So enough of this mumbo-jumbo talk about the Phillies. Just because you win one World Series against a weak American League opponent (yes thats right folks, the Phillies’ recent “culture of winning” is really just a lone championship against the lowly expansion team from Florida) doesn’t mean you are perennial champions. Let’s get serious folks, you are the losingest franchise in sports history. Now suddenly you have World Series or bust expectations? It’s really starting to look like the Phillies’ team MVP this year may be their medical staff.
Now, on to the greatest franchise in sports’ history. The Yankees were a just a few frustrating pitching outings away from a world-record 41st return to the World Series in 2010, and again the question mark is pitching (until they use their stacked minor league arsenal to go out and get King Felix). The only question surrounding the Yankees’ lineup this year is how can they not lead the league in runs for a third straight season? Defensively the Yankees boast gold glove winning defenders at all 5 infield positions, and have 10 time gold glover Andruw Jones as their first outfielder off of the bench. The Yankees start the season relatively healthy (especially A-rod) with only a few minor nagging injuries to Swisher and Granderson. There shouldn’t be too many surprises here. Let’s begin:
Brett Gardner, LF/CF
It’s starting to look like Brett Gardner is going to be Joe Girardi’s choice to hit leadoff this year. This decision is a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. Gardner had a great year last year batting in the 9th spot, scoring 97 runs with an OBP of .383, while swiping 47 bases. With his speed, Gardner is able to beat out balls that most other players in the majors wouldn’t even consider running out all the way. He should improve this year after playing his first full season last year. Hitting at the top of the lineup will give Gardner more at bats meaning more chances to steal and score runs.
ESPN Projected Stats: .256 AVG. 96 Runs. 3 HR. 47 RBI. 48 SB.
Papa Bear’s Projected Stats: .274 AVG. 115 Runs. 1 HR. 45 RBI. 55 SB.
Derek Jeter, SS
The Captain had a rough year last year posting career lows in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Everyone with a pen and a press pass is already writing him off (thank god for us so-called bloggers). Give the guy a break. He just had his first contract year in 10 years. While contract years usually result in better years number wise, it is hard to believe that normal things motivate this man. Jeter is a tried and true champion, and he has way to much pride to let his slide in numbers carry over now that he was secured a four year deal. He will have a big burden taken off his shoulders now that he won’t be batting leadoff. Jeter needs only 74 hits to become a member of the immortal 3,000 hit club. New swing from Jeter, same old results. Expect big things from Jeter this year.
ESPN Projected Stats: .285 AVG. 102 Runs. 11HR. 62 RBI. 19 SB.
Papa Bear’s Projected Stats: .306 AVG. 114 Runs. 9 HR. 71 RBI. 14 SB.
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Mr. Consistent has hit over 30 home runs and had over 100 RBIs every year for the last 7 years. After an abysmal start in which he batted .180 in April, Tex rebounded in terms of power numbers, but never quite got that average up to where it should be. He finished the season with a .256 batting average, 30 points below his career average. It is not encouraging that Tex has hit for his lowest spring-training average since joining the Yankees in 2009, but we know what to expect here: Gold Glove caliber defense that improves the rest of the infields’ overall D, and over 30 homers with 100 plus RBIs.
ESPN Projected Stats: .280 AVG. 108 Runs. 36 HR. 114 RBI.
Papa Bear’s Projected Stats: .290 AVG. 119 Runs. 33 HR. 122 RBI.
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Last year A-Rod was recovering from off-season hip surgery and played in only 137 games. He still managed to reach 30 homers and 125 RBIs. Expect A-Rod to have a MONSTER year this year. He is fully recovered from his hip injury, and is looking the best he has looked in several years. A-Rod has posted great spring numbers while driving the ball well to both gaps. His power has returned as well. With legitimate MVP contenders padding him both before and after in the lineup, expect Alex to put up MVP numbers of his own.
ESPN Projected Stats: .283 AVG. 85 Runs. 29 HR. 123 RBI. 10 SB. (These predictions are just embarrassing. ESPN will eat their words)
Papa Bear’s Projected Stats: .297 AVG. 102 Runs. 40 A-Bombs, 138 RBI. 14 SB.
Robinson Cano, 2B
Robinson Cano had his much anticipated “coming-out” party last year (I can hear the Philly contingent of this website cracking mean-spirited jokes already). With Utley’s status uncertain, Cano can now be considered the best second basemen in baseball. It was more a matter of when then if he would have an MVP caliber season, and it’s now clear that he is going to be in many future MVP debates. Cano basically carried the Yankees team through the first few months of the season while A-Rod recovered from surgery and there was an APB out on Teixeira. Through the first three months of the season Cano hit 15 homers and drove in 53 runs while hitting well over .300 each month (including hitting .400 in April). Robbie’s power numbers stayed consistent throughout the year, but his average and on-base percentage dropped during the second half. Don’t be too concerned with these drop-offs because Cano performed well early in the year when he had to carry the team, which is great for this historically slow starter.
ESPN Projected Stats: .317 AVG. 102 Runs. 28 HRs. 112 RBI.
Papa Bear’s Projected Stats: .312 AVG. 31 HRs. 110 RBI.
Nick Swisher, RF
Nick Swisher is a guy that I refused to like when the Yankees traded for him in 2009. Then I realized that all we gave up for him was Wilson Betimit and a few crappy pitchers. It became apparent quickly that Swisher was the type of “chemistry” guy that is necessary on every championship team. It also became apparent that with all the other hitters in this lineup, Swish was going to get pitches to hit. He put up 29 homers in both 2009 and 2010 with the Yankees and had 82 and 89 RBIs respectively. What is most impressive about Swisher though, is his ability to work the count. No matter what his batting average is, Bomber fans can expect him to put up an OBP in the mid-to-high .300 range or better. They can also expect him to work every count and see as many full counts as any other player in baseball.
ESPN Projected Stats: .262 AVG. 88 Runs. 27 HR. 85 RBI.
Papa Bear’s Projected Stats: .275 AVG. 85 Runs. 25 HR. 80 RBI.
Curtis Granderson, CF
Granderson’s first season as a Yankee was an injury-shortened one in which he only played in 136 games. Granderson put up pretty consistent power numbers when he was playing, struggled to hit for average consistently. With a full offseason working with hitting guru Kevin Long, Granderson should be much more steady behind the plate. Curtis usually flirts with 30 home run seasons and with this stacked lineup he still manages to fly under the radar.
ESPN Projected Stats: .255 AVG. 96 Runs. 33 HR. 78 RBI. 15 SB.
Papa Bear’s Projected Stats: .260 AVG. 92 Runs. 29 HR. 82 RBI. 21 SB.
Jorge Posada, DH
As most Yankee fans already know, this year marks the end of an era for the Yanks. Posada will not be behind the plate for the first time in about a decade. This leaves many question marks because Posada was a field general back there even though his defense has declined in recent years. What this does signal is a potentially huge year offensively for Jorge. He will not have to deal with the nagging injuries that go along with a 39 year old catching. He may even end up flipping spots in the lineup with Swisher (although he is a huge roadblock on the base paths which is why we project him batting eighth).
ESPN Projected Stats: .256 AVG. 49 Runs. 17 HR. 62 RBI. 3 SB (doubtful).
Papa Bear’s Projected Stats: .275 AVG. 60 Runs. 25 HR. 81 RBI. -2 SB.
Russell Martin, C
That leaves us with the newcomer behind the plate. Martin had season ending hip surgery leaving something left to be desired in his 2010 performance. Let’s hope that Martin can recover from his injury, and the stacked Yankees’ lineup will help bring his numbers back. I am not convinced. The Yankees have two stud catching prospects in Austin Romaine and Jesus Montero. Either of them may get called up if Martin falters early- that is if they aren’t traded for King Felix.
ESPN Projected Stats: .260 AVG. 56 Runs. 9 HR. 42 RBI. 9 SB.
Papa Bear’s Projected Stats: .265 AVG. 42 Runs. 7 HR. 35 RBI. SB- I honestly have no idea how many stolen bases a catcher can have coming off a hip injury.