Spring Training is approximately two weeks away, and while everyone is gearing up towards the baseball season, the Yankees find themselves in a situation where new and recurring storylines are once again taking form. But what are the five biggest storylines coming into camp this season?
1. Can Alex Rodriguez return to form after a year-long suspension?
Last season, there wasn’t a media circus and Chase Headley was manning third base for a good portion of the year. Why? Because Alex Rodriguez was suspended due to his involvement in a steroid scandal that saw multiple players barred from baseball for 50 games. Rodriguez g0t the lengthiest punishment of all the players, sitting out for the entire 2014 campaign and the postseason if the Yankees had made it that far. Rodriguez comes into camp with one thing in mind: redemption. However, with the media circus on his tail and him being out of the game for almost two years, is Rodriguez truly able to compete at the Major League level?
2. Will Masahiro Tanaka‘s elbow hold up?
Masahiro Tanaka started off 2014 great for the Yankees, until he had a small UCL tear in his elbow and was forced to sit out for most of July, all of August and most of September. Tanaka made two starts at the end of the season, but there wasn’t enough assurance Tanaka’s elbow will hold up for the entire 2015 season. So far, he says his elbow is in good shape, but will the tear in Tanaka’s elbow get to the point where he’ll eventually need Tommy John Surgery?
3. Who will be the closer?
Around this time last year, the answer would of been David Robertson. This year, there is no Robertson after he signed a four-year deal with the Chicago White Sox. The Yankees have options such as Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, although most are rooting for Betances after a dazzling 2014 campaign. The decision will be up to the Yankees to decide and we may not have an answer until the final week of Spring Training.
4. Can the Yankees turn Nathan Eovaldi into a top-flight starting pitcher?
The Yankees shocked everyone this offseason when they packaged Martin Prado and David Phelps and sent them to the Miami Marlins in exchange for Garrett Jones and Nathan Eovaldi. Eovaldi shows potential, but was inconsistent with the Marlins in 2014. The Yankees hope with a bit of tinkering, Eovaldi can become a top-flight pitcher in their rotation. But can the Yankees actually pull it off and turn Eovaldi into a major threat? Or will Eovaldi end up being terribly inconsistent to the point where the Yankees look to shop him?
5. Who will replace Derek Jeter?
Technically on the field the answer is Didi Gregorius, but who will fill Derek Jeter’s shoes when it comes to taking a leadership role? Will it be Brian McCann who has show leadership skills with the pitching staff? Will it be CC Sabathia who was the “ace” of the staff until the last two seasons when injuries plagued him? Or will it be Brett Gardner, a homegrown player who learned all of his leadership skills from the captain himself, and emerged into a great everyday player? No one will be the captain, but someone has to be the new leader. The question is, who?