Thursday, March 21, 2013

MLB 2013 Preview: New York Yankees

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-Digger's Daily-

Will the 2013 New York Yankees go down in history as the largest payroll team finishing with a losing record? Can anyone remember the last time New York finished with a sub .500 record? Get ready fans, 2013 is shaping up to be a very long season.

Yankees are supposed to be in cost cutting mode. 2013 cumulative salaries exceed $200M. Only one major off season roster adjustment for the first time in ages (Kevin Youkilis). It could be a very long season for Yankees fans accustomed to winning. Then again, perhaps the 2013 version goes back to baseball basics. Hit, run, pitch & field. It's their only hope.

New York limps into opening day missing key cogs. Captain Derek Jeter's ankle is hurting. Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira will miss significant time. Mariano Rivera returns after missing most of '12. This squad reminds me of the late 90's pennant winning clubs. All prognosticators believe the Yankees are cooked. I think there's a great deal of hope.

2013 will not be another fodder of free swinging, no clutch, rally killing strikeout artists. Ichiro & Gardner provide contact, speed, defense and superb base running ability. Youkilis is a solid contact hitter who gnaws away at pitch counts. Robinson Cano is baseball's best second basemen and was WBC's batting star. 1B Dan Johnson is due. A great career minor league hitter for both power and average finally gets a shot in a hitters park after early years in Oakland. I predict a break out season in hitter friendly AL East if he can steal time away from Juan Rivera. Rivera might open the year at 1B and platoon in LF with recent pick-up Brennan Boesch. Rivera is a streak hitter who showed temporary flashes as an Angel. Boesch can rake it and New York's short right porch might make him an instant hit with Bleacher Bums. Russell Martin wasn't retained opening the door for catcher's Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart. Both are adequate defenders but can't hit a lick. Travis Hafner will DH. A carefully planned lineup could go a long way. Gardner, Ichiro, Youkilis, Cano, Hafner, Boesch, Johnson/Rivera, Nunez & Cervelli/Stewart on opening day. This lineup will put the ball in play. 2012 lineup struck out an alarming 1176 times featuring six with 90+, three with 100+, led by Granderson's 195. Why hasn't this club fired their hitting coach? Jeter will hopefully return soon. (However, don't expect much range from a surgically repaired ankle which is already causing problems. Nunez time to shine is now or never).

How well will the starting rotation pitch in 2013? CC Sabathia, Kuroda & Pettitte are a solid front three if A.P. can stay healthy. Back end is up for grabs. On again, off again Hughes tries to fulfill expectations (again). Ian Nova & David Phelps are battling for the final starting slot. There's no room for error in April. Hurlers need to come out of the gates in mid-season form or it will be a long season.

Bullpen, if not over worked, is a strength. Rivera returns to close and looks strong. Robertson, Logan, Aardsma, Joba, Eppley & Rapada have live arms. A very formidable pen on paper. We'll soon see how they perform in April.

Forecast: AL East is very tough. Orioles, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Rays & Yanks will battle all season long. Yanks need a strong April or they won't be able to keep pace. Small ball, hit and run, defense & pitching. Rivera is not a long term solution at 1B if Teix is out for the year. Yanks already spurned by Chipper Jones & Derek Lee. This squad may win as few as 79 games or as many as 95.

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