Oh, the Bronx Bombers are going to be a bit of a fantasy minefield this year -- explosively good or explosively bad on a player-by-player basis. Sure you can count on Robinson Cano to put up his usual great numbers, but there are some players whose value is definitely worth taking into consideration for the upcoming season. Here are ten to watch.
1) Andy Pettitte (SP): Pettitte threw a remarkable 75 innings last season, on the other side of a year off, but had his season truncated by a fractured fibula thanks to a line drive off the bat of Casey Kotchman. His ERA was by far the best he posted since 2005. Does that mean he’s regained his championship form or that the numbers just didn’t have a chance to normalize last year? I’d bet on the latter. He’ll be 41 on opening day this and the odds of a 40-plus-year-old being this good are practically nil. That doesn’t mean he can’t be extremely valuable, but an ERA closer to 4.00 and severe injury risk are in the cards.
2) CC Sabathia (SP): Was the injury of last season a harbinger of things to come or is the rather pear-shaped CC about to bounce back? He battled elbow issues last season but still was remarkably effective. There is no reason to think that won’t continue if health remains good but how long can a pitcher dubiously listed at 290 avoid serious injury?
3) Alex Rodriguez (3B): The big question is, is A-Rod really coming back? The second question is, if he comes back, just what will he have to offer. The hip surgery is serious and optimistically he’d be back around midseason and as a DH. Even if he does return, his seriously eroding skill set, especially his power and ability to hit for average, leaves a lot of doubt that he’ll be better than a waiver wire player over the 250 AB he’s likely to get.
4) Kevin Youkillis (3B): Youk isn’t the player he once was and he’s been plagued by more and more injuries as he ages. Last year it was the back, something which can be crippling to a player’s skills. However if he’s healthy he should be a solid contributor, but as a righty he won’t benefit from the dimensions of Yankees Stadium. Think .280-18-75 as the upside, but the downside is disaster.
5) Derek Jeter (SS): Jeter looks to be on pace to take his position on opening day. However, he still hasn’t resumed full workouts. However age (39) is a big factor and following the broken ankle it’s safe to presume that his days of stealing double digit bases are behind him. His power days maybe gone too. He’s a .300 hitter, anything else is pure cake.
6) Ichiro Suzuki (OF): Another aged player, another great one too. His speed is intact and the home run friendly ballpark gives a slap hitter like him the chance to park 10-15 in the seats if he can play regularly and not lose time to the DL.
7) Curtis Granderson (OF): Look at last year’s stats -- .232-43-101 with 10 steals -- and figure that, minus a big fraction is what you’ll get from the 33 year old, were he healthy. However since he suffered a broken bone in his forearm during spring training, he’ll be out until at least May, so that fraction may be a large one. His hr/fb rate is extremely high and a correction there is possible, and his average is volatile, but he’s still a very solid contributor in three categories and possibly a fourth if he gets the green light to run a bit more.
8) Mariano Rivera (RP): The greatest relief pitcher of all time is back for another go. Following ligament surgery on his knee there are a lot of questions. Has it affected his motion? His control? His speed? His breaking ball? That said, if he’s 85% the Mariano of old, he’ll be very good. Thus if health holds he’ll get his fair share of saves. If he fails, it looks like David Robinson will be the handcuff.
9) Michael Pineda (SP): The guy was a monster before he tore his labrum prior to the start of the 2012 season. He’ll be out for at least the first half of this one too. Age is on his side, but this injury isn’t as simple or as predictable as Tommy John surgery has become. He could be a great second half stash, or a total loss. Flip a coin if you choose to grab him. Personally I’d wait until 2014 at least.
10) Ivan Nova (SP): He is the pitcher most likely to take a step forward. That said he posted an ERA over 5 last season, so how big the stride is remains a question. Still he has good, developing skills and is still on the uphill climb towards reaching his prime. No matter what he’ll be solid contributor in K’s even if the other counting stats are all works in progress.