Will this reconstructed Yankees infield be enough for a title run?
By Lenny Ortiz
With the news of Derek Jeter's retirement the New York Yankees push for title No. 28 has become that much more vital. Besides, it's been five years since the Bombers last title and Yankees fans are well over due for another parade down Broadway. So it leaves us thinking, can the Yankees really finish this season as World Champions?
If healthy and with the suspended Alex Rodriguez out of the picture, and General Manager Brian Cashman putting together a great offseason, the Yanks are capable of presenting a season that can overcome the Bronx standard. With the quality of this roster, only one thing can plague this season, injuries.
With 2010 Gold Glove winners Jeter and Mark Teixeira coming off a 2013 season of brutal injuries holding the duo to only 32 games combined, there really are no expectations to hold the two accountable for this season. Best case scenario for the two is they remain healthy for the whole year, providing their stellar defense, although with Jeter's ankle and age we can't expect to see anymore backhand jump-throws from the hole anymore.
Teixeira hitting 35 home runs, while dragging about 110 strikeouts with him, and Jeter contributing the top of the lineup spark he's provided his whole career, staying at least above the .280 this season, may be too much to ask.
If these two familiar faces can shadow their season of the past, the Bombers are in great shape. With Chris Stewart having as much success at the plate as a nerdy little leaguer, every Yankee fan jumped for joy when Cashman pulled of the signing of catcher Brian McCann early in November. The signing of McCann brings the stability behind the plate that the Bronx hasn't seen since Jorgie P was in his prime.
The lefty swinging slugger provides stellar defense and the ability to handle a pitching staff, and is expected to provide at least 25 homeruns this year which shouldn't be a problem due to the short porch in right field. However injuries continue to be a reoccurring theme, McCann hasn't played in more than 130 games in a season since 2010 due to complications with his eyes and shoulder.
With the bitter exit of Robinson Cano, who led last year's team in nearly every offensive category, the Yankees brought in veteran Brian Roberts to earn the job as Jeter's double play partner. Roberts has proven to play the game the right way, always hustling and leaving it all on the field, something Yankee fans can't really say about the formally adored Cano. Roberts, a switch hitter together good at-bats and is a good fit for this infield.
However injuries as mentioned are another concern for Roberts. He has seen very limited playing time in the past few seasons due to concussion related symptoms, and has only gotten older in the process of recovering. With Roberts, is returning infielder Eduardo Nunez who shows inconsistency on the field and is among the streakiest hitters in the MLB at the plate. Nunez has always shown flashes of potential and if he can show some consistency there is no doubt he can win the starting spot. The front runner heading into spring training for third base is newly acquired utility man Kelly Johnson. He won't be expected to play a huge role for the Yanks this year, solid defense and an average year at the plate is all this team needs out of Johnson to make a run.
With the stellar offensive pop in the outfield from newly acquired and veteran Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner, new comer Jacoby Ellsbury, and Alfonso Soriano the infield will not be heavily relied on to put up the numbers of years past. The veteran leadership in the clubhouse will lead this team to places where the Yankees have not been in the past few years.
If healthy, this team can make a serious run at a title and deliver a sixth world title for the retiring captain.
Comment: Lenny Ortiz @ newyorkexaminer.com