2014 New York Yankees Preview

By Christian Pierre-Louis

Welcome back baseball fans!

The 2014 season is upon us and we have all waited patiently for the national pastime to begin once again. The New York Yankees open up spring training today down in Tampa, Florida and for the first time since 2009 there are a number of questions with this team. As you should know at this point, the face of the Yankees, heck, probably the face of baseball for the past two decades, Derek Jeter plans to retire at the end of this upcoming season. Who will replace him is one of the many questions that needs to be examined as the team opens up camp.

The 2013 season was one full of frustration for the team and the legendary shortstop who only played 17 games coming off of a fractured ankle. One thing to look out for is whether or not he can stay healthy in his final season. He has work tirelessly this offseason to heal and gain strength back in his lower body, but at the same time he will be 40 years young this June and he cannot play every day in the field as he used to. The Yankees need to find another option at short just in case the injury bug comes back to bite Jeter. Is that answer Eduardo Nunez? The young infielder hit .260 with three home runs and 28 RBI last season, but he struggled in the field.

Another option the Yankees could go is to sign free agent SS, Stephen Drew. The shortstop is still without a home this season after helping the Red Sox win the World Series last year. Although he batted .253 with 13 homers and 67 RBI, he is great in the field and a good clubhouse guy. Whether or not the Yanks will reach out to him we will soon see.

The losses of many important players from last year’s team will impact this year’s team greatly. Mariano Rivera, who was the greatest security blanket in the history of finishing ballgames, is gone; Andy Pettitte, who was one of the most consistent, reliable Yankee pitchers to begin ballgames, is gone; Robinson Cano, who came up through the system as a teenager and blossomed into one of the most valuable players in the game, is gone. The infield is unresolved and troublesome; as of now Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson are starting at second and third respectively. Roberts used to be one of the best second basemen in the league, but he has spent much of the last five years on the DL. Kelly Johnson is a good defender, but at times his offense is a little suspect. Also, how will Mark Teixera come back? He injured his right wrist during preparations for the World Baseball Classic and was eventually diagnosed with a partially torn tendon sheath. He hit .151 in just 15 games before undergoing season-ending surgery on July 1.

With all that said, still the Yankees could win 95 games in 2014.

The front office has spent half a billion (!!!) dollars this offseason to put a winning product on the field and they expect no less than a championship with this roster even with all the losses stated above.

The outfield is outstanding with the additions of Jacboy Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, also holdovers such as Brett Gardner and Alfonso Soriano will be key in the success of this team. Beltran is one of the best clutch hitters in this generation and Ellsbury wreaks havoc on the bases. Soriano’s power will be much needed again this season and the combination of Gardner and Ellsbury will add a different dimension to the offense. The outfield defense is now much improved now that two of the fastest players in the league will patrol left and center. Beltran is no slouch in right as he has a rocket from out there and can gun people out. Behind the plate, the Yankees added Brian McCann this offseason and he is a major upgrade for this team. His offensive numbers will be like nothing we have seen in the past few years at that position for the Yanks. His leadership and fire will help the team and the young pitchers on the staff such as, Tanaka, Pineda, and Nova.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman has put together another contender in 2014 (Via Getty Images)

Yankees GM Brian Cashman has put together another contender in 2014 (Via Getty Images)

Speaking of the pitching, the starting rotation has questions to answer themselves. How will star free agent signee, Masahiro Tanaka, translate to the MLB? Will CC Sabathia return to form? What version of Hiroki Kuroda will we see; the one pre August 15th or after? Well, it all starts with Sabathia, who struggled last season with different injuries and ended the season on the DL. He and Kuroda will have to perform to take the pressure off of Tanaka. Ivan Nova should look to continue his success off of last season and continue to develop into a quality pitcher. Following Nova will be a combination of David Phelps, Adam Warren, Michael Pineda and Vidal Nuno all fighting for the 5th spot. The best scenario would be for Pineda to get it because he is only a few years removed from being considered one of the best young pitchers in the game.

The bullpen also has questions and has competition between at least a dozen unproven names. David Robertson has been given the role of closer following Rivera. Clearly, fans cannot expect him to duplicate what Mo did, but he can be a quality closer if he limits his walks and locates his pitches. Now, who will replace Robertson as the set-up man? That spot is up for grabs, but as of now it looks like Shawn Kelly will get the opportunity. His stuff is at times electric, but he looked tired by the end of last season, so time will tell. The Yankees also signed Matt Thornton, who before his arm trouble was a great reliever for the White Sox.

The 2014 Yankees team is one of promise, but also one that is full of questions. It will be very interesting how this team unfolds this spring going into the season. All the hype and attention will be on Tanaka and Jeter, but it will be the role players that will define this team and help lead them to a 28th World Series.

Here is a look at the potential team roster on opening day:

Lineup        Player         POS

1       Jacoby Ellsbury    OF

2       Derek Jeter                   SS

3       Carlos Beltran     OF

4       Brian McCann      C

5       Alfonso Soriano   DH

6       Mark Teixera        1B

7       Kelly Johnson       3B

8       Brian Roberts      2B

9       Brett Gardner      OF

Possible Starters:

Starter        Player         POS

1       CC Sabathia        SP

2       Masahiro Tanaka SP

3       Hiroki Kuroda      SP

4       Ivan Nova            SP

5       David Phelps       SP

6       Michael Pineda     SP

Closers/Setup:

Player                 POS

David Robertson  RP

Shawn Kelley       RP

Matt Thornton     RP

Bench Hitters (may include/exclude guys not on 25-man roster):

Player                  POS

Ichiro Suzuki       OF

Brendan Ryan      INF

Eduardo Nunez    INF

Francisco Cervelli         C

Austin Romine     C

______________________________________________________________

Christian Pierre-Louis is a journalism major at Seton Hall University. He is a HUGE fan of the, LA Lakers, NY Giants, and NY Yankees. He is also an assistant sports producer at Seton Hall’s radio station WSOU 89.5 FM. You can follow him on twitter at @CPL_78.

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