Predicting the New York Yankees’ 2014 Opening Day Lineup
Identifying Who Will Compose the New York Yankees' Starting Lineup
After going 85-77 during the 2013 MLB Season and missing out on the playoffs entirely, everyone in the baseball world knew that the New York Yankees were going to be extremely aggressive during the offseason. And of course these people were correct, as the Bronx Bombers spent $450 million in guaranteed money to bring in Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Thornton, Carlos Beltran, Masahiro Tanaka, Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson.
This money doesn't even count new deals for Derek Jeter and Hiroki Kuroda and an extension for Brett Gardner that leaves Joe Girardi with the deepest roster from top to bottom since winning the World Series in 2009. It also leaves the team with added pressure to the the yearly organizational goal of winning the World Series and a greater chance to believe the talent is there in the rotation, bullpen, lineup and on the bench to get this job done.
While all of the talent in the world is great to have, it will be up to Girardi to put it into a lineup that will both be beneficial to the team and pay attention to the various egos on the team. On top of this, the manager must foreshadow things such as late game bullpen situations, not stacking too many right or left-handed batters in a row and even what stadium the team is playing in on any given day.
Keeping the huge amount of talent the Yankees have and the need to put it all into one nine-man lineup in mind, I have taken the liberty of predicting who will be starting when the team travels to face the Houston Astros on opening day. This lineup is based both on indicators Girardi has given as to who he envisions starting and all of the factors that were previously mentioned. Furthermore, it is not just a lineup that is ideal for opening day but the Yankees' best lineup they can put out for any of their 161 other games.
C.C. Sabathia - Starting Pitcher
The Yankees may have just signed Masahiro Tanaka to a $155 million deal, but C.C. Sabathia is still the ace of the staff for the time being. The big lefty has lost more weight during the offseason and now weighs 275 pounds, but he actually looks stronger now than ever before and received a full winter off for the first time since 2006. Whether this means he returns from an ERA of 4.78 in 2013 closer to the 3.38 of 2012 this year is yet to be seen, but it will certainly have him raring to go on opening day.
1. Jacoby Ellsbury - Center Field
Jacoby Ellsbury will have a lot of pressure on his shoulders after signing a $153 million deal this offseason, and there is no doubting he will open the Yankees season up at the plate. The 30-year-old will be expected to provide a huge threat on the base paths after stealing 52 bases last season and to once again be one of the best defensive outfielders in the majors. All eyes will be on Ellsbury right from the start.
2. Derek Jeter - Shortstop
Derek Jeter could practically tell Joe Girardi where he is going to bat in the lineup, and there is little doubting that he will bat second on opening day. The 39-year-old shortstop will certainly relish having Ellsbury batting in front of him as his inside out swing will work perfectly when the center fielder attempts to steal bases. In the last year of his career, look for Jeter to put up a slash line close to his 2011 totals of .297/.355/.388 and provide a steady hand at shortstop.
3. Brian McCann - Catcher
There is little doubting that Brian McCann will be the Yankees' starting catcher on opening day, and it would appear likely he is set to be the club's No. 3 hitter for years to come. Last year McCann posted a slash line of .256/.336/.461 with 20 home runs and 57 RBI in the expansive Turner Field. These numbers should only improve as the lefty takes advantage of the short porch at Yankee Stadium.
4. Mark Teixeira - First Base
After struggling with injuries during the 2013 season, Mark Teixeira will once again be starting at first base for the New York Yankees in 2014. Teixeira will also be expected to be a crucial part of the team's lineup and go back to the three straight 30 home run, 100 RBI season he posted between 2009 and 2011. While at 33-years-old he may never be the perennial All-Star of past years, Teixeira will surely provide great defensive play at first base and will provide pop in the middle of the Yankees lineup.
5. Carlos Beltran - Right Field
Carlos Beltran has wanted to play for the New York Yankees for many years now, and the 2014 season will provide this chance. The 36-year-old will likely play 110-130 games in right field and 20-30 at designated hitter, and he will once again post totals close to the .296/.339/.491 slash line with 30 doubles, 20 home runs and 84 RBI in 2013. Of course the regular season total will not mean as much as what Beltran does in the postseason where he has historically been a star.
6. Alfonso Soriano - Designated Hitter
After bringing in Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury to the outfield this offseason, there is no doubting that Alfonso Soriano will be consigned to being a designated hitter in 2014. This is actually a good thing because of the fact that Soriano has historically been an awful defensive outfielder but a great hitter. If the 38-year-old posts a slash line close to the .256/.325/.525 he did in 2013 after being traded to the Yankees, then the organization will be very happy -- although they will resist placing him in the middle of the lineup because of a high strikeout rate.
7. Kelly Johnson - Third Base
Kelly Johnson will be the New York Yankees' starting third baseman in the absence of Alex Rodriguez, which is a somewhat dubious honor. Johnson will be slotted into the seven hole to maintain the continuity of not batting two left-handed or right-handed hitters consecutively which inherently makes late game bullpen matchups easier. If he continues to play stead defense and post a slash line close to his career averages of .253/.335/.427 with 15 home runs and 55 RBI, the Yankees organization will be very happy.
8. Brian Roberts - Second Base
Brian Roberts has not started consistently for an entire season since 2009 which leaves him as the biggest question mark in the lineup. Historically, he has been an above average defender at second base with a career slash line of .278/.349/.412 with an average of 27 doubles, seven home runs and 40 RBI per year. At the eight hole in the lineup there is no doubting the pressure on Roberts will be minimal, and the Yankees can only hope he stays healthy throughout the season.
9. Brett Gardner - Left Field
The Yankees have just signed Brett Gardner to a big four-year, $52 million extension, but this doesn't mean he will be at the top of the lineup quite yet. The speed outfielder will instead be utilized as a type of second leadoff hitter as he will restart the lineup in the nine hole and provide the Yankees with two speedsters in front of the big guns late in games. Additionally, in left field Gardner will combine with Ellsbury to form one of the best combos in the big leagues and surely won't let a single ball drop in the expansive Yankee Stadium outfield.