The 2014 projected starting lineup looks drastically different from last year’s lineup. Only one position player, Brett Gardner, is a holdover albeit at a different position. On paper it looks like an offensive upgrade at each position save for second base but lets take a look at how big of an upgrade (and one downgrade) to expect.
This is easily the biggest year over year offensive upgrade the Yankees will receive at any position and possibly the largest in all of baseball. Going from 340 plate appearances of Chris Stewart to 500-ish plate appearances of Brian McCann is a huge net positive in production. The gap in offensive talent between the two players is that big. McCann is a career .277/.350/.473 hitter. That is excellent production for a player playing the toughest position on the field. Fangraphs’ Steamer projects him for .255/.334/.452 next year and he should see a boost in homers as a flyball (42.5% career) lefty in Yankee Stadium.Of course, the 175-200 other plate appearances from the catcher slot will be made up by backup catcher Francisco Cervelli.
Cervelli only had 61 plate appearances in 2013 until his Biogenesis suspension but his track record suggests he is the best hitter among the quartet of catchers (Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli, J.R. Murphy, and Austin Romine) that played in 2013. Through 623 career major league plate appearances he has an above average 84.5% contact rate. With that solid contact rate comes a low strikeout rate (15.1%) and average walk rate (8.5%). It’s hard to draw conclusions from his small sample size of plate appearances but he hits 20% above league average against lefites and 19% below average against righties. He can spell McCann against tough lefties. The catcher position could easily see a 30-40 run increase on offense (both hitting and baserunning), a 4-win swing.