.711), HR (22), RBI (62) and runs (56) despite playing 123 games. At 34, Tex appears to be in a steep decline and probably wouldn’t even be here if the Yanks didn’t owe him nearly $50 million over the next two seasons.
The Yankees added Jones as an insurance policy for Teixeira, who’ll almost inevitably get hurt again this season. Jones is a very solid defensive first baseman capable of batting in the mid-200s while putting up around 15 home runs, 50+ RBI, 50+ R, and ~30 doubles in a full season. He doesn’t walk much but he’s very serviceable in just about every aspect.
Drew was horrific last season, batting just .176 in 39 games with the Red Sox before putting up an even worse .150 average in 46 games with the Yanks. He’s never been a high-average hitter but that’s just brutal.
Still, Drew is a good extra-base hitter capable of hitting in the mid-.200s and driving in and scoring 50+ runs. His glove should keep him in the lineup but if he can’t bat above the Mendoza line even that won’t help him.
Drew is mostly here because the Yanks aren’t sure what they have in the farm system. Refsnyder is a promising middle infielder who has played just two full seasons in the minors but has been incredibly impressive. He’s batted .297 through 313 games and has 15-15 potential. He’s hit more than 30 doubles in each of the last two seasons and draws an incredible amount of walks compared to his strikeouts. If I were the Bombers, I give Refsnyder a chance to start.
Unlike Refsnyder, Pirela has been in the minors forever and what he lacks in consistency he makes up for in extra-base hits and a great strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’s got good speed, stealing as many as 30 in a single season, and is considerably less raw than Refsnyder, though not as promising.
3B: Chase Headley, Alex Rodriguez
The Yankees handed Headley an inexplicably huge four-year, $52 million deal which means they’ll now pay at least $34 million for two third basemen for the next three seasons. Headley has a great glove but is far from the 31 HR/115 RBI hitter we saw a few seasons ago with San Diego.
Last season, he batted .243 with a .700 OPS, 13 HR, 49 RBI, and 55 R which is about all the Yanks can expect from him this season.
ARod is expected to DH this season but it’s hard to gauge what a 39-year-old third baseman who was already in decline will produce after a year out of baseball. ARod has been plagued by injuries every year since 2007, hasn’t hit over 18 home runs in the last three seasons, and hasn’t batted above .276 in the last four seasons. At this point, if he stays healthy, it’s hard to expect more than double-digit home runs and around 60 RBI from the aging veteran. Talk about $22 million well spent…
SS: Didi Gregorius, Brendan Ryan
Gregorius was brought in to fill the big shoes vacated by Derek Jeter but thus far in his young career he hasn’t lived up to his top-80 prospect potential. He has a strong glove but has failed to bat above .252 in 183 games with the D’Backs the last two seasons. He has a bit of pop and an ability to get extra-base hits but we haven’t seen any of the 20-steal speed we saw in the minors, nor the high averages he posted in Triple-A.
At 25, he’s still a work in progress but he’s a lot more likely to fill the shoes of latter day Jeter than the shortstop we saw in the Captain’s heyday.
Ryan is already down with a back injury but isn’t expected to miss too much time. Having batted below .200 in three straight seasons, he’s obviously only here for his glove.
Despite his .232 BA and career-low .692 OPS, McCann was a very solid catcher for the Yanks, hitting 23 home runs and driving in 75 runs. He’s no longer the 35+ doubles hitter or a guy capable of batting close to .300 but he has a good bat at a position where production is scarce and remains strong behind the plate.
Andrew Romine is a typical backup but it’s J.R. Murphy fans can get at least a bit excited about. Though he doesn’t hit for a high average he has a great knack for drawing walks, seldom strikes out, and is a good doubles hitter. At 23, he may still develop good pop.
Jacoby Ellsbury got the Yankees their money’s worth after inking a massive deal last season. He hit 16 home runs, drove in 70, scored 71, and stole 39 bases. More importantly, he stayed healthy and a healthy Ellsbury should certainly provide that type of production once again.
Carlos Beltran had offseason elbow surgery and is being eased back this spring. The Yankees certainly need him to get healthy after a banged up Beltran batted a career-worst .233, posted a .703 OPS (worst since 2000) and hit just 15 home runs while driving in 49 in 109 games. A healthy Beltran should still be capable of hitting 20 HR and driving in 80 but it’s hard to expect a 37-year-old with a lot of miles under him to stay healthy, despite his $15 million per year contract.
Brett Gardner showed power we’ve never seen from him before as he hit 17 home runs last season (he had never hit more than 8) and while his steals are way down from his league-leading 49 a few seasons ago, he remains a good speedy outfielder who will score 80+ runs, hit plenty of extra-base hits, and play a solid outfield.
Chris Young struggled with the Mets but looked solid late in the season with the Yankees as he batted .282 with three homers, 10 RBI, eight doubles, and nine runs in just 71 at-bats. Perhaps Yankee Stadium was built for him. Or, more likely, he’ll revert to the strikeout-happy outfielder unable to hit above .230 once again this year.
Masahiro Tanaka is expected to be healthy for the start of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last season. Tanaka was incredibly impressive in his first year in the Major Leagues, going 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 141 K to 21 BB in 136 innings. If he’s healthy, Tanaka could be one of the best Japanese imports yet, up there with the likes of Ichiro and Yu Darvish.
CC Sabathia struggled in 2013 and came undone in 2014 before getting hurt and missing most of the season. After posting ERAs of 3.38 or lower every year between 2006 and 2012, Sabathia put up a 4.78 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in 2013 and a 5.28 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 46 innings last year. He’s been giving up a ton of home runs the last three seasons and between his weight issues and the fact that he’s 34 with a lot of miles on his arm, I don’t see CC rebounding, despite the inexplicable $25 million per year extension the Yanks gave him.
Michael Pineda was impressive last year, putting up a 1.89 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and 59 K to 7 BB in 13 starts. Of course, Pineda’s bigger problems have always been injuries and last season was no different as he missed nearly four months with a shoulder injury. Pineda has a 3.17 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 247 MLB innings but he’ll need to stay on the field to help the Yankees any.
Nathan Eovaldi has a lot of potential but has failed to stay consistent in his 83 Big League games thus far. Last year, he went a head shake-inducing 6-14 with a 4.37 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. He gave up more hits than any other pitcher in the NL and a move to the AL won’t help him in that department. He’s capable of putting up ERAs in the low-3s but continues to kill himself by allowing too many runners on base.
Chris Capuano wasn’t great but gave the Yanks a solid 12 starts last year, putting up a 4.25 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. He won’t go far into games and won’t shut anyone down but he’s good enough to be a fifth starter on most teams.
Of course, Capuano is only here because Ivan Nova is still recovering from Tommy John surgery. It’s unclear when he’ll be back after missing almost all of last season but the 28-year-old showed promise in 2013 as he posted a 3.10 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 20 starts. He’s struggled with too putting too many runners on base and giving up the longball but he does have potential to be a strong backend starter.
Dellin Betances is competing with Andrew Miller to replace David Robertson as the Yanks’ closer after putting up monstrous numbers in his first year in the league. Betances pitched 90 innings over 70 appearances, putting up a 1.40 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, and a ridiculous 135 strikeouts to just 24 walks. The former top-40 prospect has long been praised for his great stuff and if he can stay healthy he could be one of the best relievers in the game for a long time to come.
Andrew Miller has also established himself as one of the game’s best relievers after struggling for years as a starter early in his career. He followed up his impressive 3.35 ERA and 2.02 ERA seasons with Boston with a 2.02 ERA last season between the Sox and Orioles, adding a 0.80 WHIP and 103 K to 17 BB over just 62 innings. No matter who wins the closer job, the Yanks may have one of the best 8-9 inning combos in the league.
David Carpenter looked great as he posted a 1.78 ERA in 2013 but saw it nearly double to 3.54 last season while putting up a 1.26 WHIP and 67 K to 16 BB. He’s in the same mold as Betances and Miller but will need to stay more consistent.
Justin Wilson looked stellar in 2013 but nowhere near the same pitcher last season as he posted a 4.20 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and walked 30 batters in 60 innings. Wilson is really going to need to work on his control if he’s going to stick.
Adam Warren has been very reliable for the Yanks the last two years, putting up a 3.18 ERA and 1.27 WHIP over 155.2 innings. He’s not great but he’s a solid option out of the pen.
Offense: C+ to B-
Starting Pitching: C+
Bullpen: B to B+