The mandate for the New York Yankees is World Series championship or bust. That’s what it’s been since 1996. That’s what it continues to be. Making the playoffs wasn’t acceptable for the fan base, the players, or the bottom line for the owners. For them to get back to the promised land, everyone is going to have to step up a little bit more. These five guys, however, may hold the key to their success.
1B: Mark Teixeira: The Yankees used a small army of players to try to replace Tex at first base last year. From Lyle Overbay, to Mark Reynolds to Travis Ishikawa, the Yankees really missed Tex last year. Gold Glove-caliber defense and a switch-hitting power bat isn’t easy to replace. Yes his batting average and on-base percentage have declined every year since he’s been a Yankee, but he averaged 34 homers and 106 RBI from 2009-2012. Those guys don’t grow on trees. The Yankees need some pop from the right side and with all the questions in the infield, a season like that would help stabilize things.
SP C.C. Sabathia: Are C.C.’s best days behind him? GM Brian Cashman doesn’t consider him an ace anymore. Will the fact that he’s trimmer, plus was able to have a full offseason to rest and train and do a regular throwing program help him? His velocity is down over the past couple of seasons, but I think he can still be a good pitcher. The Yankees are going to need him to be.
RP Shawn Kelley: Are there questions with David Robertson as the closer? Yes, but you can make the argument that those questions won’t even be answered if the ball doesn’t get to him. That’s where Kelley comes in. He more than likely will be the primary set-up man for Robertson. He had 71 strikeouts in 53 innings last year, though he allowed 70 base runners (walks plus hits) in those innings. That number needs to drop for him to get better this year.
INF Kelly Johnson: Whether he’s at second or third this season, Johnson is going to need to rake. Johnson’s batting average hasn’t topped .240 since 2010. The thing Johnson has is pop in his bat. He’s averaged 20 doubles and 20 homers over the past four seasons. In Yankee Stadium, those numbers could go up. However, he won’t be a platoon player anymore and needs to show that he can hit lefties to the .276 clip his career average is.
OF/DH: Alfonso Soriano: Why place this guy on this list? Well, first of all he’s 38-years-old. Eventually, he will start to decline and you hope it’s not this year. Secondly, he’s the only right-handed power on the roster. Alex Rodriguez is persona non grata. Carlos Beltran and Teixeira are switch-hitters. He’s the lone man who hits right-handed and he’ll need to produce to help the Yankees be less vulnerable to left-handed pitchers.
The Yankees want to go back to the postseason. All their off-season moves have shown as much. For that to happen, these five guys are going to need to perform.