On Friday, the New York Yankees‘ players reported to Tampa, Fla. for Spring Training. They are hoping their offseason spending will lead to their 28th World Series championship.
Last season, the Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 season. Yankees’ owner Hal Steinbrenner was initially set on having a payroll below $189 million for the 2014 season, according to David Waldstein of the New York Times.
Steinbrenner decided to go a different direction.
He spent $465 million this offseason to try to win their first World Series title since 2009, according to Ted Berg of USA Today. The offseason spending included signing free agents Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Masahiro Tanaka.
The Yankees did lose second baseman Robinson Cano to free agency; signed with the Seattle Mariners. The Yankees also had closer Mariano Rivera and starting pitcher Andy Pettitte retire succeeding the 2013 season.
They also have one other significant loss for the upcoming season. Major League Baseball, MLB, commissioner Bud Selig suspended third baseman Alex Rodriguez for the 2014 season.
The Yankees still have a very good lineup without Cano and Rodriguez.
Below is my projected lineup for Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi for the upcoming season.
1. Shortstop Derek Jeter: It will be a tough call for Girardi to decide between center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and Jeter who the leadoff hitter will be. Jeter will most likely be leading off for the Yankees because it is his final season, according to his Facebook page. Girardi will most likely want to get Jeter as many at-bats as possible before Jeter retires. Jeter does have a career .312 batting average and a .381 On Base Percentage, OBP. In his last full season, he had a .316 batting average and a .362 OBP. Those are very good statistics for a patient, veteran leadoff hitter like Jeter. Pitchers will not be able to pitch around him with Ellsbury behind him.
2 Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury: There is a good chance that Ellsbury could be the leadoff hitter. He is very good at hitting for contact with some power. Last season for the Boston Red Sox, Ellsbury had a .298 batting average and a .355 OBP. He also had nine home runs. He would be a great fit in the second spot because he is good at making contact and being patient. It also helps that he will have a very good hitter like catcher Brian McCann hitting behind him. This could lead to Ellsbury seeing great pitches and having a double digit home run season.
3. Catcher Brian McCann: An ideal ‘three’ hitter is a player that can hit for a good batting average and power. McCann can hit for a good average and power. Despite an injury-plagued 2013 season, he still managed to smack 20 home runs. He did struggle at the plate with a .256 batting average, but that could be contributed to the injuries he endured. He does have a career .277 batting average. He will be able to see a spike in his batting average with pitchers having to be careful with him. They cannot pitch around him because right fielder Carlos Beltran is right behind him in the lineup.
4. Right fielder Carlos Beltran: Carlos Beltran is the ideal ‘four’ hitter because of his ability to be a very good run producer. With the St. Louis Cardinals, Beltran had 24 home runs, 84 Runs Batted In, RBI, and a .296 batting average. With good on base players like Jeter, Ellsbury and McCann in front of him, Beltran will have plenty of opportunities to be a very good run producer. As a switch hitter, he is especially lethal. He can hit well on both sides of the plate and is a nightmare for opposing managers to insert the ‘right’ reliever to face him toward the end of the game. Beltran will have great opportunities to drive in runs because first baseman Mark Teixeira is right behind him in the lineup. This will force pitchers to have to throw strikes to Beltran.
5. First baseman Mark Teixeira: Mark Teixeira has struggled the past few seasons for a variety of reasons. Last season was especially brutal for him because he only played in 15 games. Teixeira told Daniel Barbarisi of the Wall Street Journal, that he will probably deal with wrist tightness until June and possibly the entire season. Teixeira also told Barbarisi that it will not stop him from producing. If Teixeira is as motivated as he looked in Barbarisi’s Wall Street Journal article, then he can be very productive. It will be tough for Girardi to slot Teixeira in the lineup because it is unknown what he will be capable of doing this season. At the fifth spot in the lineup, he has the potential to be a good run producer. He will also benefit from having designated hitter Alfonso Soriano hit behind him in the lineup. Soriano had a very good second half when he was traded to the Yankees and this should help Teixeira see better pitches. Having two switch hitters back-to-back in McCann and Teixeira could be a lethal duo.
6. Designated hitter Alfonso Soriano: The Chicago Cubs traded Alfonso Soriano to the Yankees last season on July 26. He had a very good run second half with the Yankees. He smacked 17 home runs and drove in 50 runs in only 58 games. Soriano typically has had a below average batting average throughout his career; .255 combined last season. He would be an ideal fit in the sixth spot for the Yankees because of the number of guys ahead of him who can get on base. He has already shown that he can be a very good run producer, if people ahead of him can get on base, and he bats righty. This also would make opposing managers think twice about what relievers he sends out against the middle of the lineup. He will not have ‘good’ protection behind him, third baseman Kelly Johnson, but that is what happens when a hitter is sixth in the lineup. As the designated hitter, Soriano would also only have to focus on his hitting and barely his fielding. This could lead to him having a very good offensive season.
7. Third baseman Kelly Johnson: Kelly Johnson has been notorious for being a good power hitter, but a terrible average hitter. Last season with the Tampa Bay Rays, he had 16 home runs, 52 RBI’s and a .235 batting average in 118 games. This is why he has typically been toward the bottom of most lineups. He is a low-risk, high-reward type of hitter. If the hitters get on base ahead of him frequently, then he has a chance to get 60-80 RBI’s. At the same time, he could end up hitting .230 and striking out at least 150 times. Having a right handed batter like Soriano ahead of him would make pitchers have to adjust their ‘game plan.’ Like Soriano, he will not have ‘good’ protection behind him, second baseman Brian Roberts. Johnson has the potential to make the Yankees a great lineup or a really good lineup.
8. Second baseman Brian Roberts: The Yankees’ depth chart on MLB.com lists Brendan Ryan as the starting second baseman. He has not hit above .200 in the past two seasons and does not hit for power or steal bases. It would probably take a defensive approach by Girardi or a Brian Roberts’ injury for Ryan to start. Rotoworld.com posted on Jan. 13, “(Roberts) is taking A-Rod’s roster spot and will be in line for a good amount of playing time at second base in 2014.” Roberts has not played in at least 100 games since the 2009 season. He does have one big advantage over Ryan, he is a much better hitter. Despite the injury-plagued seasons since 2009, Roberts has hit above a .200 average in every season but one. In 2009, his last season with at least 100-games, he smacked 16 home runs, drove in 79 runs, stole 30 bases, and had a .283 batting average. It would be ludicrous to think that Roberts could duplicate those statistics in the Bronx, but that upside is higher than Ryan’s. Roberts is also a switch hitter, so he would be a good fit for the Yankees’ lefty-righty-switch hitting approach. He would also have an ‘okay’ hitter in left fielder Brett Gardner giving him protection.
9. Left fielder Brett Gardner: Brett Gardner has typically been the ‘ninth’ hitter in the Yankees’ lineup. He has a below average batting average for his career, .268. A leadoff hitter is typically able to be a good contact hitter and be able to reach base frequently. It is tough for him to do that with a low batting average and an average career OBP, .352. He does have very good speed, which has made him a good hitter to end the lineup. When he gets on base, he can cause pitchers havoc with his leads and stolen base attempts. This helps the hitter at the top of the lineup see better pitchers and achieve more success. It could easily be Gardner as the eighth hitter and Roberts as the ninth hitter. Girardi has typically liked to use Gardner as the ninth hitter when Jeter is healthy and that probably will not chance in the near future.
It will be interesting to see what Girardi does when the Yankees’ play a road Interleague game; against a National League-NL team. NL teams have the designated hitter spot in the lineup replaced with the pitcher hitting.
Soriano is a very good hitter, but he will probably be the designated hitter for the majority of the season. Girardi will have to mix and match to give his team the best opportunity of winning.
With the overwhelming majority of the Yankees’ lineup older than 30-years-old, Girardi might want to give some of them a ‘half-day.’ A half day is when a player only hits and does not play the field; designated hitter.
Girardi will have numerous lineup decisions to make throughout the season. This lineup has the potential to make or break the Yankees’ playoff chances.