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Infield prospect Dean Anna. Mandatory Credit: MILB.com

Five Breakout Candidates For Yankees In 2014

The Yankees have a few holes in 2014 and they aren’t small ones. As of right now, the team has no clear third baseman, second baseman, fifth starter, setup man, and seventh inning pitcher. Here are five players who could potentially fill these roster gaps and breakout in 2014.

Michael Pineda

When the Yankees traded their top catching prospect, Jesus Montero, for Pineda before the 2012 season, they thought they had just found a potential co-ace to go along with CC Sabathia. The 2014 season is upon us, and Yankees fans have yet to see Pineda pitch due to injuries.

During his first and only season in the Major Leagues thus far, 2011, Pineda was an elite strikeout pitcher for the Seattle Mariners. He struck out almost one quarter of opposing hitters and had a K/9 rate of 9.11. His fastball was consistently in the mid to upper 90’s to go along with his solid slider. He posted a solid 3.74 ERA as well as holding opponents to an astonishingly low .209 batting average while on the mound. Pineda seemed like a star in the making.

After a slow recovery from shoulder surgery, it’s hard to tell how Pineda will perform in 2014, but it’s tough to doubt his ability and stuff. If he can come close to his 2011 performance, he will be a valued asset in the Yankees rotation.

Dean Anna

Though he is 27-years-old and has yet to play in the Major Leagues, Dean Anna has a good chance to make the team with a good spring performance. In 2013, while playing for the San Diego Padres Triple-A affiliate at Tuscon, Anna hit an outstanding .331/.410/.482 with 9 home runs, 38 doubles, 73 RBI, and 90 runs scored. He also showed solid plate discipline, drawing 61 walks and striking out only 65 times.

In the field, Anna was mainly a shortstop and second baseman (likely a second base candidate for the Yankees).

A lot of questions about Anna’s ability will be answered in Spring Training, but those numbers are eye-popping.

Eduardo Nunez

Though last season was by no means a good season for the utility infielder, he did show some flashes of solid potential.

His fielding is below average, but he has always been a capable hitter. Though he only hit .215 in the first half of 2013, he finished the season by hitting .284 after the All-Star break. If he can cut down on his errors, Nunez may be a very key contributor to the Yankees in 2014 at either second or third base.

Dellin Betances

Though he has always had great stuff it never translated into results until 2013, when he made the transition to the bullpen. As a reliever, Betances was lights out, posting an ERA of 2.06, a batting average against of .185, and  a K/9 rate of 12.7.

Though he struggled at the Major League level, he did show flashes of promise, like when he struck out David Ortiz and Jonny Gomes for the first two outs of a perfect 8th inning of a September 15th game against the Red Sox or in his final appearance of the season when he pitched 2.1 perfect innings against the Houston Astros.

According to Fangraphs.com, Betances throws an upper 90’s fastball and a knuckle-curve that averages out at 82 miles per hour.

Ivan Nova

After a bad 2012 season and an early trip to the minor leagues in 2013, Nova returned to the Majors and pitched a lot better, posting a second half ERA of 2.78 and lowered his opponents batting average to .255 when pitching.

Though his ERA changed, his WHIP remained about the same as the first half and his K/BB and K/9 rates decreased in the second half. Though some may consider these trends a negative sign, it could also mean that he learned to limit damage and pitch with runners on base, which are both positive skills for a starter to have.

Nova will likely be the Yankee’s fourth starter.

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Tags: Dean Anna Dellin Betances Eduardo Nunez Ivan Nova Michael Pineda New York Yankees News

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