Only in New York can back-to-back 95-plus win seasons elicit cause for concern. After a 2010 playoff performance that saw the Texas Rangers expose the lack of depth in the Yankees’ rotation, Brian Cashman went out and signed … wait for it … Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia to anchor the back end of a shaky staff. Oddly enough, the moves paid dividends (at least initially), as each pitched better than they had in years, helping bring yet another AL East title to the Bronx. However, once the playoffs rolled around, the aging Yankee bats cooled, and the rotation’s fountain of youth ran dry as the Yankees were unceremoniously dispatched by the Detroit Tigers in a mere five games.
In desperate need of starting pitching this offseason, the Yankees eschewed free agent C.J. Wilson and instead traded top-five prospect Jesus Montero to the offensively starved Seattle Mariners for young ace Michael Pineda in what could be a huge boost to both franchises for years to come. Later that same day, the Yankees added wily veteran Hiroki Kuroda to immediately transform their pitching staff from woeful to above average. If aging sluggers Alex Rodriguez and newly acquired Raul Ibanez can somehow rediscover their numbers from years past, this Yankee team may very well end up the best team in baseball.
In “30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2012 fantasy baseball drafts.
|C Russell Martin||.237||.324||.408||57||18||65||8||417|
|1B Mark Teixeira||.248||.341||.494||90||39||111||4||589|
|2B Robinson Cano||.302||.349||.533||104||28||118||8||623|
|SS Derek Jeter||.297||.355||.388||84||6||61||16||546|
|3B Alex Rodriguez||.276||.362||.461||67||16||62||4||373|
|LF Brett Gardner||.259||.345||.369||87||7||36||49||510|
|CF Curtis Granderson||.262||.364||.552||136||41||119||25||583|
|RF Nick Swisher||.260||.374||.449||81||23||85||2||526|
|DH Raul Ibanez||.245||.289||.419||65||20||84||2||535||w/PHI|
Unsettled: Designated Hitter. I can’t see New York picking up Raul Ibanez for his God awful glove, so my assumption is that he will serve as the primary DH for the Bombers. However, it is difficult to envision him getting enough at bats there to be a relevant fantasy contributor. Expect any regular needing a rest to take over the DH spot and consequently steal at bats from Mr. Ibanez. Andruw Jones is also still stretching out the pinstripes and may even split what remaining at bats Ibanez is slated to receive.
Target: Mark Teixeira. How is a guy playing a somewhat thin position and virtually a lock to hit 35 home runs and accumulate over 200 total runs and RBIs falling to the late second round of drafts? The .248 batting average may have something to do with it. There’s been quite a bit of discussion as to whether or not Teixeira’s batting average woes are real or the result of a hit rate mirage. The answer is not that simple, and it has to do with switch hitting splits. If it were an issue of age catching up with Teixeira, I don’t think he would have hit .302 from the right side. The average drain seems to happen when he hits from the left side, and there are multiple reasons for it. First off is the ridiculous shift that defenses put on when he comes up lefty, which would help partially explain the .222 hit rate from that side. However, he has admitted to becoming a bit homer happy with the short right field porch of Yankee Stadium looming so large (as evidenced by his 6% increase in FB% from the left side) and plans on going back to using more of the whole field in 2012. If he can rectify these issues, we could see a return to a .280 average and first round value. Even with an average in the .260 range, he makes a wonderful compliment to those drafters selecting an elite middle infielder in the first round.
|CC Sabathia (L)||19-8||3.00||1.23||230||61||237.1|
|Michael Pineda (R)||9-10||3.74||1.10||173||55||171.0||w/SEA|
|Ivan Nova (R)||16-4||3.70||1.33||98||57||165.1|
|Hiroki Kuroda (R)||13-16||3.07||1.21||161||49||202.0||w/LAD|
|Phil Hughes (R)||5-5||5.79||1.49||47||27||74.2|
Unsettled: The final rotation spot. Numbers 1 through 4 are pretty set at this point and seem to be a very solid bunch. The big question is, can Phil Hughes return to his 2009 form? The Yankees seem to be willing to give him a shot, trading A.J. Burnett to the Pirates and paying the bulk of his contract. While Hughes’ numbers looked pretty ghastly, much of it can be attributed to his awful April (13.94 ERA, 2.23 WHIP) in which he was battling a back injury. Once he returned after a three-month layoff, he was solid, if unspectacular. There’s a chance he returns to his 2009 numbers, and you won’t have to pay too much to find out on draft day, but don’t be surprised to see Freddy Garcia hop in if Phil starts slowly.
Target: Michael Pineda. There’s been a lot of trepidation by some as to whether or not Pineda can recreate last season’s success. First off, there’s been talk of how Pineda “wore down” at the end of last season, but that’s simply not true. Any gains that Pineda apparently lost in the second half can be attributed to an awful 58% strand rate. His K%, xERA, and xFIP actually improved in the second half.
Another criticism I hear is that his away ERA (4.40) is significantly worse than his home ERA (2.92). Again, the strand rate splits (77.5% home/ 64.4% road) looks to be a big part of the problem, and the similarity in his xFIP splits (3.51 home/3.55 road) seems to confirm that. While it is true that Pineda is moving from a very pitcher friendly park to one that favors hitters, I feel as if last season’s ERA of 3.74 is closer to his worst case scenario than his upside. He’s also going to benefit from a much more potent lineup behind him, resulting in possibly a doubling of last season’s wins. This is the time to grab Pineda on the cheap, because if he continues to progress (he is, after all, only 23), his MDP of 97 could be the steal of the draft.
The 8th and 9th Innings
|Mariano Rivera (R)||44||1.91||0.90||60||8||61.1|
|David Robertson (R)||1||1.08||1.13||100||35||62.2|
Chasing Saves: There’s really not much to say here, as Mariano Rivera continues to defy Father Time and pitch like a top-five closer every single year. Were something to happen to Rivera, the electric David Robertson and his 13.5 K/9 are waiting in the wings to pick up right where Mo leaves off. While there’s talk that this may be Rivera’s last season, that should in no way deter redrafters from taking him in the top tier of relievers.
Despite another successful regular season, 2011 ended on another sour note for the New York Yankees. Determined to take the next step in 2012, the pitching woes of the previous two years were finally addressed in a big way. Brian Cashman is hoping these moves pay off before his offense gets any older in the hopes of bringing home World Series number 28. I wouldn’t bet against them.
Check back tomorrow for our look at the Tampa Bay Rays.
Mike Kropman is a transplanted New Yorker currently teaching high school math up in tiny little Rhode Island. He enjoys P90X, Unibroue, pitchers duels, and Super Bowl 42. You can catch up with him in the Cafe under the user name Inukchuk.
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