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Friday, February 20, 2015

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL AROUND THE CAMPS: NEW YORK YANKEES

By Eric C. Wright

Tampa, Fla.--The New York Yankees complete the New York leg of my tour through the respective Florida spring training camps with an eye towards 2015 fantasy baseball.  Let's see what the Yankees have in store for their owners this season.

OVERVIEW:  This is a strange team as the Yankees can no longer be considered the Bronx Bombers anyone in the classic sense.  The lineup lacks the home run thump from the past and age is a major concern what with Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann all showing signs of slipping and suffering injuries.  Meanwhile the pitching staff is almost literally put together with masking tape as ace Masahiro Tanaka is pitching with a slightly torn UCL in his elbow which could go at a moment's notice, C.C. Sabbathia is aging in ugly fashion and is coming off knee surgery, and Michael Pineda just got done missing two years with shoulder trouble. 

LINEUP

1.  Brett Gardner
2.  Carlos Beltran
3.  Jacoby Ellsbury
4.  Mark Teixeira
5.  Brian McCann
6.  Chase Headley
7.  Alex Rodriguez
8.  Didi Gregorious
9.  Stephen Drew

ROTATION

1.  Masahiro Tanaka
2.  C.C. Sabbathia
3.  Michael Pineda
4.  Nathan Eovaldi
5.  Chris Capuano

CLOSER

Dellin Betances

5-STAR PLAYERS

Jacoby Ellsbury:  Overall it was a very successful debut season in 2014 for free agent signee Jacoby Ellsbury as he saw the power increase many predicted in going from 9 to 16 home runs and he also kept up his running game with 39 steals in 44 tries.  The .271 average was a bit disappointing and so was the light 71 run total but that was more a product of the awful Yankee lineup last season.  Ellsbury remains a clear outfielder 1 but his injury history remains a concern now that he is 32. 

4-STAR PLAYERS

Brian McCann:  Unlike with Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann failed to take advantage of his new home to boost his power output and average.  McCann is now clearly a batting average liability as he hit only .232 last season and in the two years prior to that came in at .252 and .230.  He added three home runs from the previous two seasons when he clubbed 23 but again overall McCann was somewhat disappointing.  However if you can accept the current version of McCann and forever get the idea of him hitting 30 home run out of your head, than he can be a decent help at a thin position.  Any catcher that can hit 23 home runs is valuable and McCann could hit for a slightly better average now that he should be more comfortable in his new surroundings.

Masahiro Tanaka:  If Tanaka had not suffered the tear in his UCL, he would absolutely have been put in the 5-STAR player tier.  Tanaka wowed all of baseball before the injury last season, striking out a ton of batters and showing top notch control to go with potent four-pitch stuff.  He chose to rehab the tear a la Adam Wainwright instead of surgery and that means there is immense risk here.  Any pitch could cause the tear to rip completely and thus finish Tanaka for good.  I don't know about you but the risk is just not worth it as I don't want to hold my breath every time Tanaka takes the mound. 

Dellin Betances:  It is now time for Betances to ascend to the closer role after David Robertson left as a free agent to Chicago with the White Sox and the best setup man in baseball in 2014 surely is up to the task.  Betances pitched out of his mind last season as he struck out an insane 135 batters in only 90 innings while registering a 1.40 ERA.  The stuff is as overpowering as any in baseball and that should jive nicely in the closer role.  Andrew Miller is a very good fallback option though if anything were to go wrong. 

3-STAR PLAYERS

Mark Teixeira:  Age has not been kind to Teixeira as he has been constantly injured he last three seasons and in turn has seen his numbers drop noticeably.  Primarily speaking when it comes to the numbers, Teixeria is now a major average liability as he has failed to hit better than .256 in each of the last five seasons.  The power is still very good but Teixeira is pretty much becoming an all-or-nothing hitter who will help only in home runs and RBI and hurt you everywhere else.  Just a UTIL or CI bat at best.

Brett Gardner:  Gardner is a really nice player who can be one of the best outfielder 3's in fantasy baseball but he played a bit over his head in 2014.  For one, the 17 home runs Gardner hit scream outlier as they were 9 more than he had ever hit in a season before.  Also Gardner is now three seasons removed from his 40-steal days and really is now just a 25 stolen base performer at this stage of the game.  A career .265 hitter, we suspect Gardner will get overdrafted this season. 

Nathan Eovaldi:  Eovaldi is a big riddle as he was fourth among all pitchers last season in average fastball velocity but the fact it came in so straight failed to result in strikeouts as he whiffed only 144 batters in 192.2 innings.  In addition Eovaldi was one of the more hittable starters in baseball as he logged a hideous 1.33 WHIP to go with a 4.37 ERA.  Eovaldi's stuff screams out SP 2 but his move from Miami to New York is a huge downgrade when it comes to ballpark.  Stop chasing the potential and accept Eovaldi as the SP 4 he currently is. 

Chase Headley:  The Yanks liked what they saw out of Headley after he came over in a trade last season and they re-signed him to a four-year deal as poor positive of that thinking.  Headley is the starting third baseman and he will look to take advantage of a full season in a hitter's park.  By now it is clear Headley's monster 31 home run 2012 season is one of the bigger outlier years in recent memory but 20 is not out of the question if he can stay healthy.  A career .265 hitter, Headley is pretty limited overall however.

Michael Pineda:  On ability alone Pineda is a 4-STAR guy but ongoing injuries throw cold water on his outlook.  Pineda was terrific when he was on the mound as he made a mini return last season after missing two years with shoulder trouble.  However there is still major concern about his health and halfway through the season Pineda will likely be tiring as he hasn't thrown a lot of innings in a long while.  Draft as your SP 4 an nothing else. 

Carlos Beltran:  The end could be coming soon for the aging Beltran who had a nice April and little else last season.  Beltran's knees are shot and really he offers just home run and RBI help at this stage of the game as he nears 40.  Great career but there will be nothing but aggravation here this season.

2-STAR PLAYERS

C.C. Sabbathia:  Another guy who has had a great career but whose body is absolutely betraying him due to age and high mileage on his arm.  Sabbathia was an ace starter just three short years ago but the last two seasons were utter disasters as he lost a ton of velocity and his body fell apart.  Coming back from knee surgery, Sabbathia is now nothing more than an SP 5. 

Alex Rodriguez:  This sideshow is back.  Rodriguez returns at 40 after missing all of 2014 due to his unprecedented season-long suspension due to Biogenesis.  Two major hop surgeries and the fact he might finally be off the steroids make it unlikely Rodriguez will do much at the dish this season.  Right now he is nothing but a big name.

Didi Gregorious:  The Yanks will give the young Gregorious a chance to be the guy to take over shortstop from Derek Jeter.  At the plate there is no comparison as Gregorious can pop the occasional home run and steal the occasional base but little else. 

Andrew Miller:  Those in holds leagues should bump up Miller to a 3-STAR guy as his very high K rate and low ratios are very useful.  Even those in non-holds leagues but who have innings capped could benefit from the K's Miller can supply for your roster.  He also will be the next man up at closer if there are problems with the promotion of the young Dellin Betances.

1-STAR PLAYERS

Stephen Drew, Chris Capuano, Chris Young, Austin Romine

HEARD AROUND:  The Yankees will begin the season using Didi Gregorious against righties and Brenday Ryan against lefties......Right now Dellin Betances is the front-runner to close but the Yanks will not hesitate to bump Miller into the gig if there are issues.....Pitching coach Larry Rothschild said they are toying with the idea of using a rotation of six for April due to the congested schedule which means Adam Warren or Chase Whitley could join the fivesome already established. 

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