Death and taxes.
Two things that are certain in life. And for a while, a third guarantee in life was watching the New York Yankees in baseball’s postseason.
Could we be seeing an end of an era?
2013 was just the second time in the last 19 years that the Yankees failed to make the playoffs. Injuries and inconsistent pitching were killers, but with a new-look ball club, how might the Yankees fair in 2014? Well, quite frankly, we don’t care, but we do care quite a bit about the fantasy implications.
Anything stick out to you? Ah, yes. No more Robinson Cano, leaving a huge hole in the Yankees’ lineup. They lose one of the most consistent and productive players in baseball from the past four seasons. So, who will step up?
It all starts with the new additions.
Veteran catcher Brian McCann is a consistent source of power. According to ESPN, he is one of only 11 players to belt at least 20 home runs in each of the last six seasons. Now he heads to Yankee stadium, a venue built for McCann. According to Matthew Berry, over the last three seasons, among left-handed batters, McCann sports the 13th-highest far right pull percentage in all of baseball. Meanwhile, only two stadiums in baseball have a shorter right field wall than the one in the Bronx. It would not surprise me to see McCann smash 30 home runs this year, which would make him a top-tier fantasy catcher, no matter the batting average, which, by the way, won’t kill you by any means.
Meanwhile, Jacoby Ellsbury seems to be the talk of the town in New York. A former member of the Red Sox, Ellsbury joined the Yankees during the offseason, but which Ellsbury were they paying for? The one who posted a monstrous 30/30 campaign back in 2011, or the one who elite base-stealer that would be lucky to hit 10 home runs? Either way, as long as he can stay healthy, he is going to be really, really good. There is risk here, though. Over the last five seasons, he’s missed a combined 273 games. And over the last four seasons, he’s alternated between productive seasons and injury-plagued ones. If that trend continues, Ellsbury would see plenty of time on the DL in his inaugural season with the Yankees. I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable drafting him in the first round, but he, too, has some pop towards right field, which is beneficial for Yankee stadium. High risk/high reward.
I’ve talked about it before, but I think CC Sabathia makes for an ideal draft day value. 2013 was an off year for the former ace, as he posted the highest ERA (4.78) and WHIP (1.37) of his career, while striking out the fewest batters since 2006 (172). Decreased velocity in his fastball was the story of the year, as he’s now lost some zip on it during two consecutive seasons. However, he also got unlucky. First of all, his supporting cast couldn’t stay healthy, but look at the numbers. His HR/FB percentage of 13 was by far the highest of his career, an outlier, if you ask me. His strand rate was 67.4 percent, which is definitely the odd one out, seeing as it was the first time in the last 11 seasons that number was below 71 percent. The guy is a workhorse, the Yankees brought some depth to their lineup, and at the number 49 starting pitcher off the board, I’m all over him.
One of the arms being drafted ahead of Sabathia is his new teammate, Masahiro Tanaka. Fantasy owners tend to always gravitate towards a player coming from overseas, and Tanaka deserves the hype. He’s got some good stuff, drawing comparisons to Hisashi Iwakuma. A strong groundball inducer, good control, and while he’s no Yu Darvish, he does have the ability to draw whiffs. The Japanese did work him a lot, which is the only concern I have, but for this year, it shouldn’t be an issue.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.