Throughout their franchise history, the New York Yankees have been known for having all-time great, Hall of Fame-caliber players. Whether it be Babe Ruth, Lou Gherig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson or recently with Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano, the Yankees have had some of the best players in the game don the pinstripes in pretty much every decade since the 1920s. It is usually pretty easy to identify the best player on the Yankees. However, as the Yankees head into the 2014 season without Cano on the team, it is fair to ask, who is the best player on the Yankees roster?
Now, before we answer that question, there are probably a few people who just read that paragraph who would scoff at the notion of Cano being a Hall of Fame-caliber player. Before you rush to judge, take a look at his stats. He already has over 200 home runs, is a career .309 hitter, and is less than two seasons away from having 2,000 career hits. If Cano puts together another five or six excellent seasons and manages above average seasons for the remaining four years of his contract with the Seattle Mariners, he will be one of the best second baseman, as far as stats are concerned, to ever play the game. It is easy to take players for granted when they are on the field playing, but now looking back on it with Cano gone, the Yankees really had an incredible, rare player at second base. That position is not known for guys who hit for power and average, as well as play great defense, which is what Cano did every day for the Yankees.
So, let’s get back to the question. Who is the best player on the Yankees current roster? Pitchers are getting ruled out because they don’t play in every game, and the Yankees do not have Clayton Kershaw on taking the mound every fifth day. For many years, you could say Jeter was either the first or second best player on the Yankees, but not anymore with Jeter being 38-years-old and breaking down. Jeter had a great year in 2012, batting .316/.362/.429 with 15 home runs, 99 runs scored and 216 hits. But he only played in 17 games last year and needs to prove he can stay healthy. At one point it would have been, Alex Rodriguez is a shell of his former self. There’s also a solid chance he won’t be on the field next year because of suspension. Mark Teixeira would have been a dark horse candidate going into the last few seasons with the amount of home runs he piles up and the excellent first base he is known for playing, but he is also coming off an injury-plagued 2013 season, so he is ruled out of this debate. It really comes down to the new players the Yankees signed: Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann.
Normally the Yankees already have their best player on the roster and go about adding other players, but not this year. Out of the three newly signed Yankees, Ellsbury is the best, and therefore the new best player on the Yankees. Not to take anything away from McCann or Beltran, because they are solid players, but Ellsbury is a more well-rounded player at this stage of his career as opposed to those two guys. Ellsbury is an excellent offensive player and plays a great center field. He put up a .298/.355/.426 line last year with 52 stolen bases, 92 runs scored and 31 doubles. He is the prototypical leadoff hitter, gets on base enough through hits and walks, and is one of the best base stealers in the game. Ellsbury will probably never hit over 30 home runs in a season again, like he did in 2011, but if he can stay healthy and be the dynamic all-around leadoff hitter that he has shown in the past, the Yankees will be happy with the results.