2013 Season Preview: A.L. East

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Due to recent weather, many of us Northerners can still see snow through our windows and scattered beyond our doorsteps.   The calender’s subtle reminder winter still rules the day.  Down in a reportedly chilly, yet still sunny Florida however, and out west in Arizona, our favorite players and teams are hard at work preparing themselves for the long regular season to come.  Two weeks of Grapefruit and Cactus League games are in the books.  Three weeks remain in Spring Training before Baseball’s 2013 regular season opening games.  Between now and that glorious day, there is much to cover and converse about.  Starting today and continuing throughout the week ahead, six Rising Apple writers including myself, will present you with their preview for one of the six divisions of Baseball.  Without further adieu, allow me to kick-off Rising Apple’s 2013 MLB Preview.  I offer you the American League East, in order of their 2012 regular season finish.

NEW YORK YANKEES (2012 Finish, 95-67 .586, 1st Place, A.L. East Champs)

Preview compiled between February 25th, and March 3rd.  See Below for updates.

There is no secret the New York Yankees are an aging team.  To preview them however, is to issue an injury report.  We’ll start with Mariano Rivera.  Baseball’s greatest closer is returning from ACL surgery.  One month into Spring Training, Mo appears well.  CC  Sabathia is coming off minor surgery to remove a bone spur in his pitching elbow.  He looks visibly in better shape than last season, and so far, both appear to be delivering the ball smoothly.  That was the good news.  After Rivera and Sabathia, the Yankees injury situation grows more precarious.  Derek  Jeter is coming back from a broken foot.  He isn’t due to start full workouts until March 10th.  Shortly upon reporting to camp, a bulging disc was detected in Phil  Hughes‘ back.  He is tentatively due back in the second week of March.  Then there’s Curtis  Granderson, who in his first at-bat, in the Yankees first exhibition game against the Toronto Blue Jays, was struck by a pitch which fractured his right forearm.  At the time of injury, the team said Curtis will miss ten weeks of action.  He projects to return in May.  Alex  Rodriguezstands a chance of not coming back at all this season.  His return depends how well his surgically repaired hip responds.  Alex was originally hoped to be back by summer.  But as of today, nothing is certain other than he will start the season on the 60-day disabled list.

March 9, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera (42) throws a pitch in the fourth inning against the Atlanta Braves at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest news in Bomber camp is their sudden lack of power.  Eric  Chavez, Nick  Swisher, Russell  Martin, Raul  Ibanez, and Andrew  Jones, combined to hit ninety-four home runs last season.  They are all former Yankees now.  Alex  Rodriguez and Curtis  Granderson combined to hit sixty one more.  That’s 155 home runs the Yanks will have an awful time trying to replace this season.  For a few years now, Yankees fans and media have argued the Bronx Bombers were too reliant on home runs, and that they needed to learn how to manufacture runs more proficiently in order to advance in the playoffs.  Well, that time has come; manufacture away.

Robinson  Cano, and Mark  Teixeira in particular, are expected to pick up the slack.  The Yankees need a better start, if not a decent start to the season, from Mark  Teixeira for a change.  Teixeira has gotten off to notoriously abysmal Aprils since coming to the Bronx.  Robinson  Cano is entering his contract season.  So there is always the possibility he turns Yankee Stadium into his private pinball machine, and thereby jack-up his potential asking price, as so many players coincidentally do.

Due to Curtis Granderson’s injury, his switch to left field is on hold.  Curtis was to play left field this season, with Bret Gardner moving to center field.  While Gardener will still play center this season, left field now looks to be a transient competition between incoming Matt  Diaz and Juan  RiveraIchiro  Suzuki returns to play right field.  Upon being acquired at last season’s deadline, he played sixty seven games for the Yankees.  He and the club reached agreement on a two year contract.

The Yankees need to address their catching situation.  What they currently have with Francisco  Cervelli, Chris  Stewart, and Austin  Romine, is inadequate.

Once again, the Bronx Bombers are relying on a healthy CC  Sabathia, 32, to anchor the starting rotation.  With sixteen wins last year, Hiroki  Kuroda, 38, is coming off his best season as a pro.  Ivan  Nova, 26, posted a lofty 5.02 ERA last season.  But the way he has stepped into fill a Yankee need in the rotation has been nothing short of remarkable.  In his last two seasons, he has won 71.6% of his starts.  In addition to his current back issue, Phil  Hughes, 26, is still battling himself as a craftsman.  Andy  Pettitte is now forty-years old.  The question begs asking – what does Andy have left?  Together, the average age of this starting rotation is thirty-two years old.  That should be worrisome.  If something should befall, say, Pettitte or Kuroda, the Yankees could face serious trouble.  Additionally, with the Yankees power issues, the starting rotation will be asked to keep games closer than they’ve been accustomed to.  Naturally, the bullpen stands to get taxed as well.  But Joe  Girardi has always managed to get the most out of his bullpens.  He utilizes his relievers very well.  The Yankees have a young talented relief corp headed by Mariano  Rivera again.  Only age and continued major injuries stand to sabotage New York’s 2013 season, and minimize the impact, of what I believe could be the strongest bullpen in the division.

EXPECTATIONS FOR 2013:

There are always expectations in the Bronx.  Last season, the Yanks won the A.L. East with a 95-67 record.  This season, nothing changes.  The Yankees are expected to win somewhere near ninety-five games and appear in the World Series again.  Such as life in the Bronx.  However, the Bombers will have a more daunting time trying to achieve their expected success than they have in a very long time.  Never rule out New York’s ability to make a deal at the trade deadline.  Although, it is hard to determine in March, if the Yankees will be willing to make any deals in July, as Hal Steinbrenner has a new $189 million dollar salary cap he plans on imposing next season.

I predict the Yankees will encounter too many obstacles this season that Brian Cashman, Joe  Girardi, and the farm system will not be able to overcome.  They will finish in third place with eighty-five wins, in what stands to be a very tightly packed division.

MAJOR OFF-SEASON ACQUISITIONS:

Travis  Hafner, Kevin  Youkilis, *Ichiro  Suzuki

MAJOR OFF-SEASON LOSSES:

Raul  Ibanez, Eric  Chavez, Russell  Martin, Nick  Swisher, Andrew  Jones, Rafael  Soriano, Derek  Lowe, Freddy  Garcia

ROOKIE PROSPECT:

The Yankees quality minor league prospects are largely two years away from the Bronx.  With regards to pitching, after David  Phelps, Manny  Banuelos figures to be the first responder to any S.O.S. from the rotation.

* rhp – Brett  Marshall

* of – Tyler  Austin

* rhp – Mark  Montgomery

New York – MLB.com Top-20

40-Man Roster

LATEST UPDATES:

* When Curtis  Granderson returns, he will go back to center field, and Gardner will resume playing in left field.  Joe  Girardi does not want Granderson learning a new position during the season.

* Phil  Hughes is throwing free of discomfort again.

* On March 5th, Mark  Teixeira suffered a strained right wrist taking batting practice while preparing with Team USA for the WBC.  Initial reports said he would be out eight to ten days.  As of March 6th, Mark  Teixeira is now expected to miss eight to ten weeks.  Surgery is still uncertain.  Juan  Rivera and Dan  Johnson will get a lengthy look at first base.

* First rumored on March 7th, then confirmed on March 9th - Mariano  Rivera officially announced 2013 will be his last season before retiring.

* March 8th – Derek  Jeter cleared for all baseball activities.  Mo Rivera and Derek Jeter participate in first Spring Training game.

* CC  Sabathia felt fine after a March 7th bullpen session.

* David  Robertson has been cleared to pitch after experiencing arm discomfort.  Clay  Rapada  (shoulder) and Boone  Logan (elbow) have not returned to action yet.

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Tags: American League Baltimore Orioles Boston Red Sox New York Yankees Rising Apple Tampa Bay Rays Toronto Blue Jays