While NYC is still waiting for its first significant snowfall, spring training is about to kick off down in Tampa. I am always optimistic when the season starts, like most fans. I was even able to convince myself in 2005 that Jaret Wright could win 15 games (though only because of the lineup behind him). This year is the best one in awhile though I think. Finally, there are no Yankees that I have to talk myself into liking (Randy Johnson, Jaret Wright, Tony Womack, Gary Sheffield, A-Rod… oh wait(just joking. More on A-rod in a minute)). I love the signings, I love the kids who are waiting in the wings, and I love that JD Drew should make A-Rod look like Thurmon Munson. ($70 million? Really? After you said you couldn’t take on Abreu’s $24 million?)
So who will be the lucky 25 wearin pinstripes when the season starts? Here’s my guess, position by position, followed by my rediculously optimistic opinion on what I expect from them this year. (Just going to go through the position players today though.)
1. CF Johnny Damon. If he can avoid those nickel and dime injuries that tend to slow him down, could be primed for a big year, especially power wise. That short porch could have him nearing 30HRs soon. Most importantly, hopefully this year he can bring some passion to a clubhouse that has lost numerous cantankerous personalities. (Also notable- did you know Damon was born in Kansas? Who would have guessed?)
2. SS Derek Jeter. Coming off an MVP(calibur) season, really we could just hope for more of the same. And I think we’ll at least get close. If nothing else, I’m sure he’ll be a more productive player than Justin Morneau once again. (Okay, last “Jeter should have been the 2005 MVP” complaint. I don’t want to sound like Red Sox fans after 2005. Though while we’re here- worthwhile rant: David Ortiz should not be the MVP unless he puts up numbers that are head and shoulders better than everyone else and borderline historic (60-70 HRs, .500 OBP, etc). A-rod was arguably a better hitter in 2005 (he led in more important categories). The whole “you can’t penalize Ortiz because he doesn’t play defense, it’s not his fault” argument is perhaps the most moronic thing ever. How is it not his fault? He is TERRIBLE at defense. Let’s give the MVP to Tony Womack. It’s not his fault he sucks.)
3. RF Bobby Abreu. Aka, the rich man’s JD Drew.
4. 3B Alex Rodriguez. There is a tremendous article over on noMass.org (it’s on the left, “Decline of the Sports guy”) showing how A-Rod’s postseason numbers stack up against other great players. People forget, in 2004, A-Rod CARRIED the Yankees past Minnesota. Then he clubbed the Red Sox along with the rest of the Yankees during the first 3 games of the ALCS. Has he had some failures since? Well sure. But they are hardly as epic as people think. This has turned into an almost self fulfulling prophecy- it wasn’t until 2006 that I felt like A-Rod really couldn’t produce in big spots. Hopefully Torre will just stop coddling him and he’ll suck it up and get back to being the player he was. And is.
All the talk of A-rod opting out after the year? If I’m Cashman, I’m not sweating it. His contract is currently reasonable so if he stays, great. If he leaves? Invest his money in Mark Texiera, trade for Joe Crede, and we’re ready to roll.
5. DH Jason Giambi. I felt good about Giambi until I read at baseball-reference.com that his career path most resembles Mo Vaughn (Though then I remembered that while it is true that Giambi is a lumbering beast, he is also incredibly muscular. Who most resembles Mo Vaughn’s figure? Red Sox fans should know…). But seriously, if Giambi can keep from wearing down, he is a monster in the middle of this lineup, even if his days as a doubles hitter seem to be over. Even when he’s slumping, he has an OBP of .400.
6. LF Hideki Matsui. Professional hitter. Should bounce back well from injury considering his amazing work ethic.
7. C Jorge Posada. Had his best year defensively last year and was solid as always at the plate (his OBP and power from the catcher position over the years is amazing). Two years ago people were nervous about him playing too many games so he’d vest his 2007 salary. Now we should be talking extension. There is no one coming through the system and there are arguably only a few catcher’s in baseball more productive. And none of them will be FAs.
8. 2B Robinson Cano. Obviously everyone is very high on Cano. And with good reason. Lightning quick bat, puts a ton of balls in play, which actually complements our OBP guys well. Torre would be well served to keep him batting down here though. He’s still only 23 and despite almost winning a batting title, he did not have an amazing OBP. Better to protect him for another season.
9. 1B Doug Mientkiewicz. See my previous post.
Util 1. Melky Cabrera. The Melkman might be the best reserve OF in baseball. And he should find himself plenty of playing time this year. When he plays, his energy is infectious. The Yankees seem to find a way to win.
Util 2. Josh Phelps. Nice Rule V pickup by Cash. I think he beats out Andy Phillips for the right-handed 1B spot. I like Andy, I just don’t think he’s going to cut it.
Util 3. Miguel Cairo. We know what Cairo can do. His value always transcends his numbers.
Util 4. A backup catcher. I’m not making a prediction on this one. Todd Pratt and Wil Nieves are the leading candidates heading in, though anything could happen. I wouldn’t mind seeing a real cannon behind the plate, but then again it would be nice to have a sub for Jorge that can occasionally get a hit. I’d take defense first though, if forced to choose.
Back later with the pitchers, coaches, and prospects of 2007.