The New York Yankees are the most iconic franchise in baseball, with fans who demand championships every season. This year is no different. Expectations are sky-high as the team comes into the season with a solid mix of young talent and veteran experience. Here is an extensive season preview for the 2012 Bronx Bombers, split into the different categories of the team.
The rotation is led by the stalwart of the past three years, CC Sabathia, who signed a new contract this offseason. Sabathia figures to be his usual self this season, a steady rock at the head of the rotation. He will be followed, in order, by Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, and Freddy Garcia, with phenom Michael Pineda starting the season on the DL due to shoulder tendinitis. Kuroda is a solid veteran upgrade to the rotation after he signed a one-year deal to bolster the rotation. One of the more under-appreciated pitchers in the league, he boasts a diverse repertoire and solid command. Nova had an excellent season last year and figures to build on his success. Freddy Garcia is a crafty veteran who somehow finds ways to get outs. Hughes is the wild card here. He is officially too old to be considered a prospect anymore, and this is an important year for him to figure it out, especially with all the pitching depth the Yankees have.
The Yankees also have midseason help arriving in the form of veteran lefty Andy Pettitte, who returned from retirement ot make one last run, as well as promising righty Michael Pineda, who arrived in a questionable trade this winter. They also have potential starters at the AAA level in Manny Banuelos, Adam Warren, DJ Mitchell, Dellin Betances, and David Phelps. The bottom line is that while pitching has been one of the weaker areas of the team for the past decade, this year’s team boasts a solid rotation with plenty of depth.
The Yankee bullpen is one of the strongest in the league and arguably the best facet of the team. Led by the automatic and legendary Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning, the Yankees also have strong setup arms in David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, and Cory Wade, as well as two decent lefties in Boone Logan and Clay Rapada. Rapada will likely win the second lefty job by default after promising rookie Cesar Cabral was injured. The Yankees could also use their considerable depth at starting pitcher to bolster their long-relief department. After Pineda’s injury and Freddy Garcia’s subsequent move to the rotation, Adam Warren, DJ Mitchell, and David Phelps figure to be in the running for the long-relief spot. Robertson-Rivera is one of the best late-inning duos in the league, and if Soriano returns to form this year, the Yankees could have a truly lockdown bullpen.
The Yankees Opening Day Lineup April 6 vs. James Shields and the Tampa Bay Rays figures to look something like this:
Derek Jeter SS/ Curtis Granderson CF/ Robinson Cano 2B/ Alex Rodriguez 3B/ Mark Teixeira 1B/ Nick Swisher RF/ Raul Ibanez DH/ Russell Martin C/ Brett Gardner LF
This lineup boasts its usual star power, but it is also a balanced lineup. It contains three righties, three lefties, and three switch hitters. It also has a good blend of speed, with Gardner, Granderson, and Jeter and power, with Cano, Granderson, Rodriguez, and Teixeira. Gardner is one of the best 9-hole hitters in the league, Martin is a solid offensive catcher, Swisher is under-appreciated in right field, and the top five in the order is, as usual, filled with star power. Cano and Granderson are legitimate young stars in the MLB, and Jeter, A-Rod, and Teixeira are great veteran hitters who have been at it for a long time. Veteran free-agent signee Raul Ibanez figures to slot in at DH against right-handers, and the Yankees are hoping for a resurgence from the wily veteran. Andruw Jones figures to slot in at DH against lefties, and Eduardo Nunez will also receive ample opportunity as an infielder. The lineup again figures to be an area of strength for this year’s Bombers.
The Yankees’ bench is traditionally weak due to the fact that most veterans would rather look for more playing time somewhere else. However, this year as well as last, two solid veterans have agreed to play less for a better chance at a ring. Former stars in corner infielder Eric Chavez and outfielder Andruw Jones anchor the bench, with Jones figuring to get significant at-bats as a DH against lefties. Two solid young players in infielder Eduardo Nunez and catcher Francisco Cervelli round out the roster. Nunez is useful as a speedy threat on the bases, and Cervelli is a more than serviceable backup catcher. The Yankees have the rare ability to trot out any of their bench players for an extended period and come away none worse for the wear.
The bottom line is that this Yankees team should again be a strong contender for the playoffs and the World Series. With four strong facets, the Yankees should theoretically finish at the top of the division once again. With help on the way from the minors, the Bronx Bombers are in a very strong position for both the present and the future.
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