2014 Projections: Yankees starting lineup
March, 27, 2014
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com
Getty Images/USA TODAY SportsBrian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury are among the new faces in the Yankees' lineup.If you watched the New York Yankees in 2013, you saw a lot of at-bats by guys in pinstripes who didn't seem to have much of a chance to do damage.
After Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner, the Yankees with the most at-bats were, in order, Ichiro Suzuki, Lyle Overbay, Vernon Wells, Eduardo Nunez, Chris Stewart, Jayson Nix and Travis Hafner.
It is no wonder the Yankees were in the bottom half of baseball (16th) in runs scored. All the names above -- besides Gardner -- are either gone or insignificant. So the 2014 Yankees figure to score more.
How much more? Well, ESPN New York has its individual projections and Insider Dan Szymborski's fancy ZiPS machine has some, too. Spoiler alert: Man is a little more optimistic than machine.
We have assigned each Yankees position player to one of three categories, compared to the team's performance at the position last year: On the Way Up, On the Way Down or Push.
2013: 15 games, .151, 3 HR, 12 RBIs, .557 OPS
ESPN New York Projection: 134 games, .253, 26 HR, 84 RBIs, .826 OPS
ZiPS Projection: 82 games, .248, 17 HR, 45 RBIs, .804 OPS
ON THE WAY UP: Overbay had his moments early with the Yankees, but from first base in 2013, the Yankees received a .229 batting average and a .690 OPS. So if Teixeira can stay reasonably healthy, he should be better than that.
ZiPS projects that Teixeira will make it through about half the games.
Tex turns 34 in April, so he is not ancient, and I think he can stay on the field and be productive. If Teixeira has trouble with his surgically repaired wrist, the Yankees could be doomed because the backup first baseman is starting third baseman Kelly Johnson, which would start a musical chairs effect that may guarantee the Yankees don’t make the playoffs.
2013: 77 games, .249, 8 HR, 39 RBIs, .704 OPS
ESPN New York Projection: 74 games, .253, 7 HR, 34 RBIs, .682 OPS
ZiPS Projection: 53 games, .246, 4 HR, 25 RBIs, .668 OPS
ON THE WAY DOWN: When Cano returns to Yankee Stadium at the end of April, he is probably going to be booed. He shouldn’t be. The guy played nearly every game the past five years and produced. Even if Roberts stays healthy, he is no Cano. Says who? Says everyone, including Roberts. Roberts also basically said the Yankees simply want him to stay on the field. That might be enough.
The team replaced Cano’s offense by signing Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. But head-to-head, on both sides of the ball, this is a major downgrade.
2013: 17 games, .190, 1 HR, 7 RBIs, .542 OPS
ESPN New York Projection: 132 games, .273, 9 HR, 44 RBIs, .731 OPS
ZiPS Projection: 69 games, .259, 5 HR, 39 RBIs, .679 OPS
ON THE WAY UP: Turning 40 in his final major league season, it is not that Jeter will be as great as ever, but rather if he reaches the level we project, he will further illuminate how the Yankees failed to replace him last year. Including Jeter’s 17 games, Yankees shortstops hit .228 in 2013 with a sub-.600 OPS.
Jeter, who didn’t really have a step to lose in the field, may not have much range at short, but he figures to field the balls he gets to. Overall, Jeter’s return on many levels should be a plus, provided he is reasonably healthy, which ZiPS -- yikes, 69 games! -- apparently doesn’t think will happen.
2013: 118 games, .235, 16 HR, 52 RBIs, .715 OPS
ESPN New York Projection: 131 games, .256, 25 HR, 71 RBIs, .741 OPS
ZiPS Projection: 129 games, .232, 18 HR, 56 RBIs, .721 OPS
PUSH: Yes, the Yankees’ third basemen were abysmal in 2013. A .633 OPS, and that is including A-Rod's seven homers in 44 games. A-Rod didn’t look half-bad, but really, with his 39th birthday approaching and with his variety of serious injuries, even if he weren’t suspended, what would he produce?
Johnson is untested at third, with just 16 games accounting for all his major league action at the position, so he may not field well. Still, with the short porch in right, his lefty swing seems well-suited for the Bronx. At least, that’s what the Yankees think.
2013: 102 games, .256, 20 HR, 57 RBIs, .797 OPS
ESPN New York Projection: 122 games, .262, 27 HR, 77 RBIs, .815 OPS
ZiPS Projection: 118 games, .258, 22 HR, 50 RBIs, .791 OPS
ON THE WAY UP: The Yankees made McCann one of their prime winter targets because they knew he would change an extreme negative into a positive. Yankees catchers had a .587 OPS in 2013. That includes Francisco Cervelli's .877 OPS in his 17 games.
So McCann is going to be a major upgrade on offense if he is healthy. His left-handed bat should be able to take advantage of the right-field porch. Behind the plate, McCann is also renowned for framing pitches, though he doesn’t have a great arm. Needless to say, at $85 million guaranteed, McCann better be an upgrade.
2013: 145 games, .296, 24 HR, 84 RBIs, .830 OPS
ESPN New York Projection: 136 games, .286, 29 HR, 81 RBIs, .821 OPS
ZiPS Projection: 133 games, .267, 26 HR, 67 RBIs, .806 OPS
ON THE WAY UP: Beltran turns 37 in April, but he is showing no signs of slowing down. When you are around him, you immediately notice what a pro he is. If he is healthy, I see him having a good year and even ZiPS -- especially in comparison to what it thought of the Yankees’ infield -- believes he will have a pretty good season.
2013: 134 games, .298, 9 HR, 54 RBIs, 52 SB, .781 OPS
ESPN New York Projection: 121 games, .290, 19 HR, 65 RBIs, 41 SB, .783 OPS
ZiPS Projection: 119 games, .286, 14 HR, 73 RBIs, 32 SB, .779 OPS
ON THE WAY UP: Ellsbury could be a difference-maker for the Yankees. When you watch him on an every-day basis, you can fully appreciate his game. The problem? He is not always out there every day. If he is healthy -- are you sick of that qualifier yet? -- he will be a dynamic leadoff man and a plus outfielder.
2013: 145 games, .273, 8 HR, 52 RBIs, 24 SB, .759 OPS
ESPN New York Projection: 135 games, .267, 7 HR, 57 RBIs, 26 SB, .762 OPS
ZiPS Projection: 118 games, .259, 6 HR, 64 RBIs, 23 SB, .727 OPS
PUSH: Brett Gardner is probably going to be the same Brett Gardner, which is a plus player. Teamed with Ellsbury and Beltran, the Yankees will have one of the best defensive outfields in baseball. Gardner’s speed variable isn’t fully explained by numbers. Still, the Yankees should stay even when you compare 2013 Gardner to 2014 Gardner.
2013: 151 games, .255, 34 HR, 101 RBIs, .791 OPS
ESPN New York Projection: 136 games, .242, 23 HR, 68 RBIs, .725 OPS
ZiPS Projection: 138 games, .247, 32 HR, 75 RBIs, .781
ON THE WAY DOWN: Soriano was amazing during his run with the Yankees last year. He hit 17 homers in 243 at-bats. For the Cubs, Soriano also had 17 homers, but it took 383 at-bats. The Yankees got Soriano at the right time and he produced. However, he may not keep it up.
First, Soriano may not be too pleased to serve as more of a DH than an outfielder. Soriano likes to play the field -- and Joe Girardi will work him in some -- but, barring an injury, there really is no good reason to have Soriano pick up a glove when Ellsbury, Gardner and Beltran are clearly better fielders. So Soriano will have to adjust to being the DH on a more full-time basis.
2013: 150 games, .262, 7 HR, 35 RBIs, .639 OPS
ESPN New York Projection: 71 games, .253, 2 HR, 19 RBIs, .625 OPS
ZiPS Projection: 142 games, .273, 8 HR, 43 RBIs, .673 OPS
ON THE WAY DOWN: Ichiro is going to receive significant playing time only if there are injuries. Despite his legend and his future Hall of Famer status, Ichiro is not a very valuable player anymore because he is a singles hitter who doesn’t hit enough singles. His on-base percentage last year was only .297, so there is a better chance he’ll be traded or cut than he will receive a significant amount of playing time.