Friday, March 11, 2011

MLB 30 in 30: New York Yankees

After the Yankees were left in the dark by both Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee, many wonder whether the Yankees have enough to compete fully for a World Series berth out of the AL. They still have loads of talent, but this year's team may actually be worse than last year's. Do they have enough?

What they Have: Despite not picking up Carl Crawford, they still have a good outfield. Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, and Brett Gardner are the not the most formidable trio of outfielders, but they aren't the worst either. They'll end up being the guys that lead off the offense for the Yankees, or bat late in the order. The infield is the same as last season, which means it's still one of the best in baseball. Derek Jeter of course had his fair share of struggles last season, but he shouldn't have too many of those this season. What is new, is the catcher. Russell Martin came over from the Dodgers to help sure up the catcher position voided by Jorge Posada as he moved to full time DH. Up and down, the Yankees still have a lineup that can compete with the best in baseball, if not beat them. The sore spot is as it was last season: pitching. C.C Sabathia and Phil Hughes are still the top 2 guys for sure, and they pitched the best out of anyone on the Yankees staff not named Riviera last season. The major questions lie behind them of course. And also in the bullpen, they picked up Pedro Feliciano from the Mets to help out Joba Chamberlain and the other returning pitchers. And, they still have the Sandman, who is the best closer of all time.

What they Don't Have: The pitching behind Hughes and Sabathia. A.J Burnett is still the key to the entire starting rotation. If he pitches like he did in 2009, the Yankees will be right back at where they were in 2009, which is atop the AL East, in the World Series. If not, then the Yankees will be set back by miles. With Andy Pettitte retiring, there are even more holes behind him. Ivan Nova looks like he'll be in the starting rotation, but for the 5th spot it's truly an open competition between guys like Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, and maybe even Mark Prior. The hole there leaves the Yankees in a tough spot competing with teams like the Red Sox, White Sox, and Rangers who have the pitching to fight off the Yankees offense. Also, the bullpen behind Joba, Mariano, and Pedro is only OK, but the major concern is the rotation behind the top 2 starters.

Any Help Coming? The Yankees have 2 prime catching prospects waiting in the wings if the spot doesn't go well this season. Gary Sanchez has almost every tool needed to be a fantastic catcher, sans being a fast runner. And Jesus Montero has been compared to Mike Piazza, the best hitting catcher of all time. He doesn't have many defensive tools though, which is holding him back. Dellin Betances is a huge RHP with 3 plus pitches, but injuries have slowed his development.

 Outlook: They have the offense and bullpen like the Yankees should have. The problem is that they don't have the pitching, that the Yankees should have. How they fix that issue will be the question of the season for this team. If the pitching is as big of a problem as it was last year, be prepared to see Brian Cashman make a move for another starting pitcher. If the rotation has success, then the Yankees will have success and challenge Boston. If not, it may be a troubling year for the Bronx Bombers.

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