Welcome to Part 2 of “Projecting the Opening Day Roster.” Since we have taken a look at the outfield, catching, and starting rotation, let’s have a look-see at the infield and bullpen options for the Yankees as they head into the 2013 season:
(Note: I am not including Alex Rodriguez thus far; he will not play for half the season, and it remains to be seen if he will see any action at all in 2013 due to injury, or other issues stemming from the recent PED allegations. In looking at the Opening Day roster, he cannot be accounted for, so I won’t including him in the 25-man assessment.)
Fans can only hope that Teixeira gets off to a bit of a hotter start than most years, as he will join the team in Spring Training fresh off representing the United States in the World Baseball Classic. With the loss of power, it would behoove him to get off to a quick start. Cano should have a bounce-back year, as he slipped a bit in 2012, and it goes without saying that he will have something to prove heading into free agency. Youkilis actually projects to be a lot closer to ARod than one may have thought, so overall, the Yankees shouldn’t see a huge change in the production/defense at that position from 2012.
Ultimately, I think Nunez will make the roster. Unfortunately, he’s probably the only viable backup for Jeter, should the Captain suffer any setbacks from his surgically-repaired broken ankle. His glove is suspect at best, but Nunez’s value will still be with his bat. A career .272 hitter, Nunez can get his bat in the lineup against righties to spell Diaz, but also has the element of speed.
Johnson (of Game 162 fame) will be the only real backup at first with the loss of Swisher, while Nunez can also spell third, if necessary. Adams’ place on the roster is the one slot that is the least locked-up. If the right-handed, OF/DH type that Brian Cashman is on the hunt for turns up, it will probably be Adams that loses his spot. With no experience over AA, Adams’ skill set would allow him to back-up the same infield positions as Nunez, providing a bit of redundancy. While one can look to his .306/.385/.450 slash-line from 2012, it did occur at AA, and the discrepancy between Trenton and the Bronx is huge. Even if he makes the team, it is unlikely he will see much action at all.
Rivera, Logan, and Robertson need no introduction here. The jury is still out on Rivera — it wouldn’t be a surprise for him to return to form, nor would it be a surprise to see him struggle coming off such an injury. However, it will be necessary for Robertson to be in fine form on the chance that Rivera’s surgically-repaired ACL doesn’t allow him to return as the Sandman.
Chamberlain is facing a make-or-break year. He was rushed a bit as he worked back from Tommy John surgery due to injuries, and his small sample size is to blame for that 4.00+ ERA. That said, Joba’s velocity in 2012 was hitting the high 90’s with consistency. Should he find a way to harness his abilities and be more consistent, he will be a valuable piece of the bullpen, combining for a 1-2 punch with Robertson to set up for Rivera. Rapada, limited as his action was, still pitched to a 2.82 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, with 38 Ks in 38 IP. He is the ultimate LOOGY, but he could be used to spell Logan, who probably wore down a bit down the stretch, appearing in a whopping 80 games.
Aardsma will be the wildcard, and could prove to be another wise, scrap-heap addition by Brian Cashman. After missing all of 2012 recovering from Tommy John, Aardsma is still only 31, and did manage to pitch to a 3.44 ERA in 53 games for the Seattle Mariners in 2011, his last big-league action. If he can reproduce these results, it will be a good depth signing in an already-strong category for the Yanks.
Barring any trades or sudden, long-term injuries, that is most likely your roster, folks. The most likely alteration would be dropping Adams for another outfielder, either from outside the organization, or inside (Melky Mesa, Zoilo Almonte and Ramon Flores are presently all signed to minor-league deals and on the 40-man roster). There is also the pending rumored transaction of Travis Hafner to the fold, giving additional DH-type depth [Ed. note: He signed and will most likely be the lefthanded DH.]
Additionally, if Cashman can find a low-cost, high-reward trade for a better balanced catcher, that might happen, but remains highly unlikely. With a few exceptions, the core remains the same as the 2012 team. So, Yankees fans, this very well may be your team in 2012. What do you think? Any changes? Out of any of these guys, who is your choice to make the Opening Day roster in 2013?