Too many looks of disgust from Nova in 2012 (Image: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE)

Top 5 Yankees who'll have make or break seasons in 2013

No, I’m not already looking forward to the 2013 season, but I am going to identify the players who need to step it up next year in order for the club to keep them. With the proposed $189 million payroll limit coming up in 2014, the team will look for any way to shed underperforming contracts with more cost-effective ones. It’s a business after all. So without further ado, let’s jump right in.

Ivan Nova

Many believed he could cement himself as a viable #2 option for the Yankees after this season. However, he’s been anything but good. In fact, his 2012 season looks much like A.J. Burnett‘s 2011 season with his high ERA, walk numbers reaching almost three per nine innings, and his BABIP sitting at .331. Nova hasn’t been unlucky this season, if you watched him pitch at all, you can immediately identify his problem: Location. He’s striking out more batters, but hitters are striking the ball much more this season and Nova has looked lost on the mound because of it.

According to Cot’s Contracts, Nova, who doesn’t have enough service time to be eligible for free agency, is currently on a one-year pact for $527,200. He’s cost-controlled, and won’t likely receive a huge raise in arbitration after his poor showing in 2012. That being said, he’ll need a bounce-back year before the Yankees brass gives other more high-profile prospects (Manny Banuelos) his spot in the rotation.

Russell Martin

In a post yesterday, it was identified that Martin has been largely unlucky this past season. All his peripherals are in the same ballpark as his career numbers, but this year hasn’t been too kind to him. We here at YGY have pulled no punches, and despite his bad season, Joe Girardi has stuck by his backstop. But, 2013 is a new season and the Yankees have hinted at welcoming back Martin next year, even if it were for a stop-gap role. Alas, if Martin does well in 2013, who knows?

Currently, Martin is on a one-year contract worth $7.5M, which seems like a lot considering his production, and you might be right. The organization needs to ask itself if Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli, or Austin Romine are ready for full-time catcher duties. Each of those players would undoubtedly cost less, but is it worth skimming on defense and pitcher rapport for the sake of saving less than $10 million? Martin might be able to bounce back, and who knows, if he does hit close to .240-.250, maybe he can get a small multi-year deal, enough until highly touted catching prospect, Gary Sanchez, is ready.

Joba Chamberlain

You can blame the organization for not developing him correctly. Conversely, you can blame Joba for not taking care of himself. But, a look at the numbers reveals that Joba just isn’t doing all that well after Tommy John surgery and a nasty open ankle dislocation. Fact remains that 2013 will decide whether Joba will be a Yankee in the foreseeable future. He avoided arbitration last year and signed a one-year deal worth $1.67 million.

This is just another case of a player who needs to step up and show the organization and the fans that he still has some gas left in the tank. Sadly, he’s still young and his arm, though seriously injured, still has much more life left on it. However, in New York, if you don’t perform over a period of time, your seat becomes a little warm. Joba’s seat is getting very warm.

Scoreboard watching or gazing at the latest home run allowed? (Image: Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE)

Phil Hughes

Admittedly he’s a favorite of mine, and although I hold out hope that the Yankees will give him a 15-year contract, I know it won’t happen and rightfully so. Hughes was touted as the next Roger Clemens, but obviously hasn’t made that prediction come true. He spent 2009 in the bullpen, helping the Yankees win their 27th World Championship as an excellent set-up guy to the great Mariano Rivera. In 2010, he had a great first half, but faltered down the stretch. In 2011, he came in overweight, lost velocity on his fastball, lost half the year getting back into pitching shape, and looked terrible when he returned. Those three preceding years pretty much sum up Hughes’ time in New York, inconsistent.

Even this year has been an up and down season for him, with many fans asking for his head back in April. But, he’s settled down and pitched himself ahead of Nova in the pecking order, which isn’t saying much right now. Hughes is signed to a one-year, $3.2 million deal and will most definitely earn a little raise. Next season, much like Joba, will determine if the Yankees have long-term aspirations for the right-hander. If he has another 2011 season, Hughes will be out the door, but as it stands now, if he pitches more to his 2012 numbers, he can solidify himself as a viable number four or five pitcher in the rotation with some upside.

Curtis Granderson

What haven’t we said about Granderson this season? He’s looked great, mediocre, and awful in stretches all in the same season. Many have written about his all-or-nothing mentality at the plate, which I’m sure isn’t intended on his part. Granderson is set up for a huge contract stemming from his home runs, because that’s what most casual fans love to see, especially in New York.

A closer look at his peripherals indicates he’s declining, and fast. His defense, by the numbers, looks atrocious compared to his center fielder counterparts and he falls into large month-long slumps. Currently, his five-year, $30.25 contract runs out in 2012, but he has a club option for 2013. That last clause is the big one. Do the Yankees sign him to the big lucrative deal despite knowing his numbers are declining? I think they’ll find a stop gap for 2014, and prospect, Mason Williams, will roam center field for the Yankees in 2015. It’s an aggressive prediction, especially since Williams was injured for most of the second half and is only in A-ball, but it’s one I’m sticking with.

So there you have it, these are the five Yankees who will need to shine in 2013 in order to keep their spot on the roster. Notice I didn’t include Nick Swisher, as I don’t think he’ll be offered a competitive contract from the Yankees this offseason and will ultimately sign elsewhere.

Who do you think needs a big season to stay with the Yankees past 2013?

Stats courtesy of Fangraphs. Contract numbers courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts

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