So many question marks remain for the Yankees this offseason.
Will Cliff Lee go for the money in the Bronx, or will he stay close to home and return to Texas? Will Derek Jeter be in a different uniform next season, and if so who is the starting shortstop for the Yankees? Is Andy Pettitte coming back for one last title run? How will the catching rotation work out, is it Jorge Posada, Jesus Montero, or Francisco Cervelli? What is the bullpen going to look like?
Those are the hot topics around the Yankees camp this winter, and who knows how they will all turn out? But this is how I see things stacking up for the Yankees when they face the Detroit Tigers on March 31, 2011.
1. LF – Brett Gardner – Takes over lead-off spot in lineup after proving his ability to hit consistently in the big leagues last year, adds a ton of speed and athleticism.
2. SS – Derek Jeter - Coming off of his worst year offensively, Joe Girardi will move him back to his traditional two-hole in the lineup, hoping the Captain can bounce back and turn in a solid performance. He is also looking for his 3,000th career hit.
3. 2B – Robinson Cano – He gets a promotion to number three in the lineup after posting MVP caliber numbers last year behind Teixeira and A-Rod, plus his higher BA and OBP fits the spot better than Teixeira.
4. 3B – Alex Rodriguez – A-Rod remains the cleanup man after leading the team in RBI last year, and should do the same in 2011.
5. 1B – Mark Teixeira – Perhaps one of the players happiest to begin a new season, because 2010 was dreadful. He got off to a terrible start and couldn’t totally rebound and finished with his career worst BA of .256, certainly not good enough to remain in the three-hole
6. RF – Nick Swisher – Coming off the best season of his career, Swish will look to continue his success at the plate and cash in on it, 2011 being a contract year for him.
7. DH – Jorge Posada – The change had to be made at some point and Jorge might as well ride out his last season in comfort, taking over as the primary DH next year.
8. C – Jesus Montero – The star prospect that we have all been hearing about and waiting to see will get his chance to live up to all the hype and show his true potential on the brightest stage in all of baseball, Yankee Stadium.
9. CF – Curtis Granderson – Curtis revamped his swing and finally warmed up to the Pinstripes at the end of last year, and I expect a big season out of him in 2011. His combination of speed and power could land him in the lead-off spot if Gardner can’t handle it.
1. CC Sabathia – He’s the ace of the staff and arguably the MVP of the Yankees last year, being the one constant in the starting rotation all year.
2. Cliff Lee – The Yankees have the most money and that’s what Lee wants, so I believe he will be in Pinstripes next season and if he is, the Yankees certainly have the best 1-2 punch in baseball, which always helps in the postseason.
3. Phil Hughes – Coming off of an 18 win season in 2010, look for him to improve in 2011 without the innings limit.
4. Andy Pettitte – You can’t say enough about his performance last year when he was healthy. An unfortunate groin injury halted the best start to a season in his career early and Cliff Lee out dueled him in the ALCS, but that just might drive him to give it one more shot in 2011.
5. A.J. Burnett – A repeat of 2010 simply cannot happen for A.J. The Yankees can’t afford to drop him from the starting rotation or trade him away due to his $16 million salary. Larry Rothschild thought Carlos Zambrano was a hard case; wait till he gets a load of this guy. Good Luck Larry.
Joba Chamberlain – He was the eighth inning man last year but too many blow outs quickly dropped him from that role. The Yankees have not given up completely on him and still feel he has value, so we shall see what happens next year, but he could be on the move at the trade deadline.
Alfredo Aceves – He wasn’t much of a factor last season, having been injured early, but according to recent reports he is healthy and expected back in 2011. He played a big role in 2009 and is vital to the bullpen’s success.
IF – Eduardo Nunez – Has a solid bat and can play the infield and possibly the corner outfield positions if needed.
C – Francisco Cervelli – Doesn’t add much with the bat, but is full of energy behind the plate and pitchers seem to feel comfortable with him. However, with Montero the starting catcher and Posada the DH, Cervelli might see his playing time severely reduced if Posada fills in for Montero.
OF – Colin Curtis – Has some pop with the bat, but will be used primarily as a late defensive substitution.
That’s what my 2011 opening day Yankees look like, but obviously March 31 is a long ways away and lots could change between now and then.