To follow-up what two of my colleagues have done, I am giving my 10 Bold predictions for the New York Yankees in 2014.
#10. Dellin Betances will be a major part of the Yankees bullpen by the end of the season: Betances was once regarded as a future front-line starter. The 25-year-old has struggled with control issues and had not shown the ability to consistently get people out. That changed after a move to the ‘pen last season. The big righty was lights out as a key contributor for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He pitched well enough to earn a September call-up, but struggled yet again in limited action.
#9. C.C. Sabathia will bounce back: Sabathia had a miserable 2013 by his standards and it seemed that the Yankees had, once again given a boatload of money to a player that is past his prime. While C.C. will not be the dominant force he has been in the past, he will figure out how to pitch with diminished velocity. His weight loss has been well documented and will help him stay healthy all year. He will not be the number one starter by season’s end, but the big guy will win 14 games, pitch to mid-3 ERA and solidify the middle of the rotation.
#8. Hiroki Kuroda will be the fifth starter by the end of the season, and not factor into the 2014 postseason: Kuroda was an excellent pitcher for the Yankees the past two seasons. His consistency helped soften the blow of Sabathia’s drop off. Kuroda was a different pitcher down the stretch last season. He was getting knocked around left and right. In eight starts from August 17th on, the 39-year-old gave up three or less earned runs just three times and saw his ERA jump almost a full run. While he may start off the season looking sharp, father time will catch up to Kuroda.
#7. The Yankees will have one of the best rotations in baseball by mid-season: Everyone knows about Masahiro Tanaka. He may struggle early, but I think with his variety of pitches you will see him adapt to pitching in the big leagues rather quickly. Michael Pineda is set for a make-or-break season. The 2014 version of the former phenom will be close to the one the Yankees thought they were trading for after the 2011 season. I’ve already given my prediction for Sabathia. The biggest reason for the success of the starters will be Ivan Nova. Look for him to finally put it all together for a full season. There is no doubting the ability Nova has. We have seen flashes of it for the last few years. 2014 will be the year of Ivan The Great. Look for 17-19 wins and a 3.30 ERA.
#6. Brett Gardner will be worth every penny: While rumors swirled all off-season of a potential Gardy deal, not only did the Yankees not pull the trigger, they re-signed their last home grown player to a hefty contract extension. Gardner will hit ninth and provide Joe Girardi with two lead-off guys hitting back-to-back most times. The defensive combination of he and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is the best in baseball. Gardner will also provide insurance for the oft-injured Ellsbury.
#5. Kelly Johnson will NOT be the everyday third baseman by June. Johnson is the signing I like the least from this past off-season. He will just not produce enough to be out there everyday. Combine that with the fact that there are multiple other options like Eduardo Nunez, and Dean Anna. There is also the chance the Yankees decide to upgrade the hot corner mid-season via trade.
#4. The Yankees will have 5 or more All-Stars. Look for Ellsbury, McCann, Tanaka, Nova, and Jeter to be in the running for the Mid-Summer Classic. McCann is a top catcher in the AL. Ellsbury will benefit enormously from playing in Yankee Stadium. I already touched on what I expect from Nova and Tanaka. And lets face it, Unless he is hurt, there is no way Derek Jeter is not playing shortstop for the American League in his final season.
#3. Zoilo Almonte will be the fourth outfielder: Beltran will get most of the starts in right. He’ll split time at DH with Soriano. Ichiro Suzuki looks like a very expensive pinch runner/defensive replacement. Chances are Soriano and Ichiro will miss some time due to injuries. The promise Almonte showed last season will carry over to 2014 and he will spend the bulk of the season in the Bronx.
#2. If necessary, the Yankees will be able to make a major trade at the deadline: Who knows what players will be available come July. unlike years past, the Yankees will be in on any major name available if they choose to. Between Gary Sanchez, Betances and Nova all having solid seasons the Yankees, for the first time in years,they will have multiple assets that other teams will covet.
#1. Carlos Beltran will be the most important signing of the off-season: While Brian McCann and Ellsbury got a combined $238 million dollars, the arrival of Beltran will be most significant. He will hit in the number three spot between Jeter and Teixeira and make the Bombers lineup the most feared in baseball. Look for Carlos to hit .285 and 20-25 homers and close to 100 RBI, splitting time between right field and designated hitter.