StrategyMarch 12, 2009

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30 Teams in 30 Days: New York Yankees

By Brendan Horton

Welcome back to “30 Teams in 30 Days.” Next up is one of Major League Baseball’s most storied franchises, and certainly its most decorated. The Yankees apparently did not get the memo about the hard financial times this country has fallen under; at least that’s what you would think after they shelled out $423.5 million to sign C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. It could have something to do with the fact that the Yanks missed the playoffs in 2008, the first time the club has failed to participate in post-season play since 1993. New York decided to not go the route of rebuilding, but to simply reload and try to recapture the magic that was the late 90s. With the last two American League World Series representatives sharing the division with the Yanks, getting back into the swing of things may be a taller task than expected.

For a closer look at the New York Yankees and the rest of the AL East, be sure to check out the The Can of Corn AL East Preview Podcast.

Offensive Starters

C Jorge Posada.268.364.411183220168 
1B Mark Teixeira.308.410.552102331212574w/2T
2B Robinson Cano.271.305.4107014722597 
SS Derek Jeter.300.363.40888116911596 
3B Alex Rodriguez.302.392.5731043510318510 
LF Johnny Damon.303.375.46195177129555 
CF Nick Swisher.219.332.4108624693497w/ChA
RF Xavier Nady.305.357.5107625972555 
DH Hideki Matsui.294.370.424439450337 

Unsettled: Alex Rodriguez. How will A-Rod handle the whirlwind of media scrutiny that is destined to follow him the entire season? Will he crack under the pressure? Will he rise above and play to his odd year usual? For a guy who wasn’t making it past the second overall pick in drafts, these uncertainties along with his health are unsettling at best.

Target: Hideki Matsui. The Japanese import that was once considered the most durable guy in the game has spent much of two of the last three seasons nursing injuries. Being drafted on average in the 14th/15th round, Matsui is a near lock for .295/.370/.480 with 25 HR, and 100 Runs and RBI apiece. With the 180th pick, where are you getting better value than that? Spending most of his time in the designated hitter spot should help keep him fresh and healthy, and he should see a ton of RBI opportunities batting behind the likes of Rodriguez and Teixeira. Matsui could easily out-earn his draft spot by ten or more rounds.

The Rotation

C.C. Sabathia (L)17-102.701.1225159253w/2T
A.J. Burnett (R)18-104.071.3423186221.1w/Tor
Chien-Ming Wang (R)8-24.071.32543595 
Andy Pettitte (L)14-144.541.4115855204 
Joba Chamberlain (R)4-32.601.2611839100.1 

Unsettled: Joba Chamberlain. When you spend $243.5 million on the top two available free agent starting pitchers in Major League Baseball, there better not be a lot left unsettled. Questions continue to whirl about Joba’s durability and whether he’s better suited to be the heir to the Rivera throne or not, but with Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, and Alfredo Aceves all waiting in the wings, they all show potential to be highly added free agents in all league formats if the Yankee pitching staff catches the injury bug.

Target: Joba Chamberlain and Chien-Ming Wang. If you want possible third round upside in the tenth round, then Joba Chamberlain is your man. Joba has fist-pumped his way from the Yankee bullpen into the rotation, and he’s going to do everything possible to stay there. If he’s able to stay healthy, we may be witnessing the emergence of a Johan Santana type pitcher right before our eyes. On average, he’s the 25th SP-eligible player off the draft board, and the sky is the limit with this guy.

Prior to his base-running gaffe that caused him to miss the final two and a half months of 2008, Yankee fans considered Wang their staff ace. Knocked for his lack of strikeouts, fantasy owners have been very critical of Wang, despite winning 19 games in back-to-back seasons. In previous seasons, owners had to pay premium price for those gaudy win totals, but in ’09, Wang is hanging around draft boards until the 13th or 14th Round, being taken in the late 160s to early 170s. That’s the kind of risk worth taking, regardless of how many bats Wang makes miss.

The 8th and 9th Innings

Mariano Rivera (R)391.400.6777670.2
Damaso Marte (L)54.021.20712665

Chasing Saves: Does it get any better than Mo? Rivera has been unhittable since ’96 and posted one of the best seasons of his career as a 38-year-old in 2008. He only walked six batters, all year! Barring injuries, this is the only guy in the Yankee bullpen worth owning if you’re looking for saves. If the now 39-year-old does break down, it’s possible we see the return of Joba Chamberlain to the bullpen, or some combination of Marte, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, or Edwar Ramirez. With the Yankees you can never discount the likelihood of acquiring appropriate help if the need presents itself, as well.

Final Thoughts

Love them or hate them; the New York Yankees are probably the most fantasy relevant team in all of Major League Baseball. With two of their players being taken in Round 1, and almost every other player in pinstripes having a claim laid to them during drafts and auctions, they simply refuse to be ignored. If the cards all fall into place, they may very well be responsible for the top starting pitcher, relief pitcher, third baseman, first baseman, and overall player in all of fantasy baseball.

Yesterday we previewed the Boston Red Sox. Check back tomorrow for our look at the Tampa Bay Rays in the next edition of “30 Teams in 30 Days!”

Brendan Horton is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Brendan in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of bigh0rt.
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