Infield: Potential to be, again, among the most offensively explosive in baseball, especially if Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez have bounce-back seasons. And, in truth, Teixeira’s and A-Rod’s – outside of their batting averages – hardly were awful. Robinson Cano elevated himself to superstar status – he was an MVP candidate and first-time Gold Glove winner – and said it motivates him to work even harder.
Outfield: Many believe that Nick Swisher peaked last season, an observation that has motivated the right-fielder to show he can do more. Brett Gardner, who heard all last spring about how it would be only a matter of time before the Yankees traded for a “real” leftfielder, easily won the job and produced a stellar first part of the season before a wrist injury slowed him. Curtis Granderson could be poised for a huge year.
Bullpen: It takes some nitpicking to find issues. Everything starts with the incomparable Mariano Rivera (33 saves, 1.80 ERA in 2010). Rafael Soriano (45 saves, 1.73 ERA as the Ray’s closer) is the setup man. Joe Girardi finally has two lefties in Pedro Feliciano and Boone Logan. David Robertson is efficient. Logan, Feliciano and Joba Chamberlain had injuries this spring, with Feliciano’s status uncertain for Opening Day.
Catcher: The Yankees are depending on former Dodger Russell Martin to a.) stay healthy b.) rebound after back-to-back down seasons. “Big risk,” one NL scout said. Backup Francisco Cervelli got hurt but Jesus Montero underperformed, possibly opening the door for Gustavo Molina as the reserve. An opposition scout said Montero’s performance was among the more disappointing things he saw all spring.
Rotation: Although CC Sabathia is a given, not much else is, as the Yankees are counting on a full season of what Phil Hughes did in the first half of 2010 and a rebound year from A.J. Burnett. If both produce, that significantly lessens the pressure on the back end of the rotation. If both struggle, look out, because the back end is suspect at best. Ivan Nova did show some signs of promise.
DH/bench: Jorge Posada has not had much success as a DH – a .223 average and a .366 OBP in 90 games – but he’s been preparing for this role since November. All indications are he’s embraced the challenge. Defensively, Andruw Jones (19 HRs in 328 plate appearances) is an upgrade over Marcus Thames. Infielder Eric Chavez made it through spring training healthy and middle infielder Eduardo Nunez had a breakthrough camp.