Friends – it’s Opening Day! Let’s talk about my hopes and dreams for some of the 2015 Yankees –
Masahiro Tanaka (P) – Will his arm hold up? Will he need Tommy John surgery? Because of the concern about his arm, I think Tanaka needs to walk a very fine line when it comes to what the general public knows. Any mention of arm fatigue or soreness is going to cause concern because of the UCL, but remember – he is a major league pitcher. His arm is going to be tired at times, but that doesn’t mean the arm is going to fall apart. Multiple doctors recommended against surgery, so let’s see how the season plays out.
My hope: That the arm holds up. Let other teams speculate about your health and distract their focus against you.
Michael Pineda (P) – Stay healthy, focus on pitching, and avoid the pine tar.
My hope: Keep up the good work, Big Mike. And if you want to wear your hat a little straighter, I won’t complain!
CC Sabathia (P) – I know spring training numbers shouldn’t matter, but… 10 innings pitched, 0-3 record, and 8.10 ERA doesn’t scream confidence. This year could turn out to be a pleasant surprise, but I do not believe he is the ace the Yankees want him to be, especially considering the money they’re paying him.
My hope: Have a better season than I’m fearing you’ll have.
Nathan Eovaldi (P) – It’s hard not to be excited about this young guy. He’s had an impressive spring already, and with continued guidance from Brian McCann and Larry Rothschild, I think he will continue to develop into a quality pitcher. If all goes well in the next few years, I could see him being a very vital part of the Yankees rotation in years to come.
My hope: Be that young pitcher no one expects to be great, and then dominate opposing teams.
Adam Warren (P) – With a 2-0 record and 2.70 ERA in spring training, in addition to a 3.47 career ERA, it’s no surprise Warren won the “competition” to be the 5th starter. What’s interesting about the “competition” (I think they knew it was Warren for awhile) is that there are a few pitchers ready or nearly ready if and when they’re needed. That’s a good problem to have, especially considering the health concerns this rotation has. Warren has the potential to be a solid part of the pitching staff, and being a full 7 years younger than Sabathia, some might argue Warren is better suited for the 3rd starter role.
My hope: Be consistent and pitching well – there’s a reason you won this rotation spot – and don’t be one of the pitchers we have to worry about.
Brian McCann (C ) – Some Yankee fans were disappointed with McCann’s 2014 season – particularly not taking advantage of the short distance over the right field wall – but I saw strength in what he did defensively. The strength of the 2014 Yankees was the pitching, and even so there was a huge number of pitchers used. Only one member of the starting rotation (Hiroki Kuroda) lasted the entire season. Without a solid catcher, the pitchers would not have been nearly as effective. If this year’s pitching staff is again a revolving door, it’s most important for McCann’s best work to be behind the plate. If the pitchers have some consistency, I think it take a stress off McCann and his offensive numbers improve.
My hope: You’ve had a year to settle in to a new environment – now it’s time to take advantage of Yankee Stadium’s right field.
Mark Teixeira (1B) – Last year was disappointing for someone consistently penciled in to the heart of the order. He has the potential to be that power hitting 3rd or 4th batter, but if he isn’t producing at the plate, he should be dropped in the order for someone who is. When his bat heats up, move him back up.
My hope: Don’t be stubborn: teams are going to shift, especially when you outright say you won’t try to beat the shift.
Stephen Drew (2B) – A few months ago I would expect to be writing “I don’t want you on my team” but after this spring I’m reconsidering. Technically, Drew leads the Yankees in homeruns this spring (along with Headley, Rodriguez and Young all with 3 each) which is something I never thought I would say. He’s only signed to a one year deal, and at this point he is the better than Rob Refsnyder defensively. At this point, I’m willing to give him a year with the expectation that a young player (Ref or Pirela) is seriously considered for the every day 2B position next year.
My hope: Crack .200 for your batting average and look like you can play 2B.
Didi Gregorius (SS) – The only thing he needs to do is ignore the fact that he is replacing Derek Jeter. Fans are already loving him. If he just continues to do what he’s done this spring – and always with that smile on his face – this kid will be fine. I can’t wait to see how he develops.
My hope: Don’t get rattled by replacing one of baseball’s biggest stars on one of the largest stages in the world.
Chase Headley (3B) – He’s solid at third, a consistent switch hitter, and seems to be an excellent teammate. What more can you ask for? The very night he arrived in New York he was ready to go – including shaving on the plane. From what I can see, you just can’t find a better teammate than what he has shown.
My hope: Keep the good New York momentum going.
Brett Gardner (LF) – Let’s face it: he had an awesome 2014 season and was one of (if not the) best hitters on the team. As much as I would love for him to repeat that this season, I just don’t know that he will. What makes Gardner such a good player and someone you can’t help but but love is his determination. He’s constantly giving 100% effort. It’s not uncommon to see his uniform covered in dirt and grass stains from sliding and diving on offensive and defensive plays.
My hope: Be that gritty player who flies under the radar and leaves teams wondering “Where the hell did that guy come from?”
Jacoby Ellsbury (CF) – It’s funny to me that the Yankees have Gardner and Ellsbury because they’re so similar in so many ways. Both are very capable centerfielders and leadoff hitters. I like Gardner in LF and Ellsbury in CF, and if given the choice between the two, I would chose Ellsbury as leadoff hitter because he is the more aggressive baserunner. In 2014, Ellsbury had 39 stolen bases (280 career total) compared to 21 (182 career) for Gardner. With a patient batter behind Ellsbury who can take pitches and hit to left field, there’s no reason Ellsbury couldn’t advance to second (and sometimes third) by stealing or running on hits. This is a guy who stole home on a left handed pitcher (unfortunately, it was against the Yankees) – he’s got the guts and the speed to move around.
My hope: Steal a ton of bases – and maybe another steal of home.
Bonus wish: Have a ridiculously good game against the Red Sox. Just explode offensively and defensively, and silence those Red Sox fans who claim they’re happy you left Boston.
Carlos Beltran (RF) – His contact is too large: it’s always my first thought. Last season was affected by the wrist injury, but at this point in his career can we really depend on a bounce back? It’s particularly frustrating because there are several young outfielders coming up who could be more productive than Beltran – if they had the chance to make the team – but are probably blocked because of Beltran. If he plays well this season, I won’t complain…but I don’t know that it will silence my thoughts about his contract and young players.
My hope: Do something to make me excited you’re on the team?
Alex Rodriguez (DH) – What was supposed to be the biggest distraction of spring training and the biggest pain in the ass for the Yankees has turned out to be the biggest surprise – in a good way. This is literally the last chance this guys has to finish his career as any kind of productive player. His offensive numbers for spring were impressive: especially important since he will be used primarily for his bat. In the times he’s needed on the field, he’s shown to still be a capable third baseman, as well a first baseman – a position he has never played since he was drafted in 1993 (and probably his life). He’s caused a lifetime of trouble for himself and the Yankees already. As long as he continues to keep quiet and focused on baseball, he could be a really valuable part of this team. Considering he’s 39 (almost 40) and hasn’t played in almost 2 years, he needs to not only prove himself on the field, but realize this is the end of his career. There are no more chances in professional baseball after this one.
My hope: Don’t blow it.
These are just my thought. We’ve got an entire season to see how things work out – and by the end of the season we could be looking at an entirely different roster. Either way, Opening Day is here!… Play ball!