Finally, we have managed to get through an entire winter of prognostications and injury news and we are due for some baseball. The Yankees will kick off the 2013 campaign on Monday at 1:00 in the Bronx against the Red Sox. Before we head into the season, however, let’s do some predictions (most of which are going to go wrong, I’m sure) about the upcoming season:
How will Derek Jeter perform coming off ankle surgery?
It’s not exactly good news that Jeter is almost five months removed from surgery and is still feeling pain and discomfort in that repaired ankle. It also doesn’t help that he plays one of the most physically demanding positions in being a short-stop. Jeter’s 2012 was off-the-charts good in terms of his offensive production, and it would have been incredibly difficult to replicate.
However, those numbers, difficult to reach to begin with, just got a whole lot harder now that he continues to deal with the ankle soreness. Watching a couple of innings of his at-bats in spring training, it’s pretty easy to see that The Captain isn’t able to have a lot of movement with that ankle, and it’s clear that he is in pain. He can’t leg out every contact with the ball, and if he’s having pain, he probably won’t get a lot of good at-bats, either. I would say that he’ll struggle a bit this season offensively. Further complicating the issue would be his defensive obligations. Jeter’s range has been diminshing for a number of years at this point. That certainly won’t improve with a bum ankle, and continuous play in the field will only exacerbate his offensive struggles. It would be bset to limit his action in order to rest that ankle, but that doesn’t exactly work in-season, and it’d be hard to determine how much more rest can be had than the four or so months he just had. Jeter might play in around 120 games this year, but it will definitely be a down year for the shortstop as he will be significantly hampered by injury for the first time in his career.
Will Alex Rodriguez return to the Yankees?
This will be really interesting to watch, and it may be settled on Opening Day, whether or not ARod will be with the rest of the team and introduced to the fans in the Bronx. I think that if the Yankees had their way, ARod would have been out of the Bronx long ago, and I am sure Brian Cashman must resist the urge to say, “I told you so” on almost a daily basis.
I think that, given all the money owed and the overall downward spiral of his physical skills, he’s not going anywhere if he can get healthy and just play baseball again. I think there would be really only two ways that ARod wouldn’t return: 1) he physically cannot continue to play baseball, or 2) MLB’s investigation into the Biogenesis clinic proves that ARod was provided with performance enhancing drugs. If he cannot physically play baseball again (and there is no reason to think that, considering he had this surgery on his other hip and returned to a strong season, complete with an MVP-worthy post-season run), perhaps ARod and the Yankees can settle on a buyout, but as I wrote earlier in the off-season, that will take some hefty numbers to get done.
I think the only way the Yankees get away scott-free in this one is if the Biogenesis claims are accurate, in which case they simply could not let him on the field again- fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. At that point, I could see the Yankees cutting ties with the troubled third baseman, but given the facts as we now know them, I think, for better or worse, Alex Rodriguez is here for the foreseeable future.
Will Ivan Nova return to his 2011 form?
Nova won a lot of games in 2011, but let’s not let his long winning streak hide the fact that he pitched to contact- a lot of contact- during that streak, giving up a good deal of extra base hits. The inability to work around those, combined with some control issues, led to a woeful 2012. He probably over-achieved a bit in 2011, and definitely under-achieved in 2012. I think his wheelhouse is probably somewhere in the middle of those two. He was always projected to be a solid fourth starter, and that would put him in that category.
Regardless, Nova will need to up his game from last season, as good pitching will be more important than ever with all of the other injuries. Moreover, his struggles cost him his job in at the end of the season, and with last year’s sleeper, David Phelps, having pretty decent success, Nova will need to pitch to at least a low 4.00 ERA in order to maintain his spot in the rotation. His stuff is too good not to have a bit of a bounceback, so I think we should see improvement from him in 2013.
Who will be the hidden gem on this year’s roster?
I think that, if he returns to form, David Aardsma will be an under-the-radar addition to an already strong bullpen. Knowing he was lost for most of 2012 after coming off Tommy John surgery, the Yankees still signed him to a deal with the possibility of having another strong reliever for 2013. Combined with a healthy Joba Chamberlain, Aardsma would help take stress off of a starting rotation that may feel a lot more pressure to feel perfect with the loss of so many runs from last year’s team and the injuries that are already stacking up.
It will also be interesting to see what Travis Hafner does this year, too. It’s fair to say that Hafner broke down over the last few years due to wear and tear from playing in the field. Some guys simply begin to wear down and suffer physically at some point. Much like the original plan was for Andruw Jones in 2012, Hafner will only be available for DH duties, and will not see any field action. It will be interesting to see if he rebounds offensively, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if his numbers trend upwards from where they have been in the past few years as a result of this decision.
So, what are your predictions for the 2013 Yankees? How do you think the Yankees will fair, who will have a good year, who will step up their game? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget- only two more days ’til baseball!