By James O'Hare on March 21, 2014
Looking to 2014, the New York Yankees are in a much better position than they were in at this point last season. They lost Robinson Cano to the Seattle Mariners and Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte to retirement, but they bolstered the offense in free agency. Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira are key returning players looking to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2013. Here is what the Yankees' 2014 Opening Day lineup will probably look like.
The Yankees already had a center fielder/lead-off man/base-stealer in Brett Gardner. He’s a fan favorite, but he’s not as good as Ellsbury. The latest Boston import has led the league in stolen bases three times (he had 52 last year, compared to Gardner’s 24), total bases once and triples once. As long as he doesn’t injure himself in another outfield collision, he should wreak havoc at the top of the Yankee lineup.
Many believe Jeter should be dropped in the batting order. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Keep in mind we’re talking about Captain Clutch here – the guy is a miracle worker. Remember when his career was supposed to be over after batting .270 in 2010? Two years later he led the Majors with 216 hits. If he says he’s healthy and ready to go then he’s going to start at shortstop and bat second on Opening Day.
Beltran has been a three-hitter for majority of his career (3807 AB, .279/.355/.479, 177 home runs, 654 RBI). He also has the advantage of being a switch-hitter. Though there are questions about his durability, he’s averaged 146 games played over the past three years. One of greatest advantages to signing Beltran is his postseason success -- but the Yankees are going to have to make the playoffs before that pays off.
Teixeira is notorious for struggling early every season. Nevertheless, he was the Yankees’ three-hitter when he was healthy, and rightfully so. Along with Beltran, he’ll give the Yankees a pair of switch-hitters in the heart of the batting order. Furthermore, hitting in front of McCann should get Tex more fastballs and help him get off to a quicker start.
Some believe McCann is going to bat third and hit 80 home runs with Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch. In reality, he’s only had 100 at-bats as the three-hitter over the past two seasons. McCann will definitely see his power numbers increase thanks to the wiffle ball dimensions of the ballpark in the Bronx, but he’s still a middle-of-the-order hitter.
Soriano was a tremendous mid-season pick-up in 2013, a one-man wrecking crew out of the cleanup spot – in the month of August alone he hit 11 home runs with 31 RBIs. What is more, he protected Cano in the batting order. If not for his team's spending spree he’d be hitting fourth or fifth. However, the slugger will likely be dropped in the batting order to make room for the Yankees’ latest acquisitions. He could be moved up against lefties.
Johnson could ultimately form a third base platoon with Eduardo Nunez based on a lefty/righty pitching match-up. He batted.235/.305/.410 with 16 home runs and 52 RBIs last year in 118 games with the Tampa Bay Rays. Johnson will be yet another left-handed hitter looking to improve his offensive numbers in Yankee Stadium. The Bombers don't need gaudy stats out of him -- just a reliable everyday player.
It wasn’t so long ago that Roberts was a switch-hitting doubles machine with the Baltimore Orioles. If the 36-year-old can stay healthy, he could provide some serious pop for the Yankees in the bottom of the order.
Gardner could eventually be moved up to first or second in the batting order depending on how Ellsbury and Jeter produce offensively – but not yet. Come Opening Day, the speedy Gardner will likely bat ninth as a double lead-off and help set the table for the top of the order.
Sabathia is looking to bounce back after posting career highs in losses (13) and ERA (4.78) last year. His 2014 campaign began when he lost about 40 pounds in the offseason. Along with a healthier physique, the addition of a veteran catcher in McCann will no doubt help Sabathia adjust to life without a mid-90s fastball and return to form as an ace.
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