Projecting the Yanks' position players
With Jeter looking to bounce back and A-Rod healthy, things are looking up
A-Rod will win the MVP this year! No, he turns 36! The Captain will be his old self! No, he will just get older! Robinson Cano will win the MVP this year! No, he can't match what he did last year!
The beauty of Opening Day is that there are really plausible arguments to each side. So now we have broken down each Yankee position player (to go along with the starters and bullpen).
We have also gone scientific, presenting ESPN Insider's Dan Szymborski's ZiPS computerized projections. (He goes through every team in this month's ESPN The Magazine.)
So let's again go all ESPN on ESPNNewYork.com
MARK TEIXEIRA, first base
Last year: .256, 33 HRs, 108 RBIs
Pro: He can't possibly be as banged up as he was last year. He can't possibly start as slowly as he did last year, can he?
Con: He never starts quickly. He hit 34 points below his career average, finishing at .256. At 31, he is not going be the same player. A scout said last year, the change-up was the go-to pitch to get Teixeira out.
ESPN New York projection:.267, 33 HRs, 112 RBIs
ZiPS projection: .273, 33 HRs, 107 RBIs
Final take: Teixeira will have an uptick. He took more swings this winter at a batting cage he purchased for Bobby Valentine's Sports Complex in Stamford, Conn. He will have a better start and then be his usual streaky self.
ROBINSON CANO, second base
Last year: .319, 29 HRs, 109 RBIs
Pro: He looks bigger than last year and will be better. He was an MVP candidate last season. This year, he makes the Yankees his team and he wins the award.
Con: There are really no reasonable cons, except he could get hurt. Cano is in his prime (28) and came in really focused.
ESPN New York projection: .341, 32 HRs, 117 RBIs
ZiPS projection: .298, 24 HRs, 88 RBIs
Final take:Holy ZiPS, this is the projection we disagree with the most. We think Cano is going to continue to dominate and could win the MVP.
"I think he's going to be better than last year," a scout said.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ, third base
Last year: .270, 30 HRs, 125 RBIs
Pro: His hip is in better shape than it has been in two years. He crushed the ball in spring training.
Cons: He turns 36 this year. History suggest that players generally start to get worse at this age.
ESPN New York projection: .275, 37 HRs, 120 RBIs
ZiPS projection: .277, 30 HRs, 103 RBIs
Final take: There are MVP predictions everywhere, even from a scout we spoke with, for A-Rod. We won't go that far, but we think he will be better than he was last year.
DEREK JETER, shortstop
Last year: .270, 10 HRs, 67 RBIs
Pro: The new swing is the thing. He has looked a little better in spring. But it is spring training. Jeter is a prideful athlete, who is not going to go downhill without a fight.
Con: He turns 37 before the All-Star break. He looked very old last year. Even the Captain can't beat Father Time.
ESPN New York projection: .282, 13 HRs, 71 RBIs
ZiPS projection: .280, 12 HRs, 58 RBIs
Final take: Bill James says it will be .295, 13 HRs and 68 RBIs for Jeter. The Yankees would take that. Ultimately, we don't think he returns to the .290s.
RUSSELL MARTIN, catcher
Last year: .248, 5 HRs, 26 RBIs
Pro: When healthy, he has been a serviceable hitter. Nothing fancy, except for 2007 (17 HR, 89 RBI) when he looked as though he might be a star.
Con: He has had trouble staying healthy. Last year, he played in only 97 games.
ESPN New York projection: .252, 9 HRs, 57 RBIs
ZiPS projection: .253, 10 HRs, 53 RBIs
Final take: The Yankees want Martin to improve them defensively. Any hitting he does is a plus.
BRETT GARDNER, left field
Last year: 277, 5 HRs, 47 RBIs
Pro: Gardner is a run-scoring machine. If he gets on base, he is such a threat.
Con: He knows how to get on base, but not necessarily against left-handed pitching. Gardner can be streaky.
ESPN New York projection: .282, 6 HRs, 55 RBIs
ZiPS projection: .260, 5 HRs, 37 RBIs
Final take: The numbers that matter with Gardner are on-base percentage, steals and runs scored. Last year, he was on base at a .383 clip. He stole 47 bases and scored 97 runs. This year, especially if he spends half his time at the top of the order, we see him at .395, 50 steals and 112 runs scored.
CURTIS GRANDERSON, center field
Last year: .247, 24 HRs, 67 RBIs
Pro: Granderson was like a new player after hitting coach Kevin Long changed his swing last summer. It was pretty amazing to see the turnaround.
Con: He has started the year with an oblique injury. Even if he is healthy, Granderson has not hit lefties, so even with his new approach there really needs a full-year of evidence before anyone can become a true believer.
ESPN New York projection:.259, 32 HRs, 83 RBIs
ZiPS projection: .261, 28 HRs, 75 RBIs
Final take: Granderson is a player on the rise. His new stance has shown unbelievable results. His home run total should go up.
NICK SWISHER, right field
Last year: .288, 29 HRs, 89 RBIs
Pro: Swisher had a tremendous season. He became an All-Star. So he could carry it over into this season.
Con: Even hitting coach Kevin Long doesn't think you can expect more from Swisher. Swisher may have found his groove, but he has had an inconsistent career so he can't be fully counted on yet.
ESPN New York projection: .279, 26 HRs, 82 RBIs
ZiPS projection: .258, 28 HRs, 81 RBIs
Final take: He is a guy who could take a step back. The Yankees have a team option for next year so the pressure is on Swisher if he wants to remain in New York -- which he desperately does.
JORGE POSADA, designated hitter
Last year: .248, 18 HRs, 57 RBIs
Pro: He will not have to deal with the rigors of catching. This should, in theory, make him fresher and better with his bat.
Con: Posada hasn't liked being the DH in the past. It is tough to go from being in every defensive play to none. Posada is going to have to learn how to prepare so he can be ready for each at-bat.
ESPN New York projection: .257, 15 HRs, 69 RBIs
ZiPS projection: .247, 17 HRs, 56 RBIs
Final take: Posada will be preserved, but he likely will have some difficulty transitioning to the DH role.
ERIC CHAVEZ, infielder
Last year: .234, 1 HR, 10 RBIs
Pro: If he is healthy, he could be a great addition.
Con: He is never healthy.
ESPN New York projection: .272, 10 HRs, 41 RBIs
ZiPS projection: .205, 2 HRs, 13 RBIs
Final take: He looked good in the spring. He is not going to play that much so there shouldn't be too much of a chance for him to get hurt.
EDUARDO NUNEZ, infielder/outfielder
Last year: .280, 1 HR, 7 RBIs
Pro: Nunez should be an upgrade offensively over Ramiro Pena. The Yankees started moving him around last year in preparation to spell Jeter and A-Rod and be an emergency option in the outfield.
ESPN New York projection: .275, 8 HRs, 37 RBIs
ZiPS projection: .268, 8 HRs, 52 RBIs
Final take: He is an upgrade over Pena.
ANDRUW JONES, outfielder
Last year: .230, 19 HRs, 48 RBIs
Pro: He can still hit left-handed pitching.
Con: He can't move as well as he used to and righties dominate him.
ESPN New York projection: .235, 14 HRs, 41 RBIs
ZiPS projection: .221, 16 HRs, 46 RBIs
Final take: He is strictly a specialist these days as he still can hit lefties.
GUSTAVO MOLINA, catcher
Last year: .143, 0 HR, 0 RBI
Pro: Played four games with the Red Sox last year so maybe he will have some intel on their hitters.
Con: He can't hit.
ESPN New York projection: .117, 0 HR, 9 RBIs
ZiPS projection: .227, 5 HRs, 20 RBIs
Final take: He is a place-holder until Francisco Cervelli is healthy.